Pitch Black (**) – The good ole’ days of science fiction were a thing of beauty. Every once in a while a great film (Invasion of the Body Snatchers, Forbidden Planet, The Day the Earth Stood Still) would come out of the crop of crap. But even the films that were deemed as crap still hold a place in our heart, whether it was a favorite as a child or just a good laugh today at the expense of a bad movie. But when a film falls somewhere in between those parameters, it can be an unrewarding experience.Such is the case with Pitch Black, a sci-fi flick whose ads go to great lengths to tease us into seeing something extraordinary and for a while it engages our attention. We open with a well executed crash sequence that gets the film moving at a brisk pace. After apparently crashing on City Alpha Five from The Wrath of Khan, the sole survivors settle in to work on an escape plan. That is until they have to start a manhunt for Private Carparzo from Saving Private Ryan (Vin Diesel), who now plays a dangerous convict. This seems like enough plot for your average outer space adventure, but we know there are species more evil than prisoner Raddick. Or are they? What plays out could have amounted to moral dilemmas about who must live and die but the small time devoted to those questions feel more manufactured than genuine. But for the first hour we’re hooked, if for no other reason than expecting the onslaught of creatures plastered in the cool final shot of the trailers. There are even some great shock moments – two of which actually lifted me out of my seat. But just as the film seems set to kick into overdrive, an amazing thing happens. It slows down to a crawl and produces little to no suspense during the portion of the film when we should be reaching for the Depends. The kills in Pitch Black are even uneventful and boring. Even a mediocre science fiction picture has some quality kills in it. Here we’re subjected to attacks that come quick, leave little blood, and even less fun. The aliens here are a crossbreed between Alien, the bugs in Starship Troopers and your average vampire. They are cool to look at, but get shortchanged by getting even less to do than the actors do. Vin Diesel has a great presence on film and could probably play the Incredible Hulk if they ever decide to make that movie, and he’s about the only halfway interesting character as the prisoner. Everyone else is basically reduced to walking corpses whose character names are practically absent and barely memorable through the course of the running time.Pitch Black joins a small list of sci-fi films with a promising premise (Screamers, Hardware) and then drowns it in a rush of unoriginality and a color scheme that gives it an incredibly cheap look. There are moments when the audience must feel color blind as the cinematography strives for a Sleepy Hollow/Angela’s Ashes kind of bleakness and winds up looking more like a cheap sci-fi effort from the early 80s. Pitch Black could have been the first pleasant surprise of the new century instead of a mediocre effort not even worthy of the previous one.