Newest Review: ... business. Pitch Black begins with one particular spaceship crashlanding onto a seemingly abandoned planet. This spaceship is transporti... more
Pitch Black (DVD)
Member Name: wampyrii
Pitch Black (DVD)
Date: 03/07/03, updated on 03/07/03 (243 review reads)
Advantages: Good special effects, interesting cast, somewhat intruiging story, great visuals, keeps you on the edge of your seat when it kicks off
Disadvantages: Bit of a mish-mash of other's ideas, some dumb-assed moments to shift the plot along, daylight bleached shots initially off-putting
Sci-Fi movies have always been something of a mixed bag in my opinion. For every good one there are countless other bad ones...or should that be really bad ones. Fortunately, you have places like this to let people in on the good ones and this, dear reader, is a good one.
The plot is simple and derivative but in terms of great ways to spend an evening in front of the goggle box, it provides all any fan of the sci-fi/action genre could wish for. We begin in space with a routine flight to the planet dubbed New Mecca. However, it is doomed to never get there as a meteor shower forces its crew of of hyper-sleep and into a crash-landing on the nearest planet, a desert planet burned constantly by the white heat of its three suns. Few survive and amongst those is a multiple murdered who was being transported to a prison planet in chains but who escaped in the confusion after the crash. There is no night here, just eternal day and no life whatsoever. Or is there? It's no secret to say that the crew soon find that day turns to night here once every 20 years and that murderer Riddick's(Vin Diesel) escape is the least of their worries because when it does, the beasties come out to feed...and guess what? It's soon going to be feeding time and the crew who imprisoned and were hunting Riddick are going to need to turn to his love of violent chaos to help them through the night...
David Twohy takes a smallish budget here and manages to turn in a stonkingly entertaining movie. Yes, it's a little hokey, yes it borrows many ideas from other movies, most notably the Aliens franchise, but when it's this much fun who cares right? Pitch Black is fun and it is rather well made as well and was in many ways the springboard for Vin Diesel's continuing career as the new darling of the action movie genre. Here he is great, launching himself into the Arnie style role he has been given with gusto, delivering the occasional one
-liner and generally looking mean and kicking butt. The rest are equally good, although they slip neatly into stereotypical quirky action movie style roles after the opening 30 minutes which are rather impressively written for this genre. As soon as the beasties show themselves you start picking out the victims and it's just a matter of waiting for when...or is it? Pitch Black has a few surprises up it's sleeve in this respect. Yes, you've got the same stereotypes thrown into the cinematic mixing bowl but the result which pops out of the oven is something very different than what you'll be expecting I assure you. It's rare to see surprises in this kind of movie, Pitch Black gets brownie points for having them.
In terms of special effects there are some absolutely gorgeous shots here of alien landscapes and outer space nebulae and all that jazz. Particularly impressive is the way in which the planet during daylight has been filmed through a kind of washed out lens(there's a term they use for it but I forget now!) which gives the whole of the opening section a white hot, scorched and very alien feel to it. It's a little off-putting at first(and you'd be forgiven for wondering if the colour saturation is on the blink lol) but once that initial discomfort disappears then it really draws you in. Good too are the creature effects, a mix of digital jiggery-pokery and puppeteering on the big dudes(which resemble a cross between a giant bat, the alien from Aliens and a hammerhead shark) and pure CG on the flocks of the creatures which circle around over head constantly. Cleverly, they've made sure you never really get to focus too long on most of the creatures and by making them flock together you can't anyway but it looks incredibly impressive!
For sure there are some rather brainless moments and there comes a time when to push the story along the screenplay has someone go off and do something incredibly stupid but
for the most part it's well written even if it does decend into cliche once the creature feature kicks in. Overall, it's a really entertaining movie, not one which offers much in the way of intellectual stimulation but makes perfect bubblegum for the eyes to chew over and is well worthy of a rental at least. Oh and if you do check it out, then it simply has to be on DVD because that's the only way you'll get the full alien effects of the daylight footage...I swear it didn't look as good in the cinema and undoubtedly won't look as good on VHS either.
Well then, onto the Disc itself. Not bad, not great but yes umm, not bad lol. In terms of the picture and sound quality then yep. no problems. It's a new disc of a relatively major release so you'd expect nothing else really. Picture quality is sharp, grainless and free from damage. The colour hues are 'odd' and unsettling during the daylight shots...but that's how they're meant to be and the bleaching technique used to give the alien landscape its white hot effect really comes to lfe on the DVD, far better than if you've seen this on video or in the cinema. Oh yeah, it's an anamorphic widescreen 2.35:1 thingumy as well if you need to know such things.
In terms of sound, you are given a choice of Dolby Digital 5.1 and DTS 5.1 so no complaints there either. I'd love to ramble on about the quality of the audio transfer further but I'm stuck with playing discs straight through my TV speakers here so I'll just say - 'tis good, I've not noticed anything 'wrong' with the audio so I've no complaints and no particular accolades to bestow upon it either.
What else? Umm, well the menu isn't particularly intuitive but there aren't that many extras so you'll not care. At least it doesn't feel the need to blast you with a montage of all the good bits of the movie before you eve
n get to the 'play movie' option. Personal bugbear, and it doesn't apply here so I'm happy.
So, onto the extras then...not as many as I would have liked but all the ones you'd probably expect. I would have liked some deleted scenes and some more info. on the making of the movie in terms of documentary footage for a start but you get what you're given and I've seen worse.
There are two commentaries on this disc, one from the director with stars Vin Diesel and Cole Hauser and the other from the director, producer and visual effects supervisor. I kinda think when they put two commentaries on a disc it's because someone didn't want to put the extra expense into making additional documentaries but there ya go. Are these worth listening to? Always, in my opinion, but no, they're not the most interesting or informative commentaries you've ever heard. Do count the number of times Vin Diesel says 'Loved this' or words matching closely in the first because it accounts for at least 50% of his contribution lol. To be fair, it sounds like they loved the movie erm, to the point where they get too into watching it at points and forget they're meant to be commenting! Hauser in particular is one you'll forget is even there by halfway. The other commentary is better though, focusing upon the technical aspects of the movie and explaining the motive behind some of the plot elements which helps explain a few things you'd have probably missed or not fully caught on to first time around.
Webcast - Pitch Black rave events
Apparently they organised various rave parties across the US shortly before this movie was released which were intended to 'immerse people into the Pitch Black experience'. Yes, that's right they unleashed a screaming host of ravenous bat creatures to tear apart a bunch of drugged up clubbers...oh no
wait, no they dimmed the lights gave them fluorescent rods, unleashed the likes of Carl Cox and filmed them boogying down. I misunderstood what the Pitch Black experience was all about. :P Anyhoo, they did that which is a cool way to advertise if you ask me and then broadcast the events live across the web...and now you can watch them here. Personally, I can't really see the appeal of watching other people erm, 'raving' for 20-odd minutes but there ya go, it's here if you want it...
Two promo trailers as always are provided on the disc. I can't see the point in having them as ever but they're here.
Making Of Featurette
Umm, very short and rather like an extended trailer. The one thing which really disappointed me about this DVD release was basically that they put so little effort into showing all the behind the scenes stuff. I kinda do like seeing how they created the creature effects, watching the puppets being built up from a block of clay or whatever and all that jazz. In sci-fi movies, particularly one packed with these kinds of effects, there is plenty of scope for this kind of intruiging extra but there is nothing like it on this release. There's a little here, but it's pretty much a whistlestop tour of the obvious aspects and very much like an extended trailer because most of the time is taken up by movie clips.
Production Notes, Cast and Crew Bios
The reading bits, for those who buy films for a good read. Actually, considering the rather sparse information given in the audio commentaries, the production notes are actually worth reading this time around. Cast and crew bios are the usual kind of thing, you're either interested or you're not, personally, well there's a few relative unknowns here so again, more interesting than usual.
To sum up then, the movie is a good one, definitely one of the bet
ter sci-fi offerings of recent times and whilst not exactly particularly clever or groundbreaking it will offer a fair bit of entertainment and does have a certain amount of rewatchability...always good if you're buying it! The washed out imagery during the daylight scenes is very off-putting at first but you soon get used to it and really come to appreciate its purpose and the DVD provides the very best platform to see the technique at its best so if you are going to buy the movie, make sure you get it on DVD because the image quality is important here. In terms of extras, it's not great and probably makes this a 3.5 star offering but the movie itself raises to 4 stars. Buy, watch and enjoy...and don't turn out the light, you never know what might be lurking out there!