Before Vin Diesel was known for his super-camp driving exploits in The Fast and the Furious he broke through into the mainstream in the David Twohy-directed science fiction action film Pitch Black.
On a remote planet, a disparate group of survivors including self-appointed leaders Carolyn Fry (Radha Mitchell) and William Johns (Cole Hauser) must try and survive against the indigenous creatures. Initially subterranean and minimal threat, they begin to rise as the daylight fades before unleashing their fury in the darkness of night. The only hope for the groups’ survival lies with Riddick (Diesel) a convicted murdered whose surgically enhanced eyes might just give them the edge they need to live.
In many ways Pitch Black is a very standard sci-fi, which benefit from two masterstrokes. The first is the methodology used to incite fear and tension, namely our innate fear of the darkness. It seems like such a cheap trick, but it is one that is rarely used effectively. In truth our heroes are never in total darkness, but that’s hardly the point. It’s the slow creep of the darkness as the three suns on the planet disappear that creates the moments of real tension, with the group desperately using anything they can burn to stay within the light. The second masterstroke is Riddick himself.
Vin Diesel was something of an unknown quantity at the time and when we strolls into view, his shoulders and biceps greased and bulbous there’s a temptation to casually dismiss him as another body-builder-turned actor. A grinning maniac killer, it is actually the humour and self-deprecation that Diesel infuses into his performance that creates Riddick as a fully three-dimensional character. It’s a shame looking back at Diesel’s early career that he ended up going down the action career path, because there’s nuance and intelligence to his acting that could easily translate into some more serious drama.
There are not many sci-fi action horrors that can be classed as average, never mind above average, but Pitch Black was something of a phenomenon. It spawned sequels and launched the career of Vin Diesel effectively before he got bogged down in endless franchise sequels.
The Chronicles of Riddick (2004)… Coming Soon