Twenty years ago Pitch Black was the little movie that turned into a massive hit and launched the career of Vin Diesel. Arrow Video’s recent Blu-ray and 4K release is a great anniversary present.
(It’s a twenty-year-old movie so forgive us for not warning you of the spoilers ahead) The Fast and the Furious franchise has made more than $5 billion dollars at the worldwide box office. Vin Diesel is now known more for being Dominic Toretto and Groot than anything else he has done in his career.
So, you would be excused for not remembering Diesel’s brief role in Saving Private Ryan. You would even be excused for not remembering that he got his start in independent films as both an actor and a director (Strays). Arrow Video, however, doesn’t want you to forget the little independent science-fiction horror movie that propelled Diesel into stardom, Pitch Black.
Pitch Black starts aboard The Hunter Gratzner carrying passengers, suspended in cryo-sleep, to various destinations. The Hunter Gratzner is the Jet Blue of the future. It’s not the best airline to fly, but it works in a pinch. Like every other movie set in space nothing good happens to the ship or the crew. A freak meteor shower sends the ship crashing down on an unknown planet.
The survivors aren’t on the planet for too long before they’re set upon by very familiar-looking aliens. Fortunately, one of the survivors is Richard B. Riddick. Riddick is an “escaped convict, murderer” and he may just be scarier than the monsters hunting the survivors. Riddick is their only hope of surviving long enough to get off the planet.
The Alien/Aliens comparison is difficult to avoid. The Pitch Black monsters move and act like the aliens from Aliens. The first time we see them they’re seen crawling along a cavern floor with their tails swooshing behind. When they’re wounded the screams sound like a track from any scene in Aliens. Once Pitch Black‘s monsters are seen it’s difficult not to see the aliens from the Alien franchise.
To further the comparison, The Hunter Gratzner crashes on an uncharted planet where the survivors find that they’re not alone. Their only means of getting off the planet is found in a deserted mining town that they learn wasn’t abandoned but the inhabitants were killed by the monsters. Instead of fighting aliens to a beacon that will call an escape ship Riddick and the rest have to bring power cells to a ship while being hunted by the monsters. It all starts to sound very familiar.
IT’S NOT ALIENS
The comparison is there to be made, but there’s enough in Pitch Black to separate it from Aliens. Even before the September 11th attacks, Muslims weren’t portrayed in movies as much more than terrorists. Pitch Black is perhaps one of the first science-fiction horror movies to show Muslims in a positive light. Imam (Keith David, The Thing) is the spiritual guide through the movie. As things go from bad to worse it’s Imam who keeps believing things will get better. Riddick asks him where his god has been, the answer is at the end of the movie when Riddick, Imam, and Jack escape the planet.
RICHARD B. RIDDICK
Pitch Black works not just because of the familiar theme of survivors running from monsters. It works because of the Riddick character and, in turn, it works because of Vin Diesel. Riddick is the classic anti-hero. At the beginning of the movie, he’s the monster in shackles.
By the time the monsters are picking off the survivors, it’s difficult to tell if Riddick is out for himself or if he’s going to help the others. By the time the movie is over Riddick is probably still not someone you fully trust, but his character has changed from when we first meet him.
Arrow Video, as usual, packs the Pitch Black release with a lot of extras. A lot of the extras are recycled from previous releases of the movie and some are new to the Arrow Video release. The extras account for more time on the Blu-ray than the actual movie, which there are two versions on the disc (Director’s Cut, Theatrical Release). Some of the new extras include interviews with some of the cast members and people who worked on the film.
It can only be assumed that the newly recorded interviews were recorded during the current COVID-19 pandemic. Usually the interviews for Arrow releases are recorded in person. Sometimes the interviews are new and other times the interviews have been recycled from other places. The audio of the new interviews has a sound quality of either being recorded through Skype or over the phone. At times, like in the Claudia Black interview, it’s difficult to hear what the actor is saying. Even with the bad recording its interesting to hear the actors’s and the crew’s stories of filming Pitch Black.
For the animation fans in the audience, the Arrow Video release also includes The Chronicles of Riddick: Dark Fury. Dark Fury is an animated short directed by AEon Flux creator Peter Chung. It’s meant to bridge the gap between the end of Pitch Black and the beginning of The Chronicles of Riddick. If your a fan of the already mentioned AEon Flux or anime in general Dark Fury will be right up your alley.
Whether you get Pitch Black on Blu-ray or 4K it will be worth the money. A+