I confess that I have never read the book of the same name by Stephen Hawking, and although I have a broad interest in questions about the origins of the universe, I lack the scientific background, knowledge and training to really be able to do more than scratch the surface of the subject. Having heard many people over the years speak highly of the book, I thought this movie might help me do more than scratch the surface - but it really didn't. In fact, the movie in many ways is less about science than it is about Stephen Hawking's life. It's a documentary style biography, as opposed to the dramatized biography presented in the 2014 movie "The Theory Of Everything." And I have to say that the biography part of this is excellent.
One does get a feel for Hawking's life from his childhood (really, from his birth) onward. I've always been something of a fan and admirer of Stephen Hwking -
feelings that are enhanced today, quite honestly, by his willingness to make regular guest appearances on a TV show like "The Big Bang Theory." Aside from his TV appearances and his scientific research, Hawking is probably best known for being afflicted with ALS (in every day terms, Lou Gehrig's Disease.) What we learn from this movie (at least it was speculated by his mother) is that it was his ALS diagnosis that really motivated him in his work. Before the disease, he was a very bright but often unmotivated young man. Perhaps it was the prospect of having a limited time to live that made him what he is today - at least, that seems to be what's suggested here. This is an interesting look at his life - even very inspiring. If Hawking could overcome the challenges he faced and become what he's become, how can I complain about my relatively minor inconveniences? So the bio part of this movie is well done.
The scientific part of the movie I thought, though, was a little bit lacking, for two reasons - which are a little bit contradictory, I confess. First. a lot of what was offered was admittedly over my head. I could be impressed by Hawking's knowledge - but it's kind of like being impressed by anyone who says a lot about things you know little about. I have to accept that he's right, because I don't know enough to say he's wrong, or even to question his ideas - which, as one of the interviewees in the movie said, is the very heart of science. But I don't know enough to raise the questions. And yet, at the same time (and here's the contradictory part) while I may not have the knowledge to question what Hawking says or his theories, I also felt there was a little bit of a lack of depth to this. We hear a little bit about a lot of his theories - which is maybe all the average scientific lay person can even begin to process, but the lack of depth was still noticeable. He raises a lot of intriguing ideas - but they don't seem to come to any real definitive point. Perhaps that's appropriate, given his conclusions about the universe having no real singularity (and thus no real beginning) and the ongoing lack of the infamous "theory of everything." I shouldn't be bothered by the lack of depth - because if this had been any deeper it would have been even more inaccessible to me - but somehow I was.
Having said that, this was an interesting film. If I thought there might have been a lack of depth in the presentation of the science, the interviews that were at the heart of it (from family members, friends and colleagues) gave us real depth into Hawking the person. He's is an intriguing (even fascinating) man. I'm not onside with some of his conclusions. Admittedly (as I've confessed) my scientific knowledge about the origins of the universe is limited, but I still see nothing that was presented here (or that I've seen from Hawking since) that convinces me that there's no God. His research likely blows holes in some of the creation myths of various religions - but they are, of course, myths that seek to reveal truth rather than fact (and truth and fact are not identical - the former is philosophical, the latter is scientific.) Even one of his colleagues interviewed in the movie acknowledged that he personally believed that "the universe" has a "purpose" - which is a philosophical (and potentially even theological) statement. As a person of faith, I've always found that science (which I'm fascinated with) deepens faith rather than detracts from it.
In any event, this movie was one that I found thought provoking. Perhaps not without its weaknesses - but definitely thought-provoking. (7/10)