Pitch Black Review

by Serdar Yegulalp (serdar AT thegline DOT com)
March 8th, 2000

Pitch Black (2000)
* * *

A movie review by Serdar Yegulalp
Copyright 2000 by Serdar Yegulalp

I don't know what I was expecting from "Pitch Black", but certainly not an extraordinarily slick and well-made little SF action movie. Made for less than the catering costs of some big-budget films, "Pitch Black" has the same flavor of "The Terminator" or "The Hidden", other indie SF adventures that made good on little resources.

The premise: A spacecraft with human cargo in deep-freeze gets blasted by a meteor shower. Many of the passengers die, and the female second-in-command (Radha Mitchell) jettisons many of the other passengers as a way of trying to stabilize the craft for a crash landing. The crash, by the way, is spectacularly well staged, and shows how much can be accomplished on a small budget these days with good computer graphics.

The planet itself is a sun-scorched wasteland -- actually, three suns, each keeping the planet bathed in perpetual daytime. The survivors salvage what they can from the wreck (there are the usual Robinson Crusoe cliches, but they're done with style) -- and then people start vanishing, and then turning up dead in grisly ways.

Turns out one of the passengers is Raddick (Vin Diesel), a multiple murderer and sociopath who has had his eyes surgically altered so that he can see in darkness. He is adamant, though, that he's not the one who's been slaughtering people. "You got a lot more to be afraid of than me around here," he says enigmatically. He is right. Do the captain and the killer band together to fight off what's worse than either of them? Do bears shine their shoes in the woods?

There's a lot more to the film, of course, a good deal of which is not to be spoiled, and some of which is painfully obvious. What struck me, though, was not the plot (which isn't particularly original,and frankly has holes you could drive the Death Star through), but the level of craftsmanship on a small budget and the smartly-written script. Part of the production was Australian; there's an edge and a wit to the lines that a wholly American movie wouldn't have. At one point one of the younger passengers shows off his knife skills and his intended victim retorts, "Did you run away from your parents when they were younger, or did they run away from you?"
I appreciate the effort it takes to make a good, entertaining film. "Pitch Black" is not a work of art and will not live forever, but it is fun to watch and is several notches above the usual level of SF-themed junk that Hollywood grinds out anually. And probably cost a lot less.

More on 'Pitch Black'...

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