Sunday, May 19, 2024
Sunday May 19, 2024
Sunday May 19, 2024

‘Dark Matter’ review: Handsome but shallow sci-fi series misses depth despite star cast



Joel Edgerton and Jennifer Connelly star in Blake Crouch’s adaptation, exploring alternate universes and existential questions

Apple TV+’s “Dark Matter,” adapted from Blake Crouch’s novel, embarks on an ambitious journey of existential exploration but ultimately delivers a handsome yet shallow sci-fi series. Joel Edgerton plays Jason Dessen, a physics professor whose life changes drastically after a mysterious abduction plunges him into alternate realities. Jennifer Connelly portrays his wife, Daniela, with earnest depth, but even the duo’s performances can’t salvage a show that’s visually impressive yet narratively unremarkable.

The series opens in Chicago, with Dessen juggling life as a community college professor and dedicated family man. He harbours underlying dissatisfaction with his stalled career, yearning for greater accomplishments. However, this latent discontent quickly fades when he’s kidnapped, injected with a serum, and shoved into a black cube called “the box.” He wakes up in an alternate reality where he’s a renowned scientist and wealthy tech entrepreneur—but lacks his wife and son. Despite the allure of success, Dessen immediately rejects this reality and embarks on a mission to reclaim his family.

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Crouch’s adaptation attempts to weave high-concept sci-fi with the emotional dilemmas of a man forced to reconsider his life choices. It poses the “what if” questions we all ponder: How different would life be if we pursued a different career, partner, or lifestyle? However, the show’s pace is relentless, providing few revelations as it delves into alternate universes and attempts to connect with the audience on deeper existential themes.

Edgerton shoulders the series with a solemn performance that reflects the desperation of a man grappling with lost opportunities. Connelly’s Daniela adds warmth and longing to the narrative, but she isn’t given the space to explore her character in a compelling way. Instead, “Dark Matter” relies heavily on visual effects to depict alternate realities that often overshadow meaningful storytelling.

While “Dark Matter” provides a scenic Chicago backdrop and poignant romantic undertones, the series falters in its attempt to offer incisive character revelations. Crouch’s script lacks the depth and exploration needed to transform intriguing ideas into lasting insights. Ultimately, it presents a gloomy narrative that can’t sustain the audience’s interest despite its thematic potential.


The mixed reception to “Dark Matter” speaks to the challenges of balancing intricate, multi-universe storytelling with relatable characters and emotional resonance. While the concept of alternate realities intrigues viewers, this series struggles to build connections that resonate beyond its broad questions about identity and fulfilment.

From a sociological perspective, “Dark Matter” touches on the universal dilemma of defining oneself through choices in career, relationships, and purpose. However, its shallow character development fails to explore the nuances of these challenges, reducing them to a simple “grass is greener” narrative that feels incomplete.

The series also touches on gender dynamics by portraying Daniela as a talented artist who must grapple with her husband’s existential crisis. However, Connelly’s character remains largely sidelined, missing an opportunity to provide a counter-narrative that enriches the story.

Economically, the show’s high production quality reflects Apple’s continued investment in premium streaming content. Despite its narrative shortcomings, “Dark Matter” demonstrates that visual storytelling remains a strong draw for audiences seeking high-concept sci-fi.

Politically, the show aligns with societal anxieties surrounding the rapid pace of technological change and its impact on individuals’ identities. The storyline about a scientist who sacrifices personal fulfilment for career success reflects concerns over work-life balance and the pressure to constantly achieve.

Ultimately, “Dark Matter” falters in connecting with viewers on a deeper level due to its overreliance on visual spectacle and insufficient exploration of its characters’ motivations. Without more meaningful insights into its high-concept themes, the series may struggle to resonate with a wider audience


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