The Black Hole

Last year I saw a headline that piqued my interest: "Neil DeGrasse Tyson Thinks the Black Hole Is the Least Scientifically Accurate Movie Ever Made." I knew that there was a movie called "The Black Hole" but until I saw that diss it wasn't really on my radar. However, if a well known scientist was saying that it was the worst of all time - well, then I was interested; sometimes I like things that are the worst.

Unfortunately, I think that Tyson's claim is fairly hyperbolic. I don't know enough about actual black holes to debunk the science in this movie but I do know that fact checking it would be a bit pointless - this movie is as interested in exploring astrophysics as Brokeback Mountain is in exploring geology. Yes, this movie is set near a black hole, but it could be a supernova, or a quasar, or a made up event and it wouldn't matter. Basically, the black hole is a macguffin - a cool space thingamajigy to have in the backdrop, but you could easily switch it out with any space thingamajigy and the story would function the same way.

No, this movie's real crime is not against science - it is against art. I don't care if it's science is all mumbo jumbo, but I do care if the movie bores me, and boy howdy is the Black Hole boring. The plot is beyond simplistic, and there's no rising action at all. The USS Palomino is just chilling in outer space minding their own business when they happen to discover the USS Cygnus, a ship that's long been thought lost. When the Palominers board the Cygnus they immediately get a bad vibe, because the captain of the Cygnus looks like a madman, plus he's surrounded by a whole bunch of evil looking robots. Plus when they ask him what happened to the rest of his crew he tells them a bunch of lies that are obviously lies. Plus he keeps mumbling under his breath about wanting to plunge everyone into a black hole, an act which is generally not considered polite.

As bad guys go, I've seen worse, but the Black Hole needs to know that it is obvious from the minute you see him that the guy with a tendency towards megalomaniac thinking and an army of killer robots is probably evil. Unfortunately, it takes an hour of pointless plodding for the relationship between the two camps to completely break down. That means that there is no rising action: where the middle of this movie should have been full of space chases or something active, it's full of investigations of a mystery that's more immediately solveable than Scooby Doo's easiest case.

The movie's ending is a bit perkier, but it's also total bullshit. The film climaxes with both ships getting sucked into the black hole, but once they are inside they suffer very different fates. The evil space captain goes to hell: he and his killer robot are stuck in a rocky landscape that's covered in flames. The crew of the Palomino, however, go down a long silver hallway towards a man in a crucifixion pose, and then they pop out the other side to a bright new sunny day. This detour into religious iconography was completely uncalled for, since the film had never indicated that it was about salvation until that point, but even if it wanted to ultimately head in that direction it could have done so in a less inept manner. I can tolerate a certain amount of religiosity, but it has to be a little more subtle than "evil people end up in flames" and "good people are reborn through Christ."

After I got done watching the Black Hole I went back to re-read Tyson's charges against the movie. It turns out that I only half remembered his argument. Yes. he felt that the film lacks all scientific merit, but he specifically says that it is "awful and inaccurate". I kind of wished that I had listened to his full sentence, because if I had known that this movie about killer robots in outer space was uninteresting in addition to being unfeasible I might have been less interested. Actually, I dunno, I'm willing to tolerate a lot of crap to get to a good killer robot scene. But if he had said that this film was dull, dumb AND surprisingly religious - well, that's a film I definitely would have avoided, because three strikes and you are OUT.

Winner: No Contest (I Also Fell Asleep)

The Black Hole on IMDB