“A wolf remains a wolf, even if it has not eaten your sheep.”
The year is 2130. The spaceship USS Palomino is on a mission exploring deep space looking for life. On board are Captain Dan Holland (Robert Forster), Dr. Alex Durant (Anthony Perkins), Lieutenant Charles Pizer (Joseph Bottoms), an ESP sensitive Dr. Kate McCrae (Yvette Mimieux) and Journalist Harry Booth (Ernest Borgnine). The ship’s robot V.I.N.CENT or Vital Information Necessary Centralized (voice of Roddy McDowell) has detected a black hole.
Along the fringes of the hole is a spaceship. The ship appears to be in defiance of the hole’s gravitational pull. The ship is identified as the missing USS Cygnus. The captain of the ship was Dr. McCrae’s father. The Palomino moves in closer to check it out. They find that the area around the Cygnus has no gravity field. The Cygnus is not being affected by the gravity of the black hole. They detect no activity on the ship and movie on. When the Palomino hits the gravity of the black hole the ship becomes damaged. They high tail it back to the zero gravity area around the Cygnus. Once they reach the Cygnus again, the ship comes to life.
The crew of the Palomino boards the Cygnus. On board they find a crew of robots, androids, and a nasty looking robot named Maximilian, as well as one human, Dr. Hans Reinhardt (Maximilian Schell). Reinhardt has been on the ship alone for twenty years. He says the ship was damaged and he sent the crew back to Earth. He decided to stay to study the black hole. He plans on going into it but he needs the crew of the Palomino to help him.
Also on board is another robot called B.O.B. or Bio-Sanitation Battalion (voice of Slim Pickens). Bob tells Vincent and the crew that Reinhardt killed Kate’s father and turned the crew into mindless drones. He says that everyone is in danger. Reinhart is a genius, insane and murderous. The crew of the Palomino must find a way to escape the Cygnus before Reinhardt either kills them or turns them into mindless drones.
“The Black Hole” was released in 1979 and was directed by Gary Nelson. Technically it is a science fiction/disaster film. It was the first Disney film to receive a PG rating. Reportedly because of the frequent use of the words Hell and Damn. It was nominated for two Academy Awards, for Best Cinematography and Best Visual Effects. The visual effect of the black hole itself was created by forming a whirlpool in a round Plexiglas water tank, and adding different colors of paint. Kind of like spin art.
Astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson deemed the film to be the least scientifically accurate movie of all time. Criticizing the film, he noted, "They not only got none of the physics right about falling into a black hole, had they gotten it right it would have been a vastly more interesting movie."
Critics in general weren’t crazy about it. The movie going masses had mixed feelings. The biggest complaint was the less than satisfying ending.
SPOILERS: The end is a bit of a psychedelic trip. Then there are a couple things that are not totally clear about the ending. It appears as if Reinhardt melds with Maximilian and ends up on a molten planet in a kind of hell. Charlie, Kate, Dan and Vincent end up either on Earth or they go off into the sunset in another dimension, or maybe it’s heaven. Some say it never had an ending. If you don’t know how something ends than how are you going to know if you liked it or not. Sometimes a bad ending ruins the whole movie. For the most part the movie was eye catching. There was some good cinematography and interesting special effects. Some said it was wordy. I was OK with that. The fact that the ending was undefined does tend to make the rest of the movie less than shiny. And don’t give me that “It’s what you think it is” stuff. It is what it is and what it is is ambiguous.