Galactic Theater

Welcome to the Galactic Theater, where we'll explore the works of master manipulators of light waves, examine the themes brought to play, and critique the final products of months of hard work.

W A R N I N G !

This review does not represent the opinions of the general public. It reflects my personal thoughts and opinions on the movie.

That said, on to the review!

Now Showing: Pitch Black
Broadcast Dates: 2000
Format: Cinematic, DVD/VHS

An interstellar spacecraft operating on autopilot runs into trouble: spatial debris penetrating the hull and, incidentally, killing the captain before he can be revived from suspended animation. The pilot and navigator struggle to land the ship safely, but it's impossible. Instead, they crash into the nearest planet, their hull tearing apart, many of the passenger pods flying out, and the navigator receiving a mortal wound. As the survivors of the crash gather their wits about them, one among them struggles with another, who had been making the trip under heavy guard with his hands fettered, eyes bound, and mouth gagged. Finally, the survivors take stock of what's happened and what they can do to survive and get off the uninhabited planet.

The prognosis isn't good. There are only eleven of them, and four are teenagers and one a prisoner. On the plus side, there's plenty of light and the air is breathable. On the minus side, however, the spaceship's a total loss, and there's no way for them to get off the planet. Finally, they split up: some head off towards what look to be trees in search of water while others salvage what they can from the wreck and bury the dead. Only the trees aren't actually trees but the bleached remains of some huge creatures, and there's no way of knowing if there are more of those around. Then, back at the wreck, the man digging the grave suddenly screams and vanishes, leaving only blood-splattered earth and a sizable tunnel in the ground to mark his passing. Later, when the pilot enters the tunnel to search for the missing man, she is nearly killed herself as something stalks her. Only a quick climb up a narrow passage saves her, but only just.

Worried now, the survivors head off towards the bones again, for the search party had found some sort of former settlement. There's a workable skiff that they could use to escape the planet, but it has no power. The power cells from the wreck could power the skiff, but they need to get them from the wreck to the skiff, and time is running out: something killed the researchers twenty-two years ago, and--as a model shows--what happened those years ago is about to repeat itself. Because the planet they're stranded on has three suns, and those suns are about to be eclipsed by the other planetary bodies in the system, plunging the world into complete darkness. And who knows what will happen when night falls? And when light returns to the world, will there be anyone left to greet it?

Pitch Black. Doesn't that title send shivers down your spine? Well, it's probably the most appropriate title for this particular movie. The superstitious know that all bad things happen at night, and the night that's about to befall the survivors is filled with bad things. Of course, it doesn't have to be night for that to happen, as the gravedigger discovered. Just dark, which it was beneath the surface.

Probably the coolest thing about this movie is the prisoner. Something was done to him that changed his eyes. He couldn't see during the day without special glasses, but he could see in absolute darkness. Small wonder then that he should be one of the most important characters in the entire movie. Of course, sometimes his attitude really grated on my nerves. I suppose there was some justification for his self-interested participation in the run for the skiff, but sometimes he was just so obnoxious and arrogant!

This movie really reminds me of a book I once read (and will read again, I hope) titled Nightfall. It's about a planet with so many stars overhead that it is always light, except for one night ever several thousand years or so, when an unknown planetary body eclipses the last sun after all the rest have set. In a way, though, this movie was better, since it showed something other than chaos and panic. Of course, it does raise the question of how anything could possibly survive on such a planet when, every twenty-two years, an eclipse occurs that unleashes ravening hordes on the surface. Let's think about it...

You could do worse than seeing Pitch Black. As science fiction movies go, this is probably the one movie that borders more closely on horror than sci-fi. After all, all those stories about the monsters in the closet or under the bed have them coming out at night, and here we have that theme augmented and elevated. I suppose that, given the necessity of space travel and a story set on a "not Earth" world, I have to consider it science fiction. Still, this is probably the most horrific sci-fi movie I have ever seen. And I loved it!

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