David Twohy started his time in Hollywood as a writer on films like Warlock, Timescape and Critters 2: The Main Course before graduating to big budget films like The Fugitive, The Arrival, Waterworld and G.I. Jane. He started directing with the aforementioned Timescape and then really kicked his directing career into high gear with this sleeper of a movie.
The first of four appearances of the Riddick character* — which launched the career of Vin Diesel — this movie owes plenty to the Alien franchise but comes into its own thanks to plenty of suspense and great effects.
The ship Hunter-Gratzner is transporting passengers as they sleep, including a Muslim preacher named Abu ‘Imam’ al-Walid (Keith David) and his three sons, an arms dealer named Paris, a teenager named Jack (keep in mind the gender neutrality of the name), some settlers named Zeke and Shazza, as well as a bounty hunter named William J. John (Cole Hauser, the son of Wings) who is transporting a Furyan alien who can see in the dark named Riddick. Meteors bring their ship down on a planet of near-constant daylight — or so it seems — yet when underground creatures attack Riddick is offer amnesty if he can help everyone get out alive.
That wouldn’t be easy even if the planet wasn’t headed for an apocalypse that will allow the photo-sensitive monsters to run wild anything and everywhere they want to go.
The intriguing part of this movie is the journey that pilot Carolyn Fry (Radha Mitchell, the …Has Fallen movies) makes from someone willing to jettison the passengers to save her own life to someone who convinces Riddick to stay behind and help others, despite his criminal nature.
Originally, this was a stand-alone movie and Riddick was supposed to die, but Vin Diesel and the cast and crew fell in love with the character and saw the potential for more. In the original Nightfall script, Riddick wasn’t even a guy; she was called Tara Krieg.
PS: If you want to see the wreck of the Hunter-Gratzner, it’s still in the Australian desert and visible on Google maps. This is also the same area where The Blood of Heroes and Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome were made.
PPS: The Robert Heinlein story Tunnel in the Sky has characters marooned on a planet threatened by a once-a-year danger and a character named Jack who is really female. Luckily, Heinlein wrote that and not Harlan Ellison.
The new Arrow Video release of Pitch Black is absolutely overloaded with all the extras you expect from this great company. It starts with a brand new 4K restoration by Arrow Films of the Theatrical and Director’s Cuts of the film, which were approved by director David Twohy. Then, you get two sets of archival commentary, a newly filmed making-of documentary, as well as new interviews with Rhiana Griffith, cinematographer David Eggby, visual effects supervisor Peter Chian and composer Graeme Revell. Plus, there’s behind the scenes footage, special effects tests, an introduction by Twohy, a Chronicles of Riddick Visual Encyclopedia, a short prequel narrated by Cole Hauser telling the tale of his character’s hunt for Riddick, the Dark Fury animated short (as well as the bonus features from that release), the Slam City motion comic, the Into Pitch Black TV special with further information of what happened before and after the events of the movie, a dance event that promoted Pitch Black and trailers for all of the sequels and video games.
You can get this from Arrow, who was kind enough to send us a review copy.
*The others are The Chronicles of Riddick, Riddick and the animated The Chronicles of Riddick: Dark Fury (you can also count the shorts Pitch Black: Slam City and Riddick: Blindsided, as well as the video games The Chronicles of Riddick: Escape from Butcher Bay and The Chronicles of Riddick: Assault on Dark Athena. As stated above, all of these are shown on this incredible release.