Thursday, January 22, 2015

That Blackish, Holish Thing

In 1979, two years after Star Wars and the same year that Star Trek: The Motion Picture and Alien were released, Disney made its bid to become something other than a "kid" studio with the release of the PG rated, adult-themed science fiction movie, The Black Hole. I was 14 years old when I saw it in the theater. I had some problems with it.

I've seen it once or twice since then but it's been years. I remember liking the music a lot and the general atmosphere so I've been wanting to see it. Tonight I watched it.

For its time, some of the effects are pretty good. The beginning of the film contains some nice weightless scenes, the stylish blue tint to star-filled space is unusual, and the black hole itself is a whirling funnel of color. The mysterious spaceship found by our heroes, inexplicably sitting placidly by the black hole, the Cygnus, is a great interior lit model, and the sets, while ridiculously impractical for a spaceship, are cavernous and interesting. I still liked the atmosphere of the film a lot.

As for the music, I love the main theme by John Barry, the man responsible for James Bond's signature theme, but the "heroic" action-adventure music is cliched and awful. That same music is used in the film's overture, a touch I didn't remember, and it reminded me that Star Trek: The Motion Picture also had an overture. They were among the last two films to do it.

The movie itself is pretty short, without too many surprises and some really dumb mistakes and plot points. Early on, the female lead, Dr. McCrae, says that the Cygnus's mission was to find "habitable life" rather than habitable planets. And I knew I was in trouble when early on the Captain asks Dr. McCrae to contact their robot, VINCENT, with her ESP. Oy. The heroes mostly seem unimpressed with Dr. Reinhardt's incredible discoveries and are weirdly paranoid from the moment they meet him. The cool villain robot, Maximilian, for reasons never explained, doesn't follow the orders of his creator, and at one point Dr. Reinhardt inexplicably asks Dr. McCrae to protect him from his own robot.

Then of course there's the ridiculous translucent orange meteors and the crew walking out on the surface of the ship (in space!) and not dying.

So not too much improvement over my earlier memories. I do love the look of most of the film and the spooky atmosphere. But much of the rest of the movie is a mess.


Eric Haas said...

Disney is working on a re-make.

Ipecac said...

Hopefully they'll do a better job. Unfortunately, they'll lose that cool seventies sci-fi vibe that even cheesy movies had.

ahtitan said...

When I was a lad, I loved this movie. I had the Fotonovel, and made a little comic book starring the robots.