Pitch Black (DVD, 2009, Includes THE FAST AND FURIOUS Drafting - Movie Money)

331 ratings (312 Epinions reviews)
Epinions Product Rating: Very Good
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Formulaic, but Entertaining, Sci-fi (+ DVD Review)

Nov 22, 2000 (Updated Dec 11, 2000)
Review by  
Rated a Very Helpful Review

Pros:Interesting concept / A few genuine surprises / Terrifying creatures / Diesel's strong performance

Cons:Plot is basic mix of sci-fi & horror / Very weak script

A spaceship, hurtling out of control, charges toward an unknown planet in a distant galaxy. Co-pilots struggle to regain some sense of control while hibernating passengers awaken in the in the rubble behind them. The pilots eject piece after piece of their ship in hopes that this will slow their descent enough so that they can level it out. With a trailing ball of fire, the ship crashes into the desolate planet sparing only a few of their lives in the process. 29 casualties. 10 survivors. A new world ahead.

With a beginning like this, any chance that Pitch Black may be the next 2001 is quickly diminished. Nonetheless, one can imagine numerous different paths for the film to follow. It could become a story of the struggle to survive in vastly unfamiliar territory. It could become a character-driven story of the struggle for virtual strangers to establish a peaceful society out of nothing. Most exciting of all, it could become the story of the discovery of vast new worlds, new ideas, and new possibilities. Of course it could also fall into the conventions of a basic humans vs. monsters showdown where we, the good guys, face our fears and fight to survive. Although Pitch Black regretfully fits the last mold, it features enough suspense, chills, and action to keep you entertained.

In the diverse group of survivors, one character stands well apart from the crowd. His name is Riddick (Vin Diesel - Boiler Room, Saving Private Ryan), and he is a cold-blooded murderer. While in prison, Riddick was injected with a formula that now only allows him to see in the dark. Though he was being transported from one prison to another, not surprisingly, he breaks free during the crash and quickly goes into hiding. Though he tries to convince them otherwise, the survivors ignorantly assume Riddick to be their greatest danger.

When one of the group does some exploring on his own, he discovers that a much more terrifying presence lurks beneath the planet's surface. These horrifying creatures prefer to stick to the darkness afforded them by underground tunnels and only come out at night. Thankfully, since the planet has three revolving suns, darkness will never come and there will be no trouble. Yeah, right. Through some overly simplistic scientific calculations, the survivors discover that there is about to be a total solar eclipse. Complete darkness, and you know what that means... all hell will break loose. You're not afraid of the dark, are you?

Pitch Black thrives on sci-fi / horror film conventions, but to its credit, at times it can be very scary. On top of a generous amount of chills, a few of the performances are much better than the sci-fi / horror standard. Vin Diesel proves that he is very good at being very bad, and Radha Mitchell (High Art) matches him as best as she can. Although the other performances are nothing special, they do not take anything away from the movie. Writer Jim Wheat takes all the blame for the many shortcomings with a script and story full of conventions and ridiculous scientific implausibilities. Then again, I guess that is why we call it science "fiction."

For sci-fi and horror fans, Pitch Black is a must see flick; it downright kicks the c*ap out of the average fare from both genres. Nonetheless, because there is nothing that original or engaging in Pitch Black, the recommendation is only for big fans of the genre.

6 out of 10.

Unrated for very graphic violence, blood, and language. Rated R version also available.

DVD Extras: Although it was released in theaters with an R rating, the DVD edition of Pitch Black features four additional minutes of violent and bloody footage. I have not seen the R Rated version, so I cannot compare. The DVD features the film in its original 2.35:1 widescreen format as well as a powerful DTS soundtrack for those fortunate owners of systems with the capability. For the rest of us, its 5.1 Dolby Digital track will have to do. The heavy lineup of extras includes an utterly pointless pseudo-documentary that amounts to 25 minutes of footage from promotional rave parties - a complete waste of digital space. The featurette is also a great disappointment at a measly five minute length. Although my rental period did not grant me the time to view them, the DVD's real supplemental material is found in its two audio commentaries featuring the director, special effects supervisors, and star Vin Diesel. Also included are two version of the movie's theatrical trailer, cast and crew bios, and an informative production notes section. Fans of the movie should be very pleased with the two commentaries, but should be advised not to waste their time with the rave piece.


Recommend this product? Yes


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