Pitch Black—The Chronicles Of Riddick

Featured In Issue 112, September 2006

WSR Score
Basic Information on new release titles is posted as soon as titles are announced. Once reviewed, additional data is added to the database.
Universal Studios Home Entertainment
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Not Rated
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Single Side, Dual Layer (HD-30)
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David Twohy
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Dolby Digital+ 5.1
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When mechanical failures cause the crash-landing of a spaceship on an abandoned planet, the surviving passengers—including a policeman (Hauser) and his prisoner (Diesel)—must learn to adjust to the harsh realities of their new home. This planet has three suns and no night, but every few years there is a total eclipse, and that's when the scary bad ones come up from underground and devour everyone in sight. The prisoner—a convicted murderer—suddenly comes to their rescue to lead the group back to their ship away from the scary ones because he has these really freaky eyes with which he can see even when it's Pitch Black. (Laurie Sevano)

Special features include two audio commentaries: the first with Actors Vin Diesel and Cole Hauser and Director David Twohy, and the second with Twohy, Producer Tom Engelman, and Visual Effects Supervisor Peter Chiang. A two-minute intro by Twohy is followed by a 76-day and seven-minute look at Johns' chase log, a less-than-five-minute making-of featurette, less than two minutes of a look at the animation, a two-minute visual encyclopedia, a 21-minute Raveworld Pitch Black Events (footage of dance parties promoting the movie) video, a two-minute ad for the video game, and a four-minute segment titled A View Into The Dark.

If you can get past the stroke inducing flashes that open the 2.35:1 VC-1-encoded HD DVD picture, you will see a sharp, finely detailed image. The alien planet under the yellow and red suns is an absolutely engrossing picture, even if it does look completely unnatural when compared to what we would expect to see on Earth as are scenes when the blue sun rises. As discussed in the audio commentary, Cinematographer David Eggby used filters in front of the light sources, instead of using red or blue filters on the camera lens, then made an unprecedented decision to bleach''bypass the original negative''as opposed to the interpositive. In normal cases when an interpositive is bleach-bypassed, the process is visually done to enhance blacks (as in Se7en), and every scene is affected. Eggby and Director David Twohy wanted an overexposed, radical look for the exterior scenes only, while scenes on the spaceship and during the eclipse were processed normally. Colors are vibrant and balanced in the normally processed scenes, while appearing surreal and beautiful in the bleach-bypassed scenes. Lighting was weighed heavily during filming because, during the eclipse, the only light on the planet would originate from whatever the space travelers had available (flashlights, candles, or fiber optics from the spaceship). As is necessary for this title, the well-rendered contrasts and shadow delineation improves detail, especially in the scenes filmed inside the ship and during the eclipse. This is a visually stunning picture on all accounts. (Gary Reber/Danny Richelieu)

The Dolby® Digital Plus 5.1-channel soundtrack is very well produced, with excellent fidelity. Most of the presentation is balanced toward the screen, which might be expected considering the oft-solitary planet. Once the action begins, however, the soundstage is fully engaging, complete with pans and well-placed images around the room. Bass output is prodigious, deep, impressively clean, and occasionally challenging with sub-25 Hz extension capability from all channels. The dialogue is certainly noteworthy, with a comfortable presence and remarkable spatial consistency. Occasional hum and hiss can be heard, but it does not happen often enough to become a distraction. This is an exemplary film audio production that delivers first-rate sound quality. (Danny Richelieu)