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Pitch Black Main

Pitch Black Blu-ray Review

Written by ZigZag

Blu-ray released by Arrow Video

Pitch Black Large

Directed by David Twohy
Written by Jim Wheat, Ken Wheat and David Twohy
2000, 112 minutes, Unrated
Released on September 1st, 2020

Starring:
Vin Diesel as Richard B. Riddick
Radha Mitchell as Carolyn Fry
Cole Hauser as William J. Johns
Keith David as Abu “Imam” al-Walid
Lewis Fitz-Gerald as Paris P. Oglivie
Claudia Black as Sharon “Shazza” Montgomery
Rhiana Griffith as Jack

Pitch Black 01 Pitch Black 02

Review:

A transport ship crashes onto a remote planet leaving nine survivors to fend for themselves in a blinding desert under the heat of three blazing suns. Among the passengers are an imam and his teenage wards, a pair of prospectors named Shazza and Zeke and an antiquities dealer named Paris. Richard B. Riddick, a convicted murderer who was being transferred to a prison facility has now escaped his restraints and disappeared into the wasteland. William Johns is responsible for the prisoner and he enlists the help of the ship’s only surviving crew member, docking pilot Carolyn Fry, to help organize a search party. Riddick remains elusive but always nearby, watching and waiting for an opportunity.

At an abandoned outpost they discover a ship in need of minor repairs that can take them off this planet. One of the team finds something in a hole and investigates, only to be pulled inside and killed by an alien creature. Fry and the others locate the underground lair of the beasts and barely survive by escaping into the light. The monsters are photosensitive and with the planet’s multiple suns, the castaways feel confident they will have the time to safely salvage parts from their wrecked ship to repair the other. What no one counts on is a solar eclipse that plunges them into total darkness where the monsters are free to emerge and hunt. Now, Fry and the others will have to set aside their trepidations and work with Riddick if they plan to stay alive.

Following the familiar premise of people isolated and trapped facing a horde of hungry monsters, Pitch Black manages to inject new life with its brisk pacing, interesting characters and a dynamic setting. Playing on traditional themes of good vs. evil and a basic fear of the dark, the story benefits from some creative twists that keep viewers fully engaged. Director David Twohy (Below) co-wrote the screenplay with Jim Wheat (The Fly II) and Ken Wheat (The Birds II) and delivers an atmospheric sci/fi chiller full of surprises. The extreme worlds of sun-bleached daylight and crippling darkness are well-realized by cinematographer David Eggby (Mad Max), whose creative lighting design is a knockout. Editor Rick Shaine (A Nightmare on Elm Street) builds an increasing level of tension as the endless night begins and the monsters are on the prowl.

Pitch Black 03 Pitch Black 04

This is the film that made Vin Diesel (The Fast and the Furious franchise) a star, and in the role of Riddick he carries an unbelievable amount of screen presence. Riddick is a bad dude with extreme survival skills and convenient surgically enhanced eyes that allow him to see in the dark. Not so much an anti-hero, as he is the group’s best shot at avoiding a gruesome death, the others follow his lead. Diesel commands every minute of his screen time filling the character with menace and moral ambiguity.

Radha Mitchell (Silent Hill) co-stars as Fry, the pilot who during the emergency landing seriously considered jettisoning the ship’s passenger compartments to save herself, and is now in the position of reluctant leader and protector. Mitchell brings humanity to the part. as we are witness to her initial moment of weakness and later dedication to preserving life. Cole Hauser (Tigerland) does a fine job as Johns, the gung-ho authority figure with questionable motives in his pursuit of Riddick. The always-welcome Keith David (They Live) plays Imam Abu al-Walid with an inherent sense of decency and integrity. Claudia Black (Farscape), John Moore (Get Carter) and Lewis Fitz-Gerald (Breaker Morant) are Shazza, Zeke and Paris, all of whom are in over their heads caught between Riddick and the monsters. Lastly, Rhiana Griffith (15 Amore) is impressive in the tricky role of Jack, one of the imam’s youth with a secret.

The visual effects of Pitch Black hold up fairly well after twenty years and the monsters still look pretty scary. The creatures by nature stay in the shadows, lending an additional level of mystery. The film succeeds with its exploration of character and how the group works together to stay alive. Director Twohy and Vin Diesel returned to the material on two occasions, first with the sequel The Chronicles of Riddick (2003) and a decade later with the follow-up Riddick (2013). The original remains the best, but on the whole it’s an entertaining franchise.

Pitch Black 05 Pitch Black 06

Video and Audio:

Presented in the 2.35:1 aspect ratio, the original camera negative has received a 4K scan and restoration and the results are stunning. Much of the picture takes place in the dark and black levels are definitely up for the challenge. There are multiple color palettes within the film, starting with an earthy tone within the wrecked ship. From there levels are drained during the exterior daylight hours but gain vibrancy once the eclipse kicks in for the second half. This new transfer faithfully reproduces the quality and detail of the distinct visual style.

A DTS-HD MA 5.1 more than gets the job done with its aggressive bass and active use of the rear channels. Music and sound effects cues are powerful without being intrusive. Dialogue levels are well-defined and always understandable and optional English subtitles are provided for anyone in need.

Pitch Black 07 Pitch Black 08

Special Features:

The film is presented in two versions; the Theatrical Cut (108 minutes) and the slightly extended Director’s Cut (112 minutes) featuring additional character beats and a touch more violence.

There are two vintage audio commentaries ported over from the original 2000 DVD; the first featuring director David Twohy and actors Vin Diesel and Cole Hauser. Diesel and Twohy do most of the talking and are clearly proud of the film and frequently point out their favorite shots and scenes. Discussion is spotty however, as there are gaps of silence as the guys watch the movie.

The second commentary is more technical and informative, featuring Twohy joined by producer Tom Engelman and visual effects supervisor Peter Chiang. This is the stronger track that delivers a steady stream of behind-the-scenes details and interesting production stories.

In Nightfall: The Making of Pitch Black (2020, 24 minutes), David Twohy talks about his love of science fiction films and how he got into the industry. He shares his thoughts on the writing process and giving the characters depth. He reflects on shooting in Australia and assembling the cast and details some of the challenges he faced while directing, including studio interference.

Actress Rhiana Griffith looks back on the project in Black Box: Jackie’s Journey (2020, 12 minutes). She started her career as a child model before moving into acting and talks about auditioning for this role and subsequent physical training and shooting conditions. She has fond memories of her co-stars and the crew and filming on location.

Black Box: Shazza’s Last Stand (2020, 7 minutes) catches up with actress Claudia Black who begins with the story of her audition and her thoughts on her character. Other topics include her views of genre films, her work in television and praise for Vin Diesel’s work on this picture. She shares some interesting production stories and views the experience as a positive one.

Cinematographer David Eggars sits for the interview Black Box: Bleach Bypassed (2020, 11 minutes) in which he details his approach to designing a singular visual presentation that would serve the inherent darkness of the picture. He talks about his working relationship with Twohy and views this project as one of the more rewarding experiences of his career.

In Black Box: Cryo-Locked (2020, 13 minutes), Peter Chiang shares his approach to designing the creatures and their environment and how he blended digital effects and practical miniatures to create a distinct look to the film’s unique setting. This is a solid interview that could easily sustain a longer running time.

Composer Graeme Revell sits for the segment Black Box: Primal Sound (2020, 11 minutes) and begins with an interesting story of how he got into composing for films. He reflects on some of his early works and his influences when scoring science fiction tales.

The Making of Pitch Black (2000, 5 minutes) is an all-too-short promo reel featuring members of the cast and crew hyping the movie.

The 2009 Blu-ray release featured two picture–in-picture videos that have been ported over here in traditional full screen presentation. The generically titled Behind the Scenes (2009, 18 minutes) featurette offers a generous collection of video shot on set during production balanced with cast and crew interviews.

Pitch Black Raw (2009, 12 minutes) is the second former picture-in-picture supplement that offers comparison video of early CG tests with the final film footage.

Carried over from the 2004 DVD special edition are a brief director’s introduction (2 minutes) and a collection of promotional featurettes.

A View into the Dark (2004, 4 minutes) presents a brief look at the connections between Pitch Black and its sequel.

Johns’ Chase Log (2004, 6 minutes) is a collection of animated diaries detailing the events that led to the initial capture of Riddick, narrated by actor Cole Hauser.

The Chronicles of Riddick Visual Encyclopedia (2004, 2 minutes) is a brief gallery of stills narrated by Hauser.

The animated short film The Chronicles of Riddick: Dark Fury (2004, 35 minutes) shares the next adventure for the survivors of Pitch Black, featuring the voices of Vin Diesel, Keith David and Rhiana Griffith. Presented in the 1.85:1 aspect ratio and featuring DTS-HD MA 5.1 audio and optional English subtitles.

Dark Fury comes with its own set of supplements, starting with the segment Animatic to Animation (2004, 33 minutes) which presents the film in unfinished animatic form minus music and narration.

Next up, Advancing the Arc (2004, 90 seconds) finds writer Brett Matthews and director/key animator Peter Chung drawing the connection between Pitch Black and Dark Fury.

Bridging the Gap (2004, 9 minutes) relies heavily on film clips to link the two films.

One of the more interesting segments is the too-brief interview Peter Chung: The Mind of an Animator (2004, 5 minutes), which provides background information on the artist and his work.

Into the Light (2004, 5 minutes) is another short piece, this time featuring David Twohy sharing his thoughts on the characters of Dark Fury.

From there, we move on to the submenu “Beyond the Movie”, which contains three additional featurettes, starting with Slam City (2000, 8 minutes), a motion comic prequel created for the film’s official web site by David Twohy and Brian Murray.

Into Pitch Black (2000, 44 minutes) is a made-for-television special featuring Vin Diesel as Riddick in a standalone story recounting the events of the film to a cop and a bounty hunter.

Completists will be happy to find the inclusion of Raveworld: Pitch Black Event (2000, 21 minutes), a clip-heavy dance party held to promote the film’s release.

A trailer gallery includes a variety of previews for Pitch Black joined by trailers for the sequels The Chronicles of Riddick (2003) and Riddick (2013) and the tie-in video game Riddick: Escape from Butcher Bay.

There are four photo galleries divided into categories including production stills, concept art and special effects, storyboards and publicity stills.

Pitch Black 09 Pitch Black 10

Grades:

Movie: Threeandahalfstars Cover
Buy Amazon Us
Cover
Buy Amazon Uk
Video: Fourandahalfstars
Audio: Fourstars
Features: Fourandahalfstars
Overall: 4.5 Star Rating

About The Author
ZigZag
Author: ZigZag
Staff Writer
ZigZag's favorite genres include horror (foreign and domestic), Asian cinema and pornography (foreign and domestic). His ability to seek out and enjoy shot on video (SOV) horror movies is unmatched. His love of films with a budget under $100,000 is unapologetic.
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