Pitch Black (2000)is a science-fiction, action-horror film about a transport craft that’s taking a very dangerous and deadly criminal, Richard B. Riddick, to a prison planet. However, while in cryosleep, the craft ends up getting smacked around by comet bits and it forces the ship to have an emergency crash landing on a hot and icky desert planet. Shortly after the “landing,” Riddick escapes. While everyone tries to figure out how to re-capture him, a predatory alien species reveals itself, making everyone band together for survival.
I recently picked up this film because one of my chums has been recommending it to me for a very long time, given my love for cheesy creature-features as well as anything sci-fi. My expectations going into it were rather simple: be entertained and maybe mildly scared (since it’s advertised as horror). My reflections after the film was finished: definitely re-watchable.
There are four things about Pitch Black that I truly enjoyed above all else: the premise of a murderer on the loose that everyone ends up needing, the desert planet and the science aspects that lead to the circumstances, the representation of the Muslim characters, and the highly cheesy yet somehow badass dialogues.
Given my obsession for Dune, desert planets are a big weakness of mine. The setting of Pitch Black was a great treat, especially since it seemed like there was no night-time on this dusty ass shell… at first. It does exactly what one would expect from a place like this. It incites feelings of both claustrophobia and kenophobia (fear of open spaces). That horrid bit of anxiety from knowing that you can’t keep an eye on all of your surroundings at once, even though there’s nowhere for hunters to hide, can make anyone very paranoid, and in the film it does a decent job of establishing the tension and discomfort of knowing that there’s something out in the vastness of the sand just waiting and watching. This is then treacherously heightened when the sun does inevitably wink out for plot reasons. The physiological reasons of why and how the monsters hunt also adds to these elements quite a bit. It’s nothing mind-blowingly complex or cerebrally compelling, but it does give the entertainment and intrigue more depth since it contributes to the overall environment.
Then we have the characters. When I initially saw that African-Arab Muslims were in this film, I held my breath with impending frustration. I figured somehow they would end up being terrorists or the culprits for whatever intense shite was about to occur, but that didn’t happen. They’re still treated like crap and I didn’t care for what happens to most of them, but I did appreciate that they weren’t treated like extremist assholes, and even their religion wasn’t up for debate. The debates were more on the believability and the mercy of God rather than bullshit commentary on Islam itself; something else I appreciated as it’s different than what I’m typically used to. But the best character is the series titular dude himself: Riddick.
Salty, smart-mouthed characters who execute deadpan sarcasm really well are one-thousand-percent my jam. I’m not the biggest Vin Diesel fan, but he rocked as Riddick. Delivering the cheese-fest of badass yet slightly outdated dialogue with perfect side eye, dry laughter, and scoffing amusement (mostly at everyone’s idiocy) helped to take the edge off the more intense traits of Pitch Black. Even though Riddick is such a jerk, it’s charming. It makes you feel like you can actually trust him if you want to survive even though he’s labelled as this insane, blood-thirsty, killer dude. So, when everyone starts to recognise him as the alpha male douchebag who has the best chance of getting them off this deadly rock, he goes from being scary murder guy to muscley, badass, save us guy. I found it hilarious. Mostly because I’m a dick. Why lie?
This brings me to the stuff I didn’t really care for, which includes some of the deaths and the special effects. The deaths aren’t terrible and they fit the situation that’s going on well (i.e.: people being hunted in the dark). What bothered me were the individuals that died. It’s follows the typical slasher formula and it aggravated me more than anything else.
Then there’s the special effects. In 2000, these effects were probably some high-tech, brilliant shite. But in 2021, it’s aged quite heavily and that takes away a lot of the creepy, frightening aspects of the film. Does it look absolutely atrocious? Not at all. But it doesn’t look beautiful either. Honestly, this didn’t bother me as much as it just lessened the suspense somewhat, and I mostly mention this here because I know some folx can be pretty pedantic for their special effects. As long as you don’t expect perfection, you should be good to go.
All in all, Pitch Black was a great sci-fi action film with some slasher elements to it. It has definitely aged, but it has aspects to it that we just don’t see in sci-fi films nowadays, at least not without an abundance of crap writing or unnecessarily forced cerebral mumbo-jumbo (which I do like, but not all the fucking time) to go with it. That is what makes this movie strong. It’s nicely written and it cohesively complements all of its other parts. When I’m looking for a casual film, this is precisely the kind of thing I want to experience. I will for sure be adding this to my Mental Health Coping film collection (yes, I actually have one of these and it’s the best thing to happen to my depression and anxiety), especially since I’ve watched it twice more since my initial viewing a couple weeks ago. That’s always a good sign in my book. RECOMMENDED for folx looking for a good sci-fi action movie for casual fun, more so if you’re a Vin Diesel or creature-feature fan. Or if you just really love cheesy fucking lines, like me.
Release Date: February 2000
Genre: Science-Fiction, Action-Horror
Country: United States
Director: David Twohy
Screenplay: Ken & Jim Wheat, David Twohy
Story by: Ken & Jim Wheat
Producer(s): Tom Engelman
Music: Graeme Revell
Platform Used: Blu-Ray
Content Warnings: Strong violence and language. Blood and gore. Alcohol consumption. Smoking. Brief scene of drug abuse. Deaths including death of children. Some mild sexual innuendo. Some mild sexism.