Hawking is excellent if curious, though it can be a bit overwhelming.
In the film Stephen Hawkings ponders to himself whether his celebrity, if not the interest in his person, more so comes from his work and discoveries, or more so from his disability? Sad to say, I, like many probably, knew of him more as the peculiar, and sometimes off putting, man who would show up randomly in media. Be it his episode in The Simpsons, his iconic voice, or his mention of shows like Big Bang Theory, he was a man I knew of, but didn’t know why exactly he was famous. So, with this movie, I got a quick run through of the man’s life in his own words.
To begin, this biographical documentary is obviously about Stephen Hawking, and alongside him are his first wife, sister and a slew of former students and colleagues. Strangely, we don’t see his children from his first marriage, or his 2nd wife, but you can’t get everything right? Still, Hawking surprisingly, even with his robotic voice, makes for a decent narrator and though his personality only shines in a handful of moments, he does leave you with the feeling that despite being the Einstein of our age, like Einstein, he knows how to have a little fun.
As for what the film covers, it starts in the beginning talking about his childhood and leaves things around August 2012. You learn quite a bit through this period, like the fact he wasn’t always bound to his chair. It makes the story a bit sad to see this man who was brilliant, social and a bit eccentric forced to live trapped in his body, and admittedly it can depress you to the point of pausing the film. Yet still, Hawking tries his best to keep things from becoming too depressing by talking about his many scientific breakthroughs, in quite a bit of detail, and showing home movie footage reminding you that despite how his life may seem, he is quite happy.
Now, with every documentary comes a lot of information, and those interested in Hawking or his work will definitely be given a good overview of the man’s life and accomplishments. It goes into his personal life a tad, though it breezes over his second wife, and when it comes to the science discoveries, the amount of information makes you feel you are in a college class. At the same time though, despite it being a bit in depth, you can at least get enough of a grasp on what is said to understand how important this man is to science. Also, something I liked, was that the film mixed in the good times, bad times, and while we never really see Stephen in a bad light, there is the occasional story of him being upset or hard to deal with. It makes it so that while it does sort of uplift and exemplify him, it also gives enough human aspects to keep it to feel like the film is basically superficial.
I have to say though, I did find it hard at times to finish the film only because it can easily get you down, due to him going from eccentric and zany to being chair bound, and the parts when he talks about his research can quickly push away your interest. The amount of detail, though very much a plus, also sometimes seems like it was made for students to watch like an introductory video. Be it because I’m not used to watching biographies on the lives of non-entertainment figures, or because my curiosity wasn’t strong enough to keep attentive, I will definitely say that as much as I am happy to know more, when I finished the film it was like finishing writing a final paper for a class. Lastly, there were times Stephen was talking when I definitely felt like subtitles were needed.
Overall: Watch if interested
For people like me who only have a childlike curiosity about the man, this film is not for you. It goes into great detail and assumes you want to know everything and more about the man and his work, and really it goes a bit overboard for my taste. Still, Hawking very much is a well- made film and it makes you wish other living prominent figures would create similar films chronicling their lives. So, overall, I would say this film is definitely for those who truly have an interest in this man’s life and/or work more so than those just looking for the basics. Those of you looking for the basics are perhaps better catching the movie with Benedict Cumberbatch under the same title, but made in 2004. I haven’t seen it to recommend it, but it is featured in the film and Hawking seems a bit in awe of it.