Hollywood is not exactly known for scientific accuracy especially in films that feature space and astronomical objects. Usually, you can’t blame them. After all, we still know so little about our universe even regarding its most dangerous objects: black holes. It’s not exactly easy to study black holes, but that doesn’t stop filmmakers from imagining them in their own science fiction black hole movie portrayals.
Despite that, we still enjoy whatever semblances of science Hollywood throws at us. Heck, we even have two clashing science-fiction names whose fans are on an ongoing eternal vendetta. I like both by the way– put down your pitchforks. As for black holes, things are bound to change in science fiction’s portrayal about them, especially now since have an actual photo of a black hole:
There it is. The Messier 87 black hole; 7,000,000,000 times the mass of our yellow sun. It’s calling out to you and wants you to take that precious golden ring to it… oh wait, wrong fandom.
For a long time, astronomers, physicists, and even artists have tried to depict what black holes actually look like. Now that we see it, it’s still as mysterious as ever. Partly because of the blurry quality and partly because it’s a dark, unending, and chaotic object which erases everything that exists in our universe. To make them even more intimidating, they are essentially the ghost of dead stars– romantically speaking.
So, how does the first actual image of the black hole compare Hollywood’s portrayal of these huge anomalies that are nihilism made manifest? Let’s explore that with some of the best black hole movie portrayals from Hollywood:
Man of Steel
For some people, Zack Snyder’s Man of Steel might be a film that deserves to be flushed down a black hole. However, the 2013 incarnation of Superman has included concepts about black holes that make it worth mentioning in this black hole movie list. In the very first act of the movie, particularly in the planet Krypton, Zod and his loyalists were sentenced to the alien civilization’s so-called “Phantom Zone” prison via a black hole.
Apparently, the Kryptonians had a device called the Phantom Zone Projector which can create a selective black hole at will. It seems this black hole always lead to the Phantom Zone. While such a notion is purely fiction and lots of blanks were filled in with guesswork, no one really knows what’s on the other side of a black hole– or if there even is an “other side.” This makes the Phantom Zone quite ambiguous. The same black hole was then created to pull back Zod’s comrades into the Phantom Zone:
Of course, nothing about said the said strategic black hole or singularity is realistic, but that’s to be expected. For the record, smaller black holes like that one are actually even more dangerous and more powerful than huge black holes. That’s because a smaller black hole is denser since it contains more mass per volume compared to a bigger one. Lois Lane clearly shouldn’t have fallen, neither would Superman be able to fly away from such a dense event horizon (a black hole’s “point of no return”) from the said black hole.
Basically, a black hole that size is pretty much the end of Earth and even the moon, throw in some “nearby” planets too.
Star Trek (2009)
Gotta hand it to J.J. Abrams, 2009’s Star Trek reboot was nothing short of spectacular both in acting and in lens flares. With that said, it did take some liberties with black holes, often using them as nukes or be-all, end-all plot devices, as if they can be weaponized. Great as Star Trek may be, it’s not without its faults in portraying black holes based on the laws of physics:
Apart from portraying a multi-dimensional object as a flat or two-dimensional “portal” thingy, they also made it out like some sort of an entrance to a different dimension where one can come out safe and alive. That would not have been the case if it were a real black hole. Anything that falls into a singularity or the center of the black hole, usually and arguably becomes one with it, hence “singularity.” There’s a big chance that Spock and even the rogue Romulans would not live long and prosper in a parallel universe. For that matter, this ending probably would not have happened either:
You could argue that the two films above somehow did not give justice to black holes. After all, they are supposed to be hellish by our Earthly standards and are actually far from “space nukes” or “random portals” which most sci-fi films have portrayed them to be.
So, along came Event Horizon from 1997 and made everyone understand that black holes are not big inconsequential doorways to other safe parallel places. They’re actually a one-way ticket to hell– if hell was designed by either Clive Barker or the four Chaos Gods of the Warhammer 40K universe:
In Event Horizon‘s sci-fi universe, a futuristic manned space vessel utilized an artificial “black hole” to somehow bridge two points in spacetime, making travel instantaneous. As for why they did not call it a wormhole instead is probably due to the fact that “black hole” sounds more sinister and fitting for a horror movie. Needless to say, that’s usually not how black holes work and thankfully, they won’t give your ship a detour to hell and back.
The Black Hole (1979)
Disney made this film, imagine that. Historically, it is also the first Walt Disney film to get a PG rating. The title itself says it all. It’s a film about a black hole and that’s enough as a plot back in 1979 back in a time when space travels and breakthroughs were all the rage. Here’s the cryptic trailer for the whole movie:
Like Event Horizon, The Black Hole portrays its namesake material quite enigmatically. There are some dramatic and thrilling twists in the film regarding a lone robot and its goal of wanting to study a black hole. However, the film culminates to the protagonists entering a black hole and experiencing all kinds of terror and horrific imagery which got quite dark and disturbing for a Disney film:
Somehow, they still got out through a white hole, which is the exact opposite of a black hole and is theorized as an exit point for them (through a connection by wormholes). However, they are simply just that, a theory. Even a lot of physicists who work on such subjects do not think white holes (or wormholes) exist since there is no known way for them to form realistically or naturally. Only black holes are certain, meaning only death is certain in the universe for now. Your move, optimists.
If a black hole was a person who wanted its own best representation in film, then it would probably give a Twitter shoutout to Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar. This sci-fi film is probably the most mind-bendingly enjoyable black hole movie ever. Of course, there aren’t many films which portray black holes correctly, which is why Interstellar is all the more special. It still took liberties with things like wormholes:
However, what makes Interstellar worth watching for you black hole buffs (apart from Matthew McConaughey’s raspy voice) is how it handles black holes and gravity. The film portrayed a huge black hole, named Gargantua, which distorted time around it. Eventually, Cooper (McConaughey) fell into the black hole’s event horizon but not enough to get obliterated since Gargantua has a gentle singularity, being a huge black hole.
For those wondering how he could have survived such an ordeal, it has been theorized that he never got that far to be destroyed by the singularity. Cooper is shown falling into a tesseract within the black hole’s event horizon made by the future humans in order to save their ancestors. Excuse me a minute, a vein in my forehead is throbbing.
Let’s not forget, it’s still science fiction. That wormhole and that tesseract within the black hole was only made possible by the future five-dimensional humans. Still, by far, Interstellar’s interpretation of a black hole is relatively the most accurate out of all Hollywood’s attempt both in appearance and function. Not bad, really. Hopefully, Hollywood gets it right in future sci-fi titles, especially now that we have actual photo proof of a black hole.
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