Director: David Twohy
Cast: Vin Diesel, Cole Hauser, Radha Mitchell, Keith David
Plot: A transport ship crashes on a deserted planet, allowing dangerous convict, Riddick (Diesel) to escape. The others attempt to recapture him, unaware that at night, the planet is a very dangerous place…
Pitch Black is about an escaped convict, called Riddick, who, as the movie constantly reminds us, is a very dangerous killer. When he manages to escape a transport ship, cop J. Johns, played brilliantly by Cole Hauser, convinces the ship’s crew to help him chase Riddick down. However, little do they know that the planet has been overrun by dangerous creatures that come out during the pitch black at night. Soon it becomes a game of cat and mouse, as the survivors attempt to find any form of light to stay alive. The only person who can save them is the very person they are trying to arrest: Riddick.
Pitch Black was an unexpected success in the movie universe. I like the way that this movie seems like it never set out to be anything other than a Sci-Fi horror. It stumbled across a great franchise, rather than trying really hard to get one. Despite great direction and a good script, the success of this really lies down to the awesome Vin Diesel. He is brilliant as Riddick, getting the right balance between loner villain and begrudging hero. His character shouldn’t work. As a hero he has no motive and when he does do some good, we rarely get a glimpse of his reasoning, other than apparent pity. However, this unpredictable nature to the character instantly become a hit with the Sci-Fi world and now we are anticipated the third movie in the franchise.
However, ignoring the successful franchise, this movie can be enjoyed as a stand-alone thriller. It gives us an interesting planet, without drowning us in exposition. It sets up a universe nicely and before long, we are ready to get to the adventure bit. This movie does play out like a horror, but it is much more than that. It is smart enough to know that it cannot rely on a horror aspect. The aliens are dangerous, yes, but they aren’t really scary enough to haunt us at night. Also, most of the characters aren’t nice people, with the exception of a few good people.
Radha Mitchell takes the role of the girl we relate to, as the main character is meant to be impossible to relate to. She does well here and this could be one of her best roles. She could be said to play Pitch Black’s answer to Ellen Ripley from Alien. She is a tough woman who takes up arms, when the going gets tough, despite having no previous background in fighting. The script keeps her a believable character though and she is one of the highlights of this film. The film does some interesting thing with her character.
Cole Hauser is also good as the cop hired to take Riddick down. I thought he was great here, but there is a sense that the movie missed a trick with him here. The nice thing here is that Riddick is introduced as a villain, yet as the film progresses, the film hints that we should switch who we are rooting for. Slowly Hauser is allowed to slip into the nasty side he is known for portraying so well in movies. Sadly, the film takes a direction where there is no room for the character and he has to be removed from the plot. I wanted him to last a little longer, as some interesting things could have been done here. Sadly not.
I think this is the main flaw of this film. It’s good, but it’s not great. There is always a sense that so much more could be done with this movie. It sells itself as a Friday night thriller with some decent scares, when in truth it has the potential to be one of the greater Sci-Fis in a long while. It comes across as a decent movie to watch when bored, but not something that you will put in your top ten movie list. But as I said, as it has its own little franchise now, which is looking to be very interesting, maybe it’s good to have this small-time film, showing off its humble beginnings as a nice, little horror action.
Final verdict: A steady addition to the Sci-Fi universe, introducing one of Vin Diesel’s best characters yet.