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A view on Blu-ray and DVD video by Leonard Norwitz

Pitch Black (Unrated Director's Cut) [Blu-ray]

(aka "The Chronicles of Riddick: Pitch Black")

(David Twohy, 2000)







Review by Leonard Norwitz



Theatrical: Interscope Communications

Blu-ray: Universal Studios Home Entertainment



Region: All

Runtime: 108 min

Chapters: 18

Size: 50 GB

Case: Standard Blu-ray case

Release date: March 31, 2009



Aspect ratio: 2.35:1

Resolution: 1080p

Video codec: VC-1



English DTS HD-Master Audio 5.1. Spanish & French DTS 5.1 (on Theatrical Cut only).



English SDH, Spanish & French



• Theatrical & Director's Cuts

• An Introduction by David Twohy

• Commentary with Actors Vin Diesel & Cole Hauser, and Director David Twohy

• Commentary with David Twohy, Producer Tom Engelman, and Visual Effects Supervisor Peter Chiang

• The Game Is On (1:49)

• Johns' Chase Log (7:12)

• The Making of Pitch Black (4:44)

• Dark Fury: Advancing the Arc (1:30)

• Chronicles of Riddick: Visual Encyclopedia (2:18)

• A View Into the Dark (4:06)



The Film:

"I hope for strange and amazing adventures. Sometimes I am gratified. More often I am disappointed. "Pitch Black," which begins in deep space and ends with a manhunt on a desert planet, falls somewhere in between: clever, done with skill, yet lacking in the cerebral imagination of the best science fiction. How sad it is that humans travel countless light years away from Earth, only to find themselves inhabiting the same tired generic conventions."

Excerpt of review from Roger Ebert at the Chicago Sun Times located HERE

LN: Continuing Universal's voyage through their HD-DVD catalogue for release – and upgrade where possible – onto Blu-ray comes the two big Riddick adventures from the same writer/director thus far: the first, Pitch Black, dating from 2000, and The Chronicles of Riddick from 2004. They are getting a simultaneous release for March 31. I might mention that Dark Fury, a related animated short film, does not appear on either Blu-ray, though there is a bonus feature that gives it a passing thought on this disc.

The Movie: 7
A space freighter/transport with passengers aboard in cryo makes an unscheduled emergency crash landing on a desert planet. On board is Riddick (Vin Diesel) who was being taken to a prison colony by the mercenary Johns (Cole Hauser). Among the survivors are the pilot Fry (Radha Mitchell) - the captain having been killed in the landing - a family of Muslims headed by Imam (Keith David), an antique wine collector (Paris Ogilvie), a handy woman (Claudia Black), and a teenager of questionable gender named Jack (Rhiana Griffith.)

Riddick makes good his escape from the ship early on, but finds it useful to remain connected to the main group for one reason or another. As tensions between him and Johns find an uneasy détente, the survivors discover the remains of a previous expedition. Soon the creatures that terminated that group find the newly arrived food group. Riddick, a man used to fending only for himself, is put to the mensch test. Their ship crippled: How to survive? How to escape?"


Image: 8/8
The first number indicates a relative level of excellence compared to other Blu-ray video discs on a ten-point scale. The second number places this image along the full range of DVD and Blu-ray discs.

As can be seen from the screen caps, Pitch Black spent a lot of time in post-production turning into a suitable fictional reality. Image coherence therefore suffers, but not, I imagine, at the hands of the transfer process. The movie spends a good deal of time in the overexposed sun and later in the dark of an eclipse. Neither is revealing as to the transfer, except that the shadows do reveal sufficient detail. The color palette is exaggerated but there doesn't appear to be much if any chroma noise as a result. It's not the sort of image one shows off to one's friends to prove how smart we were committing to high definition, but it serves the material well.














Audio & Music: 7/7
No doubt the bump to uncompressed audio opens up the sound as compared to either the DVD or HD-DVD, but I still found it a little flat and uninteresting. It lacks complexity and texture. LFE are present but strike me as a little disconnected. Surround effects are similarly disorganized, though immersive. Dialogue is clear, but a little unfocused. All that said, the audio mix is properly explosive and in your face. Subtlety may not be its claim, but brutal power is. And this, it does well.


Operations: 8
The menu is laid out like other Universal Blu-rays. Arrows tell you which way to direct your remote, and the bonus feature instructions are detailed and intuitive. The chapter menu includes buttons for U-Control in case you want to approach those functions from that point. There are the usual number of U-Control opportunities to invite and confuse.




Extras: 4
These are much the same features as appeared in previous incarnations of the movie on video. The commentary with Twohy, Engelman and Chiang is very detailed in respect to artistic decisions in production, lighting (from the overexposed days to the graduated eclipse), modeling of the creatures made given the shooting medium and the eventual endgame. The other commentary with Twohy and Diesel is chattier with little of importance to add.

All of the extra features were present in previous video incarnations and are in standard definition. Except for Dark Fury: Advancing the Arc, the others are remarkable for some of the vaguest images on disc – I found them better listened to, than watched.

Pitch Black Raw, a feature that can be found under U-Control, offers comparisons of the special effects in various stages of production. It was included with HD-DVD and returns here as well.



Bottom line: 7
It's Aliens meet The Poseidon Adventure – in the desert. Diesel is a presence of sorts and keeps his sardonic remarks brief. And while it doesn't break any new ground, I rather liked the look of it, and that Twohy doesn't insist that his characters do completely stupid things just because it's a proper popcorn horrorshow B-movie. Too bad the Extra Features don't amount to much.

Leonard Norwitz
March 13th, 2009







About the Reviewer: I first noticed that some movies were actually "films" back around 1960 when I saw Seven Samurai (in the then popular truncated version), La Strada and The Third Man for the first time. American classics were a later and happy discovery.

My earliest teacher in Aesthetics was Alexander Sesonske, who encouraged the comparison of unlike objects. He opened my mind to the study of art in a broader sense, rather than of technique or the gratification of instantaneous events. My take on video, or audio for that matter – about which I feel more competent – is not particularly technical. Rather it is aesthetic, perceptual, psychological and strongly influenced by temporal considerations in much the same way as music. I hope you will find my musings entertaining and informative, fun, interactive and very much a work in progress.

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