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In the not-too-distant future, a docking pilot makes a forced crash-landing of her spacecraft on a distant planet. 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 -- including a fiendish murderer with a nose for blood.
For more about Pitch Black and the Pitch Black Blu-ray release, see Pitch Black Blu-ray Review published by Martin Liebman on March 28, 2009 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.0 out of 5.
Starring: Vin Diesel, Radha Mitchell, Cole Hauser, Keith David, Lewis Fitz-Gerald, Claudia Black
Director: David Twohy
» See full cast & crew
Pitch Black Blu-ray Review
'Pitch Black' shines on Blu-ray
Reviewed by Martin Liebman, March 28, 2009
They say most of your brain shuts down in cryo-sleep. All but the primitive side. The animal side. No wonder I'm still awake.
Pitch Black is one of the better Science Fiction movies of the decade thanks to a number of factors, primary among them its ability to smartly -- and deeply -- develop its characters. It's a film that has enjoyed quite the following after a meager take at the box office, its post-theatrical success on home video one of the primary factors in the construction of its radically different-in-tone sequel, The Chronicles of Riddick. Writer/Director David Twohy clearly understands what makes for a successful Science Fiction picture; The Arrival is another of his works that, much like Pitch Black, played to small crowds theatrical but has since come into its own later in life. Pitch Black is a more commercially-oriented film than The Arrival, and likewise The Chronicles of Riddick more so than Pitch Black, but Twohy smartly relies on strong characterization, impressive visuals, and first-rate storytelling to construct his pictures. While elements of Action certainly find their way into each one, the on-screen action is a byproduct of the story, not vice versa.
A deep-space transport vessel is pelted by meteors and crash-lands onto a desolate planet where several suns remain high in the sky and darkness is nowhere to be found. Among the survivors is a vicious killer, Richard B. Riddick (Vin Diesel, The Fast and the Furious) on his way back to prison, his captor, Johns (Cole Hauser, Tears of the Sun), and the ship's docking pilot, Fry (Radha Mitchell, Henry Poole is Here). As the survivors attempt to piece together any salvageable parts and find a sign of life somewhere on the barren world, Riddick manages to escape and is blamed for a brutal attack on one of the survivors. Panic ensues as the killer remains on the loose, but it soon becomes evident that something much more dangerous than the deranged killer lurks in the shadows. Hope is briefly regained upon the discovery of a deserted settlement and a spacecraft in need of only the downed vessel's power cells. Unfortunately, day soon turns to unending night as the planet falls under the shadows of a once-in-a-generation eclipse that darkens the world and brings forth an enemy vulnerable to only one thing -- light. The survivors, Riddick included, must attempt to set aside their differences and work in tandem to defeat the fear of the darkness, the fear of the enemy, and the fear of one another if they have any hopes of surviving the unending night.
The Riddick character is smartly written and elevated even further by the performance of star Vin Diesel in arguably his best role and most impressive performance to date. Riddick is witty, smooth, and fierce, fast on his feet, quick to think, and afraid of nothing. He's the perfect killer, but he's also the perfect hero, a juxtaposition that is played pitch-perfectly throughout the film. Riddick isn't even an antihero. He's a hardened, determined criminal, and says as much about himself as the film opens, commenting in a roundabout but decisive manner that his humanity has been drained over the years, and only his "primitive" and "animal" sides remain. As the story develops, his survival and aggressive instincts remain, though focused almost exclusively on his adversary, Mr. Johns, himself the true antihero of the film. As Riddick regains sight of his lost humanity, Johns loses focus of his, his obsession with Riddick overwhelming his thought processes and better judgment. The two enter into a game of tit-for-tat in an attempt to sell their ideals and characteristics to the group and to each other, though in the case of the latter, it's nothing but a devious attempt to gain leverage in what emerges as an almost epic struggle between good and evil. What is remarkable about this struggle is that it blurs the line between good and evil as neither participant fits squarely on either side, despite initial appearances to the contrary. As Johns' authority is questioned and his motives reveled, the survivors begin to turn from him and towards Riddick, despite the pair's initially-established clearly-delineated stance on either side of the law. "You're dancing on razor blades here," Frys tells Johns during one of the film's crucial junctures. The others begin to see that it is not necessarily the sins of the past but rather the handling of the troubles of the present that show one's true character. As it becomes clear who the villain is, not to mention Riddick's potentially life-saving guile and strength, an inevitable showdown between the two will decide the fate of the entire group.
Pitch Black also enjoys steady direction from David Twohy and often mesmerizing cinematography courtesy of David Eggby (Mad Max). The film features a myriad of vistas, terrains, and lighting schemes, and each one is presented with nary a hiccup in the flow of the film. The cinematography compliments each of the film's themes nicely, from the varied appearances of the world to Riddick's abilities as a criminal, fighter, leader, and eventually, hero. Pitch Black is not a CGI-heavy film, but what computer imagery there is tends to look less-than-inspiring, the creatures in particular failing to play as all that menacing or organic. Likewise, several brief scenes of gore fail to engender much of a visceral response to the carnage thanks to its more animated, rather than realistic, appearance. Generally, however, one may forgive the less-than-stellar CGI thanks to the film's limited budget. The only head-scratching element of the film is the side-story of one of the film's primary characters, Jack. The character is the object of a major revelation part way through the film that adds nothing to the experience; at best, it will raise the eyebrows but otherwise offers nothing to further the plot, and the impact on the character's development is minimal.
Pitch Black Blu-ray, Video Quality
Pitch Black obscures no detail in its fine 1080p, 2.35:1-framed Blu-ray release. The film offers a myriad of visual styles. It begins inside the transport vessel with a standard, visually bland, somewhat dark look, with consistent colors and levels of detail. The ship's steely, utilitarian interior isn't pretty, but what's there looks fantastic under the scrutiny of high definition, offering fine levels of visible detail on the instrument panels and other areas. Once on the planet surface, the film takes on a harsh, gritty, highly over-saturated look that washes out both colors and occasionally fine details, though intentionally so, replicating the barren, seemingly lifeless conditions of the planet where there is always a sun high in the sky. The movie quickly changes from a tan-shaded, hot, and miserable desert appearance to a harsh, blue-tinted hue that permeates every inch of the frame. No matter the lighting conditions, the transfer reveals plenty of finer details not seen quite as clearly on previous iterations of the film on home video, including beads of sweat and the finer textures of the various landscapes seen throughout the film. While colors are often bleak, there are a few highlights, splatterings of blood in particular, that appear richer and clearer here than on the DVD. Blacks, which dominate the second half of the movie, are generally solid, never veering towards a shade of gray or blue. Noise is rather heavy over some black backgrounds but not others. There is a bit noise over some of the brighter backgrounds of the first half of the film, though considering the completely unnatural appearance of many shots, it's hard to call it a flaw rather than something inherent to the look of the film. There are also quite a few white and black speckles over the print. Despite a few anomalies, this is a solid transfer that easily surpasses the DVD and should please fans immensely.
Pitch Black Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Pitch Black explodes onto Blu-ray with another impressive DTS-HD MA 5.1 lossless soundtrack from Universal. This is a film with a highly impressive sound design, evident from the opening moments of the film and onward. Pitch Black begins with a vessel in deep space, running in silence, with a subtle yet foreboding score protruding from the speakers to create an atmosphere that is dark and deadly. Inside the ship, the hull rattles off to the side and in the back, while Riddick's inner-voice flows quietly through the center channel with gritty precision. Suddenly, the ship is struck by small meteors that thud upon impact. The ship begins to plummet and break apart; two computer voices are heard lightly and sometimes on top of one another under the sound of mechanical objects being pulled, pushed, and kicked as the pilots attempt to level and slow the ship's rate of descent. Its descent into the atmosphere fills the soundstage with the sound of flying debris and screaming wind, punctuated by the jettison of large sections of the ship, resulting in a loud, shrieking, and clanking thud. The ship finally impacts on the surface, skidding along the ground, the metal hull violently ripped from the ship as dirt and debris fly all around the soundstage, and then, silence. That's just the first eight minutes of the film.
As Pitch Black progresses, it enjoys a robust soundtrack that rolls naturally from every speaker. The music is almost tribal in its presentation, with repetitive beats that sound clear and precise, making a deep, penetrating sound that sets the tone for the movie well, reinforcing Riddick's self-described personality that relates him to a "primitive" or "animal." Sound effects are heard discretely and distinctly throughout the soundstage, be they gunshots or the screeching of the planet's native creatures of the night. Particularly impressive is the rainstorm heard near the end of the film; the downpour may be heard in every corner of the listening area, making for one of the more pleasing storms yet heard on Blu-ray. Dialogue reproduction is uniformly strong throughout. This isn't quite as deafening or devastating a soundtrack as those heard in some other Universal titles, like U-571 or The Incredible Hulk, but it is nevertheless just as impressive in its own right.
Pitch Black Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Viewers may explore the world of Pitch Black on Blu-ray via numerous special features, some more substantial than others. Of note is that this disc contains both a 108-minute theatrical cut and a 112-minute unrated director's cut. Two audio commentaries are included, the first featuring Writer/Director David Twohy and Actors Vin Diesel and Cole Hauser. The track is informative and moderately entertaining. The trio enjoy a fine rapport, complimenting one another nicely as they share behind-the-scenes anecdotes; filming techniques, including how various shots play into the themes of the film and the development of its characters; the performances and off-camera personalities of their co-workers; and more. Track two once again features Twohy, this time alongside Producer Tom Engelman and Visual Effects Supervisor Peter Chiang. This is a technical track that takes on a more dry, slowly-paced tone. The participants delve into the creation of the special effects and the development of the film's creatures and style, the creature point-of-view shots, and other technically-oriented tidbits. This track is more for die-hard fans and budding effects technicians and filmmakers. This disc is also U-Control enabled, allowing viewers to select from a pair of picture-in-picture features. 'Pitch Black' Raw features a series of still photos and behind-the-scenes video footage playing in a secondary window. Picture in Picture delivers additional behind-the-scenes information, primarily featuring interviews with cast and crew and glimpses at how certain scenes are set-up and shot.
An Introduction by David Twohy (480p, 2:25) features the director briefly recounting the experience of making the film and the emergence of the sequel. The Game is On (480p, 1:49) is a trailer for The Chronicles of Riddick: Escape From Butcher Bay video game. Johns' Chase Log (480p, 7:12) is a journal of Johns' pursuit of Riddick, narrated by Actor Cole Hauser and supported by the text of the journal and some nifty visuals. The Making of 'Pitch Black' (480p, 4:44) is a disappointingly short promotional piece that features a few rapid-fire behind-the-scenes shots and interview snippets. 'Dark Fury': Advancing the Arc (480p, 1:30) takes a brief look at the as-of-yet unreleased on Blu-ray animated film, The Chronicles of Riddick: Dark Fury. 'The Chronicles of Riddick' Visual Encyclopedia (480p, 2:18) features Mr. Johns (voiced by Cole Hauser) discussing some behind-the-scenes information as it relates to the Riddick universe and concludes by stating that more is available on the Chronicles of Riddick disc. A View Into the Dark (480p, 4:06) is yet another short and fluffy piece that examines the Riddick character in some detail. Finally, this disc is BD-Live (Blu-ray profile 2.0) enabled.
Pitch Black Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Pitch Black is an exciting Science Fiction film with a deeper side. It is, at its core, a tale of good versus evil where the line between the two is blurred at best and washed away at worst. It's a story about people, about survival, about trust, and about looking past records and words and into the heart and soul of a man in the most hopeless of situations, searching for that truth about someone that makes them who they really are. Pitch Black is the story of a man with a past who rediscovers the hero inside of him thanks to the aggression of one, the passive-acceptance of others, and the struggle to survive an onslaught from a seemingly impossible-to-overcome foe. It's a success on every level, allowing viewers to enjoy it either superficially or as a deeper, more complex tale about the strengths and weaknesses of humanity. Universal's Blu-ray release of Pitch Black is solid. The disc features a good video transfer, a near reference-grade soundtrack, and a fair amount of bonus materials. Highly recommended.
Pitch Black: Other Editions
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• Pitch Black; Chronicles of Riddick Further Detailed - February 10, 2009
Universal Studios Home Entertainment have further detailed the upcoming Blu-ray releases of 'Pitch Black' and 'The Chronicles of Riddick', which are due to hit store shelves on March 31st, both individually and as a two-pack. Video will be presented in 1080p VC-1 ...
• Riddick Films Coming to Blu-ray - February 6, 2009
Universal Studios Home Entertainment has announced that they will bring the two Riddick films 'Pitch Black' and 'The Chronicles of Riddick' to Blu-ray on March 31st. Previously only available in high definition on the now defunct HD DVD format, these two Vin Diesel ...
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