Pitch Black: Special Edition (2000)

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Released 2-Aug-2004

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Science Fiction Main Menu Introduction
Menu Animation & Audio
Scene Selection Audio
Featurette-An Introduction By David Twohy
Featurette-The Johns Chase Log
Trailer-The Game Is On
Audio Commentary-Director And Actors
Audio Commentary-Filmmakers
Featurette-Making Of
Featurette-Dark Fury: Advancing The Arc
Web Links
Featurette-The Chronicles of Riddick Visual Encyclopedia
Featurette-A View Into The Dark
Trailer-Thunderbirds, Van Helsing, The Chronicles Of Riddick
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 2000
Running Time 103:50
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (61:08) Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By David Twohy
Studio
Distributor

Universal Pictures Home Video
Starring Vin Diesel
Radha Mitchell
Cole Hauser
Keith David
Lewis Fitz-Gerald
Claudia Black
Rhiana Griffith
John Moore
Simon Burke
Les Chantery
Sam Sari
Firass Dirani
Ric Anderson
Case ?
RPI $29.95 Music Graeme Revell


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.35:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 2.35:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English for the Hearing Impaired
English Audio Commentary
English Audio Commentary
Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    Pitch Black has been reviewed previously on this site, and that review can be found here. This review focuses on the recently released Special Edition, which has obviously been released to re-whet appetites prior to the availability of the second instalment in the journey of Richard B. Riddick. The second movie, The Chronicles of Riddick, has just been released in American cinemas and is doing some reasonable business at the box office. We will be seeing it on our favoured format later this year. Indeed, tying in with the new release, this DVD appears to be titled The Chronicles of Riddick: Pitch Black in the opening menu.

    The basic plot of the movie is the plight of a group of space travellers whose ship crash lands on a deserted planet. Obviously task number one is to repair the ship and get back on course for their destination. Quite a problem in itself certainly...only it isn't quite as straightforward to resolve as the shipwreck survivors might hope. Amongst the collection of children, religious leaders and assorted crew (including pilot Radha Mitchell) there are a couple of "special" passengers. One of these is a morphine addicted bounty hunter named William H. Johns (Cole Hauser) and his prey - a re-captured escaped convict named Richard B. Riddick. Riddick (Vin Diesel) is one mean piece of work, a convicted murderer with seemingly no respect for anyone but himself. He has also had his eyes surgically modified to provide him with enhanced night vision - all the better to stalk you with!

    The castaways find themselves in a sun-bleached desert, with no water and no hope of escape unless they can find something to repair their ship. They set out to find water and stumble across an abandoned mining facility, which luckily has a solar water still...and a serviceable escape craft. That, however, is where the good news comes to a shuddering halt. They soon learn that the planet is populated by a nocturnal alien species which feeds on humans, but are injured by contact with light. Fortunately, the planet has three suns and so there is no shortage of available daylight. Unfortunately, they are moments away from a total eclipse, which means one thing only - dinner time for the alien creatures!

    With the clock ticking, the stragglers have to return to the original ship to retrieve power cells for use in the abandoned escape craft. As darkness settles on them like a sodden blanket, the creatures begin to stir and the castaways find that their only chance of survival is to rely on the limited light-sources they can carry...and the night vision of a convicted killer.

    Personally I found Pitch Black to be a great little movie - somewhat of an unexpected treat when I stumbled across it in the video store a few years back. Seeing it again, I am happy to report that it has aged gracefully and still stands up well as a sci-fi horror flick. From the comments included in the extras on this release, the follow up movie will not be a horror film. It will be more of a straightforward sci-fi affair, charting the further adventures of that mischievous little tyke Riddick. The cinematography is frequently stunning - the Coober Pedy setting is perfectly chosen and the much talked about bleach-bypass processing of the film lends a truly alien feel to the environment. The striking use of almost monochromatic colour palettes makes this as visually striking a film as I have come across. If you have not seen this film I suggest you rent it at the very least. For sci-fi fans who did not buy the original release - Pitch Black: Special Edition may be worth adding to your collection.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    The overall video transfer is very good.

    The movie is presented anamorphically enhanced at 2.35:1 which is the original theatrical aspect ratio.

    The image is generally wonderfully sharp, albeit with some blurriness around characters at times (mainly in the over-lit outdoor scenes), due to the blooming caused by the extreme lighting effects. There is some noticeable grain present on occasion - again, predominantly in outdoor shots - but I suspect that much of this is deliberately introduced to reinforce the desert setting, by the director's chosen film processing techniques.

    Black levels are wonderfully deep, inky and without a hint of low level noise. Shadow detail is often excellent, but on occasion there is some quite impenetrable darkness on offer. Once again, I suspect that this is deliberate to accentuate the weight of the oppressive darkness resulting from the eclipse. Colours are wonderfully rendered. Not that there is a wide range of vivid primaries on offer here - quite the contrary. Instead we have a striking range of different palettes on offer, each limited to a few selected tones. Whether it is the blinding white, the warm dusty oranges or the icy blues that are on screen at any time - they are all beautifully rendered. The smart use of colour is one of the most striking aspects of this film, and it complements the excellent cinematography just perfectly. Understandably, skin tones rarely look natural!

    I noticed no issues with MPEG compression artefacts, or aliasing or significant edge enhancement on my system. There is no evidence of telecine wobble.

    Unlike reviews of the previous release, I noticed quite a significant level of minor film artefacts through the movie. Perhaps the passage of time has not been kind to the negatives? There are both positive and negative flecks as well as a couple of minor scratches present. These are only mildly distracting unless you are particularly troubled by such issues.

    The English subtitles are clear and well timed. They provide attribution for off-screen dialogue and a range of (non-musical) audio cues. They are generally good with only minor edits for brevity.

    The disc is in a single sided and dual layered (RSDL) format with the brief layer change almost unnoticeable at 61:08.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    The audio transfer is pretty much excellent.

    The sole English audio track remains a Dolby Digital 5.1 mix encoded at 384 kbps. It is free from major defects in the way of distortion, dropouts and pops. The remaining tracks are as per the Collector's Edition - two commentaries at 192 kbps and one German Dolby Digital 5.1 encoded at 384 kbps. Sadly even in this Special Edition, we are still not afforded the dts soundtrack provided on the Region 1 releases.

    The dialogue is almost always clear and well located in the centre channel for the main part. I noticed no problems with audio sync.

    Original music is attributed to Graham Revell (Freddy vs Jason and Blow). It is very satisfying and very well suited to this type of movie. It makes use of haunting piano melodies and synthesiser parts for the more thoughtful passages, building to a thundering crescendo of drums as darkness falls and panic sets in. To borrow an expression from Dumb and Dumberer - I like it a lot.

    The movie is blessed with a hugely active soundstage. The front speakers deliver a wide spread, with some very nice separation between the three main speakers. The surround speakers provide a great deal of ambience, both from the thumping musical score and sound effects - a good example is the rainstorm around 91:00. In addition there is a great deal of panning activity, both across the front soundstage and from front to rear - and indeed rear to front channels. The panning is best used when the alien creatures swoop overhead, menacingly circling the poor castaways. Good examples of these effects can be heard at 54:45, 68:13 or around 69:00.

    There is some strong LFE activity present which really makes you appreciate having a decent subwoofer - good examples can be heard in the caves around 91:30 or 94:00. Depending on your bass management setup, the subwoofer also heavily supports the driving bass beats of the musical score extremely well for much of the film, especially once darkness falls. Crank this baby up to really show the neighbours what a good speaker set is capable of.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

    There are quite a few extra features present, but the new features are not quite as substantial as they first seem.

Menu

    The anamorphically 1.78:1 enhanced menus are very nicely done indeed. They are accompanied by the soundtrack and take the shape of various planet animations - like the model used in the film to determine the timing of the eclipse. They offer the options of playing the film, selecting one of eighteen chapter stops, activating the subtitles, or viewing the following extra features. Note that the chapter selection menu appears to have a major flaw. On my PC, selecting chapter numbers with the mouse does not have any effect. On my Momitsu DVD player, the numbers and the individual graphics for the chapter stops simply do not appear on screen whilst on my Pioneer DVD player the graphics do appear but selecting a chapter causes the cursor to disappear, without jumping to that chapter selection. In short - it's broken! I have deducted one star from the extras rating on this basis.

Introduction by David Twohy

    The director takes time out from working with a (presumably) sound editor on the new Chronicles movie. He basically explains how he came to be making a follow up to the original film, and what we might expect from the new one. It runs for 2:26 and is presented full screen at 1.33:1 with a Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack encoded at 192 kbps.

The Game is On

    An advertisement for the video game The Chronicles of Riddick: Escape from Butcher Bay (which looks rather fun I must admit). It runs for 1:47 and is presented letterboxed at 1.68:1 with a Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack encoded at 192 kbps.

The Johns Chase Log

    A collection of seventeen short "diary extracts" by Cole Hauser (Johns), telling of his attempts to recapture Riddick in the lead-up to Pitch Black. Playable individually or (thankfully) with a "Play All" option, the simple text screens run for 7:13 in total. They are presented at 1.33:1 with a Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack encoded at 192 kbps.

Audio Commentary 1

    Director David Twohy is joined by actors Vin Diesel and Cole Hauser in a pretty dull commentary track. Whilst it is chatty, not much information is passed on and personally I found it a tedious listen. Subtitles are available.

Audio Commentary 2

    David Twohy is joined this time by Tom Engelman (Producer) and Peter Chiang (Visual Effects Supervisor). This commentary is perhaps more worthwhile, in that it provides much more technical information about the film. It is still pretty dry in my book however. Subtitles are available.

The Making of Pitch Black

    As on the previous release, this is an insultingly short EPK piece that is very misleadingly titled. It is really basically an extended trailer running for 4:45. It is presented at 1.33:1 with letterboxed inserts and a Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack encoded at 192 kbps.

Dark Fury: Advancing the Arc

    A brief look behind the scenes of the Anime release meant to link Pitch Black to the second film. Running for only 1:31, it allows us to meet the animators and is presented at 1.33:1 with letterboxed Anime inserts and a Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack encoded at 192 kbps.

Trailers

    The following trailers are offered:

The Chronicles of Riddick website

    A weblink.

The Chronicles of Riddick Visual Encyclopaedia

    A collection of four short excerpts from Pitch Black, with a voiceover by Cole Hauser running for 2:19 in total. Presented at 1.33:1 with a Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack encoded at 192 kbps. This appears to be a taster of a more comprehensive version which will appear on the DVD of the new film.

A View Into The Dark

    A brief retrospective of Pitch Black from cast and crew, running for 4:08 and explaining why there needs to be a new film to continue the story. Presented at 1.33:1 with letterboxed inserts from both films, and with a Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack encoded at 192 kbps.

Censorship

    There is censorship information available for this title. Click here to read it (a new window will open). WARNING: Often these entries contain MAJOR plot spoilers.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    The Region 1 release of this Special Edition appears to be the same as our own in the extras department. As with the previous Region 1 release, the significant additional features appear to be:

    Compared to the previous Region 4 Collector's Edition this release misses out on the following extra feature:

    It looks like either version of the Special Edition would suffice - the trade off being a dts track versus the superior PAL image quality. I'd call this one a draw - choose whichever version better suits your needs.

Summary

    Pitch Black remains a solid sci-fi horror flick which introduces us to the character of convict Richard B. Riddick. It presents a scary journey through a desert planet infested with nocturnal aliens with a taste for human flesh. Pitch Black: Special Edition is not terribly special after all. It appears that the film is identical to the previous Collector's Edition and the only changes are to some of the extras. The extras are not substantially better than the previous release - consisting of trivially short promotional material in the main. If you do not already own a version of the film, and you are a fan then this release has a marginal edge over the previous version. If you do already own the Collector's Edition, I'd suggest you save your money this time around.

    The video transfer is very good.

    The audio transfer is excellent.

    Extras include the two previously included commentary tracks and several lightweight bits of fluff.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Daniel O'Donoghue (You think my bio is funny? Funny how?)
Thursday, July 29, 2004
Review Equipment
DVDMomitsu V880 upconverting DVI player, using DVI output
DisplaySanyo PLV-Z2 WXGA projector. Calibrated with Video Essentials/Digital Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 720p.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials/Digital Video Essentials.
AmplificationOnkyo TX-SR600 with DD-EX and DTS-ES
SpeakersJensenSPX-9 fronts, Jensen SPX-13 Centre, Jensen SPX-5 surrounds, Jensen SPX-17 subwoofer

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Comments (Add)
How is this version better than the previous version? - Submariner REPLY POSTED
R1 has 3 minutes of extra footage,anything interesting? - Alan REPLY POSTED
Extra footage on R1 - Johnny Wadd (i am bionic) REPLY POSTED
The missing "Into Pitch Black" featurette - Neil REPLY POSTED
Not bothering with this - damndirtyape182 (You want a Bio, I'll give you a Bio.) REPLY POSTED
Universally crap review discs... - Charlie & Tex, UK REPLY POSTED
What!? - Anonymous REPLY POSTED
DVD-ROM Weblink - Anonymous
'Special Edition' - Pantha