The scenario of a group of crash-landed humans battling for survival on an
inhospitable, monster-infested planet is hardly new - but this tremendous,
pulse-pounding film shatters audience expectations and rewrites genre
conventions at every turn.
With its unusual protagonists, hair-raising shocks and ingenious visual
techniques (the first half is bathed in blinding brightness, the second is
smothered by total darkness), this is the Seven of creature features.
A mortally-wounded spacecraft carrying an eclectic bunch of passengers is
forced to land on an arid desert world, lit by the scorching rays of three
suns. Initially, there are two major hurdles facing resourceful docking
pilot Fry (Mitchell) and the other survivors: finding the necessary
equipment to fix the ship amongst the seemingly abandoned scientific
settlement and figuring out how to deal with Riddick (Diesel), a
gravel-voiced, heavily-muscled convicted murderer, physically equipped to
both see in the dark and snap your neck as if it were a matchstick.
But there's a hell of a lot worse to come. When one of them heads off to
explore and never returns, the finger naturally points at the psychotic
Riddick. However, when Fry retraces the missing man's steps to an
underground cavern, she realises the purpose for that mysterious bone
graveyard they encountered. Carnivorous, light-sensitive aliens live in the
bowls of the plant, only venturing out for food when an eclipse occurs. And
there's one due very, very soon...
Shot in Coober Pedy, Australia (earlier used in Mad Max, for which both
films share cinematographer David Eggby), the Hollywood-size budget allows
for an incredibly effective bleach-bypass process that intensifies the
brightness, excellent production values and tremendous CGI work. But the
lack of major star names, off-kilter characterisations, unpredictable
plotting and jet black humour are more akin to a free-spirited Indie
Mitchell is a feisty heroine in the Ripley mould, and the rest of the cast
do their job well. But they are overshadowed by Diesel's sensational,
amusingly macho performance. He's got the pumped-up physique of Arnie,
Jean-Claude or Sly, but there's more to his magnetic screen presence than
impressive biceps. He's a major star-to-be.
Twohy pushes all the right buttons, slowly reeling in his audience in the
first hour, with an ever-tightening grip on the uneasy, otherworldly
ambience and the survivor's increasing awareness of the danger they are in.
By the time the sun sets (beautifully realised on screen), nerves are
practically shredded and as the cast wander from one nightmare situation to
the next, your heart rate has accelerated to a three-figure rate, matching
the thumping percussion of Graeme Revell's stimulating score.