Black Hole (2006)
R1 - America - Echo Bridge Home Entertainment
Review written by and copyright: Jari Kovalainen (23rd September 2006).
The Film

Imagine a big budget Hollywood CGI-spectacle of a scientific experiment gone wrong, and the results could mean the end of the world as we know it. Take a scientific team, lead by the slightly alcoholic doctor (with a strange hairstyle, I might add) rushed back to work and who with his assistant ex-girlfriend is trying to resolve the issue before it´s too late. Add the military who´s now in charge, citizens who are being evacuated amidst a small panic, and the White House, where the President is trying to keep up with the ever-changing situation and make the final decisions that could involve the use of nuclear weapons. Imagine that the military General working with the scientists is played by Morgan Freeman, the lead doctor is played by Eric Bana, and his ex-girlfriend is played by Naomi Watts. Pressure in all sides is high, and the time is running out. Now keep the basic plot, but reduce the $140,000,000 budget to around $3,500,000, take the director Tibor Takács, and replace Morgan Freeman with David Selby (General Ryker), Eric Bana with Judd Nelson (Eric Bryce), and Naomi Watts with Kristy Swanson (Shannon Muir). Finally, move the whole production to TV, and you have a film called “Black Hole (2006)”.

I have been quite impressed with certain mini-series from the recent years on TV (e.g. from HBO), so it was interesting to see what is the quality when the budget is low even for the TV-production, and where you have a small film that is not very known outside the US (this premiered on the “Sci Fi”-channel). “Black Hole” opens with an intro text stating that the nuclear physicists have come to a conclusion that with a “heavy ion collider experiment”, it´s very unlikely - almost impossible, that the side-effect could be the formation of a black hole (“An object with a gravitational field so strong that nothing can escape it - not even light”). Well, they were wrong, and the film soon kicks into high speed when that type of experiment goes awry in the laboratory. The head of the team goes to investigate the situation, only to find out that something very strange is now unleashed; the actual black hole is starting to form, and some king of “electrical entity” escapes from it. It kills (=completely vaporises) the people from its path and the black hole does the rest. Other scientists upstairs (including Shannon) don´t fully know what is going on, so they have to get Eric Bryce back on the job (he wakes up with the empty whiskey bottle at the table). After the entity moves to the same floor with the remaining scientists and selected military people, continuing on the outside to the power-lines, it´s quite clear that it “feeds” from the electricity, and can cause serious trouble if it finds the source that is too powerful. At the same time the media is alerted, so the news helicopters are soon on the air, showing live-footage of the entity (it has a minor resemblance to the “Kineticlops”-monster on the PS2 game “War of the Monsters” - but without the eye) when it moves on the power cables. The bigger threat is still to come. The black hole is getting bigger and bigger, and soon it´s big enough to actually start “devouring” the city of St. Louis. Buildings, monuments, cars - and probably people too (not really seen in the film, though) - will be sucked in its black unknown. Eric and Shannon are pretty much the only hope to stop this destruction, since after St. Louis it could kill the whole of America, and after America eventually the whole world. The military is skeptical as always, and their option is of course force. Drop the nuclear bomb to the damn thing, and hope for the best (!). Which side will win - scientific or military, and will the world be saved? How can they stop both the hole and the entity, and how connected are they?

“Black Hole” is a low budget affair - you can see it, but the film is still fairly harmless science fiction entertainment, something that you can pop in the DVD-player every once in a while. The plot is relatively simple (even when there is some technical jargon), there is some constant “action” going on, and the CGI-effects are surprisingly decent - bearing in mind that this was a TV-production after all. Sure, some of the destruction effects are noticeable inferior to the bigger productions, but the CGI connected to the “entity” and electricity works pretty well. It was also a smart decision to show the bigger destruction mainly via the news-camera footage, which gives some added realism. I guess this film shows that you can create some decent effects with a smaller budget also, but obviously this type of film will never look as good as the big blockbusters (effect wise). Where the film doesn´t work very well is the settings, especially interiors. The location of e.g. the laboratory is rather well chosen, but you can´t help but get the feeling that the bunch of actors are trying to “act big” in the very low budget atmosphere. There are beaming lights, the whole building shakes, and the group of people is staring at the monitors, but unfortunately it all looks quite lame - something that you could see on, well, the TV-series. It´s also quite unconvincing when the President and his advisor occasionally pop up in the screen, since these actors are roughly taken from the parking lot to the movie (just look at the final scene with them, and you know what I´m talking about). Exteriors are better, since now there are space and flexibility to show different angles and wide-shots where the entity is going, and you have also helicopters and SUVs (sponsored by Hummer, no doubt) to create more sense that there is a national emergency going on. Again, big crowded scenes of scared civilians are far and a few, but then again many of them are already stuck in the traffic jams on the highways (this is something that has happened too quickly in the story). It was refreshing to see some real locations of St. Louis in selected scenes, since too often it´s towns like New York, or some Canadian town pretended to be some American town.

Of course, as in the similar blockbusters, Eric has a daughter (and an ex-wife, his love life hasn´t been a success) who he wants to get into safety, but this side-plot doesn´t really go anywhere. Judd Nelson (from e,g, the brat-pack films “St. Elmo's Fire (1985)” and “The Breakfast Club (1985)”) turns out to be the best actor from the whole bunch, but that´s not necessarily saying too much. Kristy Swanson (horror-fans will probably remember her from Wes Craven´s “Deadly Friend (1986)” and “Flowers in the Attic (1987)”) is cute, but her role is merely to run behind Nelson. These two have one decent scene together before the dramatic ending scenes, though. David Selby´s (from e.g. “Night of Dark Shadows (1971)” and “Raise the Titanic (1980)”) character gets better when the film progress, but he´s seriously lacking charisma to play the General. Some people might remember director Tibor Takács from the 1980s horror-flicks such as “The Gate (1987)” and “I, Madman (1989)”, and it´s quite safe to say that his career has the best future in TV (he seems to be quite active in that front). To sum it up, “Black Hole” follows the rather typical formula when it comes to sci-fi and disaster-movies (this is a mixture of both, perhaps a glimpse of horror included as an added bonus), not being very original and including a fair share of silly scenes. Still, it´s partly entertaining and with the film that has both an electrical monster AND a black hole at the same time, you can´t go totally wrong.

Video

The film is presented in Anamorphic 1.85:1. The transfer fares quite well when it comes to colours and black levels, but there are some issues with occasional softness (not sure if this is due to the original source material), and some compression artifacts can be spotted every now and then. The image still looks quite good and clean, so now major complaints. The “dual layer” disc is coded “R1”, and the film runs 89:45 minutes (NTSC). There are 15 chapters.

Audio

Quite surprisingly, the disc offers three audio tracks; English DTS 5.1, English Dolby Digital 5.1, and English Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono (the menu states “Stereo”, but it sounded Mono to me). There are no subtitles of any kind. I chose the DTS-track, which is quite aggressive. Even when it doesn´t have a huge amount of really effective surround-activity or directional cues, music, along with entity and destruction effects are nicely presented. The dialogue is a bit low sometimes, so you probably need to turn the volume up occasionally. It has to be added, that both 5.1-tracks sounded quite equal this time.

Extras

The only proper extras is “Exploring the Black Hole” -featurette, running 17:23 minutes. This is a little featurette about the production, where we hear from the director Tibor Takács, co-producer Kenneth M. Badish, editor Ellen Fine, and composer John Dickson. There are some interesting aspects like the CGI-work and editing (we can also see a brief “temp fx vs. final version”-comparison during the interviews), and director Takács seems to have a quite clear view on filmmaking. Producer Badish gives a fairly typical “this-and-that actor was a real professional” etc, not very interesting to be frank. The main idea of the film has taken from the scientific research (e.g. could the black hole be created?), which is of course always intriguing.

3 bonus trailers are included before the “Main menu”, but they can be skipped; “10.5: Apocalypse (2006)”, “Supernova" (mini-series/2005)”, and “Category 7: The End of the World (2005)”. All similar low budget “disaster/sci-fi”-theme.

Overall

This low budget TV-production can be partly fun if you´re into sci-fi and disaster-movies, and you can watch them without any million $ effects and superstar-actors. DVD includes fairly good transfer and DTS-track, so could be a lot worse.

For more info, please visit the homepage of Echo Bridge Home Entertainment.

The Film: Video: Audio: Extras: Overall:

 


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