Pitch Black Review

by Ross Anthony (ross AT rossanthony DOT com)
February 20th, 2000

Looks Clear...
Pitch Black

By Ross Anthony

This sci-fi horror flick is at its best simulating a hypothetical three sun solar system. Amateur astronomers (myself one) will raise many a deliberating eyebrow at the assumptions we swallow in order to accept this conjectural reality.

The film opens with a space vessel transporting a load of commercial passengers (average people, save for the hardened criminal) all enjoying dreams in cryo-sleep (save for the hardened criminal). Suddenly, unknown objects rip through the walls of the vessel awakening all while killing the captain (of course). Now if this is bad luck, just wait ... "Pitch Black" defines the meaning of the phrase. The first mate, a sassy blonde, jumps to the pilot seat in time to see the surface of some planet swiftly approaching. In an effort to gain control of the speeding ship she quickly purges large sections of it ... including the payload (the passengers); but something's wrong, the lever sticks and she's forced to land with all on board. This sequence displays perhaps the most exhilarating graphics of the film. Atmospheric debris shatter the windshield into a splash of dust (miraculously, the pilot's pretty face isn't in the slightest marred). But still the menacing rush of dust and wind create a thrilling ride for the audience as the ship slides across the burnt orange surface of an unknown land. You'll sigh in relief when it finally comes to a stop.

Looking out on the horizon, survivors quickly conclude that there will be no nightfall due to the multiple suns. Which is a good thing, because the planet is inhabited by "a lot" of nasty pterodactyl type aliens that don't like the light. But don't forget the bad luck factor; though the place is devoid of anything else, our travelers quickly stumble across an old mining factory, pick up one sample, instantly evaluate it as the last one, decode its age at 22 years (in unknown planet time, that is), then run over to a rather cool mechanical replica of the current solar system left by the human minors mysteriously killed 22 years back. The sharp unmarred pilot hand-revolves the geared planetary assemblage 22 times back into the solar system's history. The convenient counter clicks backward. Ah-oh, an eclipse! What are the chances of that? These poor kids just happened to be marooned on a planet inhabited by light-hating beasts on the very day of its 22-year cycle eclipse.

With an hour's warning, the quickly dwindling troop still isn't prepared as the huge second planet with parallel rings rotating in opposite directions (not sure that's possible) rather swiftly blots out the sun. Despite the potential impossibility, it's a beautiful scene; the second planet's horizon cracking the sun as if to release from it a swarm of bat-like monsters into the honey-golden sky. Of course, just then one passenger finds the necessity to run out into the darkness while the remaining group attempts to determine the duration of this eclipse in order to assess a plan. Given the pilot's lightening speed at predicting the eclipse and that nifty solar-system model, she could have easily determined the duration. But she didn't.
As a viewer in the theater, witnessing the rate of the eclipse, you could have reasonably guessed its duration to be brief - an hour or so. But, no strangers to bad luck, this entourage embraces the ever-so remote possibility that these two planets are orbiting in sync, thus they assume the darkness may be very very long lasting and therefore need to rush out into it and prepare their departure. Silly kids, have they forgotten about the other sun(s)?

A murderer in the midst and thousands of hungry aliens to dodge, "Pitch Black" is still meant to scare you. With many a cheap (sometimes tedious) set up, suspenseful build, followed by either a kill or a fake out to progress it along.

Nice performance by the bad guy, Vin Diesel (voice of "Iron Giant" by the way). Respectably acted, filmed and directed, "Pitch Black" caps off with a surprisingly Christian theme, but may make a better platform for a beginning astronomy class than action-packed thriller.

Pitch Black. Copyright 2000. Rated R. 107 minutes.
Starring Vin Diesel, Radha Mitchell, Cole Hauser, Keith David, Lewis Fitz-Gerald, Claudia Black, Rhiana Griffith, John Moore.
Directed by David Twohy
Written by Jim and Ken Wheat and David Twohy
Produced by Tom Engelman at USA films.


Copyright 2000. Ross Anthony, currently based in Los Angeles, has scripted and shot documentaries, music videos, and shorts in 35 countries across North America, Europe, Africa and Asia. For more reviews visit:

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