Movie Time: The Black Hole
I watched The Black Hole yesterday. It's been on my "I should get around to doing this" off an on for over a decade now, and then last month I found a VHS copy at Goodwill and ran out of excuses.
Before watching the movie my only knowledge of the film was that it was made by Disney, it came out a few years after Star Wars, and every once in a while Disney would trot out the cute lil robot V.I.N.CENT in the form of some sort of limited edition collectible. Case in point, the little V.I.N.CENT pin I got ages ago at Disney World.
(spoilers below for The Black Hole)
The Black Hole and The Black Cauldron have always gone hand-in-hand in my mind as these two oddball kinda-dark Disney movies that people just slightly older than me remember. I have no idea if I would have like this as a kid, especially as a kid that grew up with Star Wars. Would I have found the first half of the movie too talky? Would I have found the ending too bonkers? Would I have realized I'm attracted to Roddy McDowall's voice?
(I would figure that last one out eventually. I've had a longstanding crush on Cornelius from Planet of the Apes)
As an adult I can say I... didn't hate it? The movie's got a hell of a look, I could stare at the main bridge with its floor to ceiling computers all day. Maximillian Schell's kooky Dr Reinhardt is by far the best human in the cast. There's some fun special effects in here, especially the shot with the giant meteor barrelling down on them. And the intro! I love me a good flying space grid.
In the third act of the movie as all hell is breaking loose, the movie plays pretty fast and loose with its science. This is probably my biggest knock against the movie. Not in a Neil deGrasse Tyson pissy "um actually" tweet kinda way, but more in the sense that it made the threat of danger feel uneven. In one scene, meteors tear a hole into the room our heroes are in, and they run the risk of getting sucked out into space! But a few scenes later and the crew have found themselves clinging to the outside of the ship, in the middle of space, and the only threats seems to be that space is sorta windy. But not too windy. Outer space seems like a yellow flag kinda place. That one's for the Floridians out there.
I guess at this point I should talk about the ending. Our heroes and villains all go through the black hole. And I guess Reinhardt and his robot Maximillian (that's the name of the actor! Woah I just got that!) fuse together and rule their zombie cyborg abominations in the hell that is the middle of the black hole? Maybe this movie is pretty dark. I mean, it's the only Disney movie I can think of where a guy gets his guts completely destroyed by spinning blades and a cute robot says "the damage is irreversible, death is their only release". As for the heroes? They go through a... white glowing space cathedral corridor (complete with space angel) and escape the black hole unharmed! Hooray! Where are they now? Shrug! The end.
After watching the movie I was reading up on a proposed remake that was announced in 2009 and cancelled a handful of years later, which is a shame. The Black Hole deserves a decent remake, but I couldn't even begin to suggest who could take a crack at it. Actually, yes I could: The Black Hole feels like it would be right at home as a circa-2006 Doctor Who episode. I don't mean that as an insult.
The one final thing I'll say about The Black Hole was the inclusion of a couple of scenes where the Palomino crew are whisked away from one part of the Cygnus to the other on these little trams. It got me thinking a lot about how Space Mountain was built a few years before this movie was released, and how this tram ride is shot to look kind of rollercoaster-esque. I wonder if the head honchos at Disney planned on retheming Space Mountain if The Black Hole had really taken off at the box office. It wouldn't be too hard to change the ride: You're one of the intrepid explorers trying to escape the wreckage of the Cygnus and the titular black hole! Dodge meteors and Maximillian's lasers! The tunnel full of neon stars could be changed to the black hole interior hellscape! Of course, retheming Space Mountain to The Black Hole means we would lose a Disney attraction that isn't based on an already existing IP, and we need to protect those at all costs.