I've got to hand it to actors recently, they've really been saving writers'
butts. From last year's "The Hurricane" being saved by Denzel Washington's
amazing performance, to last week's "Reindeer Games" being held afloat by
Charlize Theron and Gary Sinise, actors have been the only reason to see
several films recently. I'm afraid that "Pitch Black" is no exception. It's
a bleak, dreary, boring movie, made bearable only by the presence of Vin
Diesel ("Saving Private Ryan", "Boiler Room"), as the film's very reluctant
hero. Radha Mitchell is fairly good as the film's female lead, but no one
could have hoped to match Diesel for sheer intensity. There aren't many
actors who make you anxious to hear what they're going to say next.
A starship filled with colonists has just crash landed (for reasons never
fully explained) on a planet with three suns. Of the forty passengers, only
ten have survived. Seven are colonists, led by Iman (Keith David); one is
the ship's pilot, Carolyn Fry (Radha Mitchell); one is a police officer
named Johns (Cole Hauser); and the last is his captive, a murderer named
Riddick (Vin Diesel). The group soon finds an abandoned mining camp, where
the former residents don't appear to have left voluntarily. While there,
they discover that the day never ends on this planet, and its natural
habitants can only come out when it is completely dark, because the light
harms them. It would seem that the colonists have chosen a bad time to crash
land because an eclipse is about to take place,
and the entire planet will be plunged into darkness.
One of the things I first noticed about this movie was the way it was
filmed. Everything has a rather bleached, dried-out look to it. I think this
was intentional, and the film makers were attempting to show the effects of
three suns beating down on the planet at once; but all they succeeded in
doing was making the movie look so low budget that they had no money to
spend on good film. As if this weren't enough, the camera constantly jostles
about or quick cuts from person to person in a confusing manner. While this
might make sense during scenes when the creatures attack, it is used all the
time - even when people are only talking.
I think the biggest problem with "Pitch Black" is that it commits the
ultimate sin for a horror film. That is, of course, that a horror film
should never be dull, and "Pitch Black" is frequently. I believe that a good
horror movie should never let you relax for too long. I'm sure fans of "The
Blair Witch Project" will argue this with me, since that film managed to be
dull the whole way through but still scared some people. During "Pitch
Black", I actually saw people in the theatre falling asleep during the
movie's frequent, very long conversations about things no one could care
less about. For example, there is a scene where we apparently learn some
grave secret about Johns; though they talk endlessly about it, I still
couldn't tell you just what exactly the secret was supposed to be.
Two more things I must make note of. First, despite Diesel's great
performance, his character's transformation is more than a little hard to
swallow. Second, could someone please explain to me how a desert planet,
with no plant life and therefore no herbivores, could support hordes of
massive, meat eating creatures? We never see anything else they could snack
on, so how do they stay alive? Oh well, just another stupid oversight in a
stupid movie I suppose. "Pitch Black" runs 108 minutes, which will feel much
longer than it actually is. I'd recommend it only to see Vin Diesel's
performance, and if you really want to see that, do yourself a favor and
wait for video. I give it two out of five stars.
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For past reviews, movie news, and other fun stuff, visit:
* * * * * - One of the greatest movies ever made, see it now:
* * * * - Great flick, try and catch this one.
* * * - Okay movie, hits and misses.
* * - Pretty bad, see it only if you've got nothing better to do.
* - One of the worst movies ever made. See it only if you enjoy pain.
Copyright © 2000 John Beachem