Dale Dietrich
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Chronicles of Riddick: Pitch Black (2000)

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3.0 rating  (3/5) sci-fi, thriller

While I enjoyed Vin Diesel in Saving Private Ryan (1998) and Boiler Room (2000), I became a fan after watching his unexpectedly good performance in xXx (2001).

In 2004 I discovered, Vin Diesel’s cross-media Chronicles of Riddick franchise after playing the terrific Xbox video-game Chronicles of Riddick: Escape from Butcher’s Bay (2004) (“Butchers Bay”). The video game serves as a prequel to the movie that is the subject of this review – Chronicles of Riddick: Pitch Black (2000) (“Pitch Black”). The third work of this series, the movie The Chronicles of Riddick (2004) (“Chronicles of Riddick”), is a sequel to Pitch Black (I haven’t formally reviewed it on The Daleisphere. It is about on par with Pitch Black).

Somewhat confusingly, the sequel movie, Chronicles of Riddick, came out at the same time as the prequel video game, Butcher’s Bay – and both came out four years after Pitch Black. To confuse things further, the developers of Butchers Bay (Starbreeze Studios) are developing a remake of Butcher’s Bay for the Xbox 360 and PS3 with a different name: The Chronicles of Riddick: Assault on Dark Athena (due out in late 2008 or 2009). Confusion notwithstanding, playing the critically acclaimed video game before watching either of the the not-so-acclaimed Pitch Black or Chronicles of Riddick , made both movies more understandable and enjoyable.

Back to the movie at hand: Chronicles of Riddick: Pitch Black (2000).

chronicles of riddick - pitch black - the eclipse approaches

Until today, Pitch Black was the only part of the series I had not experienced. When I discovered that the HD version was available on Apple TV [review coming soon], I chose to download and view it as my inaugural Apple TV rental test. I wasn’t disappointed.

In Butcher’s Bay, Riddick, a seemingly wrongly imprisoned alien with super human powers including the ability to see in the dark, escapes from Butcher Bay, a maximum security prison. In the opening sequences of Pitch Black, the recaptured Riddick is being transported back to prison when the star ship transporting him crash lands on a desert-like planet. He, along with others, survives the crash, setting in motion the main plot – will Riddick and the other survivors work together or against each other in their efforts to survive the dangers of the hostile planet and find a way off?

The production values are good. It looks terrific in HD. The directorial style is a little 1970′s-ish, horror-movie, over-the-top. Despite its problems, its an enjoyable part of the Riddick series.

chronicles of riddick - pitch black - vin dieselYou either like the Riddick character played by Vin Diesel or you don’t. Having played the character for some 30 hours through the video game, I got to like him. I have since enjoyed Diesel’s performance in both movies quite a bit.

Pitch Black also stars the very pretty and unknown (to me) Australian actress, Radha Mitchell who, unfortunately, is too young and mousy to be a credible captain of a star ship. She’s as unbelievable in that role as Meg Ryan was a helicopter pilot in Courage Under Fire (1996). But, while her performance was far from Oscar-worthy, it was nonetheless enjoyable. I’m looking forward to seeing her in future movies.

chronicles of riddick - pitch black - vin diesel confronts radha mitchell

All other performances were forgettable.

If you are a sci-fi fan or enjoy either the Riddick franchise or Vin Diesel as much as I do, you’ll probably enjoy this movie. Otherwise, its probably not for you.

Reference: imdb6 | wikipedia12
Reviews: Roger Ebert | IMDb External Reviews | Rotten Tomatoes (54%) | metacritic.com (49%)

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  • http://www.zatznotfunny.com Dave Zatz

    Blasphemy! This deserves at least 4 Dale heads. Filmed in Australia (?) on a tight budget with mostly unknown actors. An awesome blend of SciFi and scary like Aliens. I never saw the sequel – didn’t want to ruin Riddick for me, though I enjoyed a decent percent of the prequel video game.

  • http://www.daleisphere.com Dale Dietrich

    Yes it was filmed in Australia. And yes, Riddick/Vin Diesel fans will likely consider it a 4 Dale-headed movie! :) But, in the grand scheme of the thousands of movies I’ve seen – I don’t agree. The plot was pretty lame. Vin’s performance is terrific – if you like that kind of perromance (most don’t). Radha Mitchell, very much a Dale-type, was adorable. He gets a personal 4 heads out of 5 for his performance. She gets a 5 heads out of 5 because she’s so darn cute. But the movie as a whole? I still stick with 3 heads. Maybe it merits 3.25 if I’m generous. But I don’t have an image for 3.25 Dale heads. :)