It seems that Hollywood is capable of giving any given event a romantic spin. To romanticize the story of Charles Darwin and his book On The Origin of Species is a fairly unexpected turn of events. The biopic Creation (2009) both tells a tale of romantic turmoil and respects the historical events.
Charles Darwin (Paul Bettany) has traveled all over the world studying animals. Several years back he settled down with his wife, Emma (Jennifer Connelly) and raised a family. In Darwin’s studies he came to conclude that more successful organisms survive better than the less successful ones; resulting in improvement of future generations. He called this process “natural selection.” It applied to all living organisms; mammals, insects, fish, birds, plants, etc. But did it explain Man? Even Darwin himself was hesitant to ask. Emma did not think it explained Man. She believed that God alone was the author of Man as described in the book of Genesis. This conflict of interests puts a strain on their marriage. It’s not until the death of their 10-year-old daughter Annie (Martha West) that Charles' faith in God is destroyed, yet the same event reinforces Emma’s faith. As Charles’ life begins falling apart, his colleagues Joseph Hooker (Benedict Cumberbatch) and Thomas Huxley (Toby Jones) urge him to complete his book which will one day change the history of science forever.
The subject of the theory of evolution stirs controversy even some one hundred and fifty years after the publication of On The Origin of Species. As such, Creation had plenty of opportunity to ruffle a few feathers. It could have preached the glory of science while besmirching religion, or vice versa. Even Charles did not want to stir up controversy. In one scene Huxley exclaims to Charles, “Congratulations, sir! You've killed God!” Charles looks horrified by this. There are also scenes where theology is touched upon. Emma is distraught by the divergence growing between her and her husband over his findings, she asks him, “Do you not care that you and I may be separated for all eternity?” The Creation focuses on the interests of Charles and Emma and doesn’t become preachy in favor of religion or science. It’s about the characters, not the bigger concepts. In fact, you won’t leave this movie knowing any more about evolution or religion than you did going in.
A nice device used in Creation is that the movie breaks away to show us some of the natural world and allows us to see the concept of survival of the fittest in action. It’s not forced or dramatized; it may as well have been from a nature documentary. It helps us see the world through Charles’ eyes and allows us to see his perspective, but allows us to draw our own conclusions from it.
You can buy the romance between Paul Bettany and Jennifer Connelly, as they work very naturally together. This is probably because the two actors are married in real-life. Both do a superb job with their roles. Charles is in a state of sadness and grievance for a lot of the movie, but Bettany’s acting maintains a nice balance of emotion without becoming melodramatic. The same can be said for Connelly. Martha West also did a fantastic job. Most children aren’t the best actors, especially not when it comes to dramatic roles. Yet Martha did a very convincing job, even during her death scene.
Creation was a decent movie; a nice historical dramatization with some romance stirred in. It featured some great acting, some excellent direction by Jon Amiel, and an interesting subject matter. No matter where you stand on evolution versus creation, you will still have reason to enjoy this romantic drama.
What’s your favorite movie based on a real person or event? Comment below and tell me all about it!