Plot: What’s it about?
What’s so odd about “Pitch Black” is the fact that it’s so similar to other movies. If it’s on a spaceship, we compare it to “Alien”, if it’s in the jungle, we compare it to Predator. Pitch Black dares to do the same “been there, done that” movie, but adds quite a twist. Starting out as a “space movie”, it quickly takes away any hope that we might see another generic futuristic movie of this genre. As the space ship crashes towards a planet, we learn that they are holding a prisoner on board by the name of Riddick (Vin Diesel). I remember Diesel from Boiler Room and was impressed with his acting ability, which he shows he’s not just another in a group of budding twenty-something male actors. Riddick is immediately made out to be the bad guy, because he is! A criminal who wears cool-looking shades (because they look cool) due to the fact that his eyes are sensitive to light. Riddick is a human, but has spent a majority of time in prison, thereby having a doctor give him a “surgical shine job” to give him the ability to see in the dark. Of course, this also gives him the disability of being blinded by normal sunlight.
As the ship crashes towards the surface, we see and meet the captain of the ship (Claudia Black) and a hired bounty hunter, John (Cole Hauser) to keep an eye on Riddick. A ragtag group of people emerge from the crash aboard a planet that seems to be deluged with light. The planet has three suns, and looks deserted. So…what gives? The title of the movie is Pitch Black, and the planet is full with light…As the process starts to search for water (all they have is liquor), a member of the clan is mysteriously killed, which is blamed on Riddick. They start to find clues that the planet was inhabited before, but can find no trace of any life. It seems that just in the nick of time they figure out what needs to be done to get off the planet. An old spaceship is located, and the power cells from their unusable craft are needed to power the escape pod. End of story, right? Wrong. At the same time that they figure out what needs to be done, by who and when…a solar eclipse occurs that happens once every 22 years (ironically enough, they date the spaceship to being 22 years old). So who’s afraid of the dark?
Literally at the first sign of darkness, these creatures come out of the woodwork. They don’t really explain what they are or what they do, but they have a taste for human blood and can see in the dark, and there are thousands of them. The crew must find a way to get the material back to the spacecraft without, of course, getting killed. The real fun is watching Riddick having so much fun with his role. He says it himself a few times…”I’m not the one you have to worry about anymore”, and he couldn’t be more right. Pitch Black is a different kind of movie from the molds of the same ‘ol, same ‘ol. It’s amazing how much better a story can be if it’s told the right way. While the casting is not top notch, it still has a pretty good lineup. Cole Hauser, a favorite of mine from Dazed and Confused and Vin Diesel headline the cast and are relaxed with their roles. If nothing else, give this movie a watch just for the sheer visuals.
Video: How does it look?
“Pitch Black” has got to be one of the most visually aggressive and stunning movies that I’ve ever seen. There isn’t a color in the spectrum that isn’t covered here. While the deep blacks of space begin the movie, the washed out, burnt whites of the planet take over in the first half. The vision of the creatures is that of black and white but similar to the cover art, and Riddick’s vision is that all his own. I’m pleased to say that this Blu-ray version makes this movie look even more remarkable than it was on standard DVD. The 2.35:1 VC-1 HD image shows off all this visual beauty and never faults a bit. It’s at times like this that I wish I saw this in the theater! It’s really hard to say what the black levels were like, as this movie plays with you visually. I had to watch it a second time to pick up on some things that I missed out on the first time. I saw no element of compression, and though some scenes did have a bit of digital artifacts, it was minimal to say the least. I have to say that I really like the way that this was shown. Some scenes are all green, some all purple, some black and white, some black, some white and sometimes all you see is a black screen with only the audio to guide you through what is happening. Whatever the case, it’s amazing and seeing it in HD makes it that much more exciting.
Audio: How does it sound?
The DTS track that was included with the standard DVD issue has been replaced by a DTS Master Audio track that sounds every bit as good as and even better than the DTS issue. Part of the allure of the movie is that the characters don’t know what’s out there; they rely on their senses to see and hear what’s going on. That’s the case when watching the movie as well; we rely on the speakers and the ambiance to let us know what’s going on around them. While the opening sequence has all the booms and bangs of a spacecraft explosion, the rest of the movie relies on the very discrete surround effects to heighten the mood. Dialogue is very clean even considering that Vin Diesel’s voice tends to get a bit garbled at times. “Pitch Black” sounds as good as ever and certainly nearly as good as it looks.
Supplements: What are the extras?
If you own the standard “Unrated” version then you’ll recognize the supplements here, all of the extras have been ported over to this new Blu-ray version and Universal continues to impress. This unrated version has three more minutes of some scenes, mostly violence. In addition to the production notes, brief featurette and trailer found on the disc, there are two feature-length commentaries. The first is by actors, Cole Hauser and Vin Diesel. These guys seem pretty laid back and seem to have had a good time making the movie, though it didn’t break any box office records. The next is more of a technical commentary, which makes a lot of since, seeing as how most of the film’s “gimmicks” are done by computer. I found it interesting to see, hear rather, how the effects were made, and I think that more movies should include a standard technical commentary. Essentially this Blu-ray has everything the HD-DVD did, but with an uncompressed soundtrack.