Sucker Pitch

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I probably should confess: I had never heard of Pitch Black until I was asked to review it. I thought that I was just out of the loop and that certainly there were people out there who really wanted to see it. The funny thing is that I was horribly, horribly wrong. Nobody wanted to see this movie. Only a small number of people I know had even heard of it until I mentioned it to them. Needless to say, this collective lack of interest probably should have been sufficient warning for me. But alas, I still saw the damn thing.

What I realized from seeing Pitch Black is that it is infinitely harder to sit through a mediocre bad movie as opposed to a hysterically bad one. A hysterically terrible movie can be so much fun to watch - you sit through it to see just how bad it can get. It's like a challenge. How low could this piece of shit possibly sink? Pitch Black had moments like that, but overall it was just a very taxing experience on me. This is the kind of movie that is so bad it makes your head hurt.

The story is of a group of space travelers from the "not-too-distant future" who crash land on what seems to be an uninhabited planet. The group consists of the usual bunch of randomly placed together characters who really have no business engaging in space travel in the first place. The main character is a convicted murderer named Riddick (Vin Diesel). Riddick is essentially this bad ass guy with a devil-may-care attitude (but really, don't all killers in these movies have that kind of attitude?). Coincidentally enough, he has specially enhanced eyes that allow him to see really well in the dark. Wonder if that's going to come into play in a movie called Pitch Black. Who comes up with this shit, anyway? An annoying side effect of this is that he has to wear these mirrored goggles during the daytime to protect his sensitive eyes. Apparently the director didn't realize that when an actor wears mirrors on his eyes, it's not so hard to see the camera in the reflection. But who's paying attention?

So Riddick is stranded on this planet with an odd bunch of people. Included in this group are a Muslim cleric and his three little pupils, a foppish British gentleman who collects antiques and fine liquor, and a stowaway kid. Interested yet? I didn't think so. Their particulars aren't especially important because they're all essentially in this movie as fodder for the aliens to eat at random. Here's a question, though: why does every one of these movies have to have a pretentious prick that has no business being stranded in space or anywhere else? Is this a funny bit? We all know he's just asking to be slaughtered every time he goes back to the ship to retrieve some of his antique collectibles. The only surprise in this movie is that he actually survives much longer than his character usually does in movies like this. Oh, and as he's dying from an alien-inflicted wound he says, "I was supposed to die in France." I got a kick out of that.

Ah, the alien - I forgot. Apparently this planet has three suns, which is good because the only life on this planet is a dangerous alien predator thing that only survives in total darkness. Good thing this planet doesn't have eclipses or anything - or does it? Until the eclipse happens (sorry to ruin the surprise), this movie actually maintains a good deal of suspense. Whenever a character wanders into a dark space, he may or may not have his head bitten off. Unfortunately, when the lights go out about half way through the movie, the audience knows that the aliens are everywhere. It's not so scary if we know they're there. The unexpected is always more frightening than the expected.

This is one of those movies where someone is always looking for someone else. One character wanders off and is killed. Another character asks, "Hey, where's Zeke?" Then that person goes off to look for the missing person and winds up meeting his or her own demise. And so on. It's like the writers wrote in all these extra nameless characters for the sole purpose of being killed. What ever happened to character development?

Pitch Black is chock-full of unfulfilled promises. The audience never gets a good look at the aliens themselves, and maybe only a handful are killed by our heroes throughout the entire course of the movie. The characters spend most of their time running from the aliens, thus preventing any of the ancillary characters from proving their usefulness to the plot. Usually in movies like this, each character does something to help the group as a whole, thus justifying their existence. All these characters do is run away and die.

To further diminish their importance to the story, several characters are saved toward the end of the film by what is known as deus ex machina, meaning "god from a machine." This is an expression that refers to those times in the movies where characters are saved by circumstances and events totally out of their control, thus not allowing them to grow or change in the least. Not that I expected any better from this film.

Pitch Blackwill go down in my memory, if I remember it at all, as a schlocky sci-fi horror flick that seems to have been made for no reason whatsoever. A movie this mindless doesn't deserve a review, but here it is anyway. If there is one thing I'll remember from Pitch Black, it's this poignant line from Riddick, the hardened criminal with a heart of gold: "I absolutely believe in God. And I hate the fucker." How much more bad ass can you get than that?


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