The obnoxious anti-hero poser in a classic poser pose. Sadly, he lives

The obnoxious anti-hero poser in a classic poser pose. Sadly, he lives

Do you know that point in a movie where your hope that it will prove to be a great movie dissolves and instead you start to wonder just how stupid it will get? That’s often followed by the creation of a mental list of “characters I hate” which can easily morph into “characters I hope will die”. It’s a sad progression and it’s often best to get this sequence over with as fast as possible. If you can go from hope to resignation in the first minute you can easily switch off. It’s worse if the hope phase lasts a good 20 or 30 minutes because you’re liable to keep watching in the expectation that the initial promise of a good movie might reappear after a few flat scenes. So it is with Pitch Black.


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The intro is stunning. A transport starship is damaged by tiny meteors or perhaps some kind of kinetic weapon. It is captured in a planet’s gravity well and the crew and passengers in suspended animation (do we not have a better or shorter term for that yet?) are awoken. The ship plunges through the atmosphere and crashlands on a desert planet. It’s a rush with good but not overdone effects, and a realistic crash scene.

Hopes for a very good sci-fi movie are high. It may not be an original concept but it’s been handled well and who knows where the plot may go from here?

SPOILER ALERT ! READ NO FURTHER IF YOU’RE SO DESPERATE YOU ACTUALLY INTEND TO WATCH THE MOVIE

Three suns yet no need for hats and the blonde decides to wear a skimpy top – of course. The search for water is paramount (we’re told) but before they even solve the water issue they spend time exploring a cave since “finding the body” of a missing crewmember is more important. Yet after one exploration they ignore this goal, despite evidence of a creature in the cave! Hopes for a good movie are fading fast.

And isn’t it odd how the first person died instantly when just poking their head in the hole; yet the blond is able to wander about inside and the creature just decides to scuttle about menacingly in the background?

The the problem of how that character is suddenly is of no importance

As the movie progresses we see more and movie of a criminal-passenger “Riddick”, and what a cliched poser he is. Instead of trying to help out at the campsite with water or ship repair, Riddick gives himself a haircut while trying to look scary. Then he wanders off and sexually harasses the blonde.

It’s hard to determine why you’d bother letting this guy wander around camp. He needs a job. Then policeman hassles the blonde. What a bore. The minor characters seem far more industrious and organized. Nor do they waste time arguing with each other and interrogating each other about the nuances of past events. While the leaders argue everyone else is doing the work.

The blond keeps pretending to be tough, but is so miscast she can’t even say “fuck” convincingly. It’s almost as cringe-worthy as Winona Ryder in Alien Resurrection who is also incapable of saying “fuck”. Both need to take lessons from Jenette Goldstein, a far more versatile actor, who played Vasquez in Aliens and who definitely can say “fuck”. The ability to say “fuck” should be part of the drama school curriculum because it’s so painful to watch a lame attempt.

Anywhoo, somehow the criminal seems to know a lot about the planet. Has he been there before? No, just one of his super powers. Like somehow knowing exactly where the kid wandered off to. A shame he doesn’t use these mysterious powers at other times as minor characters are killed off.

By halfway into the movie it’s beginning to feel like a “Teen Terror Camp” cliche as people aimlessly wander off and get killed. There are umpteen thousands of wonderful sci-fo short stories set on planets with crashed starship survivors – what a shame they didn’t choose to use one. Instead they go down the predictable action-slasher path.

The blonde as a leader proves to be both aggressive and stupid: perhaps the worst possible combination.

When the bird swarms appear everyone except the antique dealer seems to think it’d be good just to stand about and watch.

As the movie progresses the continuity and logic dissolve even further.

The light-sensitive pterodactyls like blood – so Riddick deduces on no evidence.

While fleeing for their lives the two alpha males take time out for a loud on-on-one combat complete with taunts and one-liners. The pterodactyls, which a few moments earlier had swarmed around the group, now obligingly hold off – all except one of course that dramatically delivers a coup de grace to Riddick’s nemesis.

Now the undisputed leader, the criminal Riddick, now tries to reprise the role of Caine from Kung Fu, aloof, deadly, mysterious. But in this he of course fails utterly.

The swarm now reappears and Riddick somehow gains extra strength (proton energy pills) to pull their sled of supplies, as well as now knowing which direction to head to get back to the ship.

Since the other alpha male is gone, Riddick now chooses this moment to have a fist fight with a pterodactyl, not losing the chance for another boastful one liner at the inevitable conclusion.

Blonde and Riddick then have a fight since they’re the only two argumentative idiots left. Then, against all character and logic they make up, decide to become friendly and helpful, and rescue the other survivors. Too late, with the blond and Riddick already firmly established as arrogant, selfish, stupid and pigheaded we really don’t care anymore.

With just eight minutes of the movie left to go it looks as if Riddick and the blonde might both die. Now I’m interested! This movie might end well after all.

The blonde is carried off as pterodactyl food (hurrah!), but alas, Riddick lives along with two minor characters.

There’s no twist at the end, no unexpected last element. They take off. Movie ends.

It’s amazing how little plot and meaningful dialogue can be packed into 110 minutes.

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