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Face-Off: Pitch Black vs. The Chronicles of Riddick

Last week's Face-Off featured two cool movie characters battling it out: Frank Bullitt from BULLITT vs. The Driver from DRIVE . Frank won the battle but very few votes were counted as many responded with outrage at the fact that Steve McQueen lost to Ryan Gosling and DRIVE beat out BULLITT when in fact the article said nothing of the sort. Therefore, votes for the actors and movies involved were not counted. In any case, congrats to Frank Bullitt for the win!

With the release of RIDDICK this Friday, our Face-Off this week involves the first two installments of Vin Diesel’s ‘Riddick’ franchise, 2000’s PITCH BLACK and 2004‘s THE CHRONICLES OF RIDDICK . None of the films feature Paul Walker and I haven’t made up my mind yet if that’s a good thing or a bad thing.

Box Office
Vin Diesel was hardly a household name when PITCH BLACK was released in early 2000. He had appeared in a small supporting role in SAVING PRIVATE RYAN (1998) and provided his vocal talents for the outstanding THE IRON GIANT (1999). So it isn’t a surprise that PITCH BLACK earned a measly $39.2 million domestically for a grand total of $53 million worldwide. What it did do was prove that Vinnie can carry a movie, possibly support a franchise and sealed his destiny with that of Paul Walker’s forever.
Do you want to know why the third part of this franchise, RIDDICK, is being released tomorrow? It’s because THE CHRONICLES OF RIDDICK banked $115.7 million worldwide doubling what PITCH BLACK had earned across the globe. The budget was also close to five times of what PITCH BLACK spent so although the sequel scored more bucks, it didn’t seem to make nearly as much profit as the first movie. One movie made more money and yet the other one was more profitable. This one smells like a tie.
Plot
A spaceship full or travellers crash lands on a remote planet with three suns and bloodthirsty flying creatures that dig it when things go pitch black. Now this small group of survivors have to put their trust into convicted space criminal Richard B. Riddick (Diesel) to bail them out! But is he an antihero or just a bald jerk with shiny eyes and swimming goggles?

The script to PITCH BLACK is simple and to the point like I want my cheesy horror/sci-fi movies to be. The characters get bloodily picked off little by little like in most horror flicks but the story itself is above average compared to similar movies and you actually end up caring about the big lug with the messed up eyes. In the end, it’s simple and fun enough for me to munch on nachos noisily and not miss anything crucial but not so dumb as to keep me from admitting this is a guilty pleasure to people I know.
Five years have passed since PITCH BLACK and that rascal Richard B. Riddick still has a space bounty on his bald head, is still cracking one-liners and has yet to go see a good optometrist. This time, instead of having to fight off flying monsters on a barren planet to save some pissy passengers, Riddick has to fend off a massive annihilation from an empire of metal-headed soul-stealing goons called the Necromongers who are aiming to rule the universe. Yep, bigger budget means more plot everybody!

Twenty minutes in and I was already confused by the names of all the planets. THE CHRONICLES OF RIDDICK tries very hard to make everything bigger and better while giving us some back story into Riddick’s past. Riddick is now kicking arse on an epic galactic adventure instead of the more intimate fights that we witnessed in the first movie. As a result, the charm and horror element of PITCH BLACK is sacrificed for more explosions and bombastic mumbo-jumbo talk from the Necromangers. If the plot had just revolved around Riddick’s prison incarceration and subsequent escape it would have been a whole lot better. PITCH BLACK’s storyline, although much less complex is better suited for Riddick’s character.
Sexy in Space
The fact of the matter is, in movies like this sometimes you need some sexy to keep you entertained between the FX and the bodies getting torn apart and eaten. PITCH BLACK delivers the sexy for the boys with director David Twohy’s consistent focus on the very attractive Radha Mitchell’s derriere and the girls are happy with Cole Hauser’s jaw, Keith David’s always sexy voice and those tanks that Vin Diesel calls his arms. No nudity in this installment so if Dame Judi Dench shows some bare ass in THE CHRONICLES OF RIDDICK, it may just run away with this category.
Thandie Newton is very easy on the eyes and that tight dress she was wearing in this movie made her look even sexier but it’s important to note that her screen time was limited. Also, Twohy didn’t perv on Thandie with his camera the way he did on Radha Mitchell so PITCH BLACK wins the battle for sexiest female.

As for the males, Diesel’s arms are still at their best, David’s voice hasn’t lost a beat but Colm Feore is no Cole Hauser and he knows it. If Paul Walker was cast as the bad guy instead, things may have turned out differently but as is stands PITCH BLACK is the sexier movie.
FX
Much like its plot, the special effects were minimal and effective. The flying creatures were often shown lurking in the dark and as a result looked kind of real and creepy. Besides that, the rest of the effects revolved mostly around the lighting and the weird shapes and colors Riddick sees with his special damaged eyes. The effects did not get in the way in this movie and that is really all an audience can ask for.
Some of the special effects in this movie looked really good but unfortunately just as many of them looked really phony and felt distracting (the rail chase scene in the prison caves especially). Too much obvious green screen and CGI work hurt the movie more than it helped it and it ended up making the first installment look much, much better.
Pitch Black
There is no denying the character of Riddick has some charm, humor and muscles to spare so it’s no surprise he is still traveling the universe and movie screens in his third film already. As for his first two films, my final word on that is that THE CHRONICLES OF RIDDICK is definitely bigger, some may even say better, but is it as fun and as re-watchable as PITCH BLACK? Hell, no!

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