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Friday, 2 February 2018

Retro Review: Dark Matter (2008)

Dark Matter
Cast: Meryl Streep, Aidan Quinn, Liu Ye, Blair Brown, Boris McGiver, Hui Zhang
Genre: Drama
Worldwide Box Office Gross: over $66,000

Plot: Based on actual events, a Chinese university student responds violently when his chances for a Nobel prize are dashed by school politics

'Droning Potboiler Of A Drama Botched By A Vapid Execution'

Contrary to the cover and poster, Meryl Streep is not the main character of this movie, far from it and it does a disservice to her fans, who by going into Dark Matter, they would be bombarded with many Meryl scenes. Overly melodramatic, only to take a shocking twist towards the end, Dark Matter is woefully underdeveloped and reaching its somewhat cheap & undeserved climax.

A Chinese university student, Liu Xing is sponsored by a mentor played by Meryl Streep, who gets to work with him. Things start to change and go down the dark route with Xing doing his thesis on a topic that a professor played by Aiden Quinn tries to dent his chances & with that in mind, Xing loses his patience and ultimately and tragically his anger and frustration costs the lives of several students, as well as that of the professor. 

I guess the confusing thing for me about Dark Matter was its tone; it was marketed as a serious drama and the trailer insinuated that the story wasn't going to be optimistic and hopeful. But this was anything but that. & the story itself wasn't as well structured. Directed by an opera director, tonally Dark Matter's underlying issues and intentions wasn't made very clear. It has scenes of the main character talking to the teachers, his friends, some funny music playing in the background. and then we have the plot 'a Chinese university student responds violently when his dreams for a Nobel Prize are dashed by politics'. This part doesn't exactly allude to the actual movie itself. 

Meryl Streep stamped her mark, despite this not being 'her' film, but whenever her character was on screen, she was the small beacon of light that made me want to watch it for her. It's not the greatest performance, - although it also feels that her role should have been a lot meatier and bolder. But she just exists as a support role, which doesn't do justice to her full talents. The main and the other Chinese characters didn't make any real impression on me and I was drawn to Dark Matter because Streep was in a movie and that I am Chinese myself and I wanted to see, what if anything, I could substantially take from this film that the director put across. But that is difficult to decipher because it was virtually unremarkable and not engaging enough for the audience, or be it myself to get into. 

Based on the true story that ended in tragedy, it never got to grips with the potency of the situation, which is far greater than what has been presented here and the deterioration of Liu's mindset with the story feeling borderline and stale that doesn't make strides until the last couple of mins. Liu Xing is a character almost expressive-less and doesn't show many emotions. & when he turns to the dark side, it felt unbelievable and not genuine as I would have expected it to be.

Pacing is far too slow, it could have done without the jarring techno music and whilst the film poses certain questions as to why someone as bright and intelligent would resort to killing and murdering their students, Dark Matter never truly provides the necessary answers on what is an innocent, well-educated young person turned monster.

& far from what others have made out, this wasn't the thought-provoking, intriguing and engrossing film, but one that was severely lacking.

It just wasn't truly worth it.  

Final Verdict:

A mundane drama that fails to lay the groundwork and build on it from start to finish that is engaging enough that when it reaches its violent climax, it feels as though the progression of its journey to get to that point, just wasn't substantial enough to fully warrant it. It seemed to be at odds with what the film presented of Liu Xing.

Dark Matter doesn't really build on the characters, nor establish their personalities and because of that, despite some of the notable performances, it has practically nothing characters for the audience to truly go along with and buy into. 

Meryl Streep fans shouldn't bother I'd say.

Mostly superficial and surface-level stuff, but for the ending, this droning & drab potboiler excuse of a drama just wasn't dark, edgy or daring enough. 


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