Is The Black Hole a Good Movie?

1979’s The Black Hole does just about everything right. It’s chock-full of great actors giving compelling performances. It has plenty of memorable scenes and imagery. John Barry’s score is hauntingly beautiful throughout. It offers several iconic robot designs. And it has a fantastic mystery that is resolved in the most devastating way possible.

So why do I feel so hollow every time the end credits roll?

I want to love The Black Hole, but something prevents me from doing that. For this reason, I have to ask: is The Black Hole a good movie? Let’s go through its positive and negative qualities to get to the root of the film and discover the answer to this question.

The Good

Maximilian Schell, Anthony Perkins, and Ernest Borgnine are a few of the famous actors in The Black Hole.Perfect Cast – Maximilian Schell, Anthony Perkins, Ernest Borgnine, Roddy McDowall, and Slim Pickens are the biggest names associated with this film, but there are no weak links in the cast. Every character feels fully fleshed out and imbued with some real depth. Their personalities really shine through in all of their interactions with each other, and you always get a sense of dread when one character is hiding something or not telling the whole truth.

The set design is beautiful in The Black Hole.Set Design – The U.S.S. Cygnus comes across as a giant tomb in space. It’s beautiful yet foreboding, futuristic yet medieval, and dead yet pulsating with life. Every set in the movie feels larger than life, and it conveys the massive scale of the spaceship and the personality of the man who commands it.

The mystery at the heart of The Black Hole is devastating yet satisfying.Devastating Mystery – The Black Hole is one of three great science fiction films from 1979 that managed to weave a complex mystery. The other two are Star Trek: The Motion Picture and Alien. The identity of V’ger is pretty interesting, and the alien’s origin was explored in later films in the series with disappointing results. But the mystery at the heart of The Black Hole remains the simplest and arguably most effective of the bunch. It is truly devastating when you learn what happened aboard the Cygnus years ahead of the heroes’ arrival.

One of The Black Hole's most beautiful shots is when an asteroid barrels down a corridor of the U.S.S. Cygnus toward the heroes.Action Sequences – The movie takes its sweet time getting to a proper action sequence, but all of that buildup makes for a satisfying experience watching the good guys destroy evil robots, outrun asteroids, and outwit enemies. Every action sequence is etched into my brain. They’re all well executed and they’re often quite fun, which is helped a lot by the music.

John Barry’s Score – From the opening notes of the score, you know you’re in for an ominous ride. I can’t say enough good things about the music. The heroic themes are great, but where the music really shines is when it’s highlighting the dark wonder of space and the secrets of the Cygnus.

Maximilian is silently malevolent while V.I.N.CENT is a warm, friendly robot.Robot Designs – Maximilian, V.I.N.CENT, and B.O.B. are three of the best designed robots I’ve ever seen in any film. There’s something warm and inviting about V.I.N.CENT and B.O.B.’s design while Maximilian is a silent, malevolent presence in every scene where he appears. I especially love the moments when V.I.N.CENT and Maximilian go toe to toe, like David and Goliath. That friendly looking robot packs quite a punch.

The Bad

The heroes enter a black hole at the end of the film.Questionable Science – This movie plays fast and loose with scientific concepts. For example, characters refer to rocky objects in space as “meteorites” when they should refer to them as “meteoroids” because they haven’t crashed down on Earth or “asteroids” because they are so large. The vacuum of space is often seen as more of a nuisance than a cold reality. When there’s a breach in the hull, sometimes it blows all of the air out of a room (albeit slowly) and sometimes it is ignored. Characters fly into space without spacesuits and receive no harm. I do like the wirework, though. It really sells the low-gravity environments. But one last thing: the titular black hole is treated as a wormhole rather than a giant space compactor. Granted, that is one of the film’s primary conceits. All physical laws break down inside a black hole, so no one really knows what happens inside one. If the film had been a bit more realistic leading up to the point where the surviving heroes travel through a black hole, I could have forgiven its leap in logic more easily.

V.I.N.CENT has an ESP connection with one of his human crewmembers.ESP – I don’t mind suspending my disbelief for the Force or magic or things like that as long as they feel like an organic part of the story. But I don’t buy the use of extrasensory perception in The Black Hole. The film establishes an ESP connection between a crewmember and V.I.N.CENT as a way to quickly convey key information between them at pivotal points in the plot. But it comes across as a lazy crutch to move the story forward, especially since it’s only paid lip service and never made a big deal of. A lady can communicate telepathically with a robot. Is no one impressed by this? If they’re not, I’m not.

Dr. Reinhardt says he is terrified of Maximilian in one of the film's many intriguing twists.Unexplored Ideas – There’s an intriguing moment that occurs right after Maximilian brutally murders a kindly crewmember in cold blood. The villainous Dr. Hans Reinhardt, who created Maximilian, approaches the ESP lady who watched it all happen and says, “Protect me from Maximilian.” What does he mean by that? Is Maximilian pulling the strings? Is it a manifestation of Reinhardt’s evil intentions? Is it out of control and a threat to Reinhardt’s safety? Why would a creator be afraid of his creation? This one line raises so many questions. We get a partial answer at the very end of the film when the robot seemingly engulfs its creator, but this idea could have been explored in so many other interesting ways. It feels like a missed opportunity. I suppose that’s the main problem with the movie. It raises all sorts of questions about the nature of life, the universe, and everything, and it never delivers satisfying answers. Some movies, like 2001: A Space Odyssey, can get away with failing to find solid answers to deep questions, but this film can’t. So many profound ideas, so little time.

The Verdict

Dr. Reinhardt and Maximilian fuse into a Satan-like being to rule in Hell.The feeling I’m left with at the end of The Black Hole is a desire for more. I want more information. I want to know the fate of the crew. Did they find a habitable planet? Will they ever be able to return to Earth? I want to understand what happened to Reinhardt and Maximilian. Are they in Hell? Can robots go to Hell? Is Hell inside a black hole while Heaven awaits on the other side of one? So many unanswered questions.

I suppose that the fact that I’m left wanting more means that the film is good. After all, I wouldn’t care about the answers if the film was terrible and insulted my intelligence for thinking about it. My interest is piqued, and I yearn for answers that match the depth of the questions asked in this film. So yes, The Black Hole is a good movie. I just need to be in the right mood to take the plunge into it.

This is the Deja Reviewer bidding you farewell until we meet again.

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About Robert Lockard, the Deja Reviewer

Robert Lockard has been a lover of writing since he was very young. He studied public relations in college, graduating with a Bachelor’s degree in 2006. His skills and knowledge have helped him to become a sought-after copywriter in the business world. He has written blogs, articles, and Web content on subjects such as real estate, online marketing and inventory management. His talent for making even boring topics interesting to read about has come in handy. But what he really loves to write about is movies. His favorite movies include: Fiddler on the Roof, Superman: The Movie, Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, Back to the Future, Beauty and the Beast, The Fugitive, The Incredibles, and The Dark Knight. Check out his website: Deja Reviewer. Robert lives in Utah with his wife and four children. He loves running, biking, reading, and watching movies with his family.
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5 Responses to Is The Black Hole a Good Movie?

  1. Agreed on all points; I feel the same way.

    Making movies can be like making mayonaise. Sometimes the yolk and the oil do not come together and let’s you get stuck with alle the parts.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Nathan says:

    You came to the right conclusion. Well, I like it anyway. As a kid I enjoyed exactly three sci-fi flicks: Star Wars (I’ll lump the original trilogy together), Fantastic Voyage (Rachel Welch is hot), and The Black Hole.
    I likewise agree with each of your pros but as a fanboy I’d like to respond to your cons.
    Questionable science – Ok yeah, they played fast and loose with science here, but what sci-fi show doesn’t? I’m looking at you Star Wars!! I think their treatment of the black hole itself is absolutely fascinating and fun. The only sciency beef I have with the flick is their complete misunderstanding of the vacuum of space. It’s a little…off. But hey, gravity doesn’t work correctly in Star Wars so I’m giving Black Hole a pass.
    ESP – I see what you mean but this one never bothered me. I always assumed that the lady had some sort of advanced transmitter that allowed her to communicate with V.I.N.C.E.N.T. This is a spacefaring civilization so their technology is far beyond our own. If Spock and Kirk can teleport between spacecraft without a detailed explanation then I’m giving non-verbal human-to-robot communication a free pass as well. Plus, isn’t it always the female crew member’s job to talk with the computer? Sigourney Weaver explained the trope perfectly in Galaxy Quest when she said “Look, I have one job on this lousy ship. It’s stupid, but I’m going to do it!”
    Unexplored Ideas – Ok on this point I have to completely disagree. These mysteries are what makes this movie great! What was the fate of the crew? Was Reinhold or Maximilian the villain, or were they equally yoked? Did Reinhold recognize that he had lost his humanity and regretted what he had done or was he a monster through and through? And most importantly, what is a black hole and what happens when you dive into one? These are questions that I loved to mull over as a kid! Even now I love to read the latest cosmology theories about the nature of black holes. We still, forty years later, have no idea what a singularity is or how it can exist. This flick is far more speculative and thought-provoking about the the mysteries of the universe than, say, a great movie like Interstellar. Granted, The Black Hole offers no answers, but I’m good with it.

    Overall, another great post. Well done!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Nathan says:

    Hey, no harsh judgment here. Like I said, I’m pleased that you ultimately concluded that it’s a good movie. The performances and robots are particularly good. I happened to run across this article just this morning. http://theconversation.com/rotating-black-holes-may-serve-as-gentle-portals-for-hyperspace-travel-107062 Maybe flying straight into black hole isn’t such a bad idea after all.

    Liked by 1 person

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