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Pitch Black (March 6/00)

Watching Pitch Black, I had the sense that David Twohy, the writer/director, wanted to do something visually different with the well-worn sci-fi genre, and in general, succeeded.

The movie takes place on an unnamed planet, where a group of people have crashlanded after a meteor storm. This planet isn't friendly, though, as the shipwrecked survivors soon discover. Some kind of weird alien civilization inhabits the planet, and the group quickly finds themselves under attack from these carnivorous creatures.

The group is made up of stock characters we've seen before. There's a commander who has to win the respect of the group, there's a seemingly dangerous criminal who may or may not have a heart of gold, and then there's a bunch of expendable characters who's purpose is to get killed one by one.

Vin Diesel plays the dangerous criminal named Riddick, and he's the real reason to see Pitch Black. He exudes "cool" without any apparent effort. His mere presence is enough to inspire awe in jaded moviegoers. The rest of the actors are good, but when put next to Diesel, they're practically non-existent. Here's a guy who completely drains all interest from the rest of the characters and easily becomes the focus of the film.

The action scenes are good, if sparse. Twohy's one of those directors from the less-is-more approach to moviemaking, and I appreciated that. He also brings a real sense of style to most sequences, choosing to oversaturate the scenes shot in the desert, which gives the movie a unique look that I haven't seen before.

My only real complaint with the movie is the opening. The film starts with a disorienting plane crash, seen entirely from inside the ship. By shooting this relatively long sequence before I knew any of the characters, I was just confused far longer than I should have been, and it took be a good 10 minutes before I was back into the movie.

But when science fiction movies and television shows are a dime a dozen, it's refreshing to see one with a unique point of view.

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