Director: David Twohy
Screenplay: David Twohy, Jim Wheat & Ken Wheat
Story: Jim Wheat & Ken Wheat
Starring: Vin Diesel, Radha Mitchell, Cole Hauser, Keith David
Country: USA, Australia
BBFC Classification: 15
Twenty years on and Pitch Black has lost none of its bite, scrappy energy or sci-fi superiority. A character piece, a survival thriller and a big bad monster movie Pitch Black is still a great achievement for all those involved. Now Arrow are bringing a brand new amped up release complete with the director’s cut and a heap-ton of amazing extras.
The flick wastes no time in kicking off and letting the viewer know its intentions with a deep space vessel carrying an eclectic mix of passengers coming under fire from rogue meteorites. This wakes the in cryo-sleep passengers forcing them to crash land on the nearest planet. Said planet is at first a scorching desert landscape that appears almost inhospitable and while the rag-tag bunch of survivors decide what to do next the planet soon reveals its nasty secret in an approaching eclipse, that along with plunging the planet into pitch black brings with it hordes of blood thirsty beasties. But said survivors have one ace up their sleeve in the form of Richard B. Riddick (Diesel) who with his night vision, Furyan blood and lethal attitude may just be their salvation.
A star making vehicle for Diesel upon release as well as cementing screenwriter David Twohy (The Fugitive, Terminal Velocity) as a bona-fide director, Pitch Black is a dark, propulsive sci-fi (monster) thriller. Balancing great character interaction and development with hardcore sci-fi set-pieces the flick sticks to its guns from the get-go as an ensemble sci-fi survivalist scarer that still thrills thanks to some tight execution. Twohy’s assured hand behind the camera means tension is mounted fiercely and the cast are top notch. The likes of Radha Mitchell, Cole Hauser, Keith David, Claudia Black and a host of strong supporting actors all shine to make us believe the dangers their facing. However, it’s Diesel that steals the film as Riddick this being his best franchise character, and his performance here reminds us of how good he can be when he’s not continuously waffling about the importance of family in-between bubble-gum car carnage! He’s as feral and as dangerous as any of the nasty creatures he faces, and he and Hauser have a refreshingly believe antagonist beef rather than succumbing to cliched tough guy posing.
Yet it’s the setting and its inhabitants that also make Pitch Black soar, the filmmakers creating a believable hostile planet (on a limited budget!) with the creatures that inhabit it genuinely terrifying. Twohy finds a near perfect balance of showing the beasts just enough to sate our need to see them and not showing them too much so they always feel like a threat. He also balances sci-fi, action and several moments of out-right horror making Pitch Black an almost perfect genre concoction: the opening crash landing of the ship is an amazing mixture of tight editing, practical action and an economical use of CGI. Sure, the lower budget shows through from time-to-time, it’s convenient that the crew crash on a planet just as an eclipse is about to happen with someone who has super-duper night vision and those who are enamoured with today’s never ending Disney backed CGI behemoths may find it all a little a low key but Pitch Black is still as good today as it was all the way back in 2000. A tight, taut, muscular sci-fi shocker that benefits from great characters, action and a commitment to delivering superior genre thrills. While the sequels have merit (despite going in slightly different tonal directions, they’re both good in their own right!) this is the best Riddick.
Pitch Black will be released on special edition Blu Ray from Arrow Video on 17th August 2020
An amazing and comprehensive array of extras (so much so I didn’t have time to watch/review all of them before release!) include:
- Brand new 4K restoration by Arrow Films of the Theatrical and Director’s Cuts of the film, approved by director David Twohy
- High Definition (1080p) Blu-ray presentation
- Original DTS-HD MA 5.1 surround on both cuts
- Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing on both cuts
- Archive commentary with director David Twohy and stars Vin Diesel and Cole Hauser
- Archive commentary with director David Twohy, producer Tom Engelman and visual effects supervisor Peter Chiang
- Nightfall: The Making of Pitch Black, a newly filmed interview with director/co-writer David Twohy – this is a great twenty plus minute interview with Twohy about the making of the film with some neat behind the scenes footage spliced in. He’s articulate, interesting and balances anecdotes and interesting info about the making of the film well. He’s also refreshingly proud of the film and drops in an interesting titbit about a famous 90s action star who was originally going to feature but Twohy said no to his casting because of his “being a dick” reputation: but doesn’t divulge who it was, ack! Great interview though.
- Black Box: Jackie’s Journey, a newly filmed interview with actor Rhiana Griffith
- Black Box: Shazza’s Last Stand, a newly filmed interview with actor Claudia Black
- Black Box: Bleach Bypassed, a newly filmed interview with cinematographer David Eggby
- Black Box: Cryo-Locked, a newly filmed interview with visual effects supervisor Peter Chiang
- Black Box: Primal Sounds, a newly filmed interview with composer Graeme Revell
– a series of short and sweet audio interviews with key cast and crew that shed some interesting light on the making of the film, it’s technical aspects and how certain actors came to get their roles. Informative and everyone involved has a lot of love for the film and the experience of making it, but they can feel a tad repetitive as the same footage and behind-the-scenes photos are often used.
- The Making of Pitch Black, a short behind-the-scenes featurette – funky five-minute featurette that is more of a promo: basically the trailer intercut with some talking head moments about how great the films is! These sort of promos where standard features on early DVDs. Pretty cool retro fun though.
- Pitch Black Raw, a comparison between early CG tests and the final footage – originally on the 2009 Blu Ray version this compares pre-production material, raw footage and early VFX with the final film.
- Additional behind-the-scenes footage from the making of the film
- 2004 archive bonus features, including an introduction by Twohy, A View Into The Dark, and Chronicles of Riddick Visual Encyclopaedia – some cool bonus extras from the previous released DVD all the way back in 2004!
- Johns’ Chase Log, a short prequel narrated by Cole Hauser detailing the character’s hunt for Riddick
- The Chronicles of Riddick: Dark Fury (in 16:9 widescreen with DTS-HD MA 5.1 audio), an animated short film directed by Peter Chung that acts as a bridgepoint between Pitch Black and The Chronicles of Riddick, featuring vocal performances by Vin Diesel, Keith David and Rhiana Griffith reprising their roles – Dark Fury is a fun half hour anime style short film detailing the events immediately after the climax of Pitch Black. Featuring the voices of some of the main cast, it moves fast, has tons of violent action and introduces one of the cooler characters that would feature in The Chronicles of Riddick, Toombs. Directed by Peter Chung (Aeon Flux animated series), it has a trippier vibe than the film.
- Dark Fury bonus features including Bridging The Gap, Peter Chung: The Mind of an Animator, A View Into The Light, and a “pre-animation” version of the film – Dark Fury’s own set of special features detailing the making of it. Cool.
- Slam City, a motion comic from the film’s official website – this is a pretty short animation originally made for Pitch Black’s website.
- Into Pitch Black, a TV special offering an alternative non-canon glimpse into what happened before and after the events of the film – an odd mix of newly shot footage (by the SyFy channel) inter-cut with clips of the film. Interesting oddity that is a tad overlong but is certainly a curio as a product of its time.
- Raveworld: Pitch Black Event, footage of a dance music event held to promote the film – just as weird, funky and retro as it sounds. Again, another groovy promotional curio from the film’s release before the internet became the main source of all marketing.
- Theatrical trailers, plus trailers for the two sequels and video game – nice selection of trailers covering the entire Riddick franchise though the trailer for 2013’s Riddick gives away the entire film!!
- Image galleries
- Reversible sleeve featuring newly commissioned “night” and “day” artwork by Luke PreeceFIRST PRESSING ONLY: Collectors’ booklet featuring new writing by Simon Ward on the film’s creature designs (including a new interview with creature designer Patrick Tatopolous), original production notes and information from the film’s official website, and an archive interview with Vin Diesel from Starlog magazine; plus collectable O-card with “day” variant artwork by Luke Preece.
* Please note, the stills used in this review don’t reflect the picture quality of Arrow’s Blu-ray.