DVD Video - Reviews [Pitch Black (Special Edition)]
ORIGINAL FULL DVD REVIEW
Pitch Black (Special Edition) (Unrated Version)
Release Date: 10/24/00
Run Time: 112 minutes
Rating: Not Rated
Starring: Cole Hauser, Keith David, Vin Diesel, Radha Mitchell, Lewis Fitz Gerald, Claudia Black
Directed by: David Twohy
Movie Summary: [Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Horror]
A starship carrying passengers crashs on an abandoned planet that is surrounded by three suns. There is no such a thing as night on this planet except for the darkness provided by a total eclipse of all three suns that occurs once every 60 years. The survivors fear for their lives because of threat provided by a technologically altered serial killer, who is now on the loose. The survivors soon discover that this deadly man might be their only chance for survival against the carnivorous alien species that come out from their subterranean dwellings during the lightlessness of the eclipses. The survivor's fates are sealed with the approaching darkness.
Widescreen: 2.35:1, Enhanced for 16X9 TVs, Color, 5.1 Dolby Digital, 5.1 DTS, Subtitles: French, Closed Captioned, Region 1, Parental Lock
Trailer / Audio Commentary with director David Twohy, actors Vin Diesel and Cole Hauser / Audio commentary with director David Twohy, producer Tom Engelmand, visual effects supervisor Peter Chiang / Behind-the-scenes footage from Raveworld.com Pitch Black events / DVD newsletter / Cast/Crew Biographies / Production Info
he excruciating wait is over at long last after eight months. From the first time I saw this film in theaters (yes, there was more than one time), I was immediately anxious to receive it on DVD. Iím going to get right into the nitty-gritty of the DVD here; check my reactions to the film in the DCN film review of this movie.
First, the obvious: the video transfer on this title is excellent. It contains brilliantly contrasted scenes as well as subtle, dimly lit ones. Aside from level balances, all the producers had to do was basically keep the film free of debris which they seem to have succeeded in. For the most part, the film contains low saturation, highly contrasted scenery which seems blinding - just as intended and originally seen in the film.
Then, the not-quite-so-obvious: the audio transfer on this title is, well, also excellent! This is my first opportunity to directly compare side-by-side (or rather one at a time, flipping between them) the differences between DTS and DD5.1 audio tracks of a movie. I watched the entire film three times. The first was in DD5.1 with which I was certainly impressed - great atmospheric surround sounds, echoes and reverberations enhanced the eeriness of the film. The second two viewings were for each of the commentary tracks. I then sampled various segments of the title in DTS, particularly the opening scene, bouncing back and forth between DD and DTS, straining to hear a difference. At first I found none and was a bit surprised to find that they sounded so very similar. But then, I decided to crank up the volume a notch. I re-listened to DD. Sounded fine. Then I tracked back, flipped to DTS and re-listened to the same scene. The difference became so immediately, blatantly obvious that I actually exclaimed, ďholy shit!Ē From day one, people have been twisting my arm off insisting that DTS was better than DD. I refused to believe - it didnít even make sense. By the spec, they should have a nearly identical effect. Not yet having witnessed first hand, what I failed to consider was that there is more to an audio transfer than simple technical potential - thereís mastering effort. If the same level of mastering effort were put into both the DD and DTS versions of any given audio track, chances are that you wouldnít know the difference. But it seems that these days DD track quality is slipping - providing simple transitional effects here and there, letting the encoding system automatically handle a good deal of the atmospheric and other effects. DTS on the other hand, as a company striving to make an image for itself and advance its digital audio implementation across the industry, cannot afford such lax-a-daisy luxury in the production of their audio tracks. As such, it would seem that the maximum level of effort is in full force in the production of Pitch Blackís DTS audio track. The sound is cleaner, has sharper separation and is at a greater amplitude than the DD track making it plainly the better choice when viewing this film.
For additional footage, the best that the producers could come up with was compiled clips from some Raveworld.com events. No deleted scenes. No alternate endings. Nothing pertaining to the film. That aside, as fiend of rave culture, I actually quite dig the videos - some great shots of the scene with kickiní music spinning - you wonít normally find incriminating video footage of the underground scene. Disregarding my personal interests, despite the loose affiliation with Pitch Black the movie, I see little relevance of containing this material on the disc. Perhaps it was aimed at those who actually attended the events in hopes of getting ALL of them to buy the disc, but ultimately, a far greater audience lies out there to which the videos will just be meaningless.
While on the topic of meaningless supplements, the "DVD newsletter" is yet another farce. It is a single page with a brief explanation and link to Universalís site suggesting to viewers that they sign up for the newsletter online. Yeah, great. Thatís no more a feature than is the sticker sealing the box with the name of the movie on it. This could easily have been more effective on the box insert which you donít have to power your theater system up to read.
I enjoyed reading over the cast & crew profiles - handy for identifying some of these lesser known actors in other films. Also the production notes - theyíre not terribly lengthy as with any production notes segment, but they do contain some material not otherwise revealed in the commentary tracks.
The second commentary track with the director, producer and visual effects supervisor was interesting, covering the usual decision-making process for making things work, as well as some new (to me, anyway) on lighting levels and gradual light reduction in a single scene requiring film-speed switch-overs and other tricks. If you ask me, Iíd say these guys would save themselves a bundle on all this production crap by just going with all-digital recording systems, not requiring film-speed adjustments and what-not. At any rate, the first commentary track was far more entertaining. It features the director and actors Vin Diesel and Cole Hauser (Riddick and Johns respectively from the film) where they fuckiní cuss an awful damn lot. It seems pretty damn fitting for these dudes to bitch and cap on one another, ripping new assholes for other crew members - especially for an unrated version of the movie. Very funny stuff and definitely worth the sit if for nothing more than to just get a load of Diesel - a character-and-a-half, even when heís out of character.
And boy-oh-boy was I stoked when I read that there would be an unrated release of this film! New footage!? Yes!! Much to my dismay, there are a total of two additional scenes blended seamlessly into the film. So seamless in fact that I didnít even notice them on the first run through until they were distinctly pointed out in the first commentary track. Theyíre lame character-builders that could be easily over-looked comparing to what you remember of the film from eight months ago. Itís a bit of a let-down in a sense - youíd think they would have had something better on hand in the way of cut scenes. All rules go out the window with an unrated film release - but all they could come up with was a few additional seconds of dialogue. Lame. They may as well have ONLY released the unrated version of the disc - or vice-versa, I suppose, as the additional material does not dramatically alter viewer perception of the characters as the production crew seems to think it does.
When it comes down to it, I am gratified to nab this title in DVD form. It is an enjoyable, highly energetic film of a class and genre that you just donít see quality emerge from very often - take Mission To Mars for example. Need I say more? Granted, itís not a perfect product in the realm of additional features, but on the film side of things, very gratifying indeed. I canít argue with two cool commentary tracks and a terrific DTS transfer, but no easter eggs!? Now thatís where I draw the line! Kidding - since I donít expect to see a Pitch Black, unrated, Special Edition any time in the next year, I guess I deal with what weíve got, and all things considered, Iíll be quite happy with this.