Creation
To think, in millions of years this Orangutan will look like Jennifer Connelly.

Theatrical Release Date: 02/19/2010
Director: Jon Amiel
Cast: Paul Bettany, Jennifer Connelly, Martha West, Jeremy Northam, Toby Jones, Jim Carter, Benedict Cumberbatch

The theory of evolution came into being much to the consternation of religious folk who believed postulating that man wasn’t ‘created’ by God in our current shape and form was blasphemous. Of course, the man credited with starting this brouhaha is Charles Darwin. He spent years analyzing the changes in animals over time – utilizing fossil records, skeletal remains, animal physiology and, of course, taking a scholarly cruise on the HMS Beagle.

But behind the scenes, Darwin was getting pressure from all sides of the argument. His contemporaries were prodding him to deliver “On The Origin of Species” as fast as he could and his wife and pastor found his work offensive. Then there was the health of his daughter, a precocious daddy’s girl whose fate made the decision to go ahead with his book that much more personal.

Cast in the lead role is Paul Bettany who handles the hardships of Darwin’s life well though getting the chemistry right with his real life/on-screen wife (Jennifer Connelly) shouldn’t be as difficult as it seemed (and this is the second time they’ve played a married couple in a film – 2008′s “Inkheart“). Darwin had health concerns of his own and Bettany balanced the physicality of the role with the mental state nicely.

The big surprise of the film is the excellent performance delivered by Martha West, who plays Darwin’s daughter. Her passing at a young age was a profound influence on him and the film works best when she and Bettany share the screen. West holds her own in each scene and imbues the character with a sublime combination of wonder and maturity.

The problems in the film derive from its nature and the script. I say its nature because it’s a stuffy British period piece. Think of this as Masterpiece Theatre with a few more recognizable actors. I recommend copious amounts of caffeine prior to a viewing as this one really weighs on the eyelids. While all of the production aspects and acting performances are fine, this dearth of energy made watching the film more of a challenge than is probably intended.

The script is also at fault because it fails to link the two central conflicts, that of science vs. God and Darwin’s personal struggles resulting from his work – the distance it creates with his family as well as trying to cope with the death of his daughter. If anything, the personal elements were the strength and I found them far more interesting but considering you’re doing a piece on Charles Darwin, it’s difficult to ignore his most notable accomplishment. But these disparate elements vie for the central focus of the film and basically split the production in two.

Unfortunately, the two sides of the film never come together and I can only give “Creation” a 2 out of 5. Bettany and West provide good performances but they aren’t able to inject enough energy into the project to make this worth seeing unless you’re really interested in Darwin’s life beyond the stuff you’re taught in school.