Pitch Black (2000): Breakdown by Kain424
A spaceship crashes on an unknown world. After finding out the planet may be teaming with frightening and dangerous lifeforms, the survivors are forced to work together with a murderer who may or may not want to help them at all.
With the Action stars of yesteryear waning at the end of the century, Schwarzenegger having mostly left the genre for family-friendly fare, Stallone seemingly heading toward DTV Hell with Lundgren, Snipes, Seagal and Van Damme, fans like me looked out into the sea of dark emptiness, in search of the next big Action hero. It was in Pitch Black that I thought I’d found him.
The movie itself is a sort of Alien-in-the-open kind of film (though also very similar to the classic western Stagecoach), but with much more emphasis on the characters. In a short time, and without too much dialog, the movie is able to convince us to fear Diesel’s Riddick character, establishing him as something possibly primordial, less than human. For a good deal of the film, whenever Diesel is shown, he is out of focus, far in the background, too close in the foreground or, most importantly, in the shadows. We learn why he stays just out of the light, when the shit hits the fan, and why he may be the only hope these people have. Diesel clearly relishes the role, playing it at top form, chewing up every moment he’s on screen.
By working at our societal prejudices and natural need for protection, the film manages to be both clever and captivating. We understand, at some level, nearly every character almost completely. And therefore, we can relate. All of this is established fairly early on, before much of the movie’s action. And once that begins, the characters are free to perform actions and make choices that are easily understandable.
The look of Pitch Black is carefully crafted around the story. The bleached desert feel is replaced by a dark, muddy Hell towards the end, going from wide open spaces to cavernous pathways. There are wrecked spacecraft parts and abandoned buildings in one half of the film and bones and rain in the next. This hot and cold change seems natural, but uncomfortable enough to keep things moving.
At times, the effects on the alien creatures aren’t so great and other times the CGI is obvious. Within ten years, the movie can already be dated because of this, but fortunately, the creatures are largely, like Riddick, kept in the shadows.
All in all, the movie still somehow holds up. Diesel is great, as is the rest of the cast, which includes Radha Mitchell and the always awesome Keith David. Worth watching for its excellence, but also to see the mighty Action star that could have been.
[HOW BAD-ASS IS THE MAIN CHARACTER?]
Vin Diesel is Richard B. Riddick
Fry: “Is he really that dangerous?”
Johns: “Only around humans.”
Riddick is a survivor. He’s learned to live instinctually, only the most base remains of the uncivilized human mind keep him ticking. Though he’s never seen to kill anyone in the movie, we learn that he has and feel certain that he would again, if the opportunity presented itself.
-Can pop his arms out of their socket to escape confinement
-Can see in the dark with his special eyes
-Kills with “shivs”; home-fashioned blades
-Can fly spacecrafts
-I’m pretty sure the “B” in his name stands for “Bad-Ass”
[THE BODY COUNT: 14]
Despite the protagonist never killing anyone, nearly everyone dies in the film. Only a few of the deaths are shown as violent ones, with heads getting crunched, a woman being torn in half and a few teenagers being eaten alive by small alien creatures. Several of the deaths are caused in the ship’s original crashing (according to Riddick’s estimation, over 40), but I’ve only counted the bodies shown.
[MOST SATISFYING ASS-KICKING & DEATH]
Vin Diesel vs. Cole Hauser, Round 2.
Riddick, planning to use Johns as bait to buy the rest of them some time and distance from the creatures, battles again with his captor. The fight isn’t too well choreographed, but it’s what’s going on during the fight that’s interesting. Diesel is put in an armbar, pops his elbow out of its socket to escape and then replaces it. All the fight, he is actually trying to lure Johns out of the light, breaking the small lights he’s wearing, cutting him so the creatures can smell his blood, and leaving Johns in the darkness where the alien beasts will see him.
Once in the dark, Johns is quickly taken out in violent fashion.
[DUDESWEAT AND MACHISMO]
Johns: “Or maybe he’ll just come back and skullfuck you in your sleep.”
Diesel starts the movie bound, gagged and blindfolded, presumably by Cole Hauser. The two are constantly fighting, with Hauser whipping Diesel at one point with a prod and chaining him up. So yeah, there’s some subtext in this one.
[EXPLOITATION AND MISOGYNY]
Though problems occur in the film’s plot at the fault of the female characters, all of the women in Pitch Black are seen as strong and usually clear-headed. Still, one character renames herself and seems to want to be a man. So you could claim that as a point for this category.
[EPIC MOMENT AND BEST ONE-LINER]
Riddick is attacked by one of the monsters. Instead of being torn to shreds, ripped in half, or any of the things that happen to the other victims, Riddick muscles down the beast, slices it up with his shiv, disembowels it, and breaks its neck. Because he’s a fucking bad-ass.
Riddick: “Did not know who he was fucking with.”
[THE MORAL OF THE STORY]
Life or death situations can bring about the good in anyone. Especially if that “anyone” is an opportunist killing machine.
[THE CHECKLIST: 13 outta 25]
[ ] Athlete(s) Turned “Actor”
[X] Clinging To The Outside Of A Moving Vehicle
[ ] Crotch Attack
[X] Dialogue Telling Us How Bad-Ass The Main Character(s) Is/Are
[ ] Ending Featuring An Ambulance, A Blanket or A Towel
[X] Giant Explosion(s)
[ ] Heavy Artillery
[X] Improvised Weapon(s)
[ ] Macho Mode(s) Of Transportation
[X] Main Character Sports Facial Accessory(s)
[ ] Manly Embrace(s)
[ ] Notorious Stunt-Man Sighting
[X] Passage(s) Of Time Via Montage
[X] Politically Fueled Plot Point(s)
[X] Senseless Destruction Of Property
[ ] Shoot Out(s) and/or Sword Fight(s)
[X] Slow-Motion Finishing Move(s)/Death(s)
[X] Stupid Authoritative Figure(s)
[X] Substance Usage and/or Abuse
[ ] Tis The Season
[ ] Torture Sequence(s)
[X] Unnecessary Sequel [The Chronicles Of Riddick]
[ ] Vehicle Chase(s)
[ ] Vigilante Justice