The Black Hole (1979), a recap (part 5)
NOTE: This article is a work in progress.
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Previously: 2019 ended and 2020 started, pretty much on time. Disney+ added the live-action remake of Aladdin, possibly the least necessary film ever made. Oh, you mean in this movie? Captain Holland has concluded that Dr. Reinhardt is probably up to no good because Dr. Reinhardt is probably up to no good. He’s determined to collect his small crew and leave as soon as possible.
Reinhardt invites everyone to dinner. Holland immediately throws his plan out the window and decides that leaving after dinner is more than soon enough. In the very next scene, Holland, Pizer, and Vincent are walking down a hallway. Vincent loudly complains that they should just skip the meal and leave. Holland just brushes this all off because, I guess, he really wants to go to this dinner. Unfortunately, Vincent isn’t invited. Holland doesn’t want him to get into another showdown with Maximilian, whom he refers to as a monster. He thinks Reinhardt’s chief lieutenant is a monster, but he’s still going to eat with the guy. He must be really, really hungry.
Vincent protests but he still gets dropped off in a room full of those drone guys like my mom dropping me off at daycare. And just like my mom dropping me off at daycare, Pizer reassures him that he’s going to have the time of his life in there.
Vincent really, really doesn’t want to go. He’s very worried the crew might run into a problem. Holland is unphased. He explains, “We’ve been in some scrapes before and we’re gonna get out of this one.” Wait, they’ve been in some scrapes before? When? All they were supposed to do was wander around looking for habitable planets. They didn’t find any. That’s not a scrape; that’s the opposite of a scrape. It’s an anti-scrape. And if Holland thinks they’re really in danger, his reaction should be to just leave, not go to a 7:00 seating like he’s on a damn cruise ship.
They finally get rid of Vincent. As they walk away, Pizer salutes two robot guys guarding the door and says sarcastically, “As you were.” I don’t mention this to highlight that Pizer is just the single biggest ass the US has ever shot into space. He is, but that’s not my point. My point is: Why are there robot guys guarding the door? Before the Palomino docked, there was nobody to guard it from. And now Reinhardt’s just letting everyone from the Palomino wander around wherever they want, so there’s still nobody to guard it from.
In daycare, the robot guys are not reading stories. But Vincent does make a friend. Old Bob is also in the room for no reason I can imagine. The red robots are taking target practice by shooting their lasers at little dots outside the ship. A black robot guy appears to be the best at this. Bob tells Vincent that this is S.T.A.R., Special Troops Arms Regular. And that’s just as insane an acronym as all the others. Either he’s special or he’s regular, but he can’t be both.
According to Bob, Star (if that is his legal name) was the prototype for the sentry robots. Once again, there’s no reason for this ship to have sentry robots. Vincent is unimpressed with Star’s marksmanship, saying that he and Bob are better shots. He asks if Bob ever went up against him. Bob says he did once, and beat him. According to Bob, Star got so upset he blew a fuse. He got his revenge, says Bob. “He did things to me that I sure don’t like to think about.”
Oh, I forgot! This is the first time we hear Bob’s voice. It is, as promised, Slim Pickens. He sounds exactly like himself: a crazed western rodeo rider turned actor turned national goddamned treasure. But this all raises at least one very important question: Why do two nearly identical robots have the voices of a British man and Taggart from Blazing Saddles? According to the movie, it’s because Bob was programmed in Texas. By that logic, my Echo should sound like Jeff Bezos.
We finally get to dinner. Reinhardt has an opulent and spacious dining room. It’s way too gaudy for anyone’s tastes except a complete lunatic. It actually reminds me of Donald Trump’s decorating style. So, my point: made.
Harry Booth makes some small talk with Reinhardt. He tells him Earth hasn’t changed much in two decades. That’s true today. I mean, the iPhone has gotten better. Also, Apple invented the iPhone.
Despite the candlelit dinner, Captain Holland tells Reinhardt that they’ll be leaving soon. Anthony Perkins interrupts, “Speak for yourself, Dan. I, for one, believe I have a great deal to learn from Dr. Reinhardt.” I’m beginning to suspect that the title “Captain” is entirely honorary. Nobody has obeyed a single order this guy’s given.
Reinhardt stands up to make a toast. Man, this movie is boring. I wish he’d speed everything up and just admit that he intends to fly his ship into that black hole. Reinhardt then tells everyone, “I will travel where no man has dared to go.” Not just into the black hole but, “In, through, and beyond.” Oh, sweet mother of Melinda Gates! Thank you, movie! Thank you! Not sure why it took you forty-six minutes, but thank you all the same.
Booth exclaims that flying into a black hole is impossible. Reinhardt tells him, “The word ‘impossible,’ Mr. Booth, is only found in the dictionary of fools.” Sure, I buy that—fools and, say, people who know anything about gravity. Despite all sorts of weird math, the general consensus is that if you threw yourself into a black hole, you’d just get crushed to death.
You can’t go through a black hole. As one article put it, “It’s like wondering about the magical place you go if you jump into a trash compactor.” Even physicist Kip Thorne, who minted his reputation with a theory of wormholes, admits, “We see no objects in our universe that could become wormholes.” And, yeah, there are theoretically white holes that just spew out the matter from inside black holes. The problem, and it’s a significant problem, is that they don’t exist.
So, just to recap this recap, Reinhardt’s plan is to die. He is absolutely going to die. That’s the consensus of scientists now and it was the consensus when this film was made. People simply cannot defy gravity.
One would expect that the very next thing would be that everybody would jump up from the table, yell, “Good luck with your dementia,” and run the hell away. That is not what happens. Instead, we cut back to Vincent, Bob, and the stormtrooper having target practice.
Star, the resident sharpshooter, challenges Bob to a rematch. Did I mention B.O.B. stands for Bio-Sanitation Battalion? Because it does. A cleaning robot was outfitted with lasers to shoot… I don’t know, me? Could he shoot me? I’m starting to wish someone would.
Bob actually is winning for a moment until Star straight up hip-checks him. Vincent is incensed and challenges Star himself. Hey, remember when Vincent was worried there might be some sort of trouble? Vincent certainly doesn’t, seeing as he’s going out of his way to create some. Remember when the first version of Aladdin was perfectly acceptable? Disney certainly doesn’t, seeing as thy went out of their way to make a worse one.
“Star,” Vincent snarls, “Vincent’s my name, sharpshooting’s my game. Try me.” Star fires off some shots, including one where he doesn’t look and one behind his back, like he’s in a production of Annie, Get Your Gun. Not to be outdone by this entirely pointless exercise, Vincent takes his shots while doing a barrel roll. He gets a little too ambitious and one of his laser blasts ricochets and hits Star right in the chest.
This, of course, burns Star’s little Vader-like control panel. Star clasps his chest in what I assume is the robot version of horror. Vincent is very calm about the whole thing. “If one dances,” Vincent lectures, “One must pay the piper.” I know exactly where he’s coming from. That’s almost word-for-word what I said the last time I shot a guy dead center mass.
Star is taking his laser wound rather badly. He begins to shake. Then sparks shoot out of him. Then he actually lights on fire. And then he falls to the floor and dies. Vincent, ever the cool head, remarks, “If there’s one thing I cannot stand, it’s a sore loser.”
Hey, remember when Vincent had a clear grasp of the concept of death? It was, like, fifteen minutes ago. He was really mad about his fellow robots being shot into black holes. He gave a whole speech about it. That happened, right? I’m just checking in because I’m pretty sure this movie has broken me.
Next time: We learn the ramifications of robot murder. We continue dinner with the salad course. And I reference some more musicals nobody cares about but me: Flower Drum Song and maybe The Pajama Game. It depends how I feel.