Pitch Black fails to frighten as a science fiction thriller

From the clich? plot about futuristic space travelers who crash on an unknown planet to the recycled shot of the spaceship at the beginning of the flick, the sci-fi thriller Pitch Black (Universal Pictures) oozes with horrible rip-offs from the Alien movies and Planet of the Apes.

As crew members slowly awake from their cryogenic sleep, the expected complications begin to plague the crew’s hopes for a return to the peacefulness of space. One of the passengers, Riddick (Vin Diesel, Boiler Room), turns out to be a homicidal criminal on transport from one prison to another. Riddick’s bounty hunter/correction officer, Johns (Cole Hauser, Good Will Hunting), quickly detains him before any bloodshed ensues. But a more pressing issue soon arises.

Nocturnal bloodthirsty vampire bat-like aliens inhabit this planet. And the unlucky bunch stumbles upon the solar eclipse that occurs every 22 years that allows the aliens to flourish in the darkness. With each successive death and twist of fate, the remaining crew finds its only hope of escaping is Riddick. His heightened night vision and hearing can help to maneuver them to the awaiting spacecraft that will rocket them to safety.

The film contains an abundance of campy dialogue that leads to intense bouts of laughter rather than on-edge screams of horror. The adaptation of Isaac Asimov’s short story Nightfall also includes corny characters ranging from the turbaned Islamic pilgrim to the English antiquities dealer whose costumes come across as anachronistic for the future. These supporting roles are merely placed in the script as pawns to be slaughtered by the aliens later in the film.

The cookie-cutter actors seem to have been picked for their looks rather than their talent. Diesel’s husky voice and muscled body suitably fit his role as Riddick. And the scrawny balding Lewis Fitz-Gerald fits perfectly in his role as Paris, a wealthy English snob.

The movie uses some interesting camera lenses to create the planet Earth as a world with three suns, but for the most part, the special effects are not groundbreaking. As featureless, computer-generated creatures, the aliens don’t come across as a real threat.

In the end, Pitch Black guarantees to be a laughable hokey science-fiction picture instead of a movie that creates fear every time you turn the lights off.

Pitch Black is playing in theaters.

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