Accidentally passing through a comets tail, a freighter ship (with its 40+ passengers and crew in suspended animation) suffers multiple hull breaches. As the emergency systems try to awaken the crew, a micro meteorite rips through the captains' pod and kills him. Left to take command, docking pilot Fry manages to crash land the ship on a nearby planet leaving only 9 of the passengers alive, including psychotic killer Richard Riddick (Vin Diesel). Shortly after the crash, as the survivors attempt to find shelter and a way off this strange planet (which thanks to its 3 suns is apparently in continual daylight), Riddick escapes. As the survivors, led by Fry and Johns (who captured Riddick), hunt down the killer they discover that there are more dangerous things than Riddick on the planet and, as a total planetary eclipse cloaks the world in darkness, they have to turn to the killer (with his augmented night vision) to lead the way to an escape shuttle and survival.
Filmed in 2000 in the Australian outback, Pitch Black could (at first glance) be just another Alien rip-off. It's not and it's the characters, as much as the presentation that elevates it. In Riddick we have an excellent anti-hero, cold, calculating and without any moral compass save his own survival. At first glance he appears to be the ultimate threat to the survivors but, as the situation is turned around by the discovery of the aliens, he becomes their potential saviour. It would have been so easy for the movie to turn Riddick into a killer with a heart of gold at this point, but he isn't. Vin Diesel turns in a great performance as a cold, calculating killer. Whilst he progresses through the film and acts to save some of the survivors, there's never a doubt that he would leave them behind if it meant his survival.
The movie has a look all of it's own too. Thanks to some superb special effects work for the crash scene; well developed alien designs and superb cinematography depicting the trinary star system and planetary rise sequences, the movie convincingly depicts an alien environment, partially helped along by the truly barren locations used. Editing is also used to great effect in this film with wall-to-wall jump cuts never letting the movie slow down but, instead, re-enforcing an atmosphere of anticipation and anxiety. This release also sees the movie re-titled (in packaging only, the movie retains its original title sequence) as “The Chronicles Of Riddick: Pitch Black” in order to tie in with the animated straight-to-video instalment “Dark Fury” and the sequel movie, simply titled “The Chronicles Of Riddick”.
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