When the most interesting thought in your documentary about one of the greatest scientists in the history of the world is expressed by Benedict Cumberbatch, you have a very serious problem. No disrespect to Mr. Cumberbatch, who seems smart and nice, but it seems to me that a movie about a genius whose body is wracked with ALS should have more than one throwaway line about how horrifying it must be for a mind like that to become gradually imprisoned in a body that won’t cooperate. It should also, preferably, say something of his work beyond maybe two total minutes of newspaper-headline summary of his various breakthroughs.
Narrated by Hawking himself, this is the shallowest puff-piece portrait of the man you can imagine, flitting through his biography with voiceover and talking heads interspersed with bullshit “reenactments” where an actor who kind of resembles Hawking looks sad or thoughtful or writes on a chalkboard out of focus. On my way out of the theater, I overheard a conversation between two women, one of whom asked the other if she had learned anything from the film. Her reply: “Well, I thought he was still married.” Yep – that’s about right.
— Eugene Novikov