Visually, The Black Hole is a beautiful movie to watch, with some amazing special effects, breathtaking matte paintings and an exciting story. Although all of this came long before the ready availability of CGI, The Black Hole still delivers an optical treat (the film earned 2 Oscar nominations in 1979 for Best Visual Effects and Best Cinematography). While it's true that there are a few moments of Sci-Fi Silliness and the occasional moment of downright bad acting, not to mention the fact that the "science" in this film really is "fiction", this little flick is still very much worth the time to watch and appreciate for its merits. It's a very original film that never really feels like it's been done before... or since! It is a forgotten gem amongst triton rings, a worthy and necessary Sci-Fi, deep space watch.
At the edge of the universe, the voyages of the Starship Palomino are coming to an end! Her five year mission: to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations... to... to boldly... Oh, never mind! The wary crew, consisting of Capt. Dan Holland (Robert Forster), Dr. Alex Durant (Anthony Perkins), Lt. Charlie Pizer (Joseph Bottoms), Dr. Kate McCrae (Yvette Mimieux), Chief Harry Booth (Ernest Borgnine), and a philosophical robot named V.I.N.CENT. (voice of Roddy McDowall) are ready to head home when the U.S.S. Palomino discovers a deep space Black Hole, a collapsed star with an inescapable gravitational pull. However, the Palomino's scans detect a stationary space ship at the event horizon of the anomaly! It turns out that this is the U.S.S. Cygnus, the long lost science vessel led by Dr. Hans Reinhardt (Maximilian Schell).
The mystery thickens as the crew begins to investigate the ship in part to find Dr. Kate's missing father whose last commission was on the Cygnus. Sadly, the ship appears to be run entirely by Medieval looking robots and guarded by Storm Trooper-looking Sentinel Droids. Reinhardt claims to be the only crew member left alive and his robotic enforcer Maximilian, who makes Darth Vader look like Chief Wiggum, is only too happy to have a second crew to push around.
What follows becomes increasingly action packed and even scary as the intrepid compliment of the Palomino slowly unravel the mystery of the Cygnus. That cool little floating Robot V.I.N.CENT. practically steals the show as he and his decrepit Cygnus counterpart Old Bob (voice of Slim Pickens) steal through the ship and discover that the robotic crew just might be more than they appear to be, and that Reinhardt has become that stereotypical Mad Scientist, or at least an insane outer-space version of Captain Nemo!
The Black Hole is great fun, and the special effects for the time were incredible, and truly unique! Who else looks like V.I.N.CENT. or Maximilian? What other ships are so striking, yet still so undeniably utilitarian? The whole thing leads up to a killer finale and an ending that belies the film's PG rating.
However, this is no more a movie that you'd want to watch with a scientist in the room than "Grey's Anatomy" is a show you'd want to watch with a Medical Intern in the room. There's a lot more Fiction than Science in this Science Fiction film. Even these great actors fail to truly bring their characters to life, and seem like they've been given every bit of one take to deliver even the most tongue-twisting of lines. There is also a level of inconsistency here, rising from the adult-oriented themes (see again that shocking final sequence) doing direct battle with the "Cute Robot" subgenre still aimed at the Herbie Goes Bananas-weaned audience.
But it's still a great film to enjoy, and if you take these flaws with a grain of Jolly Rancher Candy, then they might not amount to too terribly much. Suspension of disbelief is the name of the game, but what a game it is! Sadly, with these effects and this story, this could have been a Five Star motion picture, but the final result was a half-way film, somewhere in the neighborhood of Three Stars out of five! This movie marks the end of an era of special effects, and, while Disney broke into the grown-up audience with their latter-day imprint "Hollywood Pictures", The Black Hole is still a solid landmark in the sci-fi genre. That'll do, V.I.N.CENT.! That'll do!
I DON'T LIKE THINGS THAT SUCK! Usually! This time I do!