The Void (2001)


Canada. 2001.


Director – Gilbert Shilton, Screenplay – Gilbert Shilton & Geri Cudia Barger, Producer – David Willson, Photography – Attila Szalay, Music – Ross Vannelli, Visual Effects Supervisors – Robin Hachl & James Tichenor, Visual Effects – Image Design Engine Inc, Special Effects Supervisor – Gary Paller, Production Design – James Philpott. Production Company – The Void Productions Group Inc/Crescent


Amanda Tapping (Eva Soderstrom), Adrian Paul (Professor Steven Pryce), Malcolm McDowell (Dr Thomas Abernathy), Michael Rivkin (Dr Jason Lazarus), Andrew McIlroy (Oscar), Kirsten Robek (Christine Marshall), Roger R. Cross (Detective), French Tickner (Dr Soderstrom)


Eva Soderstrom begs her former lover, engineering professor Steven Pryce, for access to the computer network of his employer, the Filadyne Corporation. Unknown to him, she downloads plans for Filadyne’s current project and realises that Filadyne head Thomas Abernathy is intending to create an atom-sized black hole using a particle accelerator. A previous attempt by Abernathy to create a miniature black hole at a facility in Luxembourg ended up producing an explosion that destroyed the laboratory and killed Eva’s father. After calculating the mathematics, Eva realises that Abernathy’s experiment is unstable and could create a black hole that would fall to the centre of the Earth. There it would bounce around like a ping-pong ball pulled by gravity and keep growing and devouring everything in its path until it destroyed the world. She begs the help of Steven and his co-worker Jason Lazarus in shutting the project down. Instead, Abernathy’s men kill Lazarus and pursue her and Steven, trying to silence them. She concludes that the only recourse is for them to break into the Filadyne facility and sabotage the experiment as it gets underway.

The Void is a rare example of a science-fiction film that comes with a strong and literate science-fiction idea – moreover, one that is impeccably well-researched and contains cutting edge science. In this case, The Void has taken speculation about the existence of atom-sized black holes and the thought experiment that was done by some scientists about what might happen if such a black hole were able to penetrate the Earth’s crust, where it is believed that it would become trapped by gravity and would endlessly ping around devouring the interior of the planet until the world collapsed in on itself like a deflated beach ball. Such an idea also formed the basis of the David Brin novel Earth (1990).

Alas, after setting up such an original premise and managing to get its physics impeccably right, The Void goes and entirely wastes a good idea. All that the idea serves as is the basis of a routine thriller. Gilbert Shilton’s directorial style is visually bland. The whole film looks exactly like a tv movie and Shilton has little idea of any set-ups that are not clichés or that we have not seen a million times before. At one point, one of the central characters even manages to twist their ankle during a crucial moment – although at least it is the guy who does so rather than the woman but it is hard to tell if this is intended as a witty reversal of clichés or not.

The rest of the film is dominated by a tired bunch of conspiracy/evil corporation thriller clichés – it is for example, 75 minutes into The Void‘s 92 minute running time before the black hole even makes an appearance. And after it does, all that we get is just another Frankenstein science film – Malcolm McDowell proves to be yet another one-dimensional mad scientist; the experiment goes amok due to the scientist’s recklessness; there is a last minute countdown where the fate of the world hangs in the balance; the experiment is finally destroyed taking the laboratory with it – which is highly disappointing considering the conceptual boldness that The Void has grasped at.

One other complaint that one might make is that the plot description and character names on the cover of the DVD/video release from Trimark bear little resemblance to anything that happens in the film.

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