Dark Matter

Critics Consensus

The creaky plotting, inscrutable characters, and unconvincing ending make it difficult for audiences to connect with Dark Matter.



Total Count: 40


Audience Score

User Ratings: 11,981
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Movie Info

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. ~ Jason Buchanan, Rovi

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Meryl Streep
as Joanna Silver
Ye Liu
as Liu Xing
Tsao Lei
as Zhang Ming
Shan Jing
as Wang Ying
He Yu
as Old Wu
Li Bo Lin
as Little Square
Boris McGiver
as Reverend Hollings
Bill Irwin
as Hal Silver
Zhang Hui
as Monkey King
Joe Grifasi
as Professor Colby
Rob Campbell
as Gary Small
Jodi Russell
as Claire Reiser
Erick Avari
as Professor Gazda
Lloyd Suh
as Laurence Fang
Yi Qian
as Cindy Feng
Hong Ying
as Laundry Worker
Zeng Hui
as Neighbor Girl
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Critic Reviews for Dark Matter

All Critics (40) | Top Critics (19)

  • Begins with a shot of Meryl Streep practicing tai chi, and therein lies a precise encapsulation of the film's attitude toward the intersection of Eastern and Western cultures

    Aug 8, 2009 | Full Review…
  • The film does a fine job of displaying the contrasts between these tense, formalized Chinese students and the faux populist American academics.

    Oct 18, 2008 | Rating: 3/4 | Full Review…
  • There is nothing wrong with taking inspiration from actual events, but it's a tricky business, and Dark Matter does no one right by sticking to the shocking conclusion.

    May 2, 2008 | Rating: 1/4 | Full Review…
  • It is easy to see the film as two movies crammed together, neither of them being very good.

    Apr 18, 2008 | Rating: 2/5 | Full Review…
  • Liu Ye is too inexpressive for his role's demands, and the movie doesn't build to his downfall: It just zaps itself there.

    Apr 16, 2008 | Rating: C- | Full Review…
  • 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.

    Apr 11, 2008 | Rating: 2/4 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for Dark Matter

  • Jun 04, 2014
    Meryl Streep somehow ended up in this real dog of a film about a Chinese student goes apeshit. One to be missed for sure.
    John B 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.
    familiar s Super Reviewer
  • Mar 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.
    Walter M Super Reviewer
  • Oct 14, 2009
    Great movie.I was hooked from start to finish.
    Brody M Super Reviewer

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