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Why Pitch Black Is Still the Ultimate Vin Diesel Lone-Wolf Movie

Right from the start, Richard B. Riddick was his own sci-fi hero… and absolutely nobody else’s.

By Benjamin Bullard
Riddick (Vin Diesel)'s eyes glow white in the dark in Pitch Black (2000).

If you’re on the sci-fi hunt for the definitive stoic movie hero, it’s Richard B. Riddick or bust. Through three fan-favorite films (plus a fourth on the way), Vin Diesel’s all-original space convict is most assuredly his own man and no one else's.

Pitch Black (streaming here on Peacock) is the 2000 Riddick film that started them all, and given what we’ve learned about Diesel’s sensitive-sighted tough guy since then, it’s the movie that really explains his antihero’s journey the best. That’s not to say it’s necessarily the best Riddick movie, mind you. If you’re into this kind of stuff, they’re all pretty great — and yes, that even includes the fan-panned middle film, The Chronicles of Riddick, that waded deep into unfamiliar (and character-crowded) lore territory.

For More on Riddick:
Can You Really Shine Your Eyes? The Science Behind Pitch Black and Night Vision
Making Sense of Vin Diesel's Sci-Fi Epic: The Riddick Timeline Explained
Watch: Vin Diesel's 5-Second Kill in Riddick is Still One of the Wildest Sci-Fi Movie Kills Ever

How Vin Diesel set Riddick's solo tone in Pitch Black

There’s a case to be made that the most recent franchise flick, 2013’s Riddick, puts Diesel’s namesake character in his most isolated and solo sticky situation to date. Stranded on a desert planet with a super-good space doggo as his only real friend, the fightin’ Furyan has to lean on his wits to dodge two sparring factions who arrive to pursue him (each for their own very different reasons).

Fans and critics alike hailed Riddick as a welcome return to the tone-setting form that 2000’s Pitch Black first established. Why? Riddick’s key tonal shift — the one that set fans’ hearts at ease after The Chronicles of Riddick’s odd swerve in direction — was to put him right back at square one as the same kind of lone-wolf, one-man space show that he first embarked on in Pitch Black.

But Riddick only closed the circle that Pitch Black opened in the first place. Riddick’s a great sci-fi movie, which never loses sight of its main hero’s moral code (not to mention his surprisingly complex and even kind-hearted motivations). Yet a full 13 years before Riddick arrived, all the signature hallmarks that defined Diesel’s character were all on display in Pitch Black.

Pitch Black’s story setup is perfect for introducing a character like Diesel’s. He’s the wild card amid tragic and unplanned circumstances, a captured convict who’s cut loose by disaster when the spacecraft transporting Riddick and a motley collection of law-abiding passengers crashes on a hostile (and also desert) planet. Everyone who survived the crash knows of Riddick’s dangerous reputation, from Keith David’s “Holy Man” Imam character, to Claudia Black’s space settler Shazza, to quirky antiques dealer Paris P. Ogilvie (Lewis Fitz-Gerald).

Vin Diesel in Pitch Black (2000)

With Riddick and his reputation running free in a strange and alien land, there’s high anxiety among the rest of Pitch Black's crash survivors about how his reputed criminal tendencies might manifest themselves on an uncivilized rock where the fauna is fierce and there’s nary an assuring law enforcement presence to be found.

But that’s just the ideal scenario for Diesel’s hero to truly come into his own, ably snatching innocents from the hungry jaws of certain death while deploying his calm and cool people skills (which, in our opinion, are pretty underrated). Heck, Riddick even manages to suss out the real villains who’ve been hiding in plain sight — you know, those especially snaky sort of two-faced hypocrites (like bounty hunter William J. Johns, played by Cole Hauser) who get by in society by masquerading as upstanding good guys.

Though he befriends the Imam and a few good-hearted stragglers along the way (including Rhiana Griffith's recurring franchise sidekick, Jack, plus a crash pilot played by Radha Mitchell), Riddick remains a completely solo act throughout Pitch Black, calling every single one of his own shots. It’s such a definitive character trait that Diesel and director David Twohy decided to exaggerate it when crafting a new story for Riddick, with the 2013 sequel featuring some epically wicked action scenes where Riddick literally tells everyone beforehand how his escape plan is about to play out.

If you’re a newcomer to a character like Riddick, the bottom line is that you might as well start at the beginning. Pitch Black marks the start of the larger Riddick franchise, which has twisted the timeline (while collecting a well-earned fandom) through three feature films, a handful of video games, and a smattering of other spinoff media since the first film took flight in 2000. Nearly a quarter century after his inauspicious beginnings, it’s the movie that’ll tell you everything you need to know about what drives a guy to keep society at arm’s length — even in the freedom and vastness of sci-fi space.

Stream Pitch Black on Peacock here, as well as sequels The Chronicles of Riddick here and Riddick here.