Pitch Black (2000)

Celebrating Radha Mitchell

Director David Twohy
Writers Jim Wheat, Ken Wheat, David Twohy
Starring Vin Diesel, Radha Mitchell, Cole Hauser, Keith David, Lewis Fitz-Gerald, Claudia Black, Rhiana Griffith.
Genre Sci-Fi
Tagline Fight Evil With Evil

Talk us through it

A deep space transporter runs afoul of a meteorite shower and is damaged beyond operational specifications. The Captain is killed during the ship's brush with the cosmos and it's up to Flight Officer Fry to pilot the ship down to a nearby planet that can support life. The survivors of the crash find themselves on a barren desert planet with no water, little supplies, and blinding heat caused by three Suns in the system. Maybe Hawkins can explain how exactly the gravity works there. Making life even more difficult the sociopathic prisoner Riddick has escaped and the threat there hangs over the survivors like a promise of doom.

The only native inhabitants that can be found are sub terrain beasties that have a hunger for human flesh but which are confined to a cave system due to an aversion to the light. Thankfully the Survivors stumble across an apparently abandoned mining colony, find water, and devise a plan for getting off the rock they are marooned on. This is probably a good idea as every 22 years the planet is shrouded in darkness due to a complete solar eclipse and those underground creatures come out to play in the glooming. Guess how many years ago the last solar eclipse was?

Let's pierce the darkness with some light here and see what might be staring back?


"They say most of your brain shuts down during cryo-sleep. All but the primitive side, the animal side. No wonder I'm still awake." - Riddick

The second in our two part Radha Mitchell extravaganza is upon you with this review of the grossly undervalued Pitch Black. Radha takes out second billing here but holds her own against the muscle bound Vin Diesel; the two actually work quite well off each other based on the evidence in this movie. I've gone with Pitch Black being an Aussie movie with a U.S assist as opposed to say the imdb.com, who hold it's pure stars and stripes, for example. This is mainly due to the heavy shooting schedule that took place in this country, hey they don't grow deserts on trees you know, and the number of locals scoring roles.

Before we get stuck into the review have a look at this little beauty from another Reviewer one of my sparse number of Readers passed onto me:

" Anybody else notice that when Mitchell gets angry in this film she sometimes loses her "American" accent? She's British…almost had me fooled".

Mate, and I'm not dobbing on anyone here, Radha is a fair dinkum Aussie sheila, she'd no doubt be as mad as a cut snake to learn that someone referred to her as a Pom. Talk about going the raw prawn and acting like a galah. Sorry folks slipped into Ocker there, someone take off John Williamson's "True Blue" so we can get back to the review toot sweet.

David Twohy starts his movie out with the sort of voice over that is meant to lend credibility and heavy thoughts to a Sci-Fi epic, but which mainly just sounds cool and all. We then get a fairly nifty meteorite thing happening that backs up the thoughts of our as yet unknown Narrator. Hold onto your seats as Twohy goes high octane with one of the best ever space ship crashes ever screened as he rapid fires his way through one hell of a brilliant action sequence that will have most dudes high fiving their friends and chugging back another can of brew. Hey review over, catch the movie for the crash, job done and dusted. Well okay there might be a few more things to comment on. Just in case the Gals think this is going to be a high toestrone charge to the finish line with the odd person becoming fodder for the creatures the assorted Writers throw this whole redemption angle at us. That's right we're talking a theme running through the movie! Gawd some people can be bastards when it comes to having us beer and chips loving Reviewers having to deal with the weighty stuff. I'll have a look at the theme later in the review folks.

When Twohy's not putting another filter on the lens he's working up the depth of the movie in a suprisingly well structured film.

After the adrenalin rush of the crash, excellent long range shots in use during the aftermath, Director Twohy turns down the heat and goes for a slow simmer as we take stock of the situation, general lack of water, and groove to the creature introduction. Twohy keeps the rather cool design of the creatures on wraps till the second half of the movie, always a good idea to keep your ace card up your sleeve, but then wastes valuable screen time in fleshing out the cannon fodder for us. Okay I liked a couple of these people and was sad to see them meet early demises, but did we have to get a full inventory on characters with a big "V" on their foreheads? Notably the local support cast get whittled down pretty quick, while the bigger named foreign support cast get slightly more screen time. Since the locals were far more interesting, Shazza rocks, that was a tad unfortunate.

The movie picks up pace again when night falls and the creatures come out to play, also our cast get whittle down real quick, and Riddick continues his mind games. It's all engrossing stuff if not a little contrived when you think about it. Every 22 years huh! I was wondering exactly what our airborne piranha ate when the odd wandering human wasn't available, and how exactly a species would develop wings in a confined underground space. Okay without going too much down the Charles Darwin Beagle path, the rules governing "survival of the fittest" didn't seem to quite fit in here. This isn't to say that Director Twohy has forgotten about us and left us wandering aimlessly in the dark, there's some cool stuff coming at you. Besides going bug crazy with the coloured filters, mind you he does that right from the first frame of the movie, we get creature POV, (coolest use of technique since Predator made it fashionable), and hold me down and tie me up Riddick POV via his shine job vision. For those not in the know, Riddick was imprisoned on a mining planet and had his eyes polished, all the better to see in the dark don't you know. Actually that's probably another plot contrivance but it's such a cool concept that I'll let it pass through to the keeper.

Surprisingly for a movie heavy on the action, and where people make the sort of dumb mistakes normally reserved for the "bus load of idiots" in a slasher flick, Pitch Black is very much character driven and delivers on the theme that has threatened to swamp our action smorgasbord from the opening act. Fry, who at one stage had decided to jettison her passengers in order to save her own life, finds her redemption in offering her life for the lives of the Survivors; it's a pivotal moment in the movie with Mitchell and Diesel freaking nailing the intensity of it all. Riddick for his part finds himself drawn back to the human fold, something he had scant regard for in the opening third of the flick. Riddick it could be argued finds the source of his own redemption by Fry finding hers. Okay that's all pretty heavy and stuff, moving along here. In a surprise turn up another character is shown to be not what we think they are, but loved the child like attempts to emulate Riddick including one classic line of dialogue. And guess we should mention Johns who has his own redemption to seek, doesn't realise it, and discovers Riddick has a harsh set of values. It's all pretty engrossing and adds that additional level of gloss to the movie that raises Pitch Black above the "B" grade swamp of creature features it threatens to submerge itself in.

Vin Diesel (Riddick) is on his game here and delivers the best performance of his career. Diesel imbibes his character with an underlying menace and presents one of the best anti-heros to have graced our screens since Dirty Harry. Radha Mitchell (Fry) is her normal professional self and hits both the Ripley requirements and the angst moments without blinking an eye. How the hell Mitchell hasn't received larger roles remains a mystery. Cole Hauser (Johns) is adequate, either Hauser is a by the numbers Actor or the role wasn't all that it could be. Jury out on Cole Hauser, will try and see if we can't catch him in something else. The assorted victims do what they are getting paid to do.

<<..>>'s score is soaring and dramatic as the visuals require. I got the general impression that no risks were being taken with the music hence wasn't as overly enthused as I should have been.

Summary Execution

Throw the name Radha Mitchell on a dark genre flick and I'm there baby!* Pitch Black allowed Radha, and surprisingly Diesel, to let loose with a stunning performance that I have to say held me spellbound to my screen as things went pear shaped for the crash survivors. Sure the movie has some issues, but it's an adrenalin rush topped off with a theme for the ages. I was throwing my hands in the air and high fiving the team as Twohy assault my senses with some stunning conceived background shots, that planet rising was awesome in long view, and an engrossing plot.

When I was rummaging around for a second movie for our "Radha-ical" event I was thinking of redoing the Rogue review and was quite shocked to find Pitch Black lurking in the queue. I have zero idea where I sourced a copy of this movie or why the hell I hadn't previously dialled into it for the site. Another example of the weird review arrivals we seem to be currently suffering from here at ScaryMinds.

Okay if you're a Dude then this is much watch stuff, make it a night with Predator and invite your friends over. However the movie will have some appeal for the Ladies, besides Diesel showing off the upper body work, in regards the themes and having a strong female role model. I would urge Mothers out there to immediately burn their daughter's copies of Twilight and point to Fry as a good female role model. For sure the young gal in question might drop the lady like poise and start wearing tank tops, but it'll save on the prolonged silences at the dinner table when she brings home some pasty faced emo who "really understands her". Hey who would have thought it, Pitch Black is a feminist movie, did I just find my feminine side?

ScaryMinds Rates this movie as ...

  Radha knocks them dead in the aisles again and we get a ripper of an action movie as well.

* Some research later and Radha Mitchell has a leading role in the remake of George A. Romero's The Crazies, man I'm now jonesing that movie hitting my local cinema.