At first, Particle Fever is a tough movie to be enthusiastic about if the evolution of the LHC (the Large Hadron Collider) doesn’t already make you jazzed.
Since the film revolves around those physicists who were involved with the creation of the LHC, Particle Fever could’ve cashed in on the pop culture craze The Big Bang Theory has materialized. The topic at hand would’ve been taken seriously, but the physicists would’ve been played up for humour. A wacky instrumental score full of rattles would’ve been set to these intelligent people getting excited about blips and scatter plots. I’m so glad filmmaker Mark Levinson didn’t go down that alley with his uniquely personable documentary.
The LHC may be the main focus to those educated theorists and experimentalists featured in the doc, but Levinson sees another focal point. Particle Fever follows a select number of workers, sets the science slightly aside, and represents these physicists as relatable people who have a love for the game.
This directorial manoeuvre doesn’t take their prestigious titles away from them. It simply retains a connectivity that could’ve been lost if Levinson solely stuck with the complicated facts behind the crafts.
There are bits of humour sprinkled throughout – mostly from experimentalist Monica Dunford. She definitely has some quirky qualities to her that can be seen on any episode of HBO’s hit Girls, but her passion for hands-on duties is understandable and the explanations she verbalizes are clear without condescension.
The same can be said about physicist David Kaplan. At a lecture, Kaplan explains to his crowd that there are two ways of describing their mission to people: one that is broken down so it’s comprehendible to anyone, and one that explains what they’re actually doing with the LHC. Ironically, both of his explanations are well spoken. Levinson is then able to use these snippits and take full advantage of them to describe the motives behind the development of a major scientific breakthrough.
The largest compliment I can give the filmmaker is that he’s made an intimidating subject absolutely identifiable and open. The data describing the LHC is inputed well in his documentary with the use of animations and fluent editing. What’s even more accessibly grasping is the excitement behind the science.
What’s slightly disappointing, for invested movie goers, takes place within the last leg of Levinson’s doc. The revelations in Particle Fever, justifiably, grab the attention of those involved with the experiment at hand. This transfixion also veers the doc’s attention away from coherency and strictly on immediate intricate information. Levinson’s film is hijacked by people only willing to ramble off procedures and conclusions. Although we see the eager attentiveness on screen, it’s hard for the average movie goer to tap into.
Levinson’s flick may slowly deteriorate, but that shouldn’t damper the doc too much. For a film about advanced science to sustain interest for as long as Particle Fever does, qualifies the doc as a moderate success.