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Click above to purchase "Pitch Black(Unrated)" at amazon.com

 

Pitch Black
(Unrated)

review by Ren C.

Unrated

Studio Universal

Running Time: 109 minutes

Starring Radha Mitchell, Cole Hauser, Vin Diesel

Written by Jim and Ken Wheat

Directed by David Twomy

 

Retail Price: $26.95

Features: Audio Commentary with director David Twomy, Vin Diesel and Cole Hauser, Audio Commentary with director David Twomy, producer Tom Engelman and visual effects supervisor Peter Chiang, Making-of Featurette, Raveworld Pitch Black Event, Production Notes, Recommendations, DVD Newsletter, Cast and Crew Bios, Trailers

Specs: 2.35:1 Anamorphic Widescreen, English Dolby Digital 5.1, English DTS 5.1, French Dolby Digital 5.1, English Captions, Chapter Search

In my opinion, it is very difficult to make a good science-fiction movie that will not be compared to all of the great science-fiction movies that have come before. While "Pitch Black" definitely has elements drawn from some of the greats, it stands out on its own as a very entertaining and enjoyable film.

In the beginning of the film, the plot resembles "Alien" had it taken a different turn. The occupants of an interstellar commerce ship are suddenly awakened from their hypersleep by bolts shooting through the ship. The captain is killed in this attack, and it is up to their science officer Carolyn Fry to pilot them out of the firestorm that they have gotten themselves into. She does so, but not without making a decision that will come back to haunt her later. The ship crashes on a deserted planet, and the inhabitants of the ship start to explore and determine how they can get off the planet.

Among these inhabitants is the most vicious killer in the galaxy Richard Riddick (Vin Diesel), whom we meet tied up Hannibal Lecter style, and the man that arrested him, William Johns (Cole Hauser). The passengers are rightfully scared of Riddick, but he warns them that they have bigger concerns.

These bigger concerns are quickly found out, as the crew finds out that the planet is infested with bird-like creatures that only attack in darkness. Ordinarily this wouldn't be a problem as the planet is usually in permanent daylight. But, in one of those science fiction conventions, an eclipse is approaching. Can the crew get the ship repaired to get them off the planet and whose side is Riddick really on?

A science-fiction movie, for me at least, is always an equal combination of effects, acting and plot. This movie holds up in all three regards. The effects, considering the relative obscurity of the movie, are nothing short of fantastic. While the cast is not made up of big name actors, they work very well together as an ensemble. In addition, Vin Diesel is shaping up to be the next superstar in Hollywood, and this proves it. His first major starring role in an action movie proves to be a good vehicle, as he lets his natural charisma shine through, and steals every scene that he is in. The plot, while occasionally falling victim to some of the sci-fi clichés holds up very well, and never wanders completely out of the realm of believability.

This film was virtually overlooked in theaters, which is a shame because it is definitely an entertaining, exciting thrill ride which, in the end, is a great deal of what we expect science fiction movies to be.

Note that this is the unrated version, which contains several more seconds of violent situations, however, barely enough to earn the unrated rating.

As this is a recent science-fiction movie, the transfer should hold up to certain standards. "Pitch Black" does this without a problem. Blacks are deep and rich, and colors are very bright and crisp. There were only a few specks of grain noticed on the anamorphic transfer, and there were no problems with the transfer that were distracting. Overall, a very nice and memorable transfer.

As good as the video transfer is, the audio mix sounds even better. Included here are both Dolby Digital 5.1 and DTS transfers and both sound stellar. This is a very action-packed movie, and the sounds of crash scenes and fight scenes come through with a lot of bravado. In addition, the dialogue is never muffled and, in fact, seems to echo around the viewer in the spaceship. In this case, the DTS track seems slightly weightier, although both tracks are almost perfect.

Although not a full-fledged special edition, there are some very nice features provided here. First up is a making-of featurette that is a mix of promotional and behind the scenes footage. I actually was hoping this featurette would be a little longer, as there were a lot of things about the movie which I would have liked to have explained or demonstrated.

Next is the first of two full-length commentaries, this one with director David Twomy and actors Vin Diesel and Cole Hauser. While it is nice to have three of the principal forces behind the movie involved in a commentary, there are many gaps in it, and it seems as though Twomy does most of the talking. However, what does come across is very interesting and informative.

This is equally true of the second full-length commentary that features Twomy along with producer Tom Engelman and visual effects supervisor Peter Chiang. This is definitely the meatier of the two commentaries with Chiang especially speaking about how some of the effects in the movie were created. Engelman speaks about how the movie was created, and combined with Twomy's comments, there are far fewer gaps than the other commentary.

The next feature is quite possibly one of the strangest that I have ever seen. It is titled the "Raveworld Pitch Black Event", and is basically a very long sequence of video from raves held in New York, Chicago and Los Angeles, occasionally intercut with scenes from "Pitch Black". I'm not entirely sure why this is here, as it has a very tenuous, at best connection with the movie. Although, with a relatively low budget movie like this one, any promotion is good promotion.

Wrapping up the special features are both the green and red band theatrical trailers, a set of production notes, the cast and crew bios, recommendations, and an ad for Universal's DVD newsletter.

Like I've stated, this is a very enjoying sci-fi movie, with an appealing cast and great effects. The video and audio look great, and the features, while not necessarily numerous in quantity, are rich in quality. The price is only slightly steep, but not enough to keep me from giving this movie a high recommendation.

(4/5 - NOT included in final score)

(4.5/5)

(5/5)

(3.5/5)

(4/5, NOT an average)

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