Chief Science Correspondent
I've often said that scientists are grossly underrepresented in modern movies.
If you want to watch a good movie featuring a real-life writer, a painter, a doctor, a musician or even a lawyer, chances are you won't have to look very far. Yet most of the science-oriented movies I have seen are unrealistic to the point of ridiculousness.
I'm talking about any science fiction movie you've seen (which is certainly a respectable genre on its own, but not the same as a science movie...even a fictional science movie) or those quirky movies about a lab experiment gone wrong. I recently watched a particularly horrendous movie from RedBox with my family titled Dude, Where's My Dog? about a laboratory experiment in invisibility gone terribly wrong. You've probably seen a movie like it at some point.
I want to see a movie chronicling Watson and Crick's discovery of the double-helix structure DNA. Or a film featuring Francis Collins' quest to map the human genome. Or Marie Curie's development of the theory of radioactivity. (Admittedly, Curie has had a movie made about her life, but it was released in 1943.) Even Einstein has only been deemed TV movie-worthy, with two films airing in 2005 and 2008.
I had given up hope of ever seeing one of my scientific heroes featured on the big screen, assuming that these figures simply did not hold enough relevance in general culture to warrant their own feature films. I was proven wrong yesterday, when I happened to come across a trailer for an upcoming movie, titled The Theory of Everything.
A portrayal of the early life and career of Stephen Hawking (played by Eddie Redmayne), The Theory of Everything looks like it could be everything I've ever wanted to see in a science movie. Hawking is a renowned physicist and cosmologist who connected Einstein's theory of relativity to quantum theory, providing insight into the origins of the universe. And his story makes him a perfect subject for this type of film.
It appears a remarkable story, and certainly an intriguing one. I know very little about Hawking's personal life, and I am anxious to learn more about this man, not just as a brilliant scientist or even as a patient, but as a person.
Therefore, I will be sure to see The Theory of Everything when it premiers on Nov. 7. However, I also plan to approach the movie with a skeptical eye, and I plan to read Hawking's 2013 autobiography, My Brief History, before seeing the movie. After doing a bit of reading into Hawking's personal history, I already fear that the movie's depiction of Hawking may be over-sensationalized. This is, of course, an inherent risk of any biographical film. Sometimes, the true events just don't make for an enticing enough drama.
One glaring potential fault of the movie may be the choice to center the story around the love between Hawking and his wife. Although I do not know much about Hawking's early years of romance, I do know that the couple's 30-year marriage was said to be strained in later years, with Wilde falling in love with another man and becoming frustrated with Hawking's egotism. Hawking divorced Wilde to pursue a second marriage with his nurse in 1995, with which lasted just over a decade before also ending in divorce.
This is not to say that Hawking and Wilde did not enjoy an early, youthful romance. However, Wilde's impassioned proclamation, "I want us to be together for as long as we've got," seems slightly less powerful when the viewer knows that the real-life Wilde ultimately grew agitated with her husband and fell in love with another man.
It's not that viewers are oblivious to the fact that not all romances last forever. But I think, to an extent, many of us connect with movie romances because we want to believe that the ending scene of love and bliss lasts forever. Yet real life tells us that for these two particular characters, that won't be the case. This movie romance was doomed before it even began.
I hope that the depiction of this romance, as well as the other aspects of Hawking's life and the technicalities of his work, are not overly embellished to the point where they contradict the real-life story. The Theory of Everything, if done right, could set a strong precedent for many more modern science-centered productions in the future.