Based on content from my original Bluray Review, which is here:
Pitch Black Bluray Review
Pitch Black is the inaugural film in the Chronicles of Riddick, which now spans three feature films, an animated direct to disk release, and two videogames. Richard B. Riddick is the series’ antihero protagonist, one mean motor scooter who makes no bones about his violent past or his commitment to only himself. Besides his brawn, stealth, fighting ability and capability to break out of just about any prison, Riddick has one other surprise trick: surgical implants which allow him to see in the dark. Which is handy, since Pitch Black finds Riddick stranded on a planet destined to be in the dark for a while. And on this planet, baaaad things come out at night. In Pitch Black, it’s a race to get off-planet from the rock Riddick, his captors and other space travelers have found themselves stranded on. Before it’s too late, as the indigenous monsters they find themselves up against can see in the dark too and they have been hungry for the last twenty years. The clock is ticking!
Even if he makes it out alive, Riddick still has the rest of the crew to deal with or its back to the slammer he goes. The other crash survivors provide a great springboard for Riddick to play against, from Cole Hauser’s drug addled yet deadly bounty hunter Johns to Radha Mitchell’s leading lady Fry. But it is the always superb Keith David who steals the show here as the pious holy man, Imam Abu al-Walid.
Pitch Black is one of the rare successes that succeeds almost because of the limitations it faced during production, and it seems that it has provided career boosts for almost all involved. It’s a simple tale told with style and panache, but it’s the characters at play that shows humanity at its best: With our backs against the wall, up against impossible odds, we can overcome our differences to shine through the darkest of nights and survive.
The Production: 4/5
I had originally seen Pitch Black on standard def cable, and was not too impressed with the visuals, but had liked the story. When it was released on DVD, I never picked it up but was suitably impressed with the audio and video of the first sequel (which is awkwardly named The Chronicles of Riddick with no subtitle) on DVD and on HD Cable. When I got to review this movie in high def on HD DVD I flip flopped on those initial thoughts and today I find myself of a much bigger fan of both the film itself and its terrific visual style. I’ve now reviewed it on HD DVD, Bluray and UHD and find this UHD illuminating the best elements of this film and am proud to call myself a fan of the series and Diesel in particular.
Even tho the surprise twists that seemed clever on first viewing (if a bit cliché) don’t hold up so well on repeat viewings, and the film’s coincidences upon coincidences pile up, I found that the best solution is to remind yourself that this is a popcorn action flick which launched with no real stars, and don’t ask too many questions or take it too seriously. Riddick is now a bonafide franchise for Diesel, spanning several different film genres including horror, jailbreak, action and sci-fi. None of this would have been possible if it wasn’t for the success of Pitch Black however, and while it may seem like a mix of other greater films, particularly Alien and Aliens, the story stands on its own and Diesel’s Riddick is the bad guy that audiences can feel so good in loving.
This UHD contains:
A brand new 4K restoration by Arrow Films of the Theatrical and Director’s Cuts of the film, approved by director David Twohy (109 and 112 minutes respectively)
4K (2160p) UHD Blu-ray presentation in Dolby Vision (HDR10 compatible)
Original DTS-HD MA 5.1 surround on both cuts
Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing on both cuts.
And in addition to the slew of bonus content discussed below, In the first pressing only you will find a Collectors booklet featuring new writing by Simon Ward on the film’s creature designs, original production notes, and an archive interview with Vin Diesel from Starlog magazine. Bottom line is that this book is reason enough for any fan to want to rush out and get this disk ASAP.
3D Rating: NA
The visuals in standard def actually made me like this movie less than it deserved on the first go around. In standard def (and in chopped full screen!) the visuals seemed to be seriously low budget. While the high contrast look worked, it just looked done cheaply. In high definition I found the effects breathtaking, showing few signs that this feature was budget constrained. The signature high contrast in the stark sunlit sand really gives a new twist and shows off that the artistic range that was pushed by both the director’s and cinematographer’s vision. The action sequences in the dark planet surface and the deep space vehicle shots (especially the crash!) give a nice counterpoint to the burning sun shots. The bottom line is that this is a really gorgeous looking film especially given its age and the budget that it was originally filmed on.
The UHD takes that up quite a notch, with detail, lighting and color all probably getting as good as they can ever look at home and probably way better than anyone saw it theatrically. The Bleach Bypass effects are enhanced significantly by the mild HDR pass, and the inky blacks of the night scenes are fantastic on OLED. There is still tons of grain but it tends to seem very natural without calling too much attention away from the details of the film itself, which certainly had it’s issues with missed focus and other budget constraints. Oh, and the HDR is in Dolby Vision too, which is nice. Note that the effects sequences were all finished in year 2000 era CGI, there is no way to effectively get full 4K detail out of those. Which is fine for a film like this where there are actually very few full out shots of the digital creatures anyway, by design.
(I believe this is the exact same DTS-HDMA audio track as found on the Bluray I reviewed)
On the audio side of the house, while the sound track is not quite as startling as some other recent action films, it likewise holds its own. Particularly in the action sequences, we’ve got some real nice deep rumbles and while there isn’t a constant use of a full sound stage, there is effective use of all 6 channels for pan effects when appropriate. Of course, Diesels signature growls and one-liners come through in perfect clarity, and while some on HTF have noted a few sequences sounded like they were off center I found that this effect seems to have been intentional as a way to make the sound stage seem wider as many sequences have the cast members traveling in a long caravan type line. Sonically my favorite scene has to be the crash landing, as the visual havoc that plays out on scene is matched by the emotion of the awakened crew and the rush of the violent atmosphere ripping past them. Graeme Revell contributes an under-appreciated score here, with orchestral movements and synthesized sweeps working together to provide a constant backdrop to both the action on screen and the motivations of the principle characters.
Special Features: 5/5
Main complaint up front: Like all Arrow releases there is no digital code packed in. BOOO I say. Boooooooo!
Archive commentary with director David Twohy and stars Vin Diesel and Cole Hauser
Archive commentary with director David Twohy, producer Tom Engelman and visual effects supervisor Peter Chiang
Nightfall: The Making of Pitch Black, a newly filmed interview with director/co-writer David Twohy
Black Box: Jackie’s Journey, a newly filmed interview with actor Rhiana Griffith
Black Box: Shazza’s Last Stand, a newly filmed interview with actor Claudia Black
Black Box: Bleach Bypassed, a newly filmed interview with cinematographer David Eggby
Black Box: Cryo-Locked, a newly filmed interview with visual effects supervisor Peter Chiang
Black Box: Primal Sounds, a newly filmed interview with composer Graeme Revell
The Making of Pitch Black, a short behind-the-scenes featurette
Pitch Black Raw, a comparison between early CG tests and the final footage
Additional behind-the-scenes making of footage
2004 archive bonus features, including an introduction by Twohy, A View Into The Dark, and Chronicles of Riddick Visual Encyclopedia
Johns Chase Log, a short prequel narrated by Cole Hauser detailing the character s hunt for Riddick
The Chronicles of Riddick: Dark Fury (in 16:9 widescreen with DTS-HD MA 5.1 audio), an animated short film directed by Peter Chung that acts as a bridgepoint between Pitch Black and The Chronicles of Riddick, featuring vocal performances by Vin Diesel, Keith David and Rhiana Griffith reprising their roles
Dark Fury bonus features including Bridging The Gap, Peter Chung: The Mind of an Animator, A View Into The Light, and a pre-animation version of the film
Slam City, a motion comic from the film s official website
Into Pitch Black, a TV special offering an alternative non-canon glimpse into what happened before and after the events of the film
Raveworld: Pitch Black Event footage
Theatrical trailers, sequels & video game trailers
Reversible sleeve featuring newly commissioned ‘night’ and ‘day’ artwork by Luke Preece
Pitch Black is an enjoyable popcorn flick in the tradition of Aliens, with some derivative plot points but style to burn. This UHD outshines the BluRay, HDDVD and DVD releases before it and is an easy to recommend for repurchase.
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