Pitch Black Review

by ram DOT samudrala AT stanford DOT edu
March 10th, 2000

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Pitch Black
http://www.ram.org/ramblings/movies/pitch_black.html

/Pitch Black/ is standard sci-fi action fare that has its moments in terms of the visual cinematography, but the plot is mostly derivative and uninspiring.

The film follows a simple plot: a group of space-faring voyagers are stranded on a planet. The planet is inhabited by a race of aliens that appear only in the dark, and go about on a killing spree feeding on other living things that have become stranded. The planet is surrounded by three suns, which means constant sunlight and safety for the stranded voyagers, but as luck would have it, they happen to have crashed just before a total eclipse is about to occur (design or coincidence?).

There is some tension between the people stranded on the planet, but it is secondary to the feel of the movie itself: among the motley crew, Fry (Radha Mitchell) is the captain who almost jettisoned the passengers who were in cryosleep to save herself; Riddick (Vin Diesel) is a sociopath with special talents being transported shackled; and Inam (Keith David) a religious preacher whose primary purpose is to inject some form of a spiritual/religious message into the film. Of course, they must all work together to combat the greater evil (calling an alien species that just wants to survive "evil" is amusing to me).

The acting is passable and the pacing is decent, if you're comfortable with the "aliens kill off survivors until the last few manage to triumph" story line. The visuals are surreal and are done incredibly well, this is what rescues /Pitch Black/. Thinking back about this film, I feel as though I was dreaming about what I saw. The many views of the aliens (from looking through the killer's specialised eyes to their complex flying patterns) are done in an excellent manner (though the alien creatures themselves are modelled after the ones in /Alien/, albeit with wings).

Director and writer David Twohy does a fine job in giving us a visual glimpse of his universe, and while the plot of this film is not as conceptually sophisticated as his previous work, /The Arrival/, it is a great piece of eye candy to look at and enjoy on the big screen. Worth the matinee fare.

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