Sunday, June 7, 2015

Sunday Movie Theater: Pitch Black (2000)

The original, still the best of the franchise

The semi-monthly Sunday Movie Theater series returns after "Down Periscope" (1996) with a sci-fi action movie this time. ^^

Movie poster is from IMDB.

Trailer of the movie.
Video clip is from Youtube. Follow this link to the website if you can't see anything.

"Pitch Black", a 2000 movie directed by David Twohy. Technical movie details can be seen on IMDB, while the entire story is up on the movie's Wikipedia page.

Like a hidden gem, "Pitch Black" is a movie I discovered by accident. ^^ Years ago while browsing for DVDs to purchase, I was intrigued by this movie's sci-fi premise, and other subthemes which include action, and monsters. Just the latter two themes were enough for me to be interested in checking out the movie, but as you will find out later on, the movie offered much more that those three aforelisted elements, which I wasn't aware of when I first bought the movie. ^^

Then again, before getting in said "bonuses", "Pitch Black" can be genuinely enjoyed as a sci-fi monster action movie. ^^ The story of how Carolyn Fry (played by Radha Mitchell) leading her passengers, which include the dangerous convict Riddick (played by Vin Diesel) trying to survive the harsh environment and deadly beasts on the planet they are stranded on is very interesting to follow. And as with most movies from this genre, there are some cool sci-fi elements presented as discoveries by the cast members, like a planet surrounded by three suns, boneyard of mammoth-like creatures with tree-like appendages on their back, carnivorous photosensitive creatures, and bio-luminescent worms. Their designs are pretty novel in sci-fi movies in my opinion, and they did inspire my imagination on how the planet was like before Fry's unfortunate arrival everytime I re-watch, or think about the movie. ^^

Most of the action happens near the end of the movie, as the remaining crew members make their last push to escape the planet. Vin Diesel displays his fighting action in a couple of duels against Johns (played by Cole Hauser), the "fake" police officer in charge of Riddick's transport, and fights against the monsters as well. In general, the movie is not the most action-packed of its genre, but the fight scenes are enough for it to be enjoyed for that purpose I think. ^^

The real strength of the movie is its character design in my opinion. The three main characters have a different side to their personalities, which makes them really interesting to follow. Riddick, calculative and unpredictable for the most part, has a sense of justice to be willing to save the crew members; Johns, who seems strong and just at the beginning, is revealed to be worse than the monsters on the planet; Fry, the leader of the gang, is shown to be the most rationale and compassionate member of them all, but she actually tries to kill all of her passengers to save herself at the very beginning, and has to live with her guilt for the whole of the movie.

While Riddick does stand out as the most interesting character of them all, due to his antihero design, and action sequences, the other two main characters are equally interesting in my opinion. With character focus in mind, there are a lot of conversations in the movie, especially near the middle part which helps to show more of the characters' designs. Some of the conversations seem a bit lengthy to me, and almost out of place – the characters didn't seem to care too much about trying to escape in those moments, but for liking those characters after watching their stories the first time, I actually enjoyed those character moments on my subsequent re-watches. ^^

Among the three, my favourite is actually Fry. The murderous selfishness at the beginning of the movie notwithstanding, her sense of duty and compassion to the crew members made her the most relatable one of them all. ^^ Plus, she is played by the lovely Radha Mitchell, one of my favourite actresses. ^^

The amazing Keith David is in this movie as well, playing an Imam leading three young followers to a place called New Mecca. While Keith David's performance is solid for the character, which is just to be expected of him, his unshakeable faith makes him a rather static character throughout the movie. There's no change to how he view the entire situation even when his followers are being picked off one by one. ^^; While Keith David did an amazing job portraying the character, who did receive quite a bit of screen time, the Imam is just not interesting in my opinion. ^^

After his introduction through this movie, Riddick as a character received his second movie, "The Chronicles of Riddick", which came out four years after "Pitch Black". While Riddick is clearly the center focus of said sequel, the character is bogged down a lot by the antagonist faction's agenda and storyline I think. ^^; "The Chronicles of Riddick: Dark Fury", an animated movie which came out the same year as the second movie is pretty good in my opinion, but it's a bit too short to really expand on what we already know about Riddick. The third movie of the franchise, released two years ago followed the adventurous theme of "Pitch Black", and is pretty enjoyable. Then again, since the underlying formula is very much identical to that of the first movie, the unavoidable compare and contrast made me lean towards "Pitch Black" as the one I like more. ^^

Overall, "Pitch Black" is a really good sci-fi movie. ^^ It works well as an adventure movie with space monsters (you can certainly watch the movie for that ^^), but it's even more interesting for its character design. For its various strengths, this is a movie that can be enjoyed through multiple re-watches. ^^

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