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When it comes to made-for-television movies, my standards for review become incredibly relaxed. The very nature of the medium dictate their structure with something attention grabbing needing to occur every ten or so minutes to keep viewers from changing the channel. They're almost doomed to fail in concept alone; becoming comparably inferior pieces of entertainment. When it comes to Sc-Fi Channel original movies, my standards for review are all but thrown out the window. Sure, they can sometimes be fun with Bruce Campebll fare like Alien Apocalypse getting play and the hilariously cheesy Frankenfish, but most often they're so nauseatingly bad that they leave me questioning the existence of a God.

The Black Hole
An early morning explosion at a scientific facility in St. Louis catches the attention of scientists Eric Bryce and Shannon Muir. They send in an investigative team who quickly learn the importance of not messing around with a black hole and/or the electrical beast it spews out. Unfortunately for them, it's one of those mistakes you're probably not going to repeat... sort of like opening the ark of the covenant. The military quickly becomes involved and fancies dropping a nuclear bomb onto the hole just to see what happens, much against the advice of our brilliant scientists who let this whole thing happen in the first place. When the military operation to destroy the creature and the black hole from which it came switches to a higher branch of the government; a jerk-wad military general and moronic president take charge, pitting blatant ignorance and stupidity against an alien creature.

Personally, a large portion of my opinion dealing with a film's quality has to do with expectation. Rarely if ever do I enter a movie ignorant to it's content. I like to read up on the story, cast and director and from there create an expectation. For this movie, it meant giving the cover a going-over and the trailer a look-see. I went into The Black Hole expecting a typical sci-fi made-for-television thriller and I was not disappointed. It's a fairly ambitious little film that kept my attention for the full ninety minutes. I wouldn't call it great, but I wouldn't hesitate to call it good, and that's saying a mouthful for any Sci-Fi Channel original movie. Most of the film's success can be attributed to it's fun cast led by Judd Nelson, Kristy Swanson and David Selby.

I should've known I was in for an extra cheesy ninety minutes when the opening text of the flick mentioned an assumption someone made and followed it up with They were wrong. That little dramatic cliche really works better in movie trailers and even then is tired and overused. The people who were wrong were a council of scientists who met in July, 1999 and what they're wrong about was the possibility of a black hole existing. The tag line might also have clued me in to the dairy-nature of the film, "No force from this world can stop it". Having seen The Black Hole in it's entirety, I'm fairly confident that statement qualifies as false advertising, but I dare not spoil the ending.

The Black Hole
Much to my surprise, the special effects of the film weren't half bad. I was actually impressed with most everything there was to see in The Black Hole. The creature seems to borrow elements from Scooby Doo 2's 10,000 Volt Ghost and Hulk's Absorbing Man, but it still works. Electro-beastie can only be seen in the outline of moving electricity and therefore I can't provide you with a shape-defining screenshot of it. That's him above on the bed of a truck. It moves similar to the Predator when in stealth-mode, only this monster's almost always in stealth mode. As for the destruction caused by the black hole, everything looks believable. For someone who's been to St. Louis, watching downtown get ripped apart by a swirling vacuum of nature is really strange. Even though the famous St. Louis Arch appears to crumble, don't worry. About fifteen minutes later it's clearly visible again in the background for all to see. I wonder, could this have been unintentional? Nah.

The only thing that really troubled me about The Black Hole is that it became sloppy at times. For example, when our scientists are having a web-cam chat with the Mayor of St. Louis, the web-cam point of view changes each time we cut to the other person. The first few inter-cuts show facial close-ups on the monitors and half a moment later each chat participant has a long wide shot. Hilariously, one instance shows a web-cam image on a monitor that's actually dollying across the room! I had no idea such web-cam technology existed. Another downside to the film was some of the dialogue. At one point, the Mayor of St. Louis exclaims "General Tate, get ready to go nuclear on this thing." I had no idea mayoral jurisdiction extended that far and the very thought chills me to the bone.

The Black Hole is good sci-fi fun and I'm not ashamed to display it on my shelf for the world to see. Would I have churned out $20 for it? Not a chance. But if you enjoy a cheesy sci-fi and happen to see this one previously viewed or on sale, I'd recommend giving it a try. If nothing else, you can gaze in wonder at how much Judd Nelson looks like a young Kevin Smith.

The Black Hole
Video
Keeping with Echo Bridge's lovely habit of not releasing technical specifications, I've gathered from the film that it was shot in 1:85:1 aspect ratio. It's an effects-heavy show and luckily, the transfer provided displays them all in good quality. For a low-budget television movie, The Black Hole looks as nice as you could possibly expect it to.

Audio
Shockingly, Echo Bridge has done the unthinkable and listed the disc's audio specifications on the case and menus, how terribly convenient. They've shown The Black Hole a great deal of love, bordering on too much. The disc contains tracks for DTS 5.1, Dolby Digital 5.1 and Dolby Digital 2.0. I listened to the main feature in it's entirety with both the 5.1 tracks and as always, could tell little difference between them. Take your pick, they both sound excellent. DTS just sounds louder to me.

Both tracks showcase the film's sound mix very well. Just as with content, this is an ambitious little film with large amount of action to assault your ears. From it's high-energy score to the electro-beast's buzz to the army helicopters and title character itself; The Black Hole sounds fantastic.

Extras
Aside from some nicely animated menu screens, we're given a seventeen minute featurette called 'Exploring The Black Hole'. It features interviews with the director, producer, editor and composer. Echo Bridge boasts that this featurette contains interviews with the cast and crew on the back cover, so what gives? I wouldn't have minded a few words from the likes of Judd Nelson, Kristy Swanson and David Selsby. Don't promise what you don't have next time, Echo Bridge. Without the cast, it plays like a visual effects piece showing animatics and before/after comparison shots. It's a little too heavy on film footage for my taste, but it's still entertaining material.

During the featurette, the director said something that I found to be very interesting (spoiler ahead). Watch the film and pay close attention to the creature that crawls out of the black hole. Who draws first blood, man or beast? Does the creature at any time show unprovoked hostility towards anyone? What does the extreme reaction of the scientists and the military say about who we are as a society and how we react to the uknown? Am I digging too deep into this b-movie? Quite possibly, yes.

The Black Hole
Overall
Unquestionably one of the better made-for-television movies I've ever seen and an absolute treasure by normal Sci-Fi Channel movie standards, I enjoyed The Black Hole quite a bit. I was very impressed with the technical presentation the disc has to offer and also satisfied in the supplemental department. This is a release that Echo Bridge can be proud of.


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