Film Review: Magnified (The Fictional History of the Telescope)

Last night, I went to the theater and got my first view of Magnified, which is in its opening weekend. For those unaware, Magnified is the highly fictitious story of telescope inventor, Hans Lippershey, starring Mel Gibson as Hans and Geena Davis as his main inspiration turned love interest, Virginia.

The premise of the movie was quite average and simple: boy likes girl, boy is too awkward for girl, boy works to impress girl, girl is impressed and they live happily ever after. Hans loved Virginia from afar for many years, but was always falling short as he felt more comfortable reading and studying than talking to his female counterparts. Eventually, Virginia shares her adoration for the stars above with Hans and becomes vulnerable by telling him that the complexity of what is out in space scares her to death. She excuses herself many times for being so bold as to speak her mind, which I guess was unheard of at the time, but of course Hans was smitten. Hans, wanting to impress Virginia, feels the best way for her to overcome her fear is to learn more about space and astronomy. Eventually he tinkers around enough to build a new amazing telescope, much to Virginia’s pleasure.

I’m just going to come out and say it: this movie was terrible. The plot was dry and painfully predictable. The only part of this story based on truth was that Hans Lippershey invented the telescope. Everything else was fabricated. Writers nowadays are so pressured to come up with ideas out of thin air that it is just leading to lackluster films.

What first drew me into movies was the way you can have intense emotions for characters in the matter of two hours. In Magnified, the characters were not well developed enough to feel anything for them. I really couldn’t care less whether Hans was victorious in his attempt to build a telescope (let alone that the inexpensive scopes used in filming look like fake props well beyond the time period of this movie) This was the major downfall of the film, in my opinion, because each movie has to have at least one character the audience can become emotionally invested in, even if it is not the protagonist.

The one redeeming quality of Magnified was the set and costume design. Lippershey invented the telescope in the 1600’s, so most of the movie was set in the late 1500’s, early 1600’s. The costumes were period friendly, as were the sets. As a viewer, you really felt as though you were transported to a simpler time. However, since I’m not an expert on the time period I can’t say if there were any true discrepancies with décor or technology in the film. The makeup, costumes and set nuances spoke to me.

My advice is to not pay homage to Hans Lippershey by seeing Magnified, but instead just look at your own telescope in your backyard. You will be undoubtedly much more entertained and will most definitely put your brain to use.