• R, 1 hr. 26 min.
  • Drama
  • Directed By:
    Chen Shi-Zheng
    In Theaters:
    Apr 11, 2008 Wide
    On DVD:
    Apr 14, 2009
  • First Independent Pictures

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Dark Matter Reviews

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familiar s

Super Reviewer

May 11, 2010
A fairly watchable movie that tells the tragic story (that's somewhat based on true events) of an aspiring Chinese student who resorts to a violent shootout after his dreams are blocked by school/campus politics.
Drew S

Super Reviewer

May 1, 2009
Amateurishly directed with a hilariously shitty final quarter, but not without some scattered merits.

More later
LorenzoVonMatterhorn
LorenzoVonMatterhorn

Super Reviewer

September 21, 2008
"The universe is made mostly of dark matter and dark energy, and we don't know what either of them is" - Saul Perlmutter

Inspired by actual events, director Chen Shi-Zheng's socially conscious psychological drama follows the journey of an ambitious Chinese scientist working towards his Ph.D. in America, only to be marginalized to the extent that he ultimately loses his way. All Liu Xing (Liu Ye) ever wanted was to study the origins of the universe at a Western university. Upon arriving at the school, Liu immediately rents a modest apartment with a few other Chinese students and begins flirting with the pretty American who works at the local coffee shop. Personally welcomed into Department Head Jacob Reiser's (Aidan Quinn) select cosmology group, Liu remains dedicated to his studies and optimistic about the future. Things continue to look up as Liu becomes close with wealthy university patron Johanna Silver (Meryl Streep) after the two become acquainted at an orientation for foreigners sponsored by a local church.

Eventually, Liu becomes Reiser's protégé, and makes a sizable impression at a prestigious conference attended by the pair. But attitudes start to shift when Liu's studies in dark matter come into direct conflict with his mentor's prominent theories and well-established studies. His excitement about a potential breakthrough causes him to ignore repeated warnings that he must pay his dues, and Liu's findings are eventually eclipsed by that of more studious fellow student Laurence. Determined to have his studies published, Liu goes behind Reiser's back, but he ultimately becomes the target of ire rather than accolades, with Johanna's naïve encouragement prompting him along a dangerous collision course. While Liu remains enamored with the concept of the American dream and optimistic about American science being a free market of ideas, he begins to grow dejected after his dissertation is rejected, the girl at the coffee shop blows him off, and his roommates all find lucrative jobs. Essentially left behind at the university, Liu rejects Johanna's offer for help and vows not to return home to disappointed parents. Now, as he coasts on the fumes of his unrealized dreams, the dishonored student prepares to lash out with one final act of devastating annihilation.

A fairly good film with a promising plot and class A actors but what really brought this film down I think is the way the director handled his cluttered vision of the premise and it came out too messy for me. The special effects were really unnecessary, this is an indie art house flick so its alright if you don't use special effects if its not really called to the occasion. And the repetitive use of overly sentimental shots of lead character Liu Xing was a bit annoying, I mean I already get the scene was emotional, I don't need to stare in the face of a mopey chinese guy for a long period of time contemplating his streaks of bad luck.

On the other hand though, the actors in the film were really exceptional. Lead Liu Ye, who is apparently a big shot actor in China marks his American debut with this film. The material given maybe a bit too cluttered but he did his best with it and came out really good. I can't really say his debut went out with a bang but he's almost there. Meryl Streep of course, always the pro. You can't go wrong with the lady.

Overall, I'd say the acting was exceptional and the plot is really promising but the material is just too cluttered and messy for my style. Should have left the unnecessary special effects in the cutting room floor.

3/5
Harlequin68
Harlequin68

Super Reviewer

March 18, 2010
In "Dark Matter," Liu Xing(Liu Ye) has come to the United States from Beijing for his graduate degree under the tutelage of the acclaimed Professor Reiser(Aidan Quinn). In his informal way, he informs his student that he is about the best applicant he has ever had before assigning him to work on his pet cosmology projects, along with other students from China. They hang out together, steal cable and use any excuse to go out, be it church or Pioneer Village. They are all living the American dream. Liu Xing's specific dream includes a blonde wife which he writes back home about.

"Dark Matter" is a wildly uneven movie due somewhat to amateurish directing. The stunt casting robs a lot of the attention from Liu Xing's story but Aidan Quinn is very good.(There is a closeup of his eyes that speaks volumes.) And is this supposed to be a period piece since a lot of the technology looks so out of date? The movie would have been better if it had settled down and took its time detailing its lead character's adjustment to America. Not every setback is the end of the world when they are studying the beginning of the universe. There is some intriguing material about assimilation and I had to wonder if Liu Xing and his colleagues moving to the United States are part of a brain drain. However, there is a lot more pointless emphasis on the insular world of college politics.
Andrew F

Super Reviewer

March 10, 2009
Dark Matter is a really entertaining and moving film, but I felt like the main character slipped into madness a little too easily and quickly. The film was especially interesting because I got to hear the director of the movie speak after the screening I attended.
whitecastlebabe
April 13, 2010
I think it was a heart felt show had a lot of emotions. I think they could have gave him a better chance .
December 24, 2009
Totally loved this film. A breeze of evil blowing on the brilliant snowflakes of naive genius. It was effectively small in scale and simple in structure. I probably liked it all the more considering how much I abhor pretentious academic political bullshit.
italysqueenie
July 27, 2009
very good movie...I liked how it showed the intelegence of the Chinese...Its a bit like GoodWill Hunting...but no happy endings...
standbyfilms
March 28, 2008
Going in, I knew nothing about this film and unfairly, when I heard Meryl Streep was in this movie, I assumed it would be a bloated dramatic waste of a few hours. I was, however, wrong. The film started out as this quasi-comedy and I enoyed all of the quirks. Meryl Streep was absolutely amazing in the film as Joanna and I thought she had this great odd chemistry with Liu Ye?s character. Unfortunately, the tone shifted and the film just went downhill, finishing with one of the most ridiculous endings, for the direction the tale had taken, I have ever seen.

Dark Matter,? directed by Chen Shi-Sheng, displays how treading in foreign territory, geographically and can be the biggest obstacle you may ever face.

Ok, maybe I went too far. I won't say it is the most ridiculous, but it was definitely up there with film school cliche type of endings that was just uncalled for with the rest of the film, the seeming need to add edginess for edginess's sake. Supposedly this is based on a true story but I feel that cinematically the transition can be rough. Granted I know nothing about the true story behind this, but I have tried to look it up (with no results). In my opinion, the ending was the biggest mistake the director could have made with this film.

This is a great film, to a point. Unfortunately the ending doesn't deliver, making the entire feature an exercise is wasted potential. But maybe that's the point. Its out limited in a few weeks.

Vmedia
April 14, 2009
There's little in Billy Shebar's script, the rambling direction by theater and opera helmer Chen Shi-Zheng - or Liu Ye's impassive performance as the student.
Serge
January 4, 2014
The logic for the ending is a bit too tenuous. The main character does not appear to have psychological problems to make him even just want to shoot someone, anyone. The real life person from which the film is inspired certainly was more deeply troubled. It can be however taken ironically to mean that the main character finally adapts to life in the USA and solves some frustrations the americanos way.... I think the film also wants to leaves the message that the guy chose the gun too hastily and his problems would be solved very happily with some patience - scene where his romantic interest seemed to miss him near the end.
Robyn M.
January 3, 2013
In the true event, the student, Gang Lu, was far from a naive victim whose dream was shattered by academic politics and cultural difference as portrayed by the film, but rather a self-promoting and selfish psycho who couldn't tolerate the fact that another fellow student was better than him.

Chen Shi-Zheng captures the story very differently an far from it's truth, A pretty extreme character to start with, Gang Lu transforms into a poster- boy for a certain type of desperation with no outlet. You can kind of see it all coming from a mile away, but the outcome still packs a crazy kick in the gut. Maybe even all the more so for its nauseous inevitability.
July 14, 2012
Stereotypical performance but interesting. If it wasn't based on real events, it would be unbelievable.
January 12, 2011
This movie flew under the radar but stars the incomparible Meryl Streep and that is worth the 2 hours.
September 28, 2010
An intriguing failure. Could and should have been so much better.
Heather B.
July 19, 2010
I was SHOCKED Meryl Streep and Aiden Quinn found this script captivating enough to actually ACT in. I found the movie UN-interesting and terribly goofy (I don't think it was really meant to be). Most of it was in Chinese w/ English subtitles so it was annoying and had a crappy plot
Harlequin68
Harlequin68

Super Reviewer

March 18, 2010
In "Dark Matter," Liu Xing(Liu Ye) has come to the United States from Beijing for his graduate degree under the tutelage of the acclaimed Professor Reiser(Aidan Quinn). In his informal way, he informs his student that he is about the best applicant he has ever had before assigning him to work on his pet cosmology projects, along with other students from China. They hang out together, steal cable and use any excuse to go out, be it church or Pioneer Village. They are all living the American dream. Liu Xing's specific dream includes a blonde wife which he writes back home about.

"Dark Matter" is a wildly uneven movie due somewhat to amateurish directing. The stunt casting robs a lot of the attention from Liu Xing's story but Aidan Quinn is very good.(There is a closeup of his eyes that speaks volumes.) And is this supposed to be a period piece since a lot of the technology looks so out of date? The movie would have been better if it had settled down and took its time detailing its lead character's adjustment to America. Not every setback is the end of the world when they are studying the beginning of the universe. There is some intriguing material about assimilation and I had to wonder if Liu Xing and his colleagues moving to the United States are part of a brain drain. However, there is a lot more pointless emphasis on the insular world of college politics.
Tammy J.
July 22, 2009
I enjoyed this movie, particularly for its highlighting of the cultural differences between China, America, and their peoples. On the one hand, there is the poverty and hard physical labour in the Chinese setting, and on the other, the relatively affluent and mental labour in America. A great juxtapositioning by the director/writer/whomever.

Having studied and worked in a university setting, learnt a little Mandarin, and interacted and befriended a number of Chinese students, I found the film intriguing. What could be seen as a passive performance by Liu Ye shows, perhaps, the typical "face" that Chinese students present at university (especially to those who do not know them well). He was having to be seen to be performing/succeeding by parents who (typically) give up much to see their child do well. An extremely difficult and conflicting thing to do, when the opposite is happening in reality. I've seen this happen.

The professor (Aidan Quinn) was a great example of professorial ego gone mad and the problems that occur when a (brilliant but) subordinate person questions or challenges the establishment itself, or a senior theorist, and colleagues support this.

Meryl Streep's character was an interesting one. A very poignant moment occurred for me when the brilliant student resorted to selling facial products. A tender performance by Streep. I had tears rolling down my face.

A sad, and very unfortunate, ending.
Virus
April 19, 2009
Strange to see Meryl Streep in this. She must've owed someone a favor or something.
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