Gosh I love puns. Don’t you?
Since I saw The Chronicles of Riddick before I saw Pitch Black, I guess you could say my perspective is a little warped, but bear with me. As far as simplicity goes, the first one tends to be the stronger. Pitch Black occurs entirely in one area, with a very rudimentary theme; surviving a malevolent force. This shifts once, which changes the entire tone of the movie from “oh dear” to “oh shit.”
Space Transport Vessel Hunter-Gratzner carries forty cryo-sleeping subjects, until debris from the tail of a comet breaches the hull and causes the ship to awaken the crew. The captain is killed by these debris, leaving the docking pilot, Carolyn Fry, to attempt to guide the ship to safety. To her (and everyone else’s) dismay, they’ve been knocked into the atmosphere of a nearby planet and have begun a crash course. This is a major point in the movie, as Fry attempts to detach the passenger potion of the ship in order to level it out and land properly. The navigator pilot prevents this, then subsequently dies.
Following the harsh sliding crash, the survivors emerge. Carolyn, Abu “Imam” al-Walid, three younger men on a religious pilgrimage (escorted by Imam), stowaway teen Jack, antiques dealer Paris P. Ogilvie, settlers John Ezekiel and Sharon Montgomery, and two other enigmatic individuals. The first is William J. Johns, an armed man who is currently keeping Richard B. Riddick, convicted murder and experienced escapist, in custody. Despite Johns’s extraordinary efforts to subdue his prisoner, Riddick manages to escape, following the group secretly as they scout for water.
Tensions rise as Ezekiel accidentally shoots another survivor, thinking he’s Riddick, and is suddenly pulled into a hole after attempting to bury the body. Riddick shows up at Ezekiel’s place of death, and is seen standing over bloodstained sand. He’s soon recaptured. He warns Fry that there are bigger things to be worried about than an escaped convict. After she dives into the cave Ezekiel was pulled into and nearly gets eaten by winged, dark-loving creatures, she realizes that Riddick isn’t as full of shit as Johns made him out to be.
After everyone starts trusting Riddick, things get a bit hectic. He reveals to Fry that Johns is just a morphine addicted mercenary scumbag who wants Riddick alive so he can bring him to a prison and get a huge payout. More tension. They discover a ship in an abandoned settlement, and find that the last activity took place twenty two years ago. To make matters worse, every twenty two years, there’s a global eclipse. A little convenient? Yes, but this is a science fiction movie. Murphy’s Law makes things more fun, doesn’t it? Remember those dark-loving hungry flying things that ate Zeke? Now you see what the rest of the movie’s about.
Hate to leave you at such a critical spot, but I don’t want to spoil everything. The main focus of this movie is Riddick and Fry, really. Fry struggles with priorities; herself or the others that she tried to kill in order to land the ship. Riddick doesn’t really struggle with anything. He’s just an enigmatic, “is he an asshole/is he a good guy” badass all throughout. Even after seeing The Chronicles of Riddick and Pitch Black, I still couldn’t tell you whether or not Riddick’s a selfish ass. All I know is, Vin Diesel makes both of those films a joy to watch. Truly.
Whoa. Never thought I’d be linking to Roger Ebert’s site. There’re a stark few Pitch Black reviews out there, and surprisingly, not many of them are positive. I suppose I must agree that a planet with three suns apparently populated solely by nocturnal creatures is a little silly as a concept. I also agree that this movie could have focused a little more on the alien nature of the planet instead of the high-tension human conflict, however. However, Riddick is the egotistical badass center of attention, and we wouldn’t very well be able to pay him his deserved attention if we were busy being wowed by a well-thought-out species of desert aliens, eh? I’ll leave it up to you to decide if I’m being sarcastic. Right-o, here’s the link: http://rogerebert.suntimes.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20000218/REVIEWS/2180304/1023