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File:TheBlackHole TVTropes.jpg


The Black Hole is a 1979 science fiction movie directed by Gary Nelson for Walt Disney Productions. It stars Maximilian Schell, Robert Forster, Joseph Bottoms, Yvette Mimieux, Anthony Perkins, and Ernest Borgnine. The voices of the main robot characters in the film are provided by Roddy McDowall and Slim Pickens (both uncredited). The music for the movie was composed by John Barry. Alan Dean Foster novelized the screenplay.

An Earth exploratory ship, the USS Palomino, discovers a black hole with a lost ship, the USS Cygnus, somehow defying its gravity and hovering just outside its event horizon. Setting off to solve the mystery of the Cygnus are: the Palomino's Captain, Dan Holland (Robert Forster); his First Officer, Lieutenant Charlie Pizer (Joseph Bottoms); journalist Harry Booth (Ernest Borgnine); ESP-sensitive scientist Dr. Kate McCrae (Yvette Mimieux); Dr. Alex Durant (Anthony Perkins), the expedition's civilian leader; and the robot V.I.N.CENT ("Vital Information Necessary CENTralized"). The Palomino attempts a dangerous fly-by of the ship, which is dark and apparently derelict. As they come within close range of it, the buffeting they experience due to the black hole's gravity suddenly ceases. They bring more instruments to bear on the ship, but do not realize the gravity-free zone is artificial and limited; slipping outside it, they are almost drawn into the hole.

As the crew repairs the Palomino, they discover that the Cygnus is not only functional but inhabited by a crew of faceless robots and their human commander, Dr. Hans Reinhardt, who intends to take the Cygnus into the black hole to see what awaits him on the other side. However, they discover something more sinister behind Reinhardt's preparations, and they must race against time to escape before their own ship becomes mere collateral damage in the quest of an apparent madman.

The movie contains very clear homages in style and plot to 2001: A Space Odyssey, and it's possible they originally intended to create a similar "proverbial good science fiction film". The success of Star Wars meant that assorted cute robots were crammed in, making the tone direly schizophrenic. (The shooting gallery scene is a particularly obvious addition.)

Many consider this film to be Disney's biggest flop (which lead to countless jokes about the company's money being tossed into the titular hole), and that it represents everything that was wrong with Ron Miller's leadership of the company. In actual fact it made $35m on a budget of $20m, so it did earn a slight profit for the company; nonetheless, not very many people regard the film as one of Disney's finer moments. Indeed, along with one other movie that was released the same year, it was the first ever Disney movie to be given a PG rating; something that ultimately would lead to the creation of Touchstone Pictures in 1984 (with the PG-rated Splash as its first release).

The film is currently in development for a remake by Tron: Legacy director Joseph Kosinski. This film even gets a Shout-Out in Legacy as a poster in Sam's room.


This Movie Contains Examples Of:

 Dan Holland: It's only dinner.

V.I.N.CENT: ..."said the spider to the fly."

  • Mohs Scale of Science Fiction Hardness: It starts out as a hard sci-fi exploration flick, in that the Palomino maneuvers like a real spacecraft with the main thruster and attitude jets, and everyone in the spacecraft is weightless except when they are under acceleration, etc. Then Dr. McCrae is asked to use her ESP to talk to their Robot Buddy. Then they board the Cygnus, which has Artificial Gravity developed by Reinhardt from his research on the black hole. There's a gradual process of moving from 4 to 1 on the scale, with a debatable return to 4 near the end, where the characters moving outside the Cygnus are doing so with panic because they're essentially swimming around inside atmosphere flowing from a breach in the ship's hull. Then they travel through the black hole itself into the afterlife(?).
  • Our Wormholes Are Different: The movie treats the titular black hole as a wormhole, even going so far as to have the characters travel through it and come out "unharmed" on the other side, if the "other side" is the afterlife. Whether it is makes things tricky.
  • Oh Crap: Charlie's reaction when he figured out the probe ship they're using to escape the Cygnus is actually programmed to go inside the black hole.
  • Outrun the Fireball: The scene where the heroes try to make it across a tunnel before a huge meteor plowing through the ship reaches them.
  • Psychic Powers: Dr. McCrae has a telepathic link with V.I.N.CENT, thanks to a cybernetic impant in her brain.
  • Rage Helm: Maximillian has a bright red eye with a furrowing brow sculpted/painted above it, making it look like he's permanently scowling.
  • ~Recycled IN SPACE!~: Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea. Both it and The Black Hole involve a ship captained by a Mad Scientist rebelling against conventional authority, who reluctantly takes the heroes on board because doing so is their only chance of survival, and who intends to dive his ship into a maelstrom. Only one of the protagonists is sympathetic to the captain's scientific achievements. There are No, Mr. Bond, I Expect You to Dine scenes in both stories.
  • Redemption Equals Death: Alex Durant figures it all out... too late.
  • Reinventing the Telephone: Dr. McCrae's abilities are clarified in the novelization.
  • Robot Buddy: V.I.N.CENT and Old BOB. Maximillian, not so much.
  • Scenery Porn: The Cygnus's interior resembles a high tech-cathedral of steel and glass with mammoth, lengthy corridors and ominous lighting.
  • Sound-Only Death: Durant's murder.
  • Southern-Fried Genius: Old BOB (he got his accent from having been programmed in Houston.)
  • Space Madness: Dr. Reinhardt.
  • Swirly Energy Thingy: The funnel-shaped accretion disc around the black hole.
  • Techno Babble: Goes without saying.
  • This Is a Drill: V.I.N.CENT has a drill. He asks Maximillian to say hi to his drill near the end of the movie.
    • Maximillian's own spinning claw-saw would also qualify.
  • Too Dumb to Live: Had Capt. Holland listened to his instincts and not flown near the Cygnus (which they knew was too close to The Black Hole), the Palomino would remain undamaged and would have returned home safe and sound.
  • Unrealistic Black Hole: Goes without saying.
  • The Voiceless: Maximilian never actually speaks; he presumably is able to communicate somehow, but not on-screen, which of course makes him all the more unsettling.
  • ~What Do You Mean, It's Not For Kids?~: This was the first Disney movie to bear a PG rating. This trope ultimately led to the creation of Touchstone Pictures, to deal with more adult fare.
  • What Do You Mean Its Not Symbolic: The Black Hole is likened to a gateway to Hell. Or Heaven. Have doubts? Watch that climax again... if you dare.
    • This movie has religious symbolism out the wazoo: in addition to the foreshadowing comparisons of the Black Hole with Hell ("straight out of Dante's Inferno"; "I expect to see a guy in a red suit with a pitchfork"), Durant says it may lead "into the mind of God". Reinhardt likens V.I.N.CENT and Maximilian to David and Goliath and quotes from Genesis. The Cygnus looks like a Gothic cathedral, the control panels on the bridge look like stained glass windows, and the humanoids are dressed like monks. Lampshaded when Reinhardt offhandedly remarks that it's another of his "theatrical gestures".
      • In fact, one planned ending involved a reveal that shows Dr. McCrae as one of the angels depicted among the frescoes of the Sistine Chapel.
    • Durant tries to shield himself from Maximillian...with a book. His admiration of knowledge is useless against the murderous truth.
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