Like a lot of people I have talked to, Pitch Black took me by surprise. While be no means a perfect film, the check marks in the good column way outweigh the bad column. I first saw this movie a few years ago and I liked it then. I should also point out that when I did first watch Pitch Black, I missed the first fifteen or twenty minutes and it didn’t make a difference. Now, I think I felt that way because the pacing of this movie is just about perfect. It really moves, really bumps along. Never does the story get bogged down, never does the camera linger too long. Just action, action, action. Sure, it is just another sci-fi, aliens thriller, but it has a helping of smarts and wit that most films of the genre are missing. And, you know, in situations like this, plot is secondary to all that crap. What I am trying to say is that the story itself might be poor, but it is told well.

For those who are lucky and mature enough not have seen the preview for this summers other biggest CG gangbang, The Chronicles of Riddick, Vin Diesel plays Richard B. Riddick. He is the anit-hero of Pitch Black, which was made pre-The Fast and the Furious, so Diesel was still basically a nobody. Now that he is an uber-star, I have heard that they already have plans to make a trilogy out of The Chronicles of Riddick, a movie which is sure to be so fucking terrible that it will shorten my life span. Anyway, here in Pitch Black Riddick is a very… “cool” isn’t the right word but I can’t think of anything else. A serial killer with a heart of gold? Anyway, he’s had his eyes operated on so that he can see thermal patterns, i.e. see in the dark. Oh, and for the worst fucking writing on earth, visit www.tonysimon.org. He also shaves his head with a shiv and some motor oil, wears turn of last century welding goggles and is like really, really muscular. Plus he can drop post-80s Action one-liners with the best of them. But in stead of just making Riddick an animal with style, writer/director David Twohy chose to make him rather intelligent. I’m talking intelligent for a movie character. There’s one scene where a couple thousand monsters are coming out of these giant dirt-tubes (in the dark) and since Riddick is the only one who can see anything he is asked to describe it for the group. “Beautiful,” is all he utters. To me, it was a great bit of existentialism tossed into a spot where the viewer would not expect it. Similar to how Toby McGuire intones, “Goblin, what have you done?” in Spider-Man. Sure, we know the insane action is going to start momentarily in both films, but the pauses serve to make the characters stronger and more human.

More importantly, Riddick gets to spout off this line, “I absolutely believe in God… and I absolutely hate the fucker.” Excellent. Any movie that stars a major celebrity cursing God like that is excellent in my book. The other good thing was that Keith David played a Muslim cleric shepherding three young boys to “New Mecca.” Every time he stopped to pray, one of them got killed, gruesomely. The only thing that would have been better is if David was a born again Christian. Not that one religion is dumber than an other, but Americans might get confused and think that David got whacked because he was praying to the wrong God, and miss the point. So, having the Christians get whacked would have driven home the point even better. Still, excellent stuff.

Oh, yeah, there is a plot, though it isn’t necessary to know about in order to enjoy Pitch Black. A ship is cruising through space and it is a long haul trip where everyone is in cryo-sleep and some Meteor bits breach the hull and the ship has to crashland and the planet is all fucked up and has three suns and these monsters that live underground and that are allergic to light, BUT once every 22 years there is an eclipse and it goes “Pitch Black” and the monster creatures come out and eat whatever humans happen to be on the planet. What they eat for the intervening 22 years is anybody’s guess. Miraculously, that once every 22-year event happens seven hours after they crash land. The ship is carrying a bunch of space tourists and (for some reason) Riddick, a convicted murderer. There is a mercenary named Johns (Cole Hauser) who is supposedly bringing Riddick in, but that part makes no sense since Riddick kicks his ass throughout the entire movie. Whatever, anyway, Johns poisons the group against Riddick, but since he is actually not such a bad guy/can see in the dark, and Johns of course is, the group must learn to trust Riddick. Most of them die, anyway. Radha Mitchell is the sole surviving crew member, and she’s pretty cute. Good acting in this movie, too.

Problems with the movie? Sure, myriad. The monsters are pretty cheesy looking, the plot, if you stop and think about it, is dumb and, well, that about covers it. Oh wait, if Riddick is such a vicious, animal-minded killer, why does he give a fuck about anything? But so what? Pitch Black was fun. Twohy, interestingly has written both Waterworld and G.I. Jane. Which, you know, were both steaming piles of feces. But, he also wrote The Fugitive, which I for one liked. So go figure. Anyhow, He did a great job here. No matter how lame Diesel has gotten recently, and no matter how shitty The Chronicles of Riddick is sure to be, neither can take away from the good fun that is Pitch Black. For all intents and purposes, everything you could possibly want out of a movie at 2:00 am on a Tuesday.