| June 16, 2010

Set in the few years prior to the first 1859 publication of the Origin of Species, Creation, directed by Jon Amiel, is flat psychological drama happening in the head of the young Charles Darwin (Paul Bettany, Beautiful Mind, The Da Vinci Code). Playing opposite his actual wife, Jennifer Connely, Bettany evokes the Darwin behind his work as a father, husband, and man of faith but not of religious conviction. Rather than recount the adventures of the Darwin in the Galapagos islands and throughout South America, the film rests on they grey chill of England where Darwin studies pigeon-bone structure.
Philosophical debate about god vs. science keeps the film alive. Darwin’s observation of play in children and the ape, Jenny, suggests the man’s command of his senses. Laborious and isolated scenes tell us what we’d be better off reading ourselves in the adapted biography on which Creation is based. Computer generated decomposing of animal carcasses taps into Darwin’s unsettling yet organic vision that all of nature is at war from the smallest to largest predator.
The choice of actors influenced me very little knowing what they’re capable of. Connelly whispers her lines and her intelligence falls away as her words fall from an audible spectrum of sound. Writer John Collee might have chosen more dramatic moments if there are any in the biography, Annie’s Box, by Darwin’s great-great-grandson, Randal Keynes. While the book sets out to make an argument that the death of Darwin’s daughter, Annie, affected Darwin’s view on the laws of nature, the film’s portrayal of that grief feels esoteric. The extended flashback sequences do explain why Darwin saw his daughter as irreplaceable but, ultimately, like all other fragile living beings in his writings, the weaker movies will be eliminated by bad box-office return.

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