Thursday, August 1, 2013

The Black Hole (review) 70's Sci-Fi Week

One of the most beautiful theatrical posters out there.

Alright, it's Thursday and 70's Sci-Fi week is already half over (you better believe I'm going into the weekend), so I thought it was time for me to review what I consider the most visually stunning of all the films I chose for the week (Saturday's movie is also "visually stunning" but in a totally different way). Since The Black Hole also has the latest release of the chosen movies it sort of makes sense that it's the prettiest, but some of the beauty comes simply from great angles and other technology that was available for the others. This is also without a doubt the campiest (although definitely not the weirdest) of the movies, which I guess makes sense since they seem to have spent more of their money in the art department than anywhere else.

On their way home from a long space voyage, the crew of the USS Palomino (including none other than the one and only Anthony Perkins) encounters another ship, the USS Cygnus, stationed just outside a black hole, mysteriously defying its gravitational pull. As they approach, they discover an anti-gravity bubble around the ship and (after needlessly leaving the bubble) decide to dock with the ship (I mean honestly, what else were they going to do?). Eventually the Palomino crew meets Dr. Hans Reinhardt, a brilliant scientist and the only apparent survivor of the original Cygnus crew. Reinhardt now runs the ship using humanoid drones which manage all of the tasks aboard the ship while he studies the black hole.

Reinhardt informs the crew of what happened to the rest of his crewmembers: they all went home with the exception of one McCrae (the father of Kate McCrae of the Palomino who died on the ship) and Reinhardt himself. This story is pretty suspicious, however, since part of the Palomino's mission was to look for survivors of the Cygnus which obviously implies that no (or not all) survivors ever made it back to Earth. The Palomino crew begins to further suspect Reinhardt's story when they begin to witness his drones exhibit more and more human-like behaviors, including a drone-only funeral and a drone with a limp.

Iconic scene is iconic.

It's no wonder the beautiful Tron: Legacypays homage to The Black Hole: while the one might not be directly indebted to the other, The Black Hole is a dazzling sci-fi adventure which undoubtedly exerts a strong influence on the genre. The picture above is of the interior observation deck of the Cygnus, but the ship is just as awesome on the outside. Here are two different angles of the ship from the movie itself and then here is some epic concept art. Also pretty cool looking is the deck of the Palomino as well as the faces of the drones, although in a slightly simpler way than the Cygnus. Finally, there's a meteor storm that, while occasionally looking pretty fake and silly, at one point causes this magnificent, destructive scene (somewhat reminiscent of Raiders of the Lost Ark?).

While The Black Hole is occasionally a visual feast, it is also equal parts delicious campy delight. V.I.N.CENT, the robotic member of the Palomino crew (and definitely not a childish, floating, red R2-D2 clone) definitely takes the cake in this regard (sorry, I'll stop with the food metaphors now). The majority of his lines are made up of famous quotes or quotes from famous people, and the attempt at gravity (space pun! okay seriously I'm done) is pretty laughable. Then there's Kate McCrae and her unexplained powers of extrasensory perception which, strangely, only really allow her to communicate with V.I.N.CENT (Reinhardt acts as if having ESP is the most natural thing in the galaxy of course). Finally, there's the dialogue in general, which is full of all the absurdity and cheesiness I've come to associate with and expect from both old and new sci-fi. Gotta love it. I mean really, you have to love it or you're not going to like the movie.

The Black Hole's vision of Hell... maybe.

So, The Black Hole pulls a major 2001: A Space Odyssey move towards the end. The anti-gravity fields protecting the Cygnus are destroyed and the surviving crew are sucked into the black hole aboard a probe vessel. What follows is a somewhat surreal scene which at first simply involves some basic special effects and a whole lot of low frame rate sequences. Then with some wonderfully bad green screening we see Reinhardt and his android bodyguard thing become one (Reinhardt's eyes peer through the visor on the robot's head after what is definitely not a sex scene) and stand on a mountain top overlooking what must be the movie's vision of Hell with the Cygnus crewmembers below him. Finally a mystery woman floats down a gleaming hallway toward what I can only describe as pearly gates and the probe vessel pops out the other end of the black hole pointing at a new planet. I'm not into doing religious interpretations of film, but this sequence is undoubtedly pretty cool.

So finally we have the obligatory paragraph where I take the silly movie seriously. While most of The Black Hole is sci-fi entertainment pure and simple, there is one message the movie seems to stand by: don't disobey your orders. Anthony Perkins wants to go with Reinhardt on his mission to investigate the black hole, and somehow that's bad simply because Reinhardt is a psychotic raving lunatic. I mean, come on! New scientific discoveries and all that! You can't make an omelet without breaking some eggs? Alright, I'm done. Thank you for putting up with me in this exceptionally silly review.





*Check out my geek-out article looking at both the original Tron and Tron: Legacy if you like.

2 comments:

  1. Sounds like a very trippy movie. Another one I haven't seen. Heard there was a remake on the way. Is the dialogue science-heavy at certain points? Like, is the black hole threatening to give the crew psychotic episodes in some way?

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  2. I heard about the remake as well which I think could be pretty fun. I didn't feel like the dialogue was science-heavy at all, and where it does talk about the black hole & stuff it's all pseudo-science from what I understand. The movie is basically an action flick without an overabundance of substantial themes or whatever. Pretty fun but not very deep.

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