Dark Matter (2008) - Rotten Tomatoes

Dark Matter (2008)

TOMATOMETER

AUDIENCE SCORE

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

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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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Cast

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

August 8, 2009 | Full Review…
indieWire
Top Critic

The film does a fine job of displaying the contrasts between these tense, formalized Chinese students and the faux populist American academics.

October 18, 2008 | Rating: 3/4 | Full Review…
Chicago Tribune
Top Critic

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…
San Francisco Chronicle
Top Critic

It is easy to see the film as two movies crammed together, neither of them being very good.

April 18, 2008 | Rating: 2/5 | Full Review…
Los Angeles Times
Top Critic

Liu Ye is too inexpressive for his role's demands, and the movie doesn't build to his downfall: It just zaps itself there.

April 16, 2008 | Rating: C- | Full Review…
Entertainment Weekly
Top Critic

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.

April 11, 2008 | Rating: 2/4 | Full Review…
New York Post
Top Critic

Audience Reviews for Dark Matter

½

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 stranger
familiar stranger

Super Reviewer

½

Amateurishly directed with a hilariously shitty final quarter, but not without some scattered merits. More later

Drew Smith
Drew Smith

Super Reviewer

"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

Lorenzo von Matterhorn
Lorenzo von Matterhorn

Super Reviewer

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