That most dangerous of all scientific endeavours, Quantum acceleration experiments, as taken on in a certainly highly scientific establishment in St. Louis goes rather wrong, opening a black hole in the fabric of space-time, as these things tend to. The black hole quite impolitely starts eating up the surrounding matter, growing in curious stops and starts in the progress, and threatening to eat up the whole planet rather sooner than later.
Because only one of the three initial scientists of the project, Dr (I assume) Shannon Muir (Kristy Swanson) has survived the film’s first five minutes, the military under the surprisingly competent and sane General Stryker (David Selby) calls in former project member Eric Bryce (Judd Nelson), who brings with him the aftershocks of a bad divorce, moon eyes between him and Shannon, ridiculous mad scientist hair, and a chip on his shoulder because he was right all along. As if closing up a black hole weren’t problem enough for two more or less sexy scientists, an energy creature has slipped out of the black hole, eating electricity (and people) and feeding the black hole in the process. Shannon and Eric are doing their best to resolve the situation before the increasingly humongous black hole eats all of the landmarks of St. Louis, and eventually find out the creature’s – and therefore the black hole’s – central weakness, which at least is neither salt nor the power of love this time around.
It’s just too bad that their government would really rather resolve the problem in more traditionally American ways, by dropping an h-bomb on it and the remaining citizens of St. Louis, despite our heroic experts telling them this would only make matters worse. Consequently our heroes have not just one but two races against time to win. Fortunately, the film provides a bombing mad general to Stryker’s sane one, so the latter is free to actually be helpful.
People who are wrong will tell you that Tibor Takács’s The Black Hole (produced by Nu Image for our friends at the – then – SciFi Channel) is a stupid piece of nonsense, when in truth it’s a film that provides a whole lot of fun based on a silly yet clever idea of the kind it’s not difficult to imagine to find in an episode of the classic Outer Limits.
As everyone who isn’t wrong knows, Takács in his incarnation as direct-to-DVD and direct-to-TV director is pretty excellent at squeezing fun films out of sometimes (okay, most of the time) doubtful scripts and tiny budgets, and his The Black Hole is absolutely no exception. The film is perfectly paced, hitting the disaster movie and semi-monster movie beats at just the right moments, never stopping for too long along the way to let the audience think too much about the (im)probabilities of what’s going on.
Sure, if you’re the kind of person who can’t help but bemoan curious scientific ideas, the bizarre lack of scientific staff in US government during a scientific catastrophe, and call them “plot holes”, you won’t have any fun with this, and even Takács won’t be able to distract you from actively avoiding fun, but then, why are you watching a film about a black hole opening up in Missouri in the first place?
For the rest of us, the film at the very least shows a degree of coherence. That is to say, if you accept The Black Hole‘s sometimes (okay, always) bizarre assumptions about the nature of reality, it proceeds logically enough from them to create a diverting SF pulp movie plot that provides Takács with ample opportunity to show soldiers vaporized, and parts of St. Louis eaten by a black hole. Which, surely, is all we can ever ask of a film called The Black Hole. To make up for a tight budget, Takács shows most of the major destruction through the eyes of shaky TV footage happening on screens with dubious resolutions, a cost-conscious decision that works beautifully – thanks to good timing much better than in other SyFy movies trying the same trick.
Added to the film’s entertaining pulp trappings are some rather sarcastic nods in the direction of political crisis management – particularly in a scene of the US president and his aides writing a bathetic speech about the nuclear destruction of St. Louis before the fact intercut with our scientist heroes’ attempts to actually do something to save the the city and the world. It’s also difficult to miss the fact that the least effectual (and most destructive) ideas to solve all problems come courtesy of “Homeland Security”, which can hardly be a coincidence in a US film made after hurricane Katrina.
In the less real world, SyFy experts will be astonished that the catastrophe is only normalizing the relationship between Eric and his ex-wife and daughter, instead of bringing the grown-ups back together as is annoying tradition and stupid rule in these films, nor does Shannon sacrifice herself to protect Eric’s family or something of that sort. Why, you might even think the film argues moving on after a divorce is a good thing! I am quite conscious I’m happy about getting a clichéd romance instead of the cliché divorce regression, but then, this isn’t something too typical for a SyFy movie. Perhaps Takács made The Black Hole too early in the cycle for the Rule of Un-Divorce to have already been in effect?
Given these achievements and minor surprises of and in The Black Hole, I’ll end this with the traditional phrase that could end half of my SyFy Channel Original write-ups: what’s not to like!?
Denis Klotz contributes a regular weekly film column for ExB, and can otherwise be found kicking around on his prolific cult media blog The Horror!?