Journey into Darkness: Pitch Black revisited
By Bobby Neal Winters
Last year about this time, I wrote a review for the Pittsburg Morning Sun of the movie Pitch Black. It can be found here. I’ve rewatched it one more time and would like to revisit it. There will be spoilers ahead, but as I’ve seen this movie six times and have liked it better each time, I am not too worried about spoiling it.
This movie is a journey. It is a journey in a couple of different ways. We begin in a spaceship, cocooned in cryogenic sleep chambers. We are as far from nature as technology can take us. A meteor hits the ship disabling it and killing its captain. Carolyn, the docking pilot, is forced from her cryo-chamber into the pilot’s chair. In a frenzy she is trying to land the spaceship safely because this accident has happened closed to a large satellite of a gas giant.
The computer tells her the ship is too heavy to land safely so she responds by getting rid of cargo. She does this until the only section she can get rid of is full of passengers. She says that she is not going to die for these people. She then pulls the lever to jettison them but it will not work, and she manages to crash land the spaceship.
The survivors include an Imam on hajj, a bounty hunter (Johns) and his prisoner (Riddick played by Vin Diesel) and an epicurean among others. They are now on the satellite of the gas giant. It current language we would call it a hot Jupiter. It is in a system where there are two yellow suns closely orbiting each other and another star that is farther out than the gas giant. For all initial appearances, the sun never sets. It appears to be eternally light.
In this land of eternal light, the survivors fear the prisoner Riddick who is a murderer. Some would kill him; others would keep him tied up; others would be happy if he were as far away as possible.
Riddick is not well-suited either to the polite society of the civilized travelers or to the world of eternal light. The journey leads away from civilization and away from light.
As they seek life-giving water, they discover things are not what they seem. There is something dangerous living on the world that keeps to the darkness. They are not afraid of it as they are protected by the eternal light. They also discover they are not the first humans to have been here. There were others before.
Riddick, being more suited to Nature than to Man’s protecting mantle of civilization, notices things the others do not. The previous visitors never left. They were killed by the things in the dark. This becomes worrisome because it is discovered that the light is not eternal. There is an interval every 22 years wherein the central suns, the gas giant, the satellite, and the outer sun line up in such a way to bring darkness.
Near the mining camp, an escape ship is discovered that can take them to safety, but they need parts from the crashed ship. The survivors start this just as the central suns are eclipsed by the gas giant.
It is here that the journey away from civilization and into darkness begins in earnest. The creatures swarm from the caves in which they have been trapped. Riddick, who is uniquely qualified to see this as he has had a operation in prison to enable him to see in the dark, observes that it is beautiful.
The group has determined that the creatures will stay away from light as it hurts them. They begin the journey with electrical lights, which are lost. They replace these with the lighted whiskey brought by the epicurean. Members of the group are picked off one by one by the creatures. In the darkness, the same people who wanted nothing to do with Riddick in the eternal light now hover close to him for protection.
As it looks like they might be able to make one last run for the escape ship, it begins to rain, putting out their whiskey bottle torches, forcing them to seek safety inside a cave, where Riddick leaves them. In the cave, with even the light of their torches gone, they notice the bioluminescent larvae of the creatures that have been killing them. They find just enough to fill one whiskey bottle and this creates enough light to keep the creatures at bay.
Riddick, in the meantime, has made it back to the ship. He prepares to leave and to all appearances, is planning to leave the rest behind.
Carolyn finds him at this point, and entreats him to come back with her to bring the other two survivors with them. He refuses. They have an argument which climaxes in a question from Riddick: Would you die for them? This is, of course a question Carolyn had answered at the beginning of the journey in the negative. Now she answers differently, “Yes, I would die for them.”
Riddick simply replies, “Interesting.” But he does go back with her. They get the other two survivors, but on the return, Riddick is forced to fight one of the creatures again.
Carolyn gets the other survivors to the escape ship, and this time, they are suggesting that Riddick should be left, but Carolyn goes back to find Riddick exhausted having just vanquished a few creatures. She chides at him to get up and come along, saying in order to shame him that she would die for the others, but “not for you.”
At that point, she is captured from behind by one of the creatures and taken off into the darkness. Riddick is left there with an look on his face that almost defies description into words. (Vin Diesel is an actor, not just a set of muscles.) He is utterly amazed. Someone has given their life for him. He tries to cover this unaccustomed emotion by saying, “But not for me.” And yet something has happened to him. He has been saved through her blood.
This journey from the light into the darkness has brought both Carolyn and Riddick into a different sort of light. She has found that she could give her life even for someone who appeared irredeemable and the one who thought himself totally self-sufficient has been saved by another.
When Riddick is leaving with the two other survivors, he is asked what will they tell the police when they are found. He says, “Tell them Riddick died there.”