By Maria S. Katafigioti (Athens, Greece)
The Theory of Everything is the new Stephen Hawking biopic which just came out. I was expecting it, since there are so many things one can learn about his fascinating life and scientific achievements. However, my reaction to the movie was very mixed. It was based on his first wife’s novel, which focuses more on the marriage than on anything else. The acting by Eddie Redmayne was superb, astute and nuanced. Felicity Jones also did a great job in portraying his heroically patient and principled wife (at least according to her own self-description!).
What, I think was missing and thus, took away from the story and from understanding of Mr. Hawking as a scientist was… the science. I was very disappointed that there was barely any effort to go into his discoveries and show why what he did was of any significance. The drama of both the science and the dramatic process that led to it (and that was apparently distorted or skipped over altogether in various ways) were both missing, thus undermining the movie and making it rather standard overall, rather than truly inspiring.
You may come to admire Stephen Hawking as a heroic personality who prefers to push on rather than give in to wallowing in self-pity, but it won’t inspire anyone to explore theoretical physics or even share the excitement of scientists seeking and struggling to understand and explain the existence of the universe, the existence of physics, the piles of numbers, pictures, experimental data and models compiled over decades.
We know that Einstein’s theory of general relativity says that, at its most basic level, the fabric should be smooth and continuous. But that was before Hawking and quantum mechanics which leapt onto the scene. While relativity is great at describing the universe on visible scales, quantum physics tells us all about the way things work on the level of atoms and subatomic particles. None of these things were mentioned in this movie, which is a real shame, because that’s what I really wanted to see and feel.
Yes, I can review Hawking or whomever I wish in my spare time and at leisure or read some other more contemporary article. But the portrayal of the excitement of the scientific detectives out on a hunt for the hidden treasure? That deserves the spotlight on the big screen. Let’s just hope future such endeavors (i.e. the upcoming Alan Turing biopic) will fare better in that regard.