The idea of creation vs. evolution has been one that is one of the biggest arguments out there. Whether man evolved from primordial ooze into what we resemble today or whether we are the work of an omnipotent creator is one that inspires the best and worst of us. But the man behind the theory has rarely been looked at; the sheer brilliance of the theory of evolution must’ve come from a man who was conflicted, and Creation is a biopic about the inner conflict Charles Darwin felt while writing the magnum opus that would, and continue to, define him.
Creation follows Darwin (Paul Bettany) in this exact critical moment of his life. Tortured internally by the death of a beloved daughter, Darwin finds himself drawn to a different path of reconciliation towards it then his wife (Jennifer Connelly, coincidentally Bettany’s real life spouse). She gravitates towards faith, becoming more devout as she sees it as “God’s plan” as opposed to anything else. Charles, on the other hand, finds himself drawn towards science as a rational explanation of existence. As he comes closer to putting together the book (“On the Origin of Species”) that would define scientific debates about the nature of existence ever since, he finds himself at a crossroads. As a man of science he must follow the rational and logical explanation. But as a man of faith, his wonder is of the nature of existence and whether or not this book will cause him eternal damnation. And as a film, it ought to be more interesting then it turns out to be.
Based on a biography done by Darwin’s great-great grandson, as well as personal correspondence from those involved at the time, there’s enough out there to develop a good feeling for what Darwin went through as a religious man (and as a scientist) to develop the story of a man conflicted about the cross-section of them both. But it’s a rather lackluster script developed from this that holds the film back; there’s no real reason to care about Darwin and his struggles because we aren’t given any real insight into the man. His faith, and perhaps lack thereof, is never given the proper context for which the gravity of the book is needed. This novel was a game-changer that has affected the scientific and religious landscapes to this very day and yet its gravity is underplayed. It’s presumed to be large but never given its due diligence; there’s talk of it but never quite given the weight it deserves.
It’s a shame, really, because it takes away from a markedly good performance from Paul Bettany. Known for the wide variety of roles over the years, he’s able to take the nature of Darwin’s struggle and boil it down to its essence. Darwin was a man of faith who had it challenged via his daughter’s death, and the formulation of his theory of evolution, and his turmoil in formulating it (and its consequences) come through wonderfully. We can feel his pain and anguish because Darwin plays it note perfect. It doesn’t hurt that he has terrific chemistry with Jennifer Connelly, with whom he is married to. While her English accent is a bit dodgy at times the world-weariness of their marriage is easy to see. While they might have an advantage because they are married, their chemistry comes through that one could see them as a fictional married couple with no attachment off-screen as well.
Creation ultimately winds up being a flawed film about a man who deserves more. It should’ve been an epic film about the tragedy of faith and science in a man destined to cause a conflict between both but winds up being more lightweight material then it ought to be.
Director: Jon Amiel Notable Cast: Paul Bettany, Jennifer Connelly, Jeremy Northam, Toby Jones Writer(s): John Collee