Review – Pitch Black (2000)

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pitch-black-553e74e15a735One of the franchises that never really interested me was the Riddick films. I couldn’t really tell you why, it just wasn’t up there on my to-watch list…which can get awfully long, mind you. Last night, I figured it was time and set off to watch the first film in the series – Pitch Black. I was pleasantly surprised with what I found…a film that found its way to my Top 5 films of 2000.

When the transport ship “Hunter-Gratzner” is hit by a meteor shower, the pilot Carolyn Fry is awaken from the cryogenic sleep and tries to control the vessel with forty passengers. She is forced to release a module and only Carolyn; the bounty hunter William J. Johns; the religious Abu “Imam” al-Walid; the dealer Paris P. Ogilvie; Sharon ‘Shazza’ Montgomery; the runaway teenager Jack; John ‘Zeke’ Ezekiel; Suleiman; Hassan); Ali; and the dangerous criminal Richard B. Riddick survive. Riddick escapes and Johns scares the survivors telling how dangerous he is. The group is stranded in the desert and find that place is heated by three suns and they team-up to seek for water and supplies. Soon they discover that there are under siege of flesh eating aliens that attack in the darkness; further, the planet will be pitch black with a total eclipse. They conclude that it is not Riddick that they have to be worried about. (IMDb)

PEOPLE
★★★★★★

This category is all about the people in the film. This covers their acting ability, if the characters themselves are any good, if they work well together as a team, if they are deeper or flatter as characters, and if the casting director even did their job right. These are all very important issues to consider while reviewing film.
  1.  Acting: ★★
    • The acting in the movie isn’t what you’d typically expect. The entire atmosphere of the film feels sort of cheap and almost indie in ways, but it actually does a pretty remarkable job at capturing some pretty great acting in there. Two stars.
  2.  Characters: ★★
    • I wanted to be critical here because it does take a little bit to really get you acquainted with who’s who. Once it does, though, I had a hard time actually giving it a hard time because the characters are actually pretty diverse and memorable.  Not just Riddick. Riddick is introduced in this film, but it’s this group of diverse characters who mold him to be as memorable as he is today, which I found fascinating. Two stars.
  3. Good Casting: ★★
    • Here’s another area where I wanted to be critical but once again found trouble doing…I just can’t be critical. The casting is great as well. Riddick is the obvious one, but all of these actors who I mostly consider to be unknowns really fit their roles, and I can’t say anyone else could fill those roles and make it any better. Again, I have to give it two stars.
  4.  Good Importance: ★★
    • I was convinced the only person here to hold importance would be Riddick. Make no mistake, he probably has the most importance overall, but every gosh darn character completely has a role to fill. They have a reason to be there, they’re contributing to the plot…it just kept surprising me at every turn. Two stars.
  5.  Good chemistry: ★★
    • Weirdly enough, everyone worked so well together in terms of chemistry. Even though they are all diverse, even though they are unknowns, even though they’re sometimes afraid of Riddick…it just doesn’t matter, how they play off each other is realistic, relatable, and believable. Two stars again, making the category of People a clean sweep.

WRITING
★★★★★★

This category obviously covers the writing aspect of the critique. First, you want to know a little bit about the script. Specifically, how is the dialogue? Are they saying anything memorable or inspirational…or was it just a bland conversation to keep the story going? How was the story itself? Was it well-balanced or over-convoluted? Was it original? Was it even interesting? Once again, all very important questions
  1.  Dialogue: ★★
    • I would say most of the good dialogue was spoken by Vin Diesel. Either through narration or directly to other characters, he really wins this subcategory. Other people have their moments, but he’s the one that shines and helps put this film on the map in terms of how memorable it is. Two stars.
  2.  Good Balance: ★★
    • This is also a really balanced story. There’s not so much happening that it’ll get you confused. Everything is easy to follow. Two stars.
  3.  Good Story: ★★
    • So, what’s the story here? Well, it’s a couple of things, it’s a story of survival…but it’s also a story of judgment and redemption. It has meat, it has a soul. It’s not just mindless fun. Two stars.
  4.  Originality: ★★
    • Can’t say I’ve really seen any movie like this before. The closest feeling I got while watching it was that it sometimes felt like Jurassic Park, but that’s more of a feeling than actual originality. I think this did a pretty great job at standing out and being something completely different. Two stars.
  5.  Interesting: ★★
    • So, I was interested from the beginning, because I knew this was the introduction to Riddick, but I was also interested once I started the film because it pretty much gets into things from the very start…and once that happens, it’s hard to keep your eyes unglued from the TV. Two stars, making the category of Writing also a clean sweep.

BEHIND-THE-SCENES
★★★★★★

Never forget that there are hard-working individuals working on this film day in and day out. It’s a great story, yes, but people helped make that possible. People like the directors, who have to take written word on a script, and somehow translate that for the big screen in a way an audience would understand. Editors, who are given a ton of material and expected to further make that idea and image the director has already – into a reality, like the director of photography, whose job is to make this movie look amazing…whether that means natural settings and landscapes, CGI, 3D, technical effects, or otherwise. The production crew, who are in charge of making advertisements that aren’t false, and don’t give too much away. Finally, the sound crew, who are in charge of everything the audio has – sound effects, sound editing, music, you name it. These are all puzzle pieces.
  1. Visuals: ★★
    • As I said before, there are elements in this film that feel a little cheap and almost amateurish, but the way they handle it is perfect. They know where their faults lay, and they kept that in consideration when actually making the film. I know in my heart the CGI, if lit up, is probably really crappy. However, they kept the things in the dark just enough for us to get an idea of what they are and what they look like…but they really make your mind produce a fully detailed image of the beasts in the long run, which is fantastic. Two stars
  2.  Directing: ★★
    • Likewise, the director had a pretty heavy duty to follow. The director kept a lot of technical issues in mind while filming, making sure they didn’t have any problems in post-production. He kept things chilling and real while keeping the potentially bad quality of certain things at bay. Great job. Two stars.
  3.  Editing: ★☆
    • The editing is the first thing I’ll only give one star to, and that’s because I actually think some of the editing could have been better. In movies that have high-action sequences, it’s not always wise to keep things close-up. We want to see what’s going on. So, there’s a bit of that, but there’s also good editing for the slower scenes. So all-in-all, one star.
  4.  Advertisement: ★★
    • As far as I could tell, the advertising was great. They advertised the product well. Yes, trailers in the 90s and early 00s weren’t that captivating, but I think they did their job. Two stars.
  5.  Music: ★☆
    • A little bit of a disappointment here, because after everything else is showing so much potential and scoring really high, I was expecting something incredible in regards to the score…but that’s not what I got. What I got is something typical. Nothing special. Nothing terrible. Just…music. One star.

NARRATIVE ARC
★★★★★★★

Have you ever been left wondering what it was about a film that felt…off, but you couldn’t place what it was? Well, a lot of people actually aren’t educated on the traditional narrative arc structure – which is seen in almost every movie or book story. With a missing piece, you might not understand what feels missing.
  1.  Introduction: ★☆
    • With films that like to start off with a bang and get the ball moving, that works as something that grabs your attention, but it’s an alternate path to the introduction. The introduction comes a little later, after the actually crash onto the unknown planet. So, from what I could tell, it was mostly rushed to get to more action. One star.
  2.  Inciting Incident/Crossing the Threshold: ★★
    • I almost want to say the ship crashing was the inciting incident, even though that is the first thing that happens in the movie. In a way, it’d make sense, but I think the real one is when Vin Diesel’s character escapes from his chains, and they have to hike out in the unknown land to search him out. Two stars.
  3.  Obstacles: ★★
    • Easy peasy, the world is filled with flesh-eating alien creatures, and they have to make it out alive, despite the world has just gone dark…which is when all of the creatures come out to play. Two stars.
  4.  Epiphany/Climax: ★☆
    • Okay, the climax is a confusing one. There’s a pretty intense scene towards the end that should have been the climax, but it sort of keeps going after that, adding another, duller climax at the end. I mean, they’re both there, the epiphany moment and the climax, but they are so matter-of-factly that I just can’t give this two stars, so it’s only the one.
  5.  Falling Action: ★☆
    • Likewise, with the falling action, there’s not much to it. While it does sort of bring things to a satisfactory place before the credits role, they don’t have enough focus on that. It’s more of a lukewarm end. The director liked action, and since the action was done, there’s not much more to say. So, one star here as well.

OVERALL ENTERTAINMENT
★★★★★★★★

Here’s something most critics overlook because they’re always so keyed in on critiquing the technical elements of a film. Well, that may be statistically accurate, but the numbers that are released aren’t always reflective of what we enjoyed about it…which is when we say the movie was under-appreciated or whatever. This category focuses on pure entertainment.
  1.  Rewatchability: ★★
    • I would absolutely watch this movie again. I never thought in my 29 years that I’d actually enjoy it. It never looked like my cup of tea…but I enjoyed it so much. It felt like a classic in a way. I know that I’m not done watching this one. Two stars.
  2.  Fun: ★★
    • Is the movie fun? I’m not entirely sure which part isn’t fun. Even the slower parts were at least fun to watch, so I can’t not give it two stars.
  3.  Impulse to buy it: ★
    • Yes, I have an impulse to buy it, but not right away. This is one of those things where you might see it sitting out on sale in one of those blu-ray tins at Walmart, and you’re like…yes! Haha, I don’t know. One star.
  4.  Impulse to talk to someone about it: ★☆
    • Well, I did, in fact, talk to someone about it after seeing it. I needed them to know it wasn’t too bad at all. However, if I wasn’t able to do that, I would’ve been able to sleep at night just fine. One star.
  5.  Sucks the audience in: ★★
    • I’m pretty sure I’m still sucked in right now…two stars.

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SPECIALTY QUESTIONS

These are special questions written by you before seeing the movie, based on expectations, questions, stereotypes, you name it. If it’s a Tom Cruise movie, have Cruise-isms, if it’s a horror film, ask how scary it is, if it’s a sequel, ask if it fits in with the universe or if it was even needed to begin with, you catch the drift.

Action/Suspense
★★★★★★★★★★

SPECIALTY QUESTION #1

The first thing you’d expect after seeing some advertisements for this is it’ll probably have either some action or suspense. It looks more like a thriller than horror, as the genre indicate. So how was that action or suspense? Actually, they were both really fantastic. As I mentioned before, parts of this film reminded me of how I felt when I first watched Jurassic Park. Even when it came down to the knee-jerk reaction later on in the film. There’s only one difference guys, the JP guys had models of dinosaur skeletons to go off of…these people had to create creatures out of thin air. 10 Stars.

Vin Diesel
★★★★★★★★★★

SPECIALTY QUESTION #2

The next thing you’ll notice is that this is Vin Diesel in one of his earlier, but one of the most recognizable roles he’s ever played. I had not seen it at this point, so I asked myself if this belongs in the Vin Diesel vault of accomplishments, and I would have to say yes. Going through his history of films I’ve seen him in, I’m pretty sure his portrayal of Riddick is probably my favorite, and then the Fast and Furious films. I wouldn’t even necessarily say xXx, because that just didn’t stand out as much as the others. As for the initial questions – 10 stars.

Science Fiction
★★★★★★★★★★

SPECIALTY QUESTION #3

Next up is the generic question regarding science fiction. We know this is science fiction, so as far as that’s concerned, how does it fair? Honestly, it fits in pretty snugly with all the rest of the sci-fi films out there. It has memorable characters, memorable creatures, a memorable world, and a whole different concept that we haven’t really seen before. 10 stars, my friends.

Darkness
★★★★★

SPECIALTY QUESTION #4

Next specialty question comes down to darkness. As this movie is called Pitch Black, I was awaiting a very dark movie…which isn’t really what I got. About half of the movie is dark, but a good half of it is super bright. Like, over-exposure bright. Like, blinding bright. It worked well with some unique filters for the visuals, but it wasn’t fully what I was expecting, either. 5 stars.

HALFWAY DECENT
★★★★★★★★★★

SPECIALTY QUESTION #5

Last but not least, is it halfway decent? Meaning, can I personally think of a better way to make it? No…I’m pretty sure if I did anything with the film, I’d ultimately make it worse. Everyone that worked on this movie did a really good job creating a solid film, that with only a few tweaks here and there could’ve been a masterpiece. However, as an answer to the initial question – yes, it is completely decent.

RATING: 88/100

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