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Hollywood Spotlight - Reviews [Pitch Black]
ORIGINAL FULL FILM REVIEW
USA Films / Gramercy Pictures
Sci-Fi / Horror / Fantasy / Action
Fight Evil With Evil.
R (Sci-Fi violence and gore, language)
Jim and Ken Wheat, David Twohy
Vin Diesel, Keith David, Radha Mitchell, Lewis Fitz-Gerald, Cole Hauser
· Synopsis: In the not-too-distant future, a docking pilot makes a forced crash-landing of her spacecraft on a distant planet. Her crew is killed, even as some of the passengers escape. A lawman is unharmed but so is his prisoner, a convicted murderer. As the survivors explore the uncomfortably hot planet, they must band together. The planet is eerie, arid, and lifeless. but as the sun sets and the planet plunges into total darkness, other inhabitants emerge.
P ossibly the best film of its kind since Aliens, Pitch Black, being released this Friday, February 18th, 2000, is a film that no sci-fi fan should miss. I've got some great things to say about it and some not-so-great things to say about it, but I do believe the time tested theory of "the good outweighs the bad" prevails yet again.
First, The Good. I have never, EVER such an incredible, realistic, thrilling, seat-gripping, breath holding, fantastic spacecraft crash in my life. Did I blow it? I don't think so, that's just the first 5 minutes of the film. With stunning visuals and Saving-Private-Ryan-Style camera effects, the crash which tears apart the ship end-to-end as it rips through the atmosphere at 24,000Kmph hurtles the audience through an experience which before was only barely imagined. Many thanks go to the directors, writers and visual effects teams for this one because this scene alone was worth the trip in my opinion!
Then, well.. more Good. From there on out, the movie is packed with clever effects, tricks and ideas never before seen in a film: an important asset for this movie to go over well. Many sci-fi films never make it simply because they lack any originality, but Pitch Black contains clever, believable creatures, beautifully designed sets, heart-pounding action that will make you jump (I'm sure of it!) as well as action scenes to make you duck and lurch with each jab. Further, CGI (Computer Generated Imagery) enhancements make up the entirety of creature population, spacecraft flight shots, and planetary system depictions for a dazzling view of interstellar life as it might actually occur on some distant world. Even with little explanation as to the source or destination of the crew whom the story follows, all these factors combine to tell an awesome story of survival.
Now, The Bad. Unfortunately, as entertaining and elegant as this film was, there are some down sides which to me were rather discouraging. First and foremost, this movie suffers from an unnerving, over-simplified plot: crash the ship, figure out where you are, seek out help, then it's a fight for survival from attacks of the local residents who are quite happy to see you trying to rush supplies from the crashed cargo ship to an escape craft in an effort to get off the planet. I think this movie would have greatly benefited from an added degree of intelligence and/or element of danger (such as a necessary subterranean excursion or perhaps a smarter foe with whom to reckon). As it stands, the plot itself is nearly a bore. But wait, there's more! If you're a "hard core sci-fi film addict" like I am, then you'll immediately find several technicalities that range from minimally to absurdly incorrect and just plain impossible in both the story and the visuals. That's alright though, as hard core sci-fi fans, we have come to expect this in films to the point where we are shocked when it doesn't happen: no points removed. Continuing the rant, a classic "issue" with this movie was predictability of several storyline turning points. Some of these are visible from the beginning of the movie before the twist at the end, some of these are visible only 5 minutes before-hand. This is another point which added intelligence to the storyline would have helped to alleviate.
Back to The Good. Pitch Black creates rich, believable characters who progress and develop naturally through the film. Several of the characters have prior relationships with one another, and several do not know each other at all, and these relationships are explored and revealed bits at a time throughout the film which allows for interest retention. There are several of these relationships that are key to the deliverance of the film's morality points (personal sacrifice) of which, the most interesting to follow is that of an escape convict [Vin Diesel, Boiler Room, Saving Private Ryan & The Iron Giant] and his law enforcement captor [Keith David, Armageddon, Dead Presidents, Reality Bites] as well as the cargo ship's lovely female pilot, "Captain Fry", forming a trio of lust and loathe. Diesel's character is by far the most intriguing, undertaking the most radical changes of them all. With the touch of humor, taste of fear and rush of adrenaline, this story leaves no emotion untapped!
Overall, Pitch Black is a great flick, worth every minute. You should recognize several camera and production tricks from other movies in the last year (Saving Private Ryan, anyone?) as well as some new tricks such as scene super saturation from the brilliant suns overhead and a couple new vision tricks (you'll see..). It could have used more detail in a lead-in storyline, and more complexity in the struggle for survival on the planet, but makes up for these short-comings in rich character development, stunning visuals and an eerie, fast-paced sound track to complete the feel of paranoia. My vote: clean out the car and under the couch; scrape up your loose change and don't miss Pitch Black on the big screen!