29 March 2012

Movies: The Black Hole

The Black Hole (1979) http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0078869/

Family-friendly Sci-Fi Action Adventure

A deep-space research vessel happens upon a black hole and discovers a ship that has been presumed lost for decades, precariously balanced near the event horizon.  Things start off sort of iffy, then spiral into madness.

This is Disney's first PG-rated film, prompting them to start the Buena Vista studio system to release more adult films and keep them separate from the Disney name. The film is live-action. You can tell they were experimenting with some of the visual effects - they didn't like the price quoted for Industrial Light and Magic cameras and folks so they did everything in-house. Even though they innovated a better computer-controlled camera system and had the longest computer-generated sequence for a film up to that time, other issues with the film eclipsed those achievements.  Heck, it even looks dated compared to 1968's "2001: A Space Odyssey".

There is somewhat of a "20,000 Leagues Under the Sea" feel to the film, but isn't nearly as good. The dialog and character interactions seem especially behind-the-times for a 1979-era film. It's sort of as if Disney was still stuck in the 50's mindset when making this film, aiming for the low-hanging fruit of using pages from the same worn-out playbook Disney had used for years for its live-action films. Despite production quality, story and dialog just seem a bit out of time.  Especially in a post-Star Wars world.  I do have to give the scriptwriters some props, though, because they seem to have actually read up on black holes a bit when writing the script. They didn't get everything wrong.

The main robot characters, V.I.N.CENT and Bob, are reminiscent in some ways of the robots in 1972's "Silent Running". And Bob especially reminds me of a pre-cursor to Tow Mater in "Cars". As it was Slim Pickens's voice for Bob that is understandable, although Slim's a much finer actor. Roddy McDowall voiced V.I.N.CENT. Surprisingly the robots were the least annoying thing about the film, considering that usually the comedic support characters in Disney flicks tend to be more annoying to me.  Warning: Ernest Borgnine in a very form-fitting costume.

I remember seeing this film when it first came out and feeling a bit disappointed. At the time I was hungry for more things like "Star Wars" and this just didn't do it. After seeing the film again in 2012 it is even more disappointing. It didn't age well at all. However, in all fairness, I suspect one could get away with showing this to the younger crowd (10ish I'd guess) and they'd be a lot more accepting.
I watched the film just to give it a shot from a perspective that differs from my 13-years-old brain. I think I remembered the film a little more fondly than it deserved, and I didn't remember it fondly.

I suppose one could watch it for curiosity's sake, or perhaps nostalgia. But I wouldn't really put it on any must-see list.

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