Hawking (2004)

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Released 14-Apr-2005

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Drama Main Menu Audio
Rating Rated PG
Year Of Production 2004
Running Time 88:40 (Case: 95)
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Ads Then Menu
Region Coding 1,2,3,4,5,6 Directed By Philip Martin

Roadshow Home Entertainment
Starring Benedict Cumberbatch
Michael Brandon
Tom Hodgkins
Lisa Dillon
Phoebe Nicholls
Adam Godley
Peter Firth
Tom Ward
John Sessions
Rohan Siva
Matthew Marsh
Anastasia Hille
Bertie Carvel
Case Amaray-Transparent-Secure Clip
RPI $29.95 Music Murray Gold

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.78:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio Unknown Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles None Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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Plot Synopsis

    Stephen W. Hawking is the author of one of the best selling books to have been read by so very few. That book is A Brief History of Time; I have a copy myself on my bookshelf but have never been able to read it cover to cover. The film, which was made for television by the BBC, more or less covers the years 1963 to 1965. This is the period when he was completing his PhD and during which he was also diagnosed with motor neurone disease (Lou Gehrig's disease) and when the symptoms started setting in.

    The film, however, opens in 1978 on the evening that American scientists Arno Penzias (Michael Brandon) and Robert Wilson (Tom Hodgkins) are preparing to receive their Nobel Prize and are giving an interview to a German journalist about their discovery. Throughout the film this interview sequence is intercut with Hawking’s life. For those with a reasonable knowledge of science the nature of their discovery may be immediately apparent but exactly what this is and how it affects Stephen Hawking is not revealed until the end of the movie so I will not disclose it in this review. We first met Stephen Hawking (Benedict Cumberbatch) on the night of his 21st birthday. He has invited over a girl named Jane (Lisa Dillon) to his birthday celebrations at his parent’s house.

    Shortly after his 21st birthday Hawking is diagnosed with motor neurone disease and is told he may have only 2 years to live. Instead of giving in to the disease he continues working on his doctorate. He is fascinated by the work of Roger Penrose (Tom Ward) regarding singularities and Hawking will extend upon this in his own doctorate that theorises about the very origins of the universe. While work on his doctorate progresses, so too does his relationship with Jane.

    What I like about this film is how it personalises Hawking. I’m sure most readers will be familiar with the less than flattering images of Hawking slumped in his wheelchair; his head flopped to one side. This film allows us to get to know Hawking before he had his physical mobility taken from him. I was particularly impressed that Benedict Cumberbatch was able to incorporate early versions of some of the mannerisms that Hawking is known for such as his slightly mischievous smile. The other characters in the film, however, come across as fairly one-dimensional. For instance Sir Fred Hoyle (Peter Firth), a scientist who believed in the steady-state universe theory (whereby it has always existed), is portrayed as something of crackpot. In reality Hawking desperately wanted to study under Hoyle but this is only alluded to in a passing comment.

    Overall, however, I found this an enjoyable telemovie that is certainly a cut above the average. It shows a more human side to somebody that most of us are familiar with only as the genius scientist, confined to a wheelchair with the electronic voice. It shows Hawking in his prime when he was starting to form the ideas and theories that would eventually turn him into a household name and I do recommend it.

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Transfer Quality


    Overall this is a very nice transfer. The image is presented at an aspect ratio of 1.78:1 which I believe matches the original broadcast aspect ratio of this telemovie.

    While a tad soft at times the overall image sharpness and image detail are both quite good. Shadow detail was also fairly good and the image is free of low level noise.

    Colours were well saturated, accurate and free of any colour bleeding.

    I didn’t notice any film artefacts and the image is free of compression artefacts. The only thing I did notice were a few instances of minor edge enhancement but this was only noticeable during a handful of high contrast shots. One example is the outline of a tuxedo against the bright daylight of a window at 12:18.

    There are no subtitles on this DVD.

    The film is presented on a single-sided, single-layered disc so there is no layer change to report.

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


    Only one soundtrack is provided which is a Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack encoded at 224 Kb/s. Overall this is a very nice soundtrack which incorporates interesting sound design not normally seen in telemovies.

    Dialogue was clear and easy to understand (where it was meant to be) and I did not observe any issues with audio sync.

    As a stereo soundtrack there are no surround or subwoofer channels.. I did find, however, that when I activated Dolby Pro Logic II on my receiver that the surround channels did carry some music as well as ambient material which added nicely to the viewing experience. If you have a surround sound system I would recommend watching this film with Pro Logic turned on.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use



R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    This title is unavailable in Region 1. It has been released in Region 2 (UK). I could only find one review (of sorts) for this title and it lists two extras (Clinton Seminar and interview). None of the UK based online stores, however, list any extras so I would be cautious in assuming those extras are on the UK disc. In the absence of any firm evident to the contrary I will have to award this to Region 2.


    Hawking is an interesting made for TV biopic about scientist Stephen Hawking. It covers the period from his diagnosis with motor neurone disease to his acquiring of his doctorate which set out the groundwork for the way we now understand the very beginnings of the universe. With strong acting performances and above average production values for a telemovie this film is well recommended.

    The video transfer is very good and the soundtrack is more than adequate.

    There are no extras at all.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Michael Gauntlett (read my bio if you're bored.)
Thursday, September 07, 2006
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DV-696AV-s, SACD & DVD-A, using HDMI output
DisplayPanasonic PT-AE900E HD LCD Projector onto 90" 16x9 Screen. Calibrated with Video Essentials/Digital Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 720p.
Audio DecoderLogitech 5500 THX. Calibrated with Video Essentials/Digital Video Essentials.
AmplificationLogitech 5500 THX
SpeakersLogitech 5500 THX

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Comments (Add)
Above average telemovie - Alfred Smith REPLY POSTED