Vin Diesel’s cult anti-hero Riddick makes his first film appearance in this low-budget sci-fi action film set on a planet bathed in the light of three suns.
Pitch Black has a very strong Alien vibe. The look of the spaceship, a sort of utilitarian-modern; the crew of blue-collar astronauts; and the threat of an animalistic alien enemy. That’s not to say that it’s a rip off; it’s more like it’s set in the same universe and operates under the same rules.
When we first meet Riddick (Diesel), he’s in chains, blindfolded, and ball gagged. You would think, then, that Richard B. Riddick is an unstoppable, and possibly superhuman, killing machine; but he isn’t. He may be a killer, at times, but he isn’t an indiscriminate one. In fact, he doesn’t kill anyone in the movie until circumstances force him to. And he’s isn’t even unstoppable. His guard, Johns, has no problem subduing Riddick when he escapes, and is pretty much able to go toe to toe with the feared criminal in a real fight. The reputation, it seems, is far grander than the man himself.
Perhaps Riddick is just misunderstood. That, of course, is the fantasy underpinning all ‘bad boy’ types; that he may be tough on the outside, but inside, he has a heart of gold.
If Riddick is guilty of anything, it’s selfishness, he would let everyone else die if it meant he could live. But then, the plot of the film throws him into the unfamiliar situation of having to work with others to fend off the killer alien bat things.
Riddick’s selfishness is contrasted in the movie with that of Fry, the captain of the cargo ship that brings the doomed cast to the alien planet. At the beginning of the film, when the ship is in free-fall, Fry decides to jettison the cargo sections that are currently storing the frozen passengers, declaring that she has no intention of dying just to save them. She’s stopped by another crew member, who forces her to keep trying other methods to right the ship, which she eventually does. The primary difference between Riddick and Fry is that Fry regrets what she did.
Riddick settles into his role as the group’s burly protector, and, occasional loss aside, is pretty good at it. Is he starting to care about the other survivors; or is he just acting under the selfish belief that their survival will improve the odds of his own?
Riddick is a likeable character, though he’s an archetype that’s been done many times before. Riddick has since been the star of two other live action films and an animated short, so I guess he struck a chord with people. The premise and setting of Pitch Black makes for an intense and exciting action movie, even if it is overly convenient at times. Overall, it’s an entertaining movie, though it doesn’t break any new ground in the sci-fi genre.