Review – Particle Fever

Particle Fever Poster

Following the story of numerous physicists as they search for the theoretical “God particle,” – the Higgs Boson – using the Large Hadron Collider, Particle Fever is a documentary whose poster art is more interesting than pretty much anything else about it.

Particle Fever features a number of scientists, including producer David Kaplan – who would totally be played by Jeff Goldblum should Emerich get write a sci-fi thriller based on this doc – as they prepare to use the LHC for the first time in hopes of discovering what holds the universe together.  Part of the time is spent on the actual process, while the other part is smart people rambling on about why they do what they do and what it means.

A documentary should bring something new and interesting to the table, making information about a certain subject accessible to a certain audience in a new way.  There is not really any information here that couldn’t have been easily gleaned from Gawker articles and the like that showed up in social media feeds during the events covered.  I’m not entirely sure what audience this is intended for.  It seems to basic for those who follow this sort of thing, and too dry and complex for those who don’t.

I may have learned a thing or two about the LHC or Higgs that I didn’t know before, but this movie failed to convince me that I should care about them.  I’m supposed to care because we’re supposed to care.  Because science.  And discovering things.  Even the scientists here couldn’t give an answer more than, “it’s something we don’t know, so we want to know it.”  Maybe that’s a good enough answer for some, but elaborate, will you?  Oh, there was one other reason – they’re physicists, and if they don’t do this, the largest physics experiment ever, then what good is being a physicist?  For the amount of time and resources spent on this project by thousands of people, you need to do a better job of convincing me that there was a good reason.

Really, everyone here comes off as being quite self absorbed – some seeming to care more about the fact that one result might mean there was nothing left to do in their field, leaving them feeling pointless about themselves.  Others were afraid the god they worship – physics – would turn out not to be what they imagined, worrying that it would make their past years seem like a waste.  For people that are supposedly in it for the exploration and imagination, they all seemed to be pretty selfish about it.  It doesn’t paint a good picture of the heroes here.

The film threatens to go an interesting direction at one point, as theology is briefly brought into the picture, but that conversation is quickly dropped and we’re back with “what am I going to do with myself if my theories are all wrong? (or right).”  We’re actually treated very little to the LHC itself and the science behind it and the whole thing plays more like a slapped together video diary of some people who think what they think is more important than what you think.  It’s dry, pretentious, and fails to capture any interest, but at least it is organized and offers some insight into the mind and world of these people some might call a little crazy.

Mrs. Hamster did not screen this film

My rating: One out of five hats



Particle Fever collides into a limited  number of theaters, March 21