Saturday, January 23, 2010

Movie with Abe: Creation

Directed by Jon Amiel
Released January 22, 2010

Biopics can be a slippery slope because it’s important to discern whether it’s the story of the man or his work that’s actually the more interesting. If the latter is true, sometimes the unknown background behind the man is worthy of being told. That’s rarely the case, however, and when too much time and effort is focused on revealing the untold story of an inventor and little to none is spent detailing the majesty of his work, the result is proportionally weaker and infinitely less satisfying.

When Charles Darwin wrote On The Origin of Species, he had an idea of how it might change the world. Yet he couldn’t possibly have perceived its impact, especially on those who would actively campaign against and deny his theories, even to the present day. The battle between conflicting notions of evolution and religion is front and center in “Creation,” and seeing how events out of his control rip the legendary man apart is powerful. Yet far too little time is spent actually probing Darwin’s theories and the manner in which he came upon them. For its first few moments, the film takes an alternative, creative approach to storytelling to mimic evolution, but abandons it quickly in favor of extended scenes of Darwin sitting in a cage with a chimpanzee. Such conventional storytelling hardly seems suitable for a man who thought so far outside the box.

With all biopics, strong performances are important. This film has an unusual trick up its sleeve, casting real-life spouses Paul Bettany and Jennifer Connelly as Mr. and Mrs. Darwin. Both have delivered exceptional performances before, most notably in the 2001 film in which they both co-starred, “A Beautiful Mind.” It’s not that they aren’t trying hard or performing well here, but their portrayals aren’t very lasting or lingering. Both husband and wife burrow themselves deeply within the sadness of their characters, but it’s not as moving as it should be. The story is also fairly dull and considerably less dynamic than it purports to be. It’s a melancholy exercise in debating theology versus reason, and that can only be truly captivating if the arguments are fully fleshed out and presented in their most well-reasoned form. Simply, “Creation” is hardly as important or grandstanding as it seems to think it is, and there’s a clear reason for that. The story of the man just is not anywhere near as compelling as his ideas.


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