J.D. Lafrance
Pitch Black Special Edition DVD Review

Pitch Black Special Edition

December 5, 2004

Director: David Twohy,
Starring: Vin Diesel, Radha Mitchell, Cole Hauser, Keith David, Lewis Fitz-Gerald, Claudia Black, Rhiana Griffith, John Moore, Simon Burke, Les Chantery, Sam Sari, Firass Dirani, Ric Anderson, Vic Wilson, Angela Makin, ,

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DVD Review

J.D. Lafrance

One of the best low-budget sci-fi films of its time is coming to special edition DVD. Pitch Black, starring Vin Diesel as the mysterious rouge character Richard. B. Riddick finally gets the treatment it so deserved. Pitch Black was a surprising success when it was first released, and it’s easy to see why.

With a good, strong opening, full of suspense and tension, it’s easy to see very early on that this is a sci-fi film. Vin Diesel’s voice-over at the start helps to establish some of the characters, where as the character of Riddick himself is left shrouded in mystery. Who is this man? What has he done to deserve such treatment? This theme is carried all the way throughout the film, where we learn little else about him.

The use of colour is interesting; the harsh light explained early on, due to the fact there are three suns. We, as the audience, get the feeling that Riddick is controlling everybody else – the camera angles suggesting this. This feeling is broken later on, when people start dying and Riddick himself is under suspicion. The suspense is built even more when the character of Fry goes looking for the dead body. This is a highlight of the film for we are first introduced to the creatures that seemingly rule the planet. The visual effects used are impressive, particularly when the real meaning of the film’s title comes into play: a solar eclipse, making everything pitch black.

The creatures have a weakness and the stranded travellers use this to their advantage. The use of light in the film, cinematically, heightens and enhances the atmosphere. The pace moves faster, and the pressure on the travellers intensifies and as the climax nears, the people count drops. The ending twists and turns, you think someone is going to die, then the plot twists so that someone else dies instead. A semi-predictable ending perhaps, but enjoyable none-the-less.

Without doubt, this is a classic sci-fi film, and the ending has finished its business, but leaves it open for a possible sequel, which is, of course, what happened.

Special Features

One of the best extras on the DVD is the first 10 minutes or so of The Chronicles of Riddick. It’s a teaser, designed to encourage you to see the whole film when it us released. It certainly does that successfully. The basis for most of the other extras is to fill in proverbial gaps between Pitch Black and Chronicles of Riddick i.e. ‘the introduction by David Twohy’, ‘the Johns Chase log’ and ‘a view into the dark’ mini-doc. All very interesting and they do answer many questions raised by both films.

There’s also a number of advertising trailers, which, I feel, are just there to bump up the special features count, including one for the new Xbox game due to be released, film trailers for Thunderbirds, Van Helsing and the Chronicles of Riddick. There’s also a promo for the C of R website, which, apparently, will fill in even MORE gaps between the two films.

Some of the more meaty, and better quality features include two audio commentaries. One with Vin Diesel, Cole Hauser and David Twohy which gives a refreshing change to hear comments from both sides of the camera. So you have the Director talking about a particular shot, and then the actors chipping in with their two cents about how the felt during the shoot etc.

The second commentary is with, again, David Twohy along with Producer Tom Engelman and visual effects supervisor Peter Chiang. There are some repeats from the first commentary but this one focuses more on the CGI side of things, including model shots. All three comment profusely on the colour aspect of the film and there is more emphasis on how things were achieved, how they were shot.

The making of Pitch Black is more of a promotional tool for the film’s release than anything else. It’s short and there’s not nearly enough detail. You’d get more information from either of the commentaries. There’s also a mini-doc called ‘Dark Fury’s advancing the arc’ that talks about the anime Dark Fury, set pretty much straight after “Pitch Black”. Again, it’s basically a short promo but it is worth a look if you’re interested in anime.

The animated menus on the DVD are bright and colourful, they add to the feel of the film. There is also the option of subtitles, surprisingly, only in English.

Overall, a very satisfying film backed up by satisfying special features, definitely worth its money.


J.D. is a freelance writer who is currently doing research for a book on the films of Michael Mann. He likes reading anything written by Jack Kerouac, James Ellroy, J.D. Salinger, Harlan Ellison or Thomas Pynchon. J.D. is currently addicted to the T.V. series 24 and enjoys drinking a lot of Sprite. This is not a blatant plug for the beverage but if they ever decided to give him a lifetime supply he certainly wouldn’t turn them down.
view all DVD reviews by JD Lafrance


Rating: 89%



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