The Cinema Behind Star Wars: Pitch Black

While Star Wars Rebels has been on the air a few months now, it’s largely taken its inspirations from other works from the Lucasfilm pantheon like Indiana Jones and Star Wars itself, but the episode “Out of Darkness” gave us a brilliant homage to the 2000 science fiction film Pitch Black, directed by David Twohy.

Pitch Black tells the story of the passengers and crew of a commercial transport marooned on a mysteriously abandoned planet. The film highlights each of the people on the ship as they try to keep their secrets and survive on a planet where nocturnal creatures reign supreme. To make matters worse, they discover that their time is running out before the planet is consumed by a month-long eclipse.

“Out of Darkness” sees Hera and Sabine marooned on a base, long abandoned by Republic forces. They were there to pick up supplies provided to them by the mysterious “Fulcrum,” but their ship is in a state of disrepair, thanks to mistakes made by Zeb and Ezra. As passing asteroids cause miniature eclipses, they discover that the base was most likely abandoned due to the vicious creatures called fyrnocks. These beasts come out in the dark and are hungry for the crew of the Ghost.

The creatures both in the movie and the episode of Rebels seem to operate under much the same rules. The light of the local sun is damaging to them, and they await the night to hunt their prey. Unfortunately for us, the prey in question is our heroes.

Adventurous survival horror is a tone that’s no stranger to the world of Star Wars, many episodes of Star Wars: The Clone Wars repeated the genre formula. In the last column, we discussed it at length with movies from the Alien series. But this is the first time we’ve seen this happen on Rebels, and it’s a mode of storytelling that works remarkably well here.

For fans of Pitch Black, the episode offers a condensed version of the story, stripping out many of the twists and turns in favor of a tightly packed adventure. You’ll find no convicts like the film’s anti-hero Riddick (Vin Diesel) here, but you will find characters revealing small pieces of their own secrets as the struggle to survive brings characters together in unlikely ways. This episode certainly gave us a surprising window into Sabine’s character, something we hadn’t previously seen.

Anyone looking to watch Pitch Black and “Out of Darkness” back to back with their kids would be well-warned that the film is definitely rated R for sci-fi violence and gore, as well as for language. It is definitely not appropriate for younger viewers, but is decidedly on the list for me to view with my 12-year old. It’s really up to what your particular kid can handle. The episode might just be a good tease for the premise of the film until they’re older.

As an aside, the creatures featured on this episode of Rebels, the fyrnocks, were named to resemble mynocks, which were creatures we saw in The Empire Strikes Back. It’s a bit of inspiration for the classic films and it leads us to assume they might well be of the same family of monster.

“Out of Darkness” also drew quite a bit of inspiration from The Clone Wars. Hera and Sabine are left to use containers of Rhydonium to beat back the advancing swarms of fyrnocks, which are the same tools used by trooper Gregor when he defends the landing pad to cover D-Squad’s escape from Abafar.

All in all, it proves that Star Wars draws inspiration from every direction, even itself.

Bryan Young is an author, a filmmakerjournalist, and the editor in chief of BigShinyRobot.com! He’s also the co-host of the Star Wars podcast, Full of Sith.

You can also follow him on Twitter.

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