Pitch Black is the first film set in the Chronicles of Riddick Universe. It is a scifi-horror film following a band of marooned survivors on a barren planet. Their situation becomes even more dire when they discover they are not alone. A species of nocturnal monsters inhabit the planet as well (the monsters are called Bio-Raptors). The group find themselves looking to escaped convict Richard B. Riddick (played by Vin Diesel) as an unlikely hero. Riddick's intentions and motivations throughout the movie are left a mystery.
The three major characters are Richard B. Riddick, William J. Johns (played by Cole Hauser), a mercenary/bounty hunter masquerading as a law man and Carolyn Fry (played by Rahda Mitchell), the docking pilot of the crashed spaceship.
Fry is the only member of the flight crew alive and takes charge of survivors. The survivors are impressed with her landing and assume she is the captain of the ship. This weighs on Carolyn's conscience. Unknown to the survivors she attempted to eject them during the crash, while they were still in cryosleep.
Johns may look and act the part of lawman, but he is a ruthless mercenary. He sees Riddick as a big pay day and reluctantly frees him once the threat of the monsters is apparent. The two form an uneasy alliance.
Two other characters of note are Jack (played by Rhiana Griffith) and Imam (played by Keith David). Jack is a young boy who develops a fascination with Riddick and emulates him. Imam is a holy man, the voice of reason for the group. He is escorting three young men on a pilgrimage to New Mecca.
The main threat are the Bio-Raptors, who due to the planets three suns often remain underground. Every 22 years when the three suns are behind the planets moon, the planet is enveloped in total darkness. The ship crashed right before the eclipse happened. There is a nice contrast between the monsters and Riddick himself. While the monsters are blind and see only through echo location, Riddick's eyes allow him to actually see in the dark. This, along with his fighting skills and intelligence make him a valuable asset to the other survivors.
The movie is often compared to scifi-horror classic, Aliens. Both depict a group of people trying to survive on a planet infested with deadly monsters and little hope for escape. The way the monsters only attack in darkness reminds me of a classic story pulp story by Robert E. Howard: "Wings in the Night" starring Solomon Kane. I think of Riddick as a modern day pulp hero (more specifically anti-hero) along the lines of Tarzan, Conan, Doc Savage and the Black Bat. Riddick's internal monologue about cryosleep not working on the primal-animal side of the brain really brought my to mind to Tarzan.
Pitch Black was released on February 18, 2000. The production budget is listed as $23 million. The total world wide box office is listed as $53,187,659.
The film was directed by David Twohy, who also wrote the screenplay along with Jim Wheat and Ken Wheat. The film was shot on location in the Australian Outback.
A novelization of the film by Frank Lauria, adapted from the screenplay was also produced.
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