I'm all for it when movies want to get scientifically preposterous for the sake of the story. Faster-than-light travel? I'll buy it. Programmed liquid metal? I'm there. However, there are some basic scientific concepts that a film just cannot screw with, especially if it's made in 1979. However, the folks at Disney, who made The Black Hole were really skimpy on their research and logic, thus making a mockery of what could have been a fairly good film.
In the interest of fair play (and to show I'm not an Evil Reviewer), the movie does have several positive aspects. Most of the cast is top-notch, with such fine actors as Robert Forster, Anthony Perkins, Ernest Borgnine, and Maximillian Schell. Schell, in particular, is at his scenery chewing best. Also good is the voice of Roddy McDowall as V.I.N.CENT, though he, of course, only gets to talk.
The visuals of this film, both from the special effects department and the set design are fantastic. Well, okay, the SFX are a little dated, but this is the first movie to have computer generated effects (not on a computer screen). Leave it to Disney, home of Mickey Mouse, to set us up for the guns-blazin' cyber-reality of The Matrix.
The script (glaring inaccuracies to be dealt with later) is decent. It's certainly nothing to get excited about. The crew of the Palamino, on a mission to discover "inhabitable life" (I don't make this stuff up, kids), finds the supposedly lost U.S.S. Cygnus at the cusp of a black hole, unmoving. This is odd, of course, because a black hole would have sucked and crushed any ship that close. So, because we have to have a story, the Palamino sweeps by to check for inhabitants. Well, they get trapped by the massive nearby gravity effects, and start getting sucked in. They manage to escape, but not without severe damage to their ship. They are forced to dock with the Cygnus for repairs...only to find it crewed by robots, under the genius/madman control of one Dr. Hans Reinhardt. As it is usual with these films, danger is now lurking in every corner, and the brave crew of the Palamino must be wary.
Now, onto those niggling scientific problems. Gravity and vacuum, it seems, are the movies two main stumpers. During the Palamino's battle with the gravitonic forces of the black hole, little R2-D2 sized V.I.N.CENT goes out to repair something, attached by a sturdy line...now, the ship is having a hell of time pulling away, and this little guy is right up close to hull, having a breeze, as long as that line stays intact. Wait, what if the line breaks? No problem. V.I.N.CENT has a sturdy grappling hook, which is immensely more powerful than any fuddy-duddy black hole. Hey, if a crew member gets exposed to the vacuum of space, what happens? Nothing. Oh, but if they lose their inhumanly tight grip on the ship, they'll get caught by the black hole...unless V.I.N.CENT is there to save them. Hell, how did they market the little guy? "Buy a V.I.N.CENT today, and start defying the laws of physics!"
All in all, if you can ignore the scientific problems, The Black Hole turns out to be a fairly enjoyable sci-fi flick. However, those inaccuracies are pretty glaring. Then again, perhaps you're a bit more forgiving than I. This is just another one of those films on my list of reasons why Disney should stick to musicals and animated features.
Reviewed By: Nate Yapp
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