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MOVIE INFO

Director:
David Twohy
Cast:
Vin Diesel, Radha Mitchell, Cole Hauser
Writing Credits:
David Twohy, Jim Wheat, Ken Wheat

Synopsis:
A commercial transport crew gets marooned on a planet full of bloodthirsty creatures that only come out to feast at night - right before a month-long eclipse occurs.

Box Office:
Budget
$23 million.
Opening Weekend
$11,577,688 on 1832 screens.
Domestic Gross
$39,240,659.

MPAA:
Rated R/NR

DISC DETAILS
Presentation:
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
Audio:
English DTS-HD MA 5.1
Subtitles:
English
Closed-captioned
Supplements Subtitles:
None

Runtime: 108 min. (Theatrical)
112 min. (Director’s Cut)
Price: $39.95
Release Date: 8/18/2020

Bonus:
• Both Theatrical and Director’s Cuts
• Audio Commentary with Director David Twohy and Actors Vin Diesel and Cole Hauser
• Audio Commentary with Director David Twohy, Producer Tom Engelman and Visual Effects Supervisor Peter Chiang
• “Nightfall” Featurette
• “Jackie’s Journey” Featurette
• “Shazza’s Last Stand” Featurette
• “Bleach Bypassed” Featurette
• “Cryo-Locked” Featurette
• “Primal Sounds” Featurette
• “The Making of Pitch Black” Featurette
• “Behind the Scenes” Featurette
• “Pitch Black Raw”
• 2004 Special Edition Extras
• “Dark Fury” Animated Sequel
• “Beyond the Movie” Features
• Image Galleries
• Trailers


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-SVS SB12-NSD 12" 400-watt Sealed Box Subwoofer


RELATED REVIEWS


Pitch Black [Blu-Ray] (2000)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (October 1, 2020)

Back in 2001, The Fast and the Furious gave a then-34-year-old Vin Diesel his first true hit as lead actor. Of course, this would eventually mutate into a massively successful franchise, albeit one Diesel seemed reluctant to embrace.

Diesel skipped 2003’s 2 Fast 2 Furious completely, and he made only a token cameo appearance in 2006’s Tokyo Drift. Diesel wouldn’t return for good until 2009’s Fast & Furious - perhaps not coincidentally the film that reset the series and put it on a path toward commercial dominance.

Try as he might, Diesel can’t generate another successful franchise in which he plays the lead. Initiated in 2002, the xXx flicks never caught on as hoped.

2000’s Pitch Black preceded Fast and the Furious, obviously, and it failed to find much of an audience theatrically. It made a mere $53 million worldwide, a figure that meant it might’ve turned a minor profit due to its low $23 million budget, but those totals didn’t light up any Hollywood accountants’ eyes.

Diesel must dig his character, for he revived it for 2004’s Chronicles of Riddick and 2013’s Riddick. Both sold more tickets than Pitch Black but neither set box offices on fire, and given its $105 budget, Chronicles clearly lost lots of money.

Perhaps Diesel will use his clout to force studios to produce a fourth Pitch Black movie some day. In the meantime, let’s look at the original and see if we can figure out why Diesel seems so attached to the role.

During a mission, a space transport gets damaged during a meteor shower that forces it to land on a desolate, arid planet. Led by pilot Carolyn Fry (Radha Mitchell), only 11 people remain, and one of them presents a threat.

A violent criminal, Richard B. Riddick (Diesel) poses a danger to the crew and passengers. When he escapes, Fry and company need to deal with this.

However, the planet itself brings its own severe challenges. In this setting, flesh-eating aliens reside, though they only come out during darkness.

That might not seem like a terrible issue – except the planet will soon go through a month-long eclipse. Confronted with 30 days of total dark, Fry and the rest need to make nice with Riddick, as he may become the only one who can keep them alive against the creatures.

For reasons unknown, I never saw Black in 2000, so until I got this Blu-ray 20 years later, my experiences related to its two sequels. Neither did much for me, but I held out hope that the original would work better, especially since it paints Riddick as much more of a villain than the character in the other films.

I get why the 2004 and 2013 flicks softened Riddick. Diesel clearly wanted to shift from the basic horror of Black into more of a grand sci-fi epic with the sequels, so he couldn’t really feature a psychopath as the lead, could he?

I like Diesel’s willingness to play the violent nutbag here, even if the movie gives him a shot at redemption. Still, Riddick brings a darker character than I might’ve expected, and Diesel seems suited to the role.

That’s mainly because Riddick doesn’t require much more than a violent, intimidating presence. As an actor, I think Diesel sports talent, though he seems to find it difficult to deliver a complete performance.

By that I mean when Diesel appears in live-action movies, I think he relies too heavily on his physical side. Granted, this makes sense, as his muscular physique allows him to stand out from the crowd.

However, when Diesel works in pure vocal performances like the Iron Giant or Groot, he does very well, so he shows talent in that regard. He simply seems monochromatic in live-action parts, like Diesel figures his brawn is enough and he doesn’t need to expand his range in other ways.

That becomes an issue with the Fast & Furious movies, as that franchise’s Dom needs to exist as the emotional centerpiece, and Diesel can’t do it. However, when placed as a fairly one-dimensional action presence like Riddick, Diesel seems more successful.

Indeed, Riddick becomes the only character here who really sticks to the screen. Mitchell seems overmatched as this movie’s take on Ripley, and she can’t add much depth to her part.

The others fail to bring much impact either, and the supporting roles tend to feel more like caricatures than anything else. None of them flop, but they seem as though they exist for Critter Fodder more than as real personalities.

I can’t call that a fatal flaw, though, as Black doesn’t pretend to bring a deep character study. With that pretty obvious Alien influence at work, the movie just wants to give us the requisite mix of terror and action.

In that regard, Black does reasonably well. Nothing about it seems especially creative or innovative, and it probably takes too long to get where it needs to go.

Actually, the movie opens with a bang, as the catastrophe on the ship boasts an urgent tone. After that, though, the pace slows as we get to know the characters and the setting. Ridley Scott pulled off this extended intro in Alien, but David Twohy isn’t in his class, so he can’t make the gradual build work as well.

Nonetheless, Twohy manages a moderate sense of tension as the characters explore the planet, and he allows the action to explode once the mayhem launches in full. Again, none of this feels especially fresh, but the film depicts the horror and violence in a mostly compelling manner.

Ultimately, Pitch Black ends up as an inconsistent but moderately entertaining sci-fi action flick. Few will regard it as great but it packs enough of a punch to make it a fun ride.


The Disc Grades: Picture B+/ Audio B+/ Bonus A

Pitch Black appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. Though a challenging presentation, the image looked very good.

Overall sharpness worked well. Occasional wider shots felt a little on the soft side, but those never became more than a minor distraction.

The movie lacked jaggies or moiré effects, and I saw no hints of edge haloes. The film brought a light layer of grain, and print flaws manifested a couple of tiny specks but nothing more.

In terms of palette, Black tended to opt for stark hues, as the movie usually went with either strong ambers/yellows or chilly blues. As limited as these choices were, the disc reproduced them effectively.

Blacks looked deep and dark, while shadows appeared accurate and concise. The movie held up well over the last 20 years.

As for the film’s DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack, it also satisfied, especially in the way it brought out the action sequences. With a fair amount of mayhem, the soundfield opened up well and allowed the material to use the speakers in a bold, engaging manner.

General atmosphere also fared nicely, as the planet setting allowed the mix to create a good sense of place. Throw in broad stereo score – with reinforcement in the surrounds – and the track delivered a fine multichannel presentation.

Audio quality worked well, with speech that seemed natural and concise, despite a couple of slightly edgy lines. Music boasted good vivacity and range, with clean highs and warm lows.

Given all the action, effects became a significant factor, and the mix reproduced these elements in a powerful, accurate manner. Low-end seemed deep and full. All in all, the audio satisfied.

On this Blu-ray, we find two versions of Pitch Black: the “R”-rated theatrical release (1:48:06) and an unrated Director’s Cut (1:51:45). What does that extra three minutes, 39 seconds give to the viewer?

I thought the DC might add graphic content, but instead, it concentrates on character elements. These offer short extensions – obviously not very substantial since the DC runs less than four minutes longer than the theatrical.

As such, they don’t do much to change the movie, though they give us a smidgen more depth about the roles. I guess the filmmakers feared the added 3:39 would slow the film too much, and I get that, but the extensions seem brief enough that they don’t create a problem.

Either version of the movie feels satisfactory. While the additions to the DC work fine, they don’t create a cinematic experience that seems much different than the theatrical version.

The disc provides two commentaries, both of which were recorded for the original 2000 DVD. Note that these only accompany the Director’s Cut.

For the first commentary, we hear from director David Twohy and actors Vin Diesel and Cole Hauser. All three sit together for this running, screen-specific discussion of story and characters, cast and performances, sets, cut scenes and additions to the Director’s Cut, effects and related domains.

Expect a pretty average commentary here. While the participants bring us a decent look at aspects of the production, they don’t offer a lot of depth or insights, and they devote a lot of time to praise for the film. This becomes a listenable piece but not one with much to make it memorable.

In the second commentary, we get notes from director David Twohy, producer Tom Engelman and visual effects supervisor Peter Chiang. All three sit together for this running, screen-specific take on creature design and execution, cinematography, and various effects/technical elements.

While more informative than the first commentary, this one doesn’t become much more interesting. We get a decent look at effects and connected topics, but the chat tends to feel a bit slow and dry. This turns into another mediocre track.

From here we find a slew of featurettes, and first we go to Nightfall, a 23-minute, 51-second interview with Twohy. He discusses his career, how he came to Black and development, casting, sets and locations, photography, creature design and effects, and the movie’s release.

Despite inevitable repetition from the commentaries, Twohy provides a pretty tight overview here. Too bad Twohy doesn’t name the “major dick” actor the studio originally wanted to cast as Riddick, though!

Black Box spans 12 minutes, two seconds and brings a chat with actor Rhiana Griffith. She covers her career and work on Black in this fairly effective piece.

In the same vein, Shazza’s Last Stand provides a seven-minute, 14-second conversation with actor Claudia Black. She also gives us a look at the Black shoot in this reasonably useful chat.

Bleach Bypassed brings a 10-minute, 44-second interview with cinematographer David Eggby, as he digs into photography and cinematic choices. Expect a pretty good overview.

Next comes Cryo-Locked, a 13-minute chat with visual effects supervisor Peter Chiang. As expected, he talks about the movie’s effects and delivers a fairly informative program.

Primal Sounds delivers an 11-minute, 28-second interview with composer Graeme Revell. He tells us a little about his career but mostly concentrates on his work for Black. We get another good discussion.

From 2000, The Making of Pitch Black fills four minutes, 46 seconds with info from Diesel, Hauser, Twohy, and actor Radha Mitchell. Despite a few minor notes, this ends up as a mediocre promo piece.

Previously used as a “picture-in-picture” feature on the movie’s 2009 Blu-ray, Behind the Scenes goes for 18 minutes, 13 seconds. It presents footage from the shoot along with remarks from Twohy, Diesel, Mitchell, and Hauser.

While we watch more images from the shoot, we get basics about the production. Though superior to “Making of”, “Behind the Scenes” feels like an extension of it, so don’t expect great depth.

In the same vein, Pitch Black Raw also comes from the 2009 release’s PiP component. It goes for 11 minutes, 38 seconds and features shots at the pre-effects level as well as composite work, concept art, dailies and similar materials.

Though interesting as it stands, commentary would make this more engaging, as I’d prefer to know more about what we see. We do get a few notes from Twohy toward the end, but don’t anticipate much direct information.

A few more components appear under 2004 Special Edition Extras. An “Introduction by David Twohy” lasts two minutes, 24 seconds and mainly acts to connect Black to its first sequel.

He offers superficial remarks, and these literally repeat what he said during “Raw”. Skip the intro.

“A View Into the Dark” fills four minutes, five seconds and also relates to the 2004 sequel. We hear from Twohy and Diesel. It’s promotional fluff.

Performed in character by Hauser, “Johns’ Chase Log” goes for six minutes, eight seconds and brings “animated diaries”. This offers some decent character material and adds a fun component.

Finally, a “Visual Encyclopedia” occupies one minute, 42 seconds. Also from Hauser as Johns, it provides rudimentary notes about different film-related concepts. It doesn’t bring much to the table.

Another piece of connective tissue between Black and its first sequel, Dark Fury offers a 34-minute, 48-second animated tale. With Diesel, Griffith and actor Keith David in tow, we get some of the film’s talent, and these factors make “Fury” interesting. It’s a small but creepy story.

We also find five featurettes related to “Fury”: “Animatic to Animation” (32:45), “Advancing the Arc” (1:29), “Bridging the Gap” (8:31), “The Mind of an Animator” (5:03) and “Into the Light” (5:04).

You’ll note that “Animatic” runs nearly as long as “Fury” itself. That’s because it presents the whole film in animatic form. While not tremendously interesting to see, it still becomes kind of a cool addition.

Across the rest of the clips, we hear from Diesel, Twohy, director Peter Chung, writer Brett Matthews and executive producer George Zakk. The first three featurettes offer basics about the various elements of “Fury”, and they contribute some good information. “Light” just promotes Chronicles of Riddick.

Three components appear under Beyond the Movie. “Slam City” offers a motion comic prequel and it first appeared on the movie’s website. It runs eight minutes, four seconds and delivers a crude affair but it’s moderately interesting.

A Sci-Fi Channel program, “Into Pitch Black” goes for 43 minutes, 55 seconds. Though one would expect a promo show, instead “Into” gives us a semi-sequel, as a bounty hunter chases after Riddick.

It seems cheaply made and not very good. However, it does bring back Diesel for some new work as Riddick and it creates an intriguing effort, even if it doesn’t really work.

Lastly, “Raveworld” takes up 20 minutes, 37 seconds and shows a series of parties thrown to promote the film. Two minutes of this proves tedious, so 20 minutes seems like way too much.

Under Trailers, we find three ads for Pitch Black itself. We also get one each for Chronicles of Riddick, Riddick and the Escape from Butcher Bay video game.

Four Image Galleries complete the disc. We find “Production Stills” (96 frames), “Concept Art & Special Effects” (51), “Storyboards” (181) and “Publicity Gallery” (15). All offer useful elements.

Despite a mix of derivative elements, Pitch Black manages to create enough impact to turn into an enjoyable sci-fi/action flick. Don’t expect anything especially original, but the end result nonetheless works. The Blu-ray brings very good picture and audio along with an extensive collection of bonus materials. This ends up as a strong Blu-ray release.

Viewer Film Ratings: 3.5 Stars Number of Votes: 4
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Review Archive:  # | A-C | D-F | G-I | J-L | M-O | P-R | S-U | V-Z | Viewer Ratings | Main