Pitch Black Review

by "Alex Ioshpe" (ioshpe AT online DOT no)
November 6th, 2000

DIRECTED BY: David N. Twohy
WRITTEN BY: Jim and Ken Wheat
CAST: Radha Mitchell, Vin Diesel, Cole Hauser, Keith David (I)

MPAA: Rated R for sci-fi violence and gore, and for language
Runtime: USA:112 (unrated version)
"Afraid of the dark?"

RATING: 6/10

Weirdly cool, coolly weird, beautifully stupid, Pitch Black opens with
a bang. A slam, actually, as a damaged spaceship under the direction
of a brisk pilot named Fry (Radha Mitchell - the Ripley of this story)
makes a crash landing onto an unknown planet. On it is a killer (Vin
Diesel), a bounty hunter, a stockbroker, a brat boy and a couple of
Muslim pilgrims -- all on the same ship. And they were all going
somewhere (where exactly the screenwriters do not know). The rest of
the crew is killed; the passengers are all shook up and emerge ahead
of schedule from their transport comas, blinking and bleeding in a
seemingly lifeless planet with three suns, which seems completely
abandoned. But once in 22 years darkness falls and strange creatures
emerge from the ground. Now they all have to trust a killer who can
see in the dark. What happens next you can guess.

The film is shaped in the image of Ridley Scott's "Alien", but has a
couple of inventions of its own. These are of course not associated
with story or character development, but instead concern the visual
aspect. "The Arrivial"-director David Twohy creates a chillingly
effective atmosphere with light, shade and color combinations,
bringing to ''Pitch Black'' the disorienting thrill of a world turned
upside down. The film works best at the very beginning, when every
character and scene is a mystery, and we, along side with the
characters, experience a creepy notion of paranoia -- a fear of the
unknown and a sense of something (or someone) lurking beneath. But
then Twohy decides to turn off the originality and everything becomes
pitch black. It is sad that films like this are regarded as science
fiction, where the special effects are the heart of the movie, around
witch the rest is built. With a script being on the same intellectual
level as "Lost in Space" , it's hard to make a decent movie. Even the
story itself doesn't stand any criticism (and I am not talking about
the lucky landing or the perfect timing either). The planet doesn't
give any impression of being alien. Somehow resembling the planet
Tatooine from George Lucas' "Star Wars", it has the perfect
environment for human beings -- temperature, surface and air. Is this
convenient or what? There are other disturbing problems. Since it's
dark only once in 22 years wouldn't it be more likely that the
creatures would fear darkness and not sunlight? And considering that
the planet is completely dead on the surface, do these creatures eat
at all? Or are they completely dependant on human visitors?

Considering these (and many more!) irrationalities, it's impossible to
watch this film as a science fiction. However, this movie is an
excellent choice for horror and action lovers. The acting is decent,
the effects are cool, the action is well coordinated - what more do
can you want from a popcorn-film? Vin Diesel ("Saving Private Ryan")
is very spooky as the feared murderer, being some sort of Hannibal Lecter-meets-Rambo kind of guy, with his eyes glaring in the darkness
like a hyena. Midchell is likewise very effective with a couple of
strong scenes and emotional outbursts. The rampaging aliens,
meanwhile, look something like flying hammerhead sharks and behave
like a flock of vampire bats and they squawk ''reeee-reee-reee!'' as
they pounce and devour. True, we haven't seen that before. But does it
really matter? The concept is known and that's enough. And though I
did enjoy some of what was presented in "Pitch Black", I have seen it
all before.


More on 'Pitch Black'...

Originally posted in the rec.arts.movies.reviews newsgroup. Copyright belongs to original author unless otherwise stated. We take no responsibilities nor do we endorse the contents of this review.