Into Pitch Black is a tie-in to the original film, an hour long special that was originally broadcast on the Syfy channel. They’ve done this kind of thing before, most notably with the Blair Witch Project, though this seems to have aged a little better. It helps a great deal that the world Riddick exists in is so vaguely defined, it allows them greater leeway in creating a sidequel.
Using a smattering of scenes from Pitch Black, we are given an overview of the film through the eyes of a contractor hiring a mercenary to find Riddick. Interspersed through the narrative are interviews with Riddick’s psychologist in prison as well as the prisoner who altered Riddick’s eyes. There’s a lot of digital overlay, computer screens and graphics to give it more of a documentary look when we’re not in the thick of the narrative. All of that actually gives it a great deal more atmosphere, and it needs it!
The narrative component of this film looks cheap. I’m sure that’s because it was cheap, filmed on standing sets that were decorated with whatever clutter and junk was laying around. Leather coats, sunglasses and tank tops make up for the costumes, and the performances have all the skill and charm of a crime recreation on America’s Most Wanted. It’s slow and it drags, and at times it seems like it doesn’t know if it wants to be an adventure or a documentary. A straight documentary may have worked better, with screen static and quick cuts to hide the obviously low production values.
I recall this being either a special feature on a DVD or sold as a cheap oh VHS at Best Buy back in the day. These days you can find the entire thing up on YouTube and it’s really only worth watching as a curiosity.
In many ways I think I’m the target audience for it. People who might have heard something about this, but arn’t really familiar with it. I tried an issue or two of the comic when Bendis rebooted it a couple years ago, but nothing really grabbed me. I like the idea of the talking raccoon (a smart mouth funny animal character is one of my elements for a perfect sitcom formula) and I like Sci-Fi, but had nothing invested here.
There’s a million reviews for Guardians. There’s nothing I can add to those really. I took my kids, Lydia’s favorite character was Groot – mostly because he spends the entire movie saying nothing but “I am Groot”. And Maddie loved Rocket. Yeah, nothing new here.
What I want to explore is why this movie is important.
I like this because it’s sci-Fi without being SyFy. It’s not Star Trek or Star Wars. It’s not the gritty or nilistic attitude that we’ve seen in Sci-Fi for the last ten years or so (thanks for nothing Battlestar Galactica). It’s not Gravity or Edge of Tomorrow. It’s fun. It doesn’t take itself to seriously while still going all in to the genre – and this is where you can see Gunn’s Troma roots. Say what you will about Troma, (and I hate ’em) but it’s one of the last places you can go in as nothing and truly advance by merit. You can start off as a PA or a grip and end up a script supervisor or editor. That’s not an exaggeration, Joe Lynch did JUST that on Terror Firmer. It’s like New York, if you can make it there, you can make it anywhere. Much like Roger Cormans studio, Troma is actually forging a generation of professionals despite (or perhaps because of ) working on drek. Gunn knows where to be serious and where to go completely zany, and if he can make you tear up at the image of a raccoon staring down at the charred branches of a tree – that’s something worth noting. This is original. Like nothing else in film today, because they remembered this is supposed to be a good time. They remembered that they cans still make you feel, when you’re having fun, it doesn’t need to be bleak and heavy to get that reaction.
It’s also a game changer.
There has been much written in reviews of how the Marvel brand is a proven one. Sure it is. But only with Superheroes.
Thor was a Sci-Fi movie, but with Superheros. So was Iron Man. And even though they were second stringers at the time (remember in the 90 and early 2000’s if it wasn’t an X-book or Spider book it was back bench), they were recognizable enough. Guardians is pure Sci-Fi. A shrew eye can catch the comic book dynamic – charismatic leader, sexy girl, smart mouth, a warrior, and a tank. Even so, it’s very Sci-Fi, with more in common with Firefly than the Avengers. It’s proof Marvel can do other things. What could happen next? Marvel Horror? Marvel Mystery? We’re getting a very Crime based set of shows hitting Netflix and it’s obvious Marvel want’s it’s brand to encompass more than just superheros. Guardians is the proof it can do so, and may be the key to surviving when the market gets oversaturated with superhero movies and the bubble inevitably breaks.
It’ll be interesting to see where we go from here.
Over at Violent Blue by the way, Steve took Jen to see the movie. We’ll be exploring their relationship against the backdrop of the film all week. Check it out here!