on 24 January 2014
Having just bought the most recent film in the trilogy (simply called Riddick) I felt it was long overdue to upgrade the rest of the films in this franchise to Blu-ray.
I remember getting Pitch Black on US import DVD about 5 weeks before it was due out at the cinema here in the UK (almost a year before the UK DVD release) due to a February cinematic release in the US compared to an October release here , and it was a directors cut no less , but sadly , those days of getting movies weeks before their actual UK cinema release are long gone , as nearly all movies on DVD/Blu-ray in the US are now released at the same time (give or take) as the UK , so I find there is little point buying imports anymore.
This is arguably the film that launched Vin Diesel's career and , with what I thought was an excellent sequel that followed (apparently the critics didn't liked it) , it didn't just rehash the same storyline like so many sequels do , it completely opened up the Riddick universe and was turning out to be an excellent franchise.
As for the most recent instalment in the franchise , its fair to say the story has gone back to the first film , but still enjoyable enough... I'm not a big fan of Vin Diesel movies , but I do like his Riddick franchise which he has made his own and I could quite happily sit and watch all 3 movies in one sitting , and rumour has it , he's signed up to do more.
Visually the Blu-ray transfer is excellent. The scene where Riddick is chained up after the death of Zeke , the detail on his hair (what little there is) is quite remarkable. Even the alien creatures , which looked rather flat on the original DVD , gain incredible detail.
The contrast of going from having 3 suns to all out darkness , the black levels are solid and don't suffer the jerkiness that the DVD suffered from.
The sound is in 5.1 DTS master audio and is quit impressive given the low budget of this film , and the opening crash sequence is definitely one for the sound demo-ests out there with a decent audio setup... Although the best sound demo ever that still ranks No:1 for me is , Star Wars: A New Hope and the shutting down (or whining down) of the sub-light engines on the Millennium Falcon on its approach to the destroyed planet of Alderaan... It just can't be beat !
The extras are ok , but nothing really to shout about from what you got on DVD. There is a picture-in-picture behind the scenes feature that you now get along with a couple of other additions (U-Control for e.g.) but for £7 this is excellent value and very worthy of an upgrade.
A spacecraft carrying an assortment of passengers including Richard B. Riddick (Vin Diesel), a dangerous, murderer between prisons, is forced to make a crash landing on a deserted, triple-sunned planet after the craft suffers severe damage during a meteor shower. The ship is ripped into pieces, killing several crew members and leaving officer Fry (Radha Mitchell) in charge of the survivors. After two unfortunate deaths, the survivors discover that the only visible life form on the planet is a species of light-fearing, carnivorous, occasionally cannibalistic aliens dwelling in caverns beneath the desert surface. Using a model of the planet and its suns in an abandoned research station, Fry deduces that she and her fellow travellers have unfortunately descended on the planet on the day of its first total eclipse in 22 years, giving them mere hours before they are bathed in total darkness. Only then is it safe for the hungry subterranean creatures to emerge, seeking to feed on the remaining survivors. However, the dangerous Riddick, through black market injections received in lock-up, is able to see in darkness- causing the surviving crew members to reluctantly remain dependent on the potentially harmful criminal. As the survivors are killed one by one by the hungry creatures, they realise that Riddick may be their only hope.
When this film first came out, it was a bit of a cult hit that was sort of ignored as far as publicity and advertising went but I loved it all the same. Then came along its sequel, THE CHRONICLES OF RIDDICK, which gave this film a boost into the spotlight and is now considered a sci-fi/action classic. Watching it now on Blu Ray, some nine years later from when I originally watched it, I still can't believe how good this film is! It has everything you could want from this type of movie - brutal, hard-hitting action, fast-paced and nail-biting suspense, one of the best anti-heroes of all time and an excellent storyline. The special effects are great - the creatures that the characters are up against are genuinely creepy, the opening scene with the ship crashing is incredible and very intense, the planet feels extremely lonely and desolate and the impressive visual effects are so good (sometimes the film appears near-enough black and white because of the lighting from the planet's three suns). The acting from the whole cast is great too - this is one of the first films (along with The Fast and The Furious) that made Vin Diesel become one of the biggest names in Hollywood today.
The picture and sound quality is some of the clearest and best I have seen yet on Blu Ray so I highly recommend watching it on this format.
FILM - 4/5
PICTURE - 5/5
SOUND - 5/5
OVERALL - 4/5
on 6 September 2004
All I had to go on regarding the quality of this film prior to buying the DVD was word of mouth. The opinions I'd been party to were mixed to say the least.
So, imagine my delght when I bought this item, partly to catch up on the story and nature of Vin Diesel's main character, before going to watch the follow up, 'The Chronicles of Riddick'.
Not only is 'Pitch Black' incredibly stylish and aesthetically pleasing - just watch the incredible range of lighting effects - but the characters are charmingly intruiging, if largely archetypal for this type of movie. Yes, it relies heavily on its predecessors, but try making a 'humans stranded on an unknown planet and encountering carnivorous aliens' film that doesn't. The plot roles along nicely, and although it was never going to win any Academy Awards, is juxtaposed nicely with just the right amount of tension and action. Add into that mix a well above average muscle-bound anti-hero portayal from Diesel and you've got a very good movie, especially for the price.
There aren't many extras on this early DVD release - but if you want those you can splash a few extra quid on the Special Edition - but if you're looking for a B Movie type sci-fi horror that breaks the mould in terms of sophistication and performances you need look no further.
on 23 June 2007
This punchy and slick sci-fi action horror is based around a small group of travellers who crash land on a strange uninhabited planet which, by some luck, is about to plunge itself into complete darkness which is set to last for some time. The main member of this gang and the character around which the entire film is based is a notoriously violent and ruthless killer called Riddick. As he can see in the dark and is known for his dramatic escapism the team decide to use him to help get them off the planet alive.
The rest of the film is spent watching the members of this plucky little group get picked off one by one. All of the characters face emotional difficulty and have to use all of their strength and wit to survive.
Vin Diesel plays a very convincing hard faced super cool killer who risks his own life to help save others. The other characters have their own individual charm and personality which really help to give this film some substance and make it seem very realistic.
The format however is pretty much predictable and you can have a good guess at who will be killed next, but the characters are played so well and the spooky and demanding world is brought to life in such a magical way that you cant help but enjoy every minute. Well worth a look if action and aliens are your thing.
Pitch Black is directed by David Twohy and collectively written by Twohy and Ken and Jim Wheat. It stars Vin Diesel, Radha Mitchell, Cole Hauser, Keith David, Lewis Fitz-Gerald, Claudia Black and Rhiana Griffith. Music is by Graeme Revell and cinematography is by David Eggby.
The year 2000 was awash with sci-fi movies, not all were stellar of course, but siting at the top end of the scale was this, Twohy's super slice of action/horror/sci-fi cake.
Right from the off we are thrust on board the cargo ship Hunter-Gratzner, which as it happens is plummeting through space. The ship has been hit by meteorite debris and junior officer Caroline Fly (Mitchell), after coming out of hyper sleep, manages to crash land on a nearby planet. Only a handful of passengers survive the crash, including infamous convict Richard B. Riddick (Diesel), but as the survivors struggle to cope with the threat from within the group, it becomes apparent that there's a bigger threat soon to join the party, a deadly alien species, a species that can only operate in the dark. Pity, then, that an eclipse is due...
Okies, so lets get the obvious out in the open right away, Pitch Black is a variant of Alien, one of a ream of films that grabbed the coat tails of Ridley Scott's game changer. Yet this is still a fresh movie, a lesson in low budget film making with grace, style, blood, brains and balls - the execution grade "A" from those involved.
It's maybe surprising given the synopsis, to find that it's a very character driven piece, with Twohy continually building his characters even as the carnage and terror is unleashed - and these are a very diverse bunch of characters. One of the universe's baddest criminals, a spunky lady officer having to take command, a morphine addicted bounty hunter, an Islamic priest and his young companions, a camp alcoholic and a couple of strays. It's the not so wild bunch, but everyone of them are afforded chance to impact on the story before and during the inevitable picking off one by one at the claws of the beasts.
The narrative strength comes via Diesel's hulking convict, he's double jointed and has had optical surgery so he can see his enemies in the dark! The group must come to rely on him for he is clearly their best hope of survival, but can he be trusted? What is his ultimate ulterior motive? Riddick is the épée to Fry's foil, it's at times like a devil and angel trying to become one in the simple name of survival. These crux characters lift the simple premise to greater heights, that Mitchell (sexy/vulnerable/hard/smart) and Diesel (moody/beefy/gravelly/menacing) are bang on form helps no end. As does the work of the tech department.
The setting created here is a splendid veer from one of the curses of sci-fi films, that of an unbelievable world. Twohy, Eggby and the art department achieve a world of 3 suns, of a scorched barren landscape, with the photography switching between bleached and metallic filters for maximum sci-fi impact. While the effects work belies the budget, check out the pre-eclipse sequence. What of the creatures themselves? They are legion, a sort of pterodactyl nightmare who let out high pitched bleats, they smell blood and move at high speeds, and like Riddick they have special vision in the dark, it's the light that they are afraid of, thus this gives our survivors a glimmer (ahem) of hope in how to stave them off...
The science and logic is hokey, but so what? This is a classy and taut sci-fi film brought about by a very under valued director, one that puts many a bigger budgeted Hollywood production to shame. Come the finale, where there's still time to have your draw dropped, you may be minus nails and on the edge of your seat. 9/10
on 14 December 2014
"Pitch Black" is an almost perfect little SF chiller.
It's based upon the classic format - a group of people go somewhere strange and find themselves contending with an obscure menace. It's a fable staple, especially in science fiction. Here, it's another spaceship and another decidedly Forbidden Planet.
So far, so predictable. However, director David Twohy deserves full credit for finding lots of novel little twists which I haven't seen before. For example, whilst in space, music has a typical orchestral `wonder' theme with hints of choral overlay, whereas on the planet's barren surface, the riff assumes a simple bony percussion that seems almost aboriginal. Another sly trick entails the use of light. The planet has three suns of different colour, and filters are used to unusual effect in emphasising solar perspectives. But the real plus point - I believe - is the excellent mix of characters. Vin Diesel is the obvious star as the homicidal criminal - Riddick - enjoying unexpected parole. But Cole Hauser - the "blue-eyed devil" makes an excellent protagonist as scarcely-legal private cop, Johns, determined to claim his bounty. Meanwhile, Radha Mitchell plays dubious anti-hero, "Fry", along with Keith David & Lewis Fitzgerald. I particularly enjoy the snide but pragmatic antiquarian, Paris P Oglivy, constantly looking-out for number one - "It's amazing how many essentials you can do without as long as you have a few luxuries". That's just one smart line of many from a script that nicely suits each individual. They're all sympathetically portrayed, even the seemingly malignant Riddick, and I'm induced to care about them all.
Big toothy monsters snapping people up have become old hat since the "Aliens" franchise, and Twohy doesn't dwell so much on the bloody aspect of encounters, preferring to emphasise the simmering tensions between group members and their own personal strengths and fears. Though when the beasties do appear, they do so in spectacular and - again, original - style.
But special effect cherry on the cake is an eclipse. This sequence develops in wonderful detail, as a huge otherwise unseen planet begins to lift above the shimmering desert horizon, rapidly obscuring the sky. The world has two contra-rotating rings, and as it continues to rise, these partially obscure the two remaining suns. The rings are of dense material and semi opaque, so as the suns dip behind them, light begins to diminish in abrupt stages. Our desperate heroes are faced with a race against time to complete their means of survival before the world becomes Pitch Black. From first sight to night; Twohy executes this take to perfection, literally hammering-up the tension with his percussion riff, augmented by orchestral drama cords, each choreographed to the encroaching gloom. Finally, the planet itself completes the transition into darkness after a culminating flare of gold. It's breathtakingly imaginative and wonderful to observe.
Run time is quoted as just a B-movie length 104 minutes, Viewer rating is "15". Aspect ratio is given as 2.35:1. There's a number of extras I haven't yet watched.
On matters of plot, character acting, and technical details, I find no fault with this work. It may not be the best SF beastie thriller in the business, but Twohy's original touches make it shine.
Very Highly Recommended.
This science fiction film directed by David Twohy (The Fugitive) back in 2000 revolves around a small group of colonists who's spaceship crashes on a hostile desert planet. They discover that a freak conjunction of the three sun system and the planet's moons and neighbouring planets is about to plunge the the place into a long period of extreme darkness. Of course, this is the perfect cue for the local wildlife to make an appearance. Hint: they're not fluffy and cute.
This was Vin Diesel's first leading role in which he plays a hardened criminal on whom the colonists must eventually come to rely - but can they trust him? Diesel steals his scenes as a chap you would certainly not want to invite home to meet your nan and, with hindsight, it's clear that he's using the character to carve (literally) out a role as a move hard-man - a new Bruce Willis, if you will. Witness the scene where he shaves with a makeshift stilletto and axle grease. No, he doesn't splash on the Old Spice afterwards, either.
As for his supporting cast, the acting is fine if a little non-descript. Radha Mitchell is rather good as the fragile spaceship pilot with a skeleton in her cupboard and there are some useful performances from Cole Hauser (as a bounty hunter) and Keith David (a wandering Immam). Apart from that, the sparse remaining cast tend to fade into the background, but that is fine. They're there largely to give the monsters something to eat (ooh! was that a spoiler?).
The visualisation is particularly good, I think, capturing the blistering hellscape of the desert and the monsters-on-all-sides terror of the night. The opening crash sequence is also pretty good and I think it's not overdoing it to suggest that it comes close to the epic crash scene from Alive (indeed I wouldn't be surprised if Twohy used that as a template). As for the special effects, well, any sci-fi movie has to accept that CGI will play a large part in the production. Some get it wrong and rely on it as a sort of substitute for plot or acting and some get it right and use it to /support/ the story. I think that PB got it right in this respect - the CGI is cooked just about to perfection and because it isn't front and centre it still looks pretty good despite the age of the film.
The plot is admittedly a little pedestrian, but it moves along nicely enough in a linear sort of way from crash, to trek across the desert, to alien encounter, to escape(?). You do need to squint a bit to ignore some rather irritating deus ex machinas and the usual stalk and slash action movie cliches rear their heads - can the leader be trusted? who will survive and who will die horribly? In general though I found nothing to be particularly outraged by and what we have is a well executed action adventure film in the Alien/Flight Of The Phoenix/Ice Cold In Alex vein.
All told, this is well worth a watch. It was rather overlooked when it first came out but developed a cult following and certainly deserves to figure on any list of good sci-fi films.
I should point out that Diesel went on to produce a hugely inferior (in my opinion, but others disagree) follow-up (The Chronicles of Riddick). My theory is that he liked his PB character so much that he took it way too seriously, but that's another story.
Johns: How's it look?
Riddick: Looks clear.
[Johns looks out and is buzzed by a flying monster]
Johns: You said it was clear!
Riddick: I said it /looked/ clear.
Johns: Well, how does it look now?
Riddick: Looks clear...
Imagine the legendary "Flight of the Phoenix," except the crash is on a barren alien planet... and there are nasty flesh-eating monsters. And a serial killer.
That describes David Twohy's most artistically adept movie, the raw and dusty "Pitch Black. This cult movie starts off as your average gang of embattled, ill-matched castaways struggling to survive, but it that becomes utterly brilliant as it slowly slips from gritty sci-fi to harrowing, claustrophobic horror. And yes, even Vin Diesel gives an awesome performance in this one.
After a meteor storm, a sleeper transport crashes on a desolate desert planet. Most of the passengers survive, including a stowaway kid and a dangerous prisoner, Riddick (Vin Diesel). Unfortunately, it turns out that the entire planet is a desert because it's blasted by three suns all throughout the day, and the survivors have little food, water or shelter. Oh yeah, and Riddick has broken out.
To find the necessities, a small group led by Carolyn Fry Radha Mitchell) sets out across the desert -- and discovers a swarm of vicious omnivorous creatures in a cave. Fortunately they can't come out into the light. But when the group finds a geological survey station, they learn that a monthlong eclipse is about to fall over the planet -- meaning the creatures will soon eat them all if they don't escape from the desolate planet, and some of them aren't gonna make it.
Personally I haven't liked David Twohy's work except the 1996 sci-fi film "Arrival," but "Pitch Black" is the kind of brilliant cult movie that almost makes up for an otherwise okay-to-bad filmography. This is not a polished space opera, but a dingy, grimy, dirty sci-fi movie full of recognizably ugly technology and stained morals -- not to mention some truly grotesque deaths. And not all of them are from the winged beasties either (think chest impalement).
And Twohy gives the movie a very bleak, vaguely disturbing look -- endless chalky deserts filled with bones, grimy ships torn to pieces, empty skies, and searing pale light that makes everyone look half dead. Even the beautiful colourful expanses of space seem vaguely ominous. But the whole thing suddenly becomes jump-in-your-seat scary when the monsters attack, and start eating people as they run. The one problem? COME ON, what are the chances that they would JUST HAPPEN to arrive for the once-in-two-decades eclipse?
And the feeling of suspense is heightened by sharp-edged, pared-down dialogue ("You're dancing on razor blades here") and a warped sense of humor -- we're assured that "No similarity to actual persons or predators, living or dead, is intended or should be inferred." Nice.
The characters are a pretty mixed bag, and there's always the haunting realization that most of them would easily turn on each other to save themselves -- and in fact, the main character even does that in the first few minutes of the film. There's benevolent Muslim pilgrims, a hard-nosed bounty hunter, a prissy dude who hoards booze, and an annoying urchin of ambiguous gender. The standouts are Claudia Black as the tough Shazza, and Keith David as the kindly Abu "Imam" al-Walid.
As for the leads, Diesel gives a pretty good performance as a wisecracking killer with a distinctly creepy edge (ew, he took a hair sample) and "shine" eyes that let him see in the dark. But I was most impressed by Mitchell's Fry, as a selfish hardened leader who learns to defend other people's lives in a crunch.
"Pitch Black" is a fast, eerie, bloody little sci-fi movie with a nasty little planet full of even nastier creatures that are just waiting for dark. Definitely worth it for sci-fi buffs.
on 12 July 2002
What a Remarkable film....
A group of passengers travelling in an interstellar freight ship are knocked out of their shipping lane...
This is a very engaging film. Well acted by all characters (particularly Vin Diesel)...
Primarily dealing with the premise of putting 'ordinary' people in a high stress and dangerous situation where they must survive at all costs... this film does not rely on visual effects to make up for anything else... a fine cast - superb story - great script... a must see Cult Classic. In the same league as Aliens....
on 3 February 2005
Set in the future, David Twohy's 'Pitch Black' tells the story of a handful of space travellers struggling to survive when their ship is forced to crash land on a distant planet. The group all have different reasons for being on the space craft, the main character being the supposedly ruthless murderer Riddick (Vin Diesel - Saving Private Ryan, The Fast and the Furious).
When Riddick goes missing the other survivors become nervous due his reputation, but it becomes apparent there is much more to fear when one of the party is eaten alive by a mysterious creature. The creatures weakness appears to be any form of light - which makes the pending eclipse extremely bad news.
This dvd contains special features which will no doubt increase its appeal to fans of the film. It proved to be successful enough to warrant a sequel, 2004's 'The Chronicles of Riddick', however there are certainly better films in the genre (either Alien or Aliens for example). The special effects are ok and this is one of Diesels better performances but the story lacks the necessary depth to be considered a classic. I found it hard to really warm to any of the characters with the exception of Radha Mitchell's (Fry).
I found the film to be entertaining enough but would advise that you watch the film before buying.