A documentary about Stephen Hawking that is narrated by the man in his own words, though he is one of three writers credited, Hawking is a puff piece, pure and simple. It’s not worthy of the man at the centre of the whole thing, it’s not worthy of the viewers investing time in it and it’s not worthy as a source of information about the great scientist.
Think of what you know about the man now. Think hard. You know that he’s in a wheelchair and that he speaks through a fantastic system that allows him to convert some of his muscles into a computerised vocabulary. You may or may not know that it’s Motor Neurone Disease that put him in that chair. You probably know that he wrote a best-selling book entitled “A Brief History Of Time”. He’s now 71 years old. He has children, and also two ex-wives. These aren’t exactly revelations, but they are the same things that you will know at the end of this documentary. Really, there’s NOTHING new or even that interesting here, sadly.
Everyone knows that Stephen Hawking has a great mind and enormous willpower, having lived with his debilitating condition for so many years, so even the tales relating to that aspect of his personality just end up feeling like “filler” material.
The closest that this documentary comes to really probing the life of Stephen Hawking is when he mentions his marriage to Elaine Mason, a nurse whom he grew closer and closer to before divorcing his first wife. There were (according to the words of the man himself) unfounded allegations of domestic abuse during that time. Yet, despite assurances that this was not the case, Elaine Mason is nowhere to be seen among the many people who appear on camera specifically to talk about their time with Mr. Hawking.
To make things worse, a number of moments are related with a little “help” from some horrible reconstructions. The whole thing plays out like a very bad melodrama made to be shown in classrooms.
Director Stephen Finnigan really drops the ball here. He either simply had to do as he was told or he decided not to probe too deeply into the history of such a respected figure. There’s no denying that there is still something to be gained here from watching a feature that reminds you of just how relentlessly brilliant this man is, but it’s a great shame that the final result doesn’t do anything more.
DIRECTOR: STEPHEN FINNIGAN
WRITER: BEN BOWIE, STEPHEN FINNIGAN, STEPHEN HAWKING
STARS: STEPHEN HAWKING
RUNTIME: 86 MINS APPROX