In the dark

Movie: Pitch Black

Our Rating: 1.50

tThe coming of "Pitch Black" raised hopes that a science-fiction movie was finally going to use of all those special effects that are now at filmmakers' disposal to truly knock our socks off. Alas, our socks are still on.

This flick knows the sci-fi/horror formula but not much else. From its washed-out, constantly hazy visuals to the sick-making motion of some of the scenes, director/co-writer David Twohy's "Pitch Black" is a metal-plated cliché with plenty of neat props and a few compelling moments that make you wish its plot and acting were better. A cross of sorts between "Alien" and "Gremlins," its story is predictable and less than compelling.

A space vessel crashes on a barren planet. Its human cargo includes the unconvincing, cute-yet-hard-edged Captain Fry (Radha Mitchell); Riddick (Vin Diesel), a sometimes-interesting violent convict; Johns (Cole Hauser), a morphine-addicted mercenary; and a few less notable passengers. Captain Fry almost dumps them as extra baggage just before the big crash. And we might not have missed them.

The group's experience on the planet, which has three suns, is mostly a struggle for survival. When night falls due to a rare eclipse, a frustrating chase begins, the acting gets worse and the bleached-out images on the screen begin to resemble a "B" flick by flashlight. We sit there guessing who'll be picked off next by octopus bats from hell, and most of the time we're right.

It's hard to feel anything about the one-dimensional characters in this movie, mostly due to their uninteresting or inconsistent personalities. After trying to kill most of her passengers in their cryonic sleep chambers, Fry ends up in a moral dilemma about sacrificing her own life to save someone else. I don't know, maybe running from space beasts with a taste for human blood changes a person.

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