Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Portrait of a Badass: Maximilian

Character: Maximilian
Actor: N/A
Film: The Black Hole (1979)
Badass Moment: VS Alex Durant

At the end of the 1970s, Star Wars had the science fiction world in an inescapable Dianoga stranglehold. Any and all challengers to George Lucas's throne would be thrown into the Sarlac Pit and slowly digested over a thousand years. Those who would attempt to stand on the shoulders of AT-ATs and capitalize on Star Wars mania with their own knock-off product would find themselves under a mighty, metal foot in quick order.

Conditions were perfect for an underdog.

Along came The Black Hole, Disney's space opera counter-attack. (We'll treat it as such for the purpose of this essay, even though its conceptualization pre-dated the release of Star Wars by two years.) This movie had guts. It blazed dark, new, PG-rated trails for a studio whose edgiest movie to date had been The Apple Dumpling Gang. More importantly, it stood in the face of Star Wars's iron-fisted oppression and said, "Oh yeah?"

Even though The Empire Strikes Back effectively responded with, "Yeah and so's your mama," while using The Force to crush The Black Hole's throat, The Black Hole stands out as an important science fiction film (and I'm not just saying that because it's the Walt Disney Company's most expensive box office failure ever, although that's always been a plus in my mind, too).

Contributing significantly to The Black Hole's dark tone was a silent, bucket-headed robot called Maximilian. This metal "mystery monster," as he is called by another robot in the film, floats around scaring the beezus out of everyone with his glowing red eye, his reluctance to speak and let's not forget his arm-mounted retractable food processor blades of death.

Glowing eye
Blades of death
What else do I have to say?
We didn't start the fire.

Speaking of fire (spoiler alert), some of the infernal imagery at the end of film seems to suggest that Maximilian's trip through the black hole lands him in charge of Hell itself. Talk about going over the top! The filmmakers couldn't have made this robot more badass if they showed him riding a Harley Davidson into an erupting volcano while killing John Wayne with a shuriken between the eyes from five hundred meters away.

Of course, I'm glossing over the fact fact that, despite boasting some relatively edgy themes and a particularly badass robot, The Black Hole is a really silly movie. It's full of sketchy science. It's packed with stiff-legged extras pretending really hard that they're androids. It even has a scene where a robot with a British accent laments the death of a robot with a southern accent. It's not exactly a masterpiece...but then again, neither is Star Wars in many ways.

Maximilian, you are a badass who could kick the crap out of Threepio any day. We salute you.

3 comments:

Bentcorner said...

I went to the movies to see this when it first came out and I remember enjoying it. With that said, I cannot remember anything about it. Not one single thing.

Is it even on DVD? I've been thinking of this movie lately. At the same flea market I blogged about the other day, I saw a couple of Black Hole comics. I almost bought them just to brush up on the story. I then thought of the possibility of getting in a horrific car accident.

I wouldn't want to be found dead with a stack of 50 cent Black Hole comics sitting next to my lifeless body.

Jesse Jace said...

Looks like it has been released on DVD:

http://www.amazon.com/Black-Hole-Ernest-Borgnine/dp/6305342776

Last time I owned a copy of The Black Hole, it was a VHS "collector's edition" that came in a clumsy tin the size of a lunch box.

I'd have bought those comics, and I hardly ever buy comics anymore. It'd be worth the humiliation.

Bentcorner said...

Hey thanks. I just added it to my Netflix queue. Now if I would return the three discs sitting on the dining room table....

I just don't remember ever seeing it on the shelf while looking for DVD's.