Oh, how timely to throw together a biopic about Charles Darwin now. It seems to me that, while Darwin’s theories about evolution have been angering religious types since before they were committed to paper, they seem to have been an even hotter topic in recent years with creationists. It would almost seem as though the creators of CREATION may have specifically intended to capitalize on that controversy to get people to see their movie. They may succeed in getting people into the theatres but their incredibly bland picture will ensure that whatever conversation they hoped to inspire will stop there.
CREATION – the movie, that is, not the finite starting point of existence – begins with Mr. Darwin (a frail, pale but mostly able Paul Bettany) telling his eerily smiley daughter (Martha West) a story. I would think that director, Jon Amiel, is telling his story because he sides with Darwin so I’m not clear why he wanted to portray him as an elaborate story-teller right from the start. If this is the man whose mind would manifest the argumental means to theoretically “kill” God, there should be no seed of doubt planted behind him if he is to be taken seriously.
While Darwin grapples with the death of his favorite daughter, he must resolve his faith and his science in order to complete his years of research. The whole process drags him into madness and Bettany’s real-life wife, Jennifer Connelly is alongside for the descent as his wife and first cousin, essentially reprising her role from A BEAUTIFUL MIND, except this time with an English accent. Her religious devotion is at distinct odds with her husband’s scientific methods but Amiel doesn’t allow this complex divide between them to open any serious debate; oddly, he has them not speak instead. This missed opportunity is what makes CREATION trite when it could have been contentious.