Pitch Black was a little small budget sci-fi movie released in 2000 that was directed by David Twohy. It was a simple story of a transport ship that crashed on deserted planet. The survivors include a cop and the prisoner he is transporting who has had eye surgery to allow him to see in the dark. This becomes very useful when the planet enters into a month-long eclipse, releasing dangerous predators that only come out in the dark. The survivors struggle to find power cells for their ship to get off the planet, and not get eaten in the process. Also – Cole Hauser shoots up in his tear duct, for real.
It felt unique and intimate, and was a surprising success because it was made for so little. It also helped propel Vin Diesel into pop culture awareness. He had certainly been around before then, appearing in various films (Saving Private Ryan) and working on passion projects (he founded his production company, One Race Films, in 1995). Pitch Black was the perfect project for this larger-than-life action star who then rocketed to success with The Fast and the Furious in the next year (2001). The intimate and uniqueness of Pitch Black was wiped away by the complete mess that was Chronicles of Riddick (2004).
The movie simply out-stretched itself, trying too hard to be too much. The best part of it was Karl Urban’s performance as Vaako. Riddick bumbles around the universe, trying to get home to Furya. In the process, he stumbles across the girl he met in Pitch Black, a bunch of necromancers, and Judi Dench as some sort of wind-person. I really cannot explain the plot more than that. It made no sense. By the end, the girl had died, and Riddick was on the throne. The movie left such a sour taste in fans’ mouths that it has taken 9 years to make another one.
In the meantime, Vin made a couple of kids movies, some serious movies, and mostly over-the-top action movies. Some were good, and some were not. XXX was terrible, A Man Apart was boring, and the Pacifier was a little insulting. Once he got back behind the wheel of a Fast/Furious Car with Fast Four (Fast and Furious), things started to look up. Fast Five was incredible, and this spring’s Fast Six was completely ridiculous, but left me crazy excited for Fast Seven, due next year.
For Riddick, David Twohy is back on board, and attempts to bring back the intimate feel of the original. We find Riddick where we left him, on the throne, but miserable. He still just wants to get home to Furya. He sets out with some troops, but surprise! They betray him and maroon him on a hostile, mostly barren world.
He contemplates some things, does some monologue-ing, and basically decides that the mistake he made was getting civilized, and it’s now time to get back to being feral. He battles some vicious creatures that live on the planet, learning how to defeat a particularly nasty water-dwelling poisonous serpent deal while befriending a dog-like stripey jackal thing. He sets out across the planet with his domesticated jackal at his side, when he finds a bounty hunter station. He seems content to ignore it, until he notices some storms heading in. That’s no big deal, except the storms wet the ground, and when the ground gets wet, more of those creepy serpent deals (which were hibernating underground) come out to play.
He sets off a beacon, knowing it will bring in a team of bounty hunters to him, so he can take their ship and head home. Sure enough, not one but two teams of bounty hunters arrive. The first is a rag-tag group of shifty-looking guys, with more firepower than brains. The second group is a bunch of well-trained professional mercenaries. The leader of the mercenary group has been hunting Riddick for quite some time, for personal reasons. The two groups fight each other for a while, until Riddick starts taking them out one at a time, and they decide to ‘work’ together. Riddick and his Jackal (warning: do not get too attached to the Jackal – sniffle) hold them off for a while, but then the storm gets closer, and he moves in, needing to get off the planet.
The cast in this is pretty fun:
- Vin Diesel again plays Riddick, and while he is absolutely Dom Toretto, he’s also absolutely Riddick. He’s quietly rumbly and dangerous. Whether or not you love him as an actor – you can love him in this role. The see-in-the-dark eyes are still creepy, so the goggles and tank-top are beginning to make for an iconic profile.
- Jordi Molla (who I remember from Columbiana) plays the head of the less organized bounty hunter squad. He’s slimy and creepy and quite a bit evil. He’s also the reason you should not get too attached to the Jackal, which is the reason I don’t mind telling you that his end is fittingly gruesome.
- Matt Nable plays the head of the organized merc squad. He’s grim and determined, and has a personal reason for tracking down Riddick, which I thought played pretty well. He’s an Australian and a former pro-rugby player whose physicality really suits this role. I don’t think I’ve seen him in anything else, but I was pretty impressed by him in this.
- Katee Sackhoff (new Starbuck) plays Dahl, and is the only female in the movie, aside from a bunch of naked concubines in the beginning when Riddick is still ruling, and one escaped convict who lasts about 23 seconds (played by singer Keri Hilson – why?). You’ve probably heard she’s topless in this – and it’s pretty pointless, so that was irritating. She does hold her own, and is swiftly becoming one of the go-to tough chicks in movies today (thank goodness, I’m sure Michelle Rodriguez and Zoe Saldana were getting tired). She is a bit one-note in this, but that one note is badass, which she does well. I would like to throw her in the ring as Carol Danvers (Ms. Marvel) for the Marvel universe movies; she’d be perfect for that.
- Dave Bautista continues to add to his acting resume by playing Diaz, one of the bad bounty hunters. He’s quietly becoming very good, and I cannot wait to see him in Guardians of the Galaxy. It’s not that he gets to show any talent in this, he’s basically a henchman, but he makes the most of the small moments he has.
- Bokeem Woodbine surprisingly appears as one of the professional mercenaries. He has even less to do – his only major scene involves getting snuck-up-on by Riddick, then being shocked about it.
- Karl Urban does reprise his role as Vaako for one scene, and that wasn’t nearly enough Urban for me, but I’m sure he’s busy hopefully preparing a Dredd sequel, and prepping for another average Star Trek outing.
Overall, it was very fun, very over-the-top, and much closer to the original Pitch Black then to the terrible Chronicles of Riddick. The effects were well done, and the creatures were interesting. It’s worth checking out, just make sure to leave your brain at the door. One thing that did really annoy me was the constant hitting-on of Sackhoff’s Dahl. I get that she’s the only woman on the planet, but really guys? Everyone has to threaten to rape her? She beats the shit out of Molla’s character repeatedly and he continues to insinuate he’s going to hit that. Even Riddick makes a few unnecessary comments when he encounters the whole group. That was disappointing. It’s the future, clearly she’s a capable soldier, back off that nonsense. It will be interesting to see if Riddick gets to Furya, and what exactly that place is like.
8 out of 10. Gained points for Riddick standing naked on a cliff in the distance during sunset. Very introspective, and symbolic, since he states it’s time for him to lose civilization and get back to being primal. Lost points for Dahl being topless while prepping for a mission, no symbolism there, just a PTS. Gained points for the Jackal, that thing had really cool ears. Lost points for losing him (he was protecting Riddick). Gained points for Dave. Lost points for everyone aggressively hitting on Dahl – including Riddick. Ick.
Bonus Video 1: The Big Hit – Bokeem Woodbine at his weirdest…and the most insane performance from LDP you will ever see.
Bonus Video 2: The Pacifier trailer, if you haven’t seen this…you’re lucky.
Bonus Video 3: Fast 6, come on – it was awesome.
Bonus Video 4: Cast Interviews: