Friday, August 10, 2012

Film Friday: Pitch Black (2000)

Despite being advertised as a horror movie, Pitch Black is high quality science fiction. It’s also one of my favorite science fiction films. What makes it high quality is both the scope of the world described in this film and the fact it’s a character drama rather than an action flick.

** spoiler alert **

Sadly, most science fiction produced today is little more than action films set in the future. Typically, you have a hero who uncovers a vast conspiracy, who will be chased, and who ultimately must turn from prey to predator to end the movie. The science fiction elements are little more than bells and whistles added to the film to separate it from all the other action films. No effort is made to present the viewer with a realistic glimpse of the world presented and the characters are little more than throw-away pieces meant to hit certain plot points to justify the explosions.
At first glance, Pitch Black falls into this all-too-familiar pattern. Pitch Black is the story of a group of passengers stranded on a desolate world when their intergalactic transport ship crashes after passing through the tail of a comet. This planet appears to be a desert with three suns, which bathe the planet in perpetual light. As the survivors look for water, they come across an abandoned research station with a functioning escape craft. They are saved. All they need to do is get power cells from their crashed ship to recharge the escape craft. But within minutes of this discovery, they learn that when the planet’s moons align perfectly, they will block out all three suns, plunging the planet into darkness. When that happens, bloodthirsty light-sensitive creatures will come pouring out of the ground and kill anyone who isn’t standing in light.

Sounds like an action flick, doesn’t it? Well, Pitch Black isn’t really an action flick. What it is, is a character drama taking place in a science fiction setting. Moreover, the universe in which this takes place is richly detailed even though you never see anything but this single planet. Observe.
The real story of Pitch Black is how this group of survivors cope with each other. Among the group, you have a hard-working prospector (Claudia Black), a effete merchant, a Muslim Imam (David Keith) and his two disciples, a young boy named Jack with a secret, the ship’s pilot Carolyn Fry (Radha Mitchell) posing as the captain after she tried to jettison all the passengers to save herself, a bounty hunter named William Johns posing as a cop, and Richard B. Riddick (Vin Diesel), the baddest human being alive.

With these characters, the story quickly becomes whether they can work together to get off this desolate world before the monsters eat them. More specifically, the story centers around each of them trying to maintain their secrets and struggle against their own flaws, while the entire group worries about what to do about Riddick, who may or may not be planning to kill them or abandon them. The result of all of this, is that Pitch Black gives you a strong story with an intriguing mix of personality conflicts as the characters are forced to trust people they cannot trust in the hopes of saving themselves.
Moreover, to challenge them, they are given the time limit that once the moons align, the world will go dark and the monsters will be free. They are also presented with various mysteries along the way before they can even learn about this challenge. For example, they need to discover the creatures and learn that the planet will go dark. They find these clues within another mystery of what happened to the scientists who set up the abandoned station. Each of these mysteries is done gradually with clues piled up before any solution is reached and makes for a satisfying story against which the character drama plays out.

What’s even more interesting is how rich the universe is that these characters inhabit. At no point does the film leave this planet to show you the rest of the universe, but you get an incredibly layered picture of what the universe is like from these characters. Riddick suggests a rather brutal criminal justice system, with prisons sunk into darkness. Indeed, his eyes have been shined by a surgeon he found just so he can see in the dark. Johns shows us that drug abuse continues to plague the future. He also shows us that bounty hunters continue to exist, meaning law enforcement is very similar to the modern United States. Black tells us that mankind (or womankind) still treks off to the wild looking for riches. The merchant lets us in on the fact that wine and antiques are still valuable. And Keith presents us with the idea that Islam continues in the future, though it’s still only a small portion of humanity, and his version of Islam is nonviolent and more like Buddhism. He was actually traveling to New Mecca and he cannot drink alcohol, even though that’s all they have to drink.
Enough detail is given by these characters, their traits and their words that, by the time the film is over, you truly have enough information that you know what the rest of the universe looks like and acts like. That’s really impressive when you consider that most science fiction films today give you little more than a quick CGI glimpse of a futuristic city and then one or two new technologies to represent “the future.” The audience is never given a sense of what people do for a living, what their religious beliefs are like, what their leisure habits are like or what they value. But each of those things is made clear in Pitch Black. And consequently, the film feels very immersive because it is easy to lose yourself in their world.

This is why people wanted a sequel to Pitch Black, because the world it shows the audience was so rich that people wanted to see more of it. Compare that with films like Green Lantern or Star Trek or Pandorum, where you knew nothing beyond what was on screen and you really couldn’t care less about their universe. It’s too bad that more science fiction films don’t take a lesson from Pitch Black.


USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

You can't go wrong with Pitch Black or it's sequel, The Chronicles Of Riddick!

Outstanding review, Andrew!

To those who haven't seen this yet, this isn't a film that I recommend lightly watching. In other words, watch every minute, because it's NOT a shallow film that's easy to pick up on after missing 5 or 10 minutes here and there (unlike so many other modern films).
If you hafta take a break pause it.

It's not that it's that difficult to understand, it's just that there's really no filler in this film. No wasted scenes.
Besides, it's a compelling story and it will easily hold your interest, even if scifi ain't your favorite genre. :^)

tryanmax said...

Well, hells bells! I've passed on this movie more times than I can count because it sounds like an action flick. Thanks for setting me straight. Now I've got some catching up to do.

Anthony said...

I was disappointed by Pitch Black. Some of that may have been because I was expecting a different movie, but I think some of it is due to the movie's own mistakes.

The movie was overly clear about who it liked and disliked, so not only was there little action, there was little suspense.

Also, I thought it was funny that everyone in the movie (including Riddick himself) told me he was evil but he was never shown doing anything remotely evil.

I suspect that for more people demand for the sequel reflected a desire not to see more of the universe, but to see more of Riddick.

DUQ said...

I loved this film. I was really surprised how good it was. I was expecting a slasher flick based on the ads and it wasn't that at all.

DUQ said...

Anthony, Riddick hints at one point that he's not really evil when he says "they kept calling it murder when I did it." Which sounds like he had a justification they just didn't believe.

You may be right about Riddick rather than the universe, but it's all the same package. But I agree that if they hadn't cased Diesel in that role, it probably wouldn't have gotten a sequel.

Doc Whoa said...

I was impressed with this movie as well. It's no 2001, but it's no slacker either. In terms of the past 10 years, I'd put this up there with anything. I'd even say it's better than the Star Wars prequels in terms of giving you a cool universe you can lose yourself in.

AndrewPrice said...

Thanks Ben!! I agree, you can't go wrong with this or the sequel, though the sequel is rather different.

I think you're right that there's no filler here. There really isn't a moment that doesn't add something to the characters or the plot and I think that's because this is ultimately a character drama, so every scene becomes important as it builds up who these people are and what they are capable of.

I think the sequel is more of an action film, but it's also a lot deeper in terms of characters and story than most of what you get these days.

AndrewPrice said...

tryanmax, I originally watched it because the ads made it look like a cool horror film. But I wasn't expecting much because few horror films turn out to be that great. But it wasn't a horror film at all, it was science fiction. It's got compelling visuals, solid writing, great characters and some truly charismatic acting. I definitely recommend it.

And so you know, it doesn't have the huge sweeping scope of some of the bigger science films, but it's a very strong "small" story.

AndrewPrice said...

Anthony, Expectations can be a problem. I was expecting a horror movie, so I was pleasantly surprised to find a science fiction film.

But I was a little disappointed in the sequel at first because I expected something more like Pitch Black, but it was a much more epic/action oriented film.


In terms of Riddick being evil, he doesn't need to be do something evil at all times to be evil. They make it clear that he's killed a lot of people. And he very carefully goes about getting rid of Johns and then, I think, is fully planning to abandon the rest once they fall behind. He even tries to convince Fly to join him.

AndrewPrice said...

DUQ, They sold it as a horror film. I don't know if I thought it was going to be a slasher film, but it certainly sounded like a "creatures in the dark" story. In fact, if I remember correctly, the ad was them running through the dark, the merchant getting separated, and then lighting the flames which gave you a quick glimpse of all the creatures surrounding him.

So I was pretty surprised when the film turned out to be something rather different.

AndrewPrice said...

DUQ and Anthony, I think there is no doubt that the Riddick character/Vin Diesel were the compelling factors. Diesel is charismatic and just draws your eyes to the screen, even when the film isn't very good. So I think he is the reason this film got noticed and became so popular. And the character is unique and fascinating.

As an interesting aside, he wasn't famous when they cast him.

That said, I don't think there would have been the positive response there was if it wasn't for all the rest of the story. The character is great, but the setting and the depth of the story really is what gave you thoughts about what else could be out there in terms of stories and things to see.

AndrewPrice said...

Doc, When I wrote this, I pulled up a list of science fiction films by decade and I tried to look for the last film which really gave you this much depth in terms of describing the universe in which they are in and I found nothing until you got back into the 1990s. Almost everything in the 2000s and 2010s have been very, very shallow action flicks.

A classic example is In Time, which tryanmax reviewed and which I recently saw. This is a film which should delve deeply into the society in which they live to make the film work, but you never get more than a truly shallow take -- moments to populate the current scene with no real thought to how their society actually works.

Anthony said...


2002's Minority Report put a lot of thought into its universe.

AndrewPrice said...

Anthony, That's true. And I think that may have been the first one I ran into looking back. That's 10 years now and hundreds of films.

Doc Whoa said...

Andrew, I was going to say Minority Report as well, and before that The Matrix in 1999.

Doc Whoa said...

Thinking about it, that's actually kind of sad. When you pull up the wikipedia on these films (, you see that there are about 20 such films a year. And for there to only be 2-3 in the past 14 years really speaks poorly to modern Hollywood.

Mountain Man said...

"Chronicles" is one of my favorites, mostly because of the Necromongers. The are richly developed and menacing, yet really a kick.

Also, the Necromongers are badass conquerers who don't give a whit about anything but their agenda. Kinda refreshing in these days of politically correct, evil-but-vulnerable-noble-and-misunderstood bad guys.

The thing I didn't like about Pitch Black is the creatures are illogical. How can they survive in a desolate, lifeless planet? And also, I just don't like creatures-jumping-out-of-the dark plotlines. In fact, it seems to me the creatures are unneccessary. The movie could have had some other danger that would make it more accessible.

AndrewPrice said...

Doc, That's an excellent list. And you're right, it's depressing that it appears that there's maybe one film a year which fits into the category of deep science fiction, although the late 1990s had several that would qualify.

The Matrix is interesting because the first film I thought had so much more depth that the next two. The first film really was about exploring their world, but the second and third were just action flicks... endless action flicks.

Here's your link LINK

AndrewPrice said...

Mountain Man, I thought the Necromongers were excellent bad guys. They were unique, menacing, and richly developed, which was necessary since the film really was mainly about them. And I think they did a terrific job of presenting them to the audience.

The movie could have been done without the creatures, but they add the ticking clock element to the story. Without them, the characters could have taken their time solving their problems which would have removed the urgency and much of the conflict. Also, it would have been harder to thin the cast without the film becoming a bloodbath.

I agree that there is a real question how these creatures survive, but I took it that they hibernate until the planet goes dark and that they killed whatever used to live on the planet (think about the huge skeleton they find) and have now turned to cannibalism. Also, I assume there is water underground.

ScyFyterry said...

Excellent film! I'm a big fan of Vin Diesel. And I like the other actors a lot too. David Keith rocks.

Mountain Man said...

"Chronicles" provided us with a totally unique, never-been-done-before ticking time clock - the rising sun on Crematorium. That was cool and visually spectacular, and much better than the throw-away creature device from Pitch Black.

Since Riddick is so dangerous, having him kill at least one of the bad guys wouldn't have been a problem. Then have the greedy guy accidently drop one of his treasures down a crevass and die trying to retrieve it, ala Dr. Schneider in The Last Crusade.

But instead, most people die being scooped up by creatures. Kinda boring.

In these kinds of movies, people should die as a result of their character flaws.

AndrewPrice said...

Terry, I like Keith a lot as well. His presence in a film actually will get me to watch, even though he's never the lead.

BIG MO said...

I enjoyed both PB and Chronicles. PB does monsters right, in that they're more menacing when you don't see them often, and character matters more than splatter. The characters themselves, as you explored, are well-drawn people instead of the cardboard cutouts who are the first to go.

The latter I enjoyed largely because of Karl Urban. (I've mostly enjoyed any movie he's been in, even "Doom.") Also agree about Keith David, another fine actor who rarely disappoints.

Pitch Black also reminds me somewhat of "Screamers," which was a pretty decent adaptation of a Philip K. Dick story, and relied on character as much as the little slicy-dicey robots.

AndrewPrice said...

Mountain Man, That's true. Crematorium was excellent! That's was fantastically done and visually stunning! :)

I love the line about "if I owned this place and Hell, I'd live in Hell and rent this place out."

That's true, people should die as a result of their flaws. And Pitch Black certainly could have been tweaked to make some improvements here or there. But I still think it's an excellent film.

AndrewPrice said...

Big Mo, I love Screamers. I've actually reviewed it at the site. Though, while I love it, I have to admit it has problems.

I agree with your take. Monsters are scarier when you can't see them. And Pitch Black does a great job of teasing these throughout most of the film. And I think characters over monsters is the key to success, yet Hollywood so often goes the other way.

I like Urban a lot and he did a great job in Chronicles. He's another actor who I like to watch, no matter how bad the film gets. I even liked him in Doom a lot, which was a real disappointment of a film.

ScyFyterry said...

I like Doom as a guilty pleasure. And Rosamund Pike is hot!

ScyFyterry said...

I love the Necros in Chronicle, but I actually prefer Pitch Black because it feels like a tigher film, though I enjoy both very much.

AndrewPrice said...

Terry, Pike is a sweetie. And I enjoy Doom as a guilty pleasure as well. But it's not a good movie by any stretch.

I think Pitch Black is tighter as well, though I like them both. They are very different films. And I understand that the sequel they are working on will be more like Pitch Black than Chronicles.

ellenB said...

Good film. I watched it because I like Diesel and I wanted to see everything he's been in and I liked this alot. I think it was one of his best movies. Diesel, like the Rock, is someone who should get more roles.

Individualist said...


I liked Pitch Black. I thought of riddick as the classic Anti-Hero. He is a selfish gut that has been doing what he wanted but when put into a situation where he had to act to save a group he stepped up. It is a classic story teller's ploy whether it is realistic or not.

Good review...

I actually though that Chrinicles sort of abandoned the realism of the original Universe in the first movie for the over dramatized space opera save the universe from doom Flash gordon motiff. Although it was a good movie it was not the sequel I wanted to see.

AndrewPrice said...

Ellen, I agree. I'd like to see both of them get more films than they've been getting. I think they're both compelling screen-presences and they can do any kind of roles. Unfortunately, they are quickly getting pigeon-holed in bland action films.

If you want to see Diesel act, check out Boiler Room at some point. He plays a crooked stockbroker and he does a great job of it. I think that may even have been his first film, though I haven't checked on that.

By the way, Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson is a Republican!

AndrewPrice said...

Indi, Thanks! I think you're right that Riddick is an anti-hero, though I do think he's honestly considering abandoning everyone at the end until he and Fry have their scene.

I like both films, but I agree that they are very different. I thought the first half of Chronicle remained very realistic, especially in it's presentation of Helion Prime. But I agree that ultimately, Chronicle feels much more like a fantasy than Pitch Black. I don't dislike it for that reason, it's just different.

Kelly said...

I agree that they're different films. I don't think one is necessarily better than the other, they're just different.

AndrewPrice said...

Kelly, I agree. They're different and comparing which one is better really isn't possible. It depends on my mood which one I like better at that particular moment.

LL said...

In order to understand the Chronicles of Riddick, you MUST view the director's cut. There was too much cut from the theatrical release that made the movie make sense (all too common in Hollywood).

AndrewPrice said...

LL, I agree. There is a lot of information missing from the released version, included a bunch about Riddick being a Furyan and how the Furyans got wiped out. I definitely recommend the director's cut on that one.

NightcrawlerER said...

Cool film. I do like Chronicles of Riddick better because the Necros are totally awesome. LL is right too, watch the Director's Cut. Plus I like Toombs.

AndrewPrice said...

Nightcrawler, I like Toombs a lot as well. It's interesting though how different he looks in different roles. Ditto on the Lord Marshall. He's totally cool in Riddick, but when you see him in interviews, he's something completely different. I guess that's a testament to a great casting person?

LawHawkRFD said...

Like a lot of others, I almost avoided this film because I figured it was just Vin Diesel in Outer Space. But I watched it when it first came on the pay channels. I must admit, I'm glad I did. You nailed it discussing the character development and real underlying plot. Excellent review. I also think that Cole Hauser is a grossly underappreciated actor.

AndrewPrice said...

Lawhawk, This one flew completely under the radar for a lot of people because it doesn't look like what it is when they advertise it. It tends to look like a shoot-em-up. I agree about Hauser, he does a great job here and the other times I've seen him. He very versatile.

Individualist said...


It is not that I think Chronicles is a worse movie than Pitch. It is that I am somewhat tired of the what I will call the Flash Gordon motiff that practically appears in every Scifi movie and 7 times out of 10 ruins the movie.

I really think that having the characters be mortal and the trheat soemthing that even if it wins will be bad but not the end of the world makes for a better film.

This is one of the reasons I liked Serenity. Yes they created the Reavers, ye4s the Reavers make raids and kill people, yes the Parliment gets a black eye when Mal releases teh data.

However..... the alliance is still in charge, still the same controlling government, the border planets are still no better off, the Reavers are bad but the planets still manage to survive, the knowledge does not cure the Reavers and end the threat and Mal and the crew, well the surviors get back aboard teh Serenity and look for teh same type of work to eek out their existance.

If the were the standard scifi faire none of the above would be true. The alliance would be ended, the Reavers cured or killed, Mal and Crew would be known as the heros that saved the Universe and maybe even would be put in charge of the government and oh yeah everyone in the border worlds would get a speeder in every garage and a pny in every barn and no one would want again.

This meme irks me because most of the scifi films I dislike are otherwise good movies that are ruined becuase the director could not tone this down.

Riddick followed this motiff but the director made it work partially because what comes next is never really foretold. Thus Chronicles was a good movie but I think it was despite this motiff.

For me I wanted a movie more gritty and into the mundane like Blade Runner. but it is Hollywood and they aren't exactly trying to make teh next great literary masterpeice so what can you do.

LL said...

Will there be another sequel in the Riddick series?

Apparently he kept what he killed, but what then? Underverse?

AndrewPrice said...

Indi, I agree with you and the Flash Gordon syndrome. It seems that Hollywood has decided that all films must now have the ultimate stakes available -- massive life/death, end of the world, end of the universe. The best stories happen on a much smaller scale where you can personally feel for the people affected.

I think the huge stakes tend to be a cop-out for a poorly written story where the writer just couldn't find a way to make you care about the characters.

Unfortunately, this is how Hollywood works however -- they take everything to the extreme and they keep upping the ante until there's nothing left to up. They do this in terms of the stakes, the explosions, the personalities (all extreme archetypes now).

ScottDS said...

I have no excuse but I still haven't seen this film. Hell, even my dad has seen it and that's saying something! In addition to a sequel, I believe there was also a direct-to-DVD animated movie but I don't remember the title.

When it comes to world-building, I totally agree with you. I haven't seen the film but whenever I'd see the trailers for the new Total Recall, it just came across as a generic "flying cars and skyscrapers" kind of thing.

At the same time, it's actually quite difficult to create a really unique world, and it doesn't help that every know-nothing critic is ready to label something as "Blade Runner-esque" just because it's a dark and rainy city.

I'm a big fan of Star Trek author Christopher L. Bennett - he loves delving into the science and technology of various worlds. Hell, he makes time travel make sense! If I were running Paramount, I'd hire him to write the next Trek movie.

LL said...

I went to IMDB regarding the next two upcoming films to round out the Chron Riddick trilogy:

From Vin Diesel: "From the very very beginning, when everyone thought it was crazy, I was thinking of The Chronicles of Riddick (2004) as a trilogy. That would start with the movie you saw, and Pitch Black (2000) would act as a prequel that introduced you to the character. So in simple terms, in Chronicles 2 we venture to the Underverse. We knew we could get away with a PG-13 on the first one, but once you go to the Underverse it's rated R, because it's a place where war is the norm and there is constant, constant battling. Then on Chronicles 3 we will see Riddick return to Furia, to deal with the homeland."

AndrewPrice said...

LL, They are making a third film and they've promised that it would be more like Pitch Black than Chronicles of Riddick. I'm not sure if it will take place in the Underverse or not. There was talk about that, but I don't know how they ultimately decided.

Commander Max said...

"What it is, is a character drama taking place in a science fiction setting."

Andrew I had a hard time reading past this line.
It prompts a rhetorical question.
Why place the movie in a sci-fi setting?

I do like the Riddick stuff. One thing about Pitch Black, I didn't find it memorable. It was a good film, but it doesn't stand out.

T-Rav said...

So is this where Chronicles of Riddick comes from? (Yes, that should tell you how much I know about this movie.) It sounds a bit like I Am Legend, only with multiple protagonists.

AndrewPrice said...

Scott, There is no excuse! LOL!

I think it's actually a lot easier to build a world than people think. This film shows that you can do it through the characters and the dialog for the most part. Showing a huge CGI city doesn't really give you anything, it's just eye candy. Getting down in the weeds and showing what the people really live like and some of the ways their society functions is what matters to making the world feel like it has depth.

AndrewPrice said...

In fact, Scott, consider Blade Runner. It wasn't just the big dark city that made Blade Runner interesting, it was the people he met and their occupations.

AndrewPrice said...

LL, That's interesting. It's also not quite how things turned out. I wonder what changed or where they are headed next? I hope he doesn't try to present a film about aliens at war. That would be pretty dull.

AndrewPrice said...

Max, Why not place it in a science fiction setting? There's no reason character dramas can't play out in a science fiction setting. I would think that would make science fiction more appealing to a wider audience actually and it would elevate it from this idea of being about ray guns and space ships to being genuinely solid movies.

AndrewPrice said...

T-Rav, Yes, this is where Riddick came from. And no, it's nothing like I am Legend. This is more like Flight of the Phoenix done in space with monsters getting ready to chase you.

Commander Max said...

It comes across as being shoehorned into a sci-fi setting. Thinking of the ST example, some episodes of VOY, DS9, STNG come across as the writers would rather be writing something else.

You forgot bug eyed monsters, but then a question to ask is when is the last time we had good show about ray guns and spacehips? In a setting where the bad guys are bad guys, and the good guys kick them in the teeth. Not going on for an hour about some mental issue that should be solved by being kicked in the teeth, ray gun, or spacing(that involves a spaceship).
This stuff is giving me an idea.

AndrewPrice said...

Max, What idea did you get?

I know what you mean, especially about a lot of the ST stuff feeling like the writers wanted no part of science fiction. I never got that feeling from Riddick, but I can't say that you're wrong -- reasonable minds can differ. :)

There hasn't been a film like you mention for a very long time because moral certainty is no longer considered a good thing in Hollywood. I was hoping Star Trek Enterprise would be like that, but it wasn't.

wahsatchmo said...

I'm also a big fan of Pitch Black, but not so much Chronicles. Chronicles tried to pack way too much story into the film, where Pitch Black stayed true to its core.

If you haven't seen Dark Fury, it's an animated half length feature that's meant to set up (sort of) the transition between Pitch Black and Chronicles. I loved it, plus it shows the first appearance of Toombs.

Also, Chronicles of Riddick: Escape From Butcher Bay was a disturbingly great game. It acts as a prequel to Pitch Black, and you learn that Riddick didn't get his "shine job" by paying a doctor 20 packs of menthols.

Never played Dark Athena, though.

AndrewPrice said...

wahstachmo, I've never played the games, though I was aware of them. I haven't seen the animated feature either, but it sounds interesting. I'll have to look for that.

I like both films, though for different reasons. I see Pitch Black as excellent science fiction, and Chronicles as an excellent action film. I would say that I see Pitch Black as the stronger film, though I enjoy Chronicles very much for what it is.

I know that Jack said that he didn't get the eyes that way... how did he get them?

wahsatchmo said...

Andrew -

Riddick meets a mystical sort of preacher character while in the dark underground of the Butcher Bay prison, and has an experience that wakes up his Furyan abilities. It's a little surreal and not meant to be all that clear what happens, but it was done in a pretty entertaining fashion.

AndrewPrice said...

wahsatchmo, Thanks! That's interesting. I should check that out.

LL said...

From what Vin Diesel said (another quote), this second installment of the Chron Riddick will involve elementals (fire, water) and not just the air style that we saw in C-1. Since C-2 is in production there are a few plot leaks that I've been able to ferret out in the last couple of hours and based on those leaks alone, there would appear to be a journey to the underverse and Riddick will return at the end of C-2 as the Lord Marshal did. "Leading them, the Lord Marshal. He alone has made a pilgrimage to the gates of the UnderVerse... and returned a different being. Stronger. Stranger. Half alive and half... something else."

AndrewPrice said...

LL, Oh! I thought Pitch Black was C1, so there would only be one more. Two more makes more sense.

Riddick almost has to go to the Underverse next since that's the only challenge left to him in the current universe.

Can you imagine a stronger, stranger Riddick? LOL!

ScottDS said...

Andrew -

It's late and I have nothing further to add with regard to Pitch Black...

...I only wanted to share this link. It's also sci-fi. :-)

I just hope my financial aid kicks in soon!

AndrewPrice said...

So you're planning to use your precious financial aid on a set of CDs?

Eh, ok, that's cool. :)

ScottDS said...

I was exaggerating, slightly.

But I'm only accepting the grants and not the loans so I'm not stuck paying it all back later. :-)

Other than that, I'm paying for school completely out of pocket.

AndrewPrice said...

That's the best way. Student loans are insidious. It took me years to pay mine off.

USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

Commander Max: Your comments reminded me of The Last Starfighter with Lance Guest and the incomperable Robert Preston.

The good guys and bad guys were easy to ascertain, and although there wasn't much sci in this film it was still a lot of fun.

AndrewPrice said...

Ben, Those types of films are much more rare these days. That's too bad too. And when they do make someone a bad guy, it's often a bug or lizard.

Joel Farnham said...


What is it with the comment section at Commentarama?!

Again, lost over half of the comments. Mostly LawHawk's.

USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

Andrew, that's true. Most likely due to most people disliking bugs and reptiles.

Of course, in The Last Starfighter the lizard looking guy was a good guy, lol. Come to think of it, same with Enemy Mine. Those are the only ones in "recent"* memory I can think of where they diverted from the usual formula.

* Recent meaning the last 30 years. :^)

USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

Joel: I blame the Gorn. You can't trust those cold blooded bastards.
And blogger, but I repeat myself.

AndrewPrice said...

Joel, The answer is simple. People keep posting multiple comments back to back, often including links and misspellings. That looks exactly like spam to Google and once it starts classifying something as spam, it will start ripping out more comments.

I keep trying to tell people not to post comments back to back and don't post links unless they're necessary, but no one listens to me.

Joel Farnham said...


Yeah, if they are the Gorn, where are the Metrons?


I understand, but your spam filter should still have the comments. This seems more directed towards LawHawk than any one else.

AndrewPrice said...

Ben, I think the reason is to make it impossible for people to sympathize with the bad guys. So they create a fake non-human race which they can then attribute pure evil to without worrying that someone will get upset that they think a political statement is being made.

AndrewPrice said...

Joel, When they vanish before being posted, they go into the spam filter and I can rescue them. When it goes back and rips them out after being posted, then they seem to just vanish.

T-Rav said...

Google hates us for our fascist and incendiary rhetoric. That is the answer.

AndrewPrice said...

No doubt.

FYI, I see that Romney will be unveiling his VP tomorrow morning 9:00 AM... aboard the USS Wisconsin. That could mean Paul Ryan!

Joel Farnham said...


Now it is 8:45 AM. I hope it is Ryan. It will shut up a lot of Republican whiners and quite a few conservative pundits..... nah, that won't happen, they will just find something else to complain about....wishful thinking at best.

AndrewPrice said...

Joel, I get the feeling that nothing will shut some of these people up. They've decided to fight Romney tooth and nail.

T-Rav said...

Fox's Greta Van Susteren reported on Twitter that the Secret Service has been dispatched to Ryan's home. That should just about seal it up.

AndrewPrice said...

I feel like I should quote Ghostbusters... "picking up or dropping off?"

Gordon Winslow said...

I saw the world premiere of this movie. It was shown as a surprise at a festival. No one had ever heard of it before. The crowd went nuts after the opening scene, and it got a standing O at the end, both reactions well-deserved.

I met Vin Diesel at the event. He seems like a really nice, down to earth fellow.

AndrewPrice said...

Gordon, Neat! It definitely deserved the standing O!

I've never met Diesel personally, but every time I've ever seen him, I've been impressed. He strikes me as down to earth. He's not a publicity hound. He doesn't get into trouble. And everything I've read says he's a good father/husband. What more could you ask for from a star?

Gordon Winslow said...

I should add a "thanks" to those who pointed out that there was a director's cut of Chronicles. I saw it at the theater and I was disappointed. I'll give the longer cut a chance.

AndrewPrice said...

Gordon, It's better, but it doesn't fundamentally change the movie. So if you didn't care for the themes, it doesn't change that. But I think it's worth checking out and that is the version I prefer.

Commander Max said...

Thanks Ben, I thought there was a bit of sci-fi in the Last Starfighter. But not a high intellectual level, but on a lets go have some fun level(with a moody kid).

My idea, make fun of what Hollywood has been doing with sci-fi as of late.
Take the idea of a ship's counselor. They are supposed to be empathic(whatever that really means). Make fun of the idea, by having the counselor always be wrong. On top of that have some of the ships personal(like the womanizing captain) use the counselor as a wingman in a single bar situation(but the counselor is always wrong there as well).
How about the high ranking officer who has some hangup. But it drives everybody around him crazy, so they respond by making his life miserable.
In essence take the modern sci-fi drama situation, and give it an old sci-fi solution.
But make it more realistic, not the canned I have a problem, things go wrong, then problem solved and we are all happy now.

This could go all sorts of directions, Andrew I'm sure you could come up with better stuff.

tryanmax said...

Well, crap. I take the time to watch Pitch Black and now everyone's comparing it to Chronicles, which I also haven't seen. Grr! ;-)

I must agree, the world (universe) of PB was excellently set up by a few simple character traits, some lines of dialogue, and a relative handful of props. I especially like how Riddick gives his entire backstory in about five sentences in response to the question, "How do I get eyes like that?" And the idea of shined eyes is really cool in itself.

I thought the crash at the beginning was spectacular. That prolonged moment of tension as the ship is just above ground level and you're waiting and waiting for it to finally hit. Well done.

I will say, once it got time for the monsters, the movie devolved a bit. The character drama had pretty well played out by then and, even accounting for the release date, the CGI on the aliens really took me out of the moment.

I can't think of the last movie that didn't show the monster. Nowadays, it's all about buzz over the monster reveal. Then you're disappointed b/c it's another gray-green blob. If the monster were kept hidden throughout, that would be a near stroke of genius in the modern movie world.

Last thought: my favorite Vin movie is Find Me Guilty. IMDB synopsis: "Based on the true story of Jack DiNorscio, a mobster who defended himself in court for what would be the longest mafia trial in U.S. history." And it is frickin' hi-lar-ious!

AndrewPrice said...

Max, I've often felt that there would be an excellent show, either as a drama or a comedy in taking TNG premise and changing up the characters dramatically to poke fun at flaws or inanities of the show. Like the idea of a grumpy, always wrong counselor or an android with poor morals.

AndrewPrice said...

tryanmax, I'm glad you enjoyed it. I also thought the opening was spectacular. Look at how brilliantly they set up the characters through Riddick's quick descriptions. Then the bits of comet shooting through the hull. Finally, the magnificent crash. The only thing I didn't like was that she would have been torn apart at that speed when the window shattered, but still, it was so well done.

Then I think the way they shot the film with the colors and the clean sets were just perfect to give you a sense of being on another world. Add in the things you say about how easily they fill in the entire universe without ever having to show it to you -- you know exactly what the universe is like. That's all excellent.

I do agree with you that the monsters ultimately fail. I think they would have been better served if we never got to see them. That would have taken the film up another notch!

Find Me Guilty is excellent! My favorite Vin film is either Pitch Black or Boiler Room or actually Fast and Furious.

By the way, Chronicles of Riddick is a very different film if you check it out. It's not Pitch Black II, it really is an entirely different concept. I enjoy it a lot, but be warned that it's more of an action film than this one. But the Necromongers alone are worth the price of admission! "Convert or die."

wahsatchmo said...

I didn't see it mentioned in this thread, but Vin gave up the XXX franchise in the hope that Chronicles would be a success. He's gotten three films, two video games, and one animated feature out of the bargain, whereas I think he could have leveraged XXX to three films, and that's about it.

I admit, I called him an idiot for pursuing this course. But, at the time, I failed to consider that the F&Fur Films do about 60% of their gross overseas, so those are pretty much guaranteed money makers. Any time. Any where.

Vin knows what he's doing, and he's pretty damned smart.

USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

Max and Andrew: That would be hilarious, LOL!

The engineer could have a futuristic looking nose (redshirt accident) that has amazing smelling powers but doesn't always work right.

They could say that tribbles have evolved and are now intelligent and make one the security officer.

Two words: space leprechauns.

I don't recall there ever being a scifi comedy series. That would be cool if they had decent writers.

USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

BTW, I see Congress passed and Obama signed the bill giving the President more powers to select appointees without Senate approval.

I don't like it. However, and perhaps I'm being too cynical here, I can see an argument for it.

Obama and future fascist/proregressives will continue to simply ignore Congress anyway, since there's really nothing they can do, so why not get something out of it for a republican President?

I would prefer more strict laws to arrest fascist Presidents that ignore our laws but since that may never happen and democrats ignore the laws/rules anyway, maybe this is the best we can get out of it?

Commander Max said...

Ben there were a few, at least that come to mind.
One was "Red Dwarf", the other was a show called "Quark".

Andrew, I think the Brits beat us with low morals android "Kryten" from Red Dwarf. Those guys really hit Trek hard.

tryanmax said...

Ben, sounds like you're looking for comedy set in space, like Red Dwarf, Hitchhiker's Guide, Lexx (though I didn't like that one), Futurama.

But there are all sorts of alien-on-earth sitcoms like Mork and Mindy, Alf, 3rd Rock from the Sun, My Favorite Martian.

It's still a pretty short list. The breakout shows are the ones that got past lampooning scifi tropes and made it about the foibles of characters who just happen to be in/from space.

For my money 3rd Rock is the best because of the comic misunderstandings of the aliens trying to pass as humans. The hilarity comes from the fact that they routinely got it wrong, but were accepted as human anyway because, well, why wouldn't they be?

AndrewPrice said...

wahsatchmo, It sounds like Diesel is a very savvy businessman. I'd heard similar things. And I agree that the XXX franchise wouldn't have lasted. It was fun, but it didn't have the pull of the Fast and Furious stuff and I don't think it had the potential of the Chronicles stuff. I think it would have played out quicker, especially as it was premised on him being a novice -- how long can you keep that going?

AndrewPrice said...

Ben, There are very few sci-fi comedies. There have been some, but I think comedy has limited appeal and sci-fi has limited appeal so doing that is all but guaranteed to have problems being marketed.

I haven't seen the bill in question, but the confirmation system is such a joke right now anyway that something needs to be done. Maybe this will help Romney/Ryan overcome Democratic filibusters?

AndrewPrice said...

Max, Kryton was hilarious! So was Bender from Futurama.

AndrewPrice said...

tryanmax, I don't really count the alien-on-earth shows because they tend to be nothing more than regular sitcoms with a highly unusual character as compared to a mostly unusual character. I do count the ones set in space or in the future.

But either way, it's a very short list and I think the reason is this fear that sci-fi audience aren't large enough, so why risk it? If you can just transfer most of the jokes to a more normal setting, you do that and hope for a larger audience.

rlaWTX said...

I really liked the Riddick movies. interesting and attention keeping.

AndrewPrice said...

rlaWTX, I agree! :)

Anonymous said...

I'm coming late here again, but I was very excited to see the movie you were reviewing. I love Pitch Black, it is a great movie and yes it is 'way' more then just another sci-fi movie.

I own the DVD and have seen it numerous times, it was actually shot in the Australian desert which gives it a unique look. Riddick is a great character, he at first seems evil then misunderstood then he seems a hero. Then there is the debate about this comment "Not for me! Not for me!"

At first I was disappointed with COR, I was expecting something more like PB. But when I saw it again a few years later I loved it and realise it is a great movie in it's own right and a great squeal. But that it is a different type of movie then PB and I am now thankful that they didn't make PB pt2 which would have sucked.

As someone else mentioned Cole Hauser is great in this and an under appreciated actor in his own right. I've never not liked him in a movie, in a fair world he would get better roles more often. He was great in another grate under appreciated movie Tears of the Sun.

As to Sci-fi comedies my favourite is Red Dwarf, but no one mentioned the classic Galaxy Quest which is the ultimate Star Trek piss take.


AndrewPrice said...

Scott, I knew it was made in Australia and it definitely has a unique feel to the scenery. I think it really stands out because of that, plus the lighting they use.

I love this film as well and highly recommend it.

On "Not for me!", I'm not sure what Riddick is really thinking at that point. It's certainly an interesting question if he's just testing Fry or if he's planning to leave them. It makes his character more interesting in my mind that we don't really know his true motivation at that point.

I was disappointed in COR too the first time because I was expecting PB 2, but I quickly fell in love with it when I realized that it was just a different type of movie.

I loved Red Dwarf. And Galaxy Quest is hilarious!

Anarchy said...

I like both Pitch Black and Pandorum. The latter I actually found to be more layered.

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