Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Cheesy Sci-Fi Movie Review: The Black Hole

No, not that Black Hole.

This one.

So what's up with this movie?

Well, remember a while back when they were getting ready to fire up the LHC and everybody was joking about whether or not the thing could accidentally make a black hole? This movie makes that into a disaster movie.

A disaster movie so full of nonsense science that it will probably make physicists turn into black holes from the density of their massive anger. (Incidentally, here's a more coherent and logical review. I'm about to retreat into crazyland.)

A safer approach probably would have been to call the object the "amazing massive space booger of death" (AMSBOD). This actually would have been less insulting to the viewer's intelligence, and would also conveniently have an alternate explanation for the black hole's behavior (it's really sticky). Since this is my review, I think I'm actually going to do that.

The movie goes something like this. A hot scientist (played by Kristy Swanson), an old geezer scientist, and some geeky kid scientist find out something bad happened inside their particle accelerator. The geezer and the geek put on radiation suits and hop into a Cushman so they can drive around in the giant maintenance tunnels. Then, when they get close to the mysterious anomaly (actually an AMSBOD), a giant semi-transparent, static-filled alien monster eats the geezer by vaporizing him, while the AMSBOD sticks to the geek and the Cushman and absorbs them into its boogermass. (Hilariously, the hot scientist says to him "Why are you going the wrong way?") Yes, you read that right. (Okay, so there were what looked like gravitational effects. My story is that it's a sticky space booger [really sticky], and I'm stickin' to it. Pun intended.)

Why is there a staticky invisible monster involved with the "black hole?" If it were actually a black hole, it would make no sense, but since this is actually an AMSBOD, we can infer that this is a common property of AMSBODs. Let's move on.

The army concludes that this is an emergency, and grabs a hung-over, frizzy-haired scientist who used to work at the lab (played by Judd Nelson-the scientist, not the lab), since he is the foremost expert on the movie's stupid version of "black hole" science. They examine the evidence, and eventually conclude rather strangely that the AMSBOD alien somehow caused the accident. You do realize, sirs, that this basically would make the alien a self-creating deity of some kind?

Anyway, the AMSBOD alien sneaks around in the facility for a while, tearing up cables and eating electricity and people. It eventually bursts out of a vent, eats a couple more guys (and makes some throw-away character throw up), and then runs away when the alarms go off. Keep in mind, the AMSBOD has been sitting there for hours. How come nothing has happened yet?

Let me take a momentary aside and explain the problem. See, a black hole is essentially an infinitely dense speck of material whose "event horizon" determines its effective "size." The event horizon is a place of gravitational cutoff-nothing on the one side stands a chance of escaping. What this means is that a black hole is smaller than an atomic nucleus. Generally also, black holes will not be significantly affected by any forces other than gravity, so far as we know. What does this mean?

It means the black hole ought to rapidly (and I do mean rapidly) fall to the center of the Earth, where we can neither do anything about it nor see what's happening. One of two things would then happen.

First possibility (let me emphasize "possibility") is that the black hole will "evaporate." According to some famous scientist guy, black holes emit radiation (I'm grossly oversimplifying) that will eventually bleed off all their mass, despite being inescapable. A small black hole actually would emit this radiation more rapidly, and thus theoretically evaporate really quickly. (Of course, it's emitting vast amounts of radiation, so that's not a good thing-in fact, a tiny black hole would for all intents and purposes be a nasty, nasty bomb.) If this happened, there might be all kinds of trouble from the energy emissions, but probably, nothing world-ending would happen.

The other possibility is that the black hole would absorb all of Earth's mass. Definitely a bad thing.

Here's the reason neither of these things will have a movie made about them: Too boring. Either the world will end fairly quickly, with little special effects except at the end, or nothing much will happen.

Anyway, back to the movie and its space booger.

The AMSBOD monster runs away, riding around on power lines somehow and seeking out power stations. (Of course, what it's actually seeking out are large transformer stations, not power generation stations, so far as I can tell, but who am I to quibble?) It's tracked at various times by news and military helicopters, and it eventually stops at a power (transmission) station, where it eats a guy and then starts eating power. Frizzy Judd concludes, since the AMSBOD only seems to grow when the monster feeds, that it is somehow sending what it eats back to the AMSBOD. While this is kinda nonsensical, it's interesting, and at least they're using the right piece of nonsensical technobabble (quantum tunneling) this time around. It's also kinda cool to see a big sparky magic thing skittering around on power lines like a gigantic spider made of lightning.

Because of the damage the monster does, an ambulance goes past nearby, and the monster reacts negatively to the sound. Frizzy Judd concludes that the monster probably doesn't like sound "because it comes from a quiet part of the universe." Well, if it is from "outer space," it probably has never heard anything in its life, I suppose. He tests the theory by using his flinker to set off the car alarm. When the alien shoots lightning at the car (an H2, by the way), he concludes that he's correct.

Then they steal the van of the guy that the monster ate. (Hot scientist stops Frizzy Judd from breaking the window, because the car wasn't locked.) In the meantime, the booger has gotten big enough that it destroys the lab. Bizarrely, its "gravitational" effects don't start until it has leveled the walls of the particle accelerator-apparently, the materials used there are opaque to the forces that the AMSBOD uses to stick to objects. It eats a few military people, including the guy who barfed earlier, but nobody important, so it wasn't that big a deal. (Although my sister was sad because it ate "the pretty lady." This is the only time I mention "the pretty lady," so you can guess how important she was to the plot.)

Except for the part where the booger starts wandering around, making a big furrow in the ground.

The film is set in St. Louis, and so, of course, it heads straight for the Arch. The general in charge of the military response wants to go "nuke-yoo-ler" on the AMSBOD, but Frizzy Judd insists that doing that would be crazy, and could cause all kinds of bad stuff, like splitting it into pieces or making it fly around. I could see the flying around because of kinetic energy being imparted, but I'm not sure where he got the idea that a nuke could possibly split apart a singularity. Perhaps he had come to the conclusion that it was a new phenomenon, and was only referring to it as a black hole for convenience.

The booger creates a giant destructive vortex and then sucks up the Gateway Arch, while the Army tries to put together a good enough plan to stop the monster, which, Frizzy Judd thinks, could be used to stop the AMSBOD by taking it back and throwing it in there. How he thinks this could possibly be a good idea, I don't know, but that's what they decide the plot is. Roll with it, it's a bad movie.

So they give some army men some "concussion grenades," which theoretically are loud enough to bother the monster, and they helicopter in a big box (probably a converted cargo canister such as are used by semi trucks, judging by appearances) with fiddly bits on it, which they hope will serve as a monster cage. The grenades don't work very well (should have given them boom boxes or hand sirens or something) and guns are totally pointless, and when they get the monster somewhat close to the box after heavy losses, it uses its lightning to telekinetically pick the box up and throw it at the remaining soldiers, apparently crushing them. (The special effects fell short a bit; it looked a lot more like it landed in front of them.) Then the monster runs away.

They give Frizzy Judd and hot scientist thanks for the advice, but it's nuke time. They ready a nuke, while the president rehearses a terrible speech in an effort to raise tension (though the effect is actually to kill it almost completely). They kind of seem to think that hitting the AMSBOD itself makes more sense than nuking the darned monster; I don't see how this makes any sense at all.

Anyway, they try to send Frizzy Judd and hot scientist away with the evacuation, but they refuse because they want to try their plan again, but with fewer resources and less backup, and Frizzy Judd steals a generator truck and takes it to where the monster is feeding. The station where it's feeding gets turned off, the generator truck is the only source of power around, and the monster decides to sit on top of the truck and quietly ride it, rather than sucking it dry in an instant, killing Frizzy Judd, and wandering off somewhere.

In the climax of the film, an F-117 is sent in to do the nuking. This is stupid for various reasons, the primary one of which is that, well, F-117s aren't intended to deliver nukes. Meanwhile, Frizzy Judd drives the generator truck at the AMSBOD at high speed and hot scientist guides him with GPS. The president, who is watching with a TV, tells the pilot to hold his fire until they can see what's happening with the truck. Frizzy Judd fools around with the truck's fire extinguisher for no clear reason (maybe he just was thinking back to the time he opened up the Autobot Matrix of Leadership and blew away a giant space devil and the fire extinguisher was looking like a good deus ex machina at that point) and then jumps out, letting the truck's momentum carry it and the monster to the AMSBOD.

Despite all the flying debris being sucked in by the AMSBOD, followed by the massive electricky explosion emitted by the booger after the monster hits it, Frizzy Judd is fine, blah blah who cares happy ending.

So what can we surmise about the weird events of the movie?

I'd guess that the AMSBOD was actually some form of evil portal to an alternate dimension, and the monster was an eldritch being from that dimension, making sacrifices in order to increase its own power. (A little bit like the Warp from Warhammer 40,000, for instance.) The particle accelerator simply gave the creature a convenient point of entrance, and was almost coincidental.


What? It makes at least as much sense as how they described it!

-Signing off.

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