Joaquin Phoenix Falls In Love With An A.I.: Today In Science & Science Fiction

By David Wharton | Published

This article is more than 2 years old

HerDirector Spike Jonze isn’t exactly known for his mainstream tastes. He’s the guy who gave us, along with even-more-eccentric screenwriter Charlie Kaufman, Being John Malkovich and Adaptation. So when it came time for somebody to write and direct a film about a lonely dude falling in love with his operating system, it’s not surprising the job went to Jonze. In Her, Joaquin Phoenix stars as Theodore, a sad-sack who makes a living ghost-writing heartfelt, emotional letters for other people. (Sort of a Cyrano de Bergerac thing, but without the prominent proboscis.) His long-term relationship has cratered and the guy is obviously feeling a bit vulnerable, so when he loads up a new artificially intelligent operating system that’s supposed to cater to your every need, an unlikely love connection is formed. It doesn’t hurt that it sounds like
Scarlett Johannson.

If the concept at first sounds silly, don’t kid yourself: this is going to happen someday. As technology advances and the line between organic and synthetic grows ever finer, it’s completely believable that some will opt for a love they can program rather than the more challenging flesh-and-blood variety. Hell, we already live in a world of mail-order brides and Real Dolls and a.i. telemarketers who claim they aren’t a.i. telemarketers. Clearly the synthetics are going to face some discrimination, however, since Johannson’s performance apparently isn’t eligible for a Golden Globes nomination because…who knows.

Her opened in limited release this past Wednesday, but we’re making it our pick for today because most people likely won’t have had the time to see it until the weekend. Plus, there ain’t shit else going on in sci-fi land today. It goes into wide release on Friday, January 10, and we’ll post our review next week.

The Black Hole (December 20, 1979)

Disney’s The Black Hole is one of those movies I have fond memories of, but which I’ve gone out of my way never to watch again as an adult. I have a sneaking suspicion it may be terrible when not filtered through childhood nostalgia. I mean, in theory it sounds promising: the space vessel Palomino is on its way back to Earth after a long mission when they discover something impossible — another ship, parked smack-dab next to a black hole, seemingly immune to the anomaly’s gravitation pull. Needless to say, that’s the sort of thing worth investigating, especially when they discover that the ship is the USS Cygnus, a vessel that went missing two decades earlier, along with the father of Palomino scientist Dr. Kate McCrae.

They manage to board the Cygnus, encountering a mysterious pocket of null gravity surrounding the other ship. Aboard they find a lone survivor: the ship’s commander, Dr. Hans Reinhardt, along with a menacing red robot called Maximilian and a pack of creepy, faceless androids. Reinhardt reveals that the ship had been damaged, forcing the crew, aside from himself, to evacuate. He has since spent all those intervening years studying the black hole, and now he wants to try and pilot the Cygnus through it, believing he’s found a way for it to make the trip without being destroyed. That sounds pretty batty, and it’s not long before a bit of snooping around reveals the real fate of the Cygnus crew, and it ain’t a happy one.

The Black Hole had its premiere screening on December 20, 1979, and opened in theatrical release the next day. I’m kind of surprised that the flick isn’t on Netflix, as that seems like the perfect venue for people to revisit it or discover it. Then again, if it doesn’t hold up, that may be why. If nothing else it’s got a great concept at its core, and Oblivion director Joseph Kosinski is working on a remake, so perhaps it will get its due the second time around.

What do you guys think, are you fans of the original Black Hole? Do you think it deserves a remake? Sound off in the comments below!