It's no secret that we're into sci-fi and fantasy here at WhatNerd. It's also no secret that we love anything retro or retro-inspired.
So you can imagine my delight when I got the green light to watch 1979's Black Hole—a sci-fi thriller where the crew of the USS Palomino discover that Dr. Reinhardt and his space-faring army of cyborgs plan to explore a literal black hole. Like, dive through it. Head first.
This is the B-movie stuff I live for.
This film was genuinely enjoyable in the best sort of way. I went in expecting cheesy plots, villains waxing poetic about the nature of man, and cosmic phenomena. I got all of the above in spades.
Once you get past the first two minutes of black screen (used for the score), the film's intro becomes really dynamic. A CGI grid folds and twists across a surreal landscape that looks like it came straight out of an HBO series, and I really liked the effect.
The visual designs were really good, and harken back to an era of retro aesthetics that utilized softer shapes and colors. The practical sets for Black Hole—in particular, the ship USS Cygnus—were incredibly eerie. The way the Palomino's search light swept across its hulking remains when it came across the crash site reminded me of the USCSS Nostromo from Alien.
Black Hole was also surprisingly cerebral in that it focused on man vs nature and what it means to pursue your goals in the face of all adversity. It also asked questions about whether the end justifies the means, and tried to draw a line between scientific adoration and megalomania.
I'm not necessarily a fan of the evil scientist trope—I know a few of them personally, and honestly they're just nerds—but I think the film did a good job exploring that thin line for something that was created over three decades ago.
Most surprising of all was the inclusion of robots, and how they and their individual personalities were central to the story. As I've mentioned in my review of Love, Death & Robots, I'm a huge fan of rampaging tin cans and this movie felt like a palette cleanser.
The funniest robot by far was Vincent, who was hilarious to look at with his drawn-on eyes but smart-talking and fully realized as a character.
The question of the humane treatment of robots also came up more than once, and the show discussed the quandary of cyborgs. If a human is now a machine, and retains no human characteristics or emotions, do they still possess the obligations that they did before? Or are they now beyond these obligations, having become something that is "free" from moral responsibility?
There's nothing particularly noteworthy that stands out about this show if we're talking "truly terrible." If I was going to be picky, I'd say the two minutes of black screen at the beginning of the film were unnecessary.
I'm a fan of meta commentary, and I know the black screen could be considered an intentional nod towards the concept of black holes. Unfortunately it went on for too long, and like most films from this era, I found the overall pacing of the entire movie to be slow. I prefer it when stories get right to the action.
Give Black Hole a watch. It's good for a rainy-day rental or a show you put on in the background while your friends are visiting. You'll dig it if you like robots, sci-fi thrillers, and solid B-movie content.
Trivia: The film posits that black holes are the most dangerous objects in the known universe, but that's not technically true. Black holes are dangerous, but they are outclassed by gamma-ray bursts (GRBs): a type of incredibly dangerous electromagnetic explosion.