I’m assuming, based on the trailer, that Dark Matter is one of those films that, like, say, Primer or Proof, wants to be extremely dense through the use to sciencespeak. As the title indicates, the film revolves around the study of dark matter, which is something with which most people are not too familiar. Focusing so heavily on something like dark matter allows the filmmakers to use it as a MacGuffin, because most people won’t have a clue about what the characters are discussing.
That said, at the beginning of the trailer, which can be seen exclusively at ComingSoon, Liu Ye (Curse of the Golden Flower) has this line: “I’m looking at the dark matter. 99% of the universe. Dark matter.” A quick glance at NASA’s website reveals this statement to be untrue. The film is set in the early ‘90s, I thought the filmmakers might be using what was known about dark matter from that time. Nope. The film’s writer (Billy Shebar) says on the film’s website that it is currently believed that dark matter makes up over 90% of the universe. As movie folks are often wont to do, I’m guessing they’ve combined dark matter (25% of the universe) and dark energy (70% of the universe) into one concept.
The rest of the trailer is pretty intriguing. It shows Liu Ye’s character, Liu Xing (that means “shooting star!”), as a Chinese student studying at a university in the US. He’s working to unravel the mysteries of dark matter, but he is foiled by departmental politics and begins to become despondent. It’s all very atmospheric.
Thankfully, the trailer doesn’t even hint at the film’s ultimate destination. Dark Matter is based very loosely on Gang Lu’s time at the University of Iowa studying physics, which ended with him shooting some folks before offing himself. Perhaps there will be a scene in the film where we see Liu Xing training on Duke Nukem.
Scientific issues aside, Dark Matter looks pretty solid from that trailer. I’m a big fan of this type of character study, one that attempts to deconstruct a mental breakdown. And it’s much better that they took that approach rather than the “important school shooting movie” approach.
Dark Matter, which won the Alfred P. Sloan Prize at Sundance 2007, is helmed by Chinese stage director Chen Shi-Zheng. The film stars, along with Liu Ye, Meryl Streep and Aidan Quinn. If you live in New York or LA, you can check it out April 11.