Pitch Black
Special Edition

Starring: Vin Diesel, Radha Mitchell, Cole Hauser and Keith David
Universal Pictures
RRP: 15.99
Certificate: 15
Available 16 August 2004

Riddick, a dangerous convict, is being transported aboard a civilian spacecraft to a new location. The craft becomes damaged by space debris and is forced to crash land on a nearby planet. The captain and others are killed, leaving Fry and Johns in charge of a group of survivors. After a run-in with subterranean creatures, they feel safe in the knowledge that three suns will bring constant light. However, once every 22 days the suns align behind other astral bodies, creating sustained complete darkness. At first they hide away inside a construct left by the previous settlers, wiped-out by the creatures. But their sources of light cannot last forever. They need to make the journey to their wrecked craft and carry the heavy power units to an intact ship left behind by the vanished people. It seems like a suicide mission, especially when they have to rely on the multiple murderer, Riddick, who with unique implants is the only one who can see in the dark...

This film borrows from so many sources it's amazing it works at all, and is not subject to immediate derision. But work it does. You could say Pitch Black is a construct of so many ideas that the whole gives the impression it's something entirely new and original. The dangerous convict being transported comes from Con Air (a brilliant, purposeful over-the-top satire); the transported convict being relied upon for help is straight out of John Carpenter's Assault On Precinct 13 (there's that name again); and the empty settlement and dark-loving, ferocious and lightening-quick creatures must have brought an ironic smile or grimace from James Cameron in regards to his Aliens masterpiece. Even the views from the planet surface reminds me of the computer-generated terrain created for the early Planetary Traveller DVD. But who cares; nothing is totally original in this day and age.

Pitch Black made quite an impact with science fiction fans upon its cinematic release. In retrospect, the film company has seized on Vin Diesel's Riddick as the winning element, hence the Dark Fury and The Chronicles of Riddick follow-ups. But it is not the man but the look and feel of the product that wins through. This success is down to a number of factors: the low-key mood; the over-bright, sun-washed look of the planet surface; and the manner in which the creatures are kept mainly to the darkness, so you see more movement than detail, are just a few examples. A couple of things don't work. Fry's crisis of conscience is a mite overacted, and the holy man's faith in God's protection being severely tested has been portrayed in so many films that it merely induces a groan from this reviewer now.

Comparing this Special Edition version with the original DVD release, I found there were not too many differences. The widescreen and 5.1 sound are the same, the two commentaries are the same, the Making of Pitch Black is the same, and the trailers too. What's new is an Introduction by the director, an early Scene from The Chronicles of Riddick film, a Trailer for the game Escape From Butcher Bay, the Making of the Dark Fury animated film, and The Johns Case Log (computer diaries tracking Riddick).

You would need to be a Pitch Black fanatic to buy the DVD again for what amounts to a handful of minor extras. If you're buying the film for the first time, however, I would strongly recommend this release.

Ty Power

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