August 28, 2013

Review: Into Pitch Black

Review:  Into Pitch Black

Before Pitch Black hit theaters audiences were invited Into Pitch Black–a Sci Fi Channel special promoting the film. But unlike most TV specials promoting new release films with their behind-the-scenes footage and “making of” documentaries, Into Pitch Black took us into the Pitch Black universe with a fully dramatized story. It’s a rarity not included on any home release of the Riddick films, nor easily obtained online. But as part of Now Playing’s Riddick Retrospective Series I did my best merc impression and captured a copy.

Taking place several months after the events in Pitch Black we follow an unnamed law enforcement officer charged with finding escaped convict Richard B. Riddick, last seen aboard the spaceship Hunter-Gratzner. Unable to find any leads, the officer hires a female bounty hunter to help his investigation.

As the two dig into the background of several passengers on the Hunter-Gratzner we are treated to many scenes from the actual movie Pitch Black. Of the special’s 45-minute running length, about 15 minutes are scenes from the movie. We witness the spaceship’s crash-landing and several of the survivors exploring the planet. The narrative sells these scenes as information found during the investigation.

To try and expand the universe beyond the events in Pitch Black we also get footage, shot night-vision style, of “Cutter”, the psychologist who studied Riddick in prison. In the only useful piece of trivia in the special we find Cutter was the doctor who “shined” Riddick’s eyes, giving him night vision (a fact later retconned out in the video game The Chronicles of Riddick: Escape from Butcher Bay).

Despite the aspirations of being a mini-story set in Riddick’s universe, Into Pitch Black never escapes the trappings of a promo TV special. There is a lot of emphasis in teasing the audience with Pitch Black footage. More, the low production values of this special, from the washed-out home-video camerawork to the worse-than-porno acting makes this show virtually unwatchable. To have this amateurish footage intercut with high value production and acting by Keith David and Vin Diesel makes the new scenes seem even more pathetic.

I believe the obscurity of this piece is because it is an embarrassment–nothing any Riddick fan would really want to revisit. I give it a strong Not Recommend.

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