Published at: Feb. 21, 2000, 2:47 p.m. CST by staff
It's amazing to me how so many critics see all science fiction films as being basically... the same movie. The world of science fiction is divided into 3 original films. 2001, STAR WARS and ALIEN according to these experts.
Of those three, only one is original. 2001 isn't another movie with special effects. It is... simply 2001. However, STAR WARS is extremely derivative of the BUCK ROGERS serial, which was in turn derivative of the FLASH GORDON chapter plays. ALIEN? Well, specifically it is monumentally derivative of IT! THE TERROR FROM BEYOND SPACE. But I doubt seriously if we'll ever see these critics say that the three science fiction films upon which all else is based are 2001, FLASH GORDON serials and IT! THE TERROR FROM BEYOND SPACE.
Alright, so what got me started on this little rant? Reading a round up of critics' thoughts upon PITCH BLACK (go to RottenTomatoes.Com for a look yourself) and found myself deluged with comparisons to everything from SILENCE OF THE LAMBS to THE LOST WORLD to ALIEN and so on and so forth. What is very funny to me is that basically... They are picking the wrong source material.
A lot of these critics are choosing ALIEN as the big hammer with which to beat PITCH BLACK as being derivative drivel. Well. I think they really mean ALIENS. But then, the social dynamic of the characters are completely different. And ALIENS owes quite a bit to a movie called THEY WERE EXPENDABLE. But while there are people that are ripped and half... there is no impregnating in this film and in ALIENS there was no eating of people. But mainly... the people stuck on the terrible planet were not just regular folks in ALIENS... they were MARINES. Battle hardened grunts trying to make it through a mission. ALIENS is a war movie and this has been well documented through numerous interviews with Cameron as well as thorough analysis of that film.
Now I'm not going to herald PITCH BLACK as a wholly original film. FAR FAR FAR FROM IT. In a very large part this film is a combination of STAGECOACH and a little film called FIVE CAME BACK. From STAGECOACH the only real theft would be the Johnny Ringo (John Wayne) character of the badass criminal that must transform when faced with something worse than himself. (George Clooney in FROM DUSK TILL DAWN) From FIVE CAME BACK... well that is where the whole dynamic for the crash victim/survival must get off the island feeling comes from. In FIVE CAME BACK there's a plane that has to be fixed in order to get the survivors off an island filled with head hunters and cannibals... and almost everyone dies.
"PITCH BLACK does not have an original bone it's picked clean carcass of a film body"
Hmmmm... Let's see... I guess you could take that opening crash as being from ALIVE or THE FUGITIVE. The creatures in the film must come from H.R. GIGER cross polinated with Harryhausen's Harpies. Vin Diesel's performance is not a Schwarzeneggar clone... but closer to a Kurt Russell Snake Plissken character. Radha is actually quite far away from being anything like Sigourney Weaver's Ripley. Ripley is one of those, when things get tough the tough get going type of characters. Radha's character is not a particulary strong character at all. She's a character that knows her limitations, that knows she needs some help. That can't go it on her own. And while it doesn't make her particulary strong as a character... I find her more interesting than a muscle strewn bad ass femme. I couldn't help but imagine that this was my little sister trying to survive.
Alright, so.. the film isn't ASSAULT ON PRECINCT 13 because they don't just stay in the ship. It's not WAIT UNTIL DARK, because... well it isn't. It's not BOYS DON'T CRY because it isn't. It's also not STAGECOACH or FIVE CAME BACK. It's not ALIVE or THE FUGITIVE or THE LOST WORLD or ALIEN or ALIENS or Hitchcock's THE BIRDS. It isn't THE TERMINATOR at any level. It's not LOST IN SPACE or MAD MAX. Though it does have aspects from each of those. Whereas say STAR WARS... you can point directly at THE HIDDEN FORTRESS and BUCK ROGERS and say... "See see... there it is!"
I hate this whole... what is original style of film criticism. Should the question be originality or entertainment? I mean... surely noone is going to sit around and claim that STAR WARS is the most original film ever. Or something as dynamically entertaining as RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK... which owes quite a bit to a little seen film starring Charlton Heston called SECRET OF THE INCAS (fedora, leather coat, gun and whip...archeologist/adventurer). Name your favorite films? And in just about every case, I can point to a prior story/film/play/song/cave painting that it was based upon. Personally, originality isn't quite all it's cracked up to be. Now... before you start screaming that I'm an advocate for redundancy, let me say that... I would love some wholly original films. Things that I have not seen or even heard of before.
Original thought is such an incredibly stupid blunt tool to beat down modern tales. Shakespeare was widely known as being a hack translator of ancient greek texts with which he would merely adapt the language. Ewwww... ouch... wait a minute... THOU SHALL NOT ATTACK SHAKESPEARE!
PITCH BLACK is a dime store novel. It isn't THE JUNGLE.... it isn't ONE HUNDRED YEARS OF SOLITUDE.... and it isn't THE GRAPES OF WRATH or THE INVISIBLE MAN (either novel titled that). It's a cheap entertaining read for a train ride. It is a distractionary tale to keep your mind off of an hour and a half of life. And ya know what? I happen to think it's a lot of fun.
Attack the acting... attack the pacing.... attack the use of camera filters if ya must. But stop yapping about how this was done before. Just about everything... except for 2001... has been done before. Live with it. And ya know what... the arguement that it's been done before... well... that's been done before as well. In fact the arguement that you should stop arguing about it being done before because it's been done before... Well... that's been done before as well. And ya know? Ahhh... forget it. What's the point. It's been done before.
As for me... I'm gonna see PITCH BLACK a couple of more times... just as I've done before...