Seeing as how it’s February and not the fall, sometimes you have to bypass originality for just competence. Believe me, at this time of year, that’s a lot to ask for at the multiplex.
David Twohy, while having his name attached as screenwriter to such films as “The Fugitive” and “G.I. Jane”, has generally carried his career as a writer and director as an attempt to be the next Roger Corman. As Corman never tried to make art, only entertainment, God bless him.
As the movie opens, we see a spaceship with cryogenically frozen passengers and crew bombarded by a meteor storm. Small rocks shoot like bullets through the ship and kill the captain in the first wave. An abruptly woken first officer and pilot are forced to crash-land the ship on an unknown planet below. Most everyone dies sometime before the ship comes to a halt, including that first officer. The young, inexperienced pilot (Rahda Mitchell) is now in charge of a motley group of survivors that resemble the cast of “The Poseidon Adventure” more than anything else. However, in place of Shelley Winters and Jack Albertson we have escaped convict Riddick (the currently ubiquitous Vin Diesel) and his keeper, bounty hunter Johns (Cole Hauser). Riddick escapes during the crash, but he’s probably the least of our castaways’ problems as they discover an old mining settlement and the 20-year-old remains of its occupants. While the planet’s system has three suns to perpetuate daylight around the clock, night may be falling soon as herald to the planet’s dominant lifeform.
Derivative? HELL, YEAH! You can immediately spot homages to (or rip-offs of) “Alien”, “Aliens”, “The Poseidon Adventure”, and maybe “Gilligan’s Island”. Diesel is dressed in an ensemble from the fall “Matrix” collection, which may have not been the most sensible or realistic of choices. Still, I had fun. Part of the enjoyment of a film of this ilk is finding a diverse band of silly white folks in a place where they don’t belong and watching them get picked off. You get bonus points for taking out children. The final group of survivors are not the most obvious depending on your rules, so it holds interest.
Hey man, it’s February. You’ve already picked through all the leftover Oscar-bait you can take, so it’s no time to be picky. Some days I’m just not looking for enlightenment. Some days its 3pm, I’m still hung over, and I just want to watch cheesy science fiction movies and watch stuff blow up. On those days, “Supernova” still can’t cut it, but “Pitch Black” can.