Pitch Black

Vin Diesel in action mode

Pitch Black was released in the year 2000. Directed by David Twohy and starring a cast of mostly unknowns this film tells the story of a bunch of marooned space travellers struggling for survival on a hostile alien desert planet. Interesting direction and a fast paced plot make this an entertaining title which is worth a look.

The story is nothing particularly new, our hapless travellers crash land on a seemingly deserted planet and end up in a race against time to escape before the indigenous aliens feast on their brains. The planet has three suns and so day is almost constant, through discovering evidence of an abandoned mining colony the group realise that the indigenous aliens only come out when it is dark. Naturally they have arrived just in time for a rare eclipse and they have to fix their ship and escape before they are brutally killed.

The one name in this film you will recognise is Vin Diesel, as he has gone on to become a favourite Hollywood action hero. In Pitch Black he plays Riddick, a violent criminal who has had surgery on his eyes so that he can see in the dark (how convenient). His character is easily the most interesting and this is the best performance I have ever seen him give. Riddick is the toughest of the bunch and they soon realise that they need his help if they are to survive, hence the tag line of "fight evil with evil".

The direction is good, Twohy co-wrote the film and he manages to create a believable hostile alien planet with three suns, in part achieved with the use of colour filters. Filmed in the Australian desert the locations are excellent and some of the scenery does seem otherworldly. The action scenes build a great deal of tension and the film develops at a nice pace, allowing us to get to know the characters before they are inevitably picked off.

The special effects are also nicely done in places, the space ship crash at the start is quite spectacular, although the creatures themselves aren't entirely convincing. They look like flying manta-rays with razor sharp teeth and armoured exoskeletons but considering the relatively small budget this is a decent effort.

The story is contrived but it builds tension well and the film is nothing if not exciting. The cast aren't the best but the development of at least a couple of their characters is well handled and provides an interesting background for the action. This film could still be labelled as an Aliens rip off, bringing to mind the Cameron classic with the hordes of dark, sharp looking aliens pursuing the frail humans but I think it retains enough of its own style to make that a harsh judgement.

I'm sure sci-fi fans will get something out of this and it is gory enough in places to interest horror lovers. The film is undeniably derivative and it falls short of a place with the classics but it is still an enjoyable spectacle which kept me entertained for the full 104 minutes. Fast paced sci-fi action with plenty of twists and turns, you could do worse.


Reviewed by Simon Hill

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