Actually, the HD trailer is a little better, but I couldn’t embed it.

Creation the movie stars Paul Bettany as Charles Darwin, the man behind one of the most polarizing books in human history.  Jennifer Connelly, Bettany’s real life wife, plays Emma Darwin, the wife of Charles.  There are a variety of other British stars as well (this is more of a British production than anything else), including Jeremy Northam and Toby Jones.

The movie itself chronicles Darwin around the time of his writing and publishing the book.  His research has both been conducted, concluded, and continually ongoing, but is being pushed to get to writing and publishing his book.  As Thomas Huxley (Jones) tells him one sunny morning: “Congratulations Charles, you’ve killed God.”  Charles doesn’t necessarily know how to respond to this at the current point: he’s sick, and is getting sicker to the point of paranoia, and he fears what will happen to his marriage with Emma, who is a devout Christian.  She tells him at one point that she doesn’t want to be separated from him in heaven.  Charles doesn’t either, but he’s also committed to his work.  He eventually gets better, completes the book, and gives it to Emma to read, who packs it and tells him to publish it.

The movie also has a second, parallel story line, told in flashbacks.  It’s of Charles’ oldest daughter Annie, who would succumb to sickness by age ten.  Charles was particularly fond of the girl, mostly because of her innate curiosity and willingness to learn about the world.  She spends more time getting dirty and finding different organisms in nature than playing ball with the rest of the family.  When she gets sick and dies though, Darwin is crushed.  He loses what little faith he had left.

Throughout the movie, Charles is visited by Annie as a ghost of sorts, who admires his work at first and loves to hear his stories, but slowly challenges him and pushes him to continue on with writing, though she becomes quite upset with him too when he begins to lose hope in finishing the book.  She eventually leads him, when he’s recovered, to the room where she died.  There, Charles gains a final understanding of everything he lost and will lose and heads home, both to his wife, his other children, and to the work that he knows he will complete.

The movie, as it stands as a biopic, is pretty serviceable.  The parallel story lines raise the movie beyond simply standard, though at times some of it doesn’t work.  Bettany is quite good as Charles, though Connelly comes off as somewhat flat as Emma.  The character itself isn’t written all too well.  She comes off as almost too religious – Emma was a Unitarian, which, if I’m right, at the time of the story it falls somewhere in between Christian and humanist thought.  She did attend church though, and probably every Sunday at that.  The movie itself, in contrasting between Charles and Emma, sets up the science versus religion debate through their marriage.  At the end though, it seems almost unresolved, even after Emma gives it to Charles to publish.  As she hands him the package, she tells him that she’s now an accomplice – an unwilling accomplice at that.

The movie is better when it allows Darwin’s research to show through, both at his home and in his travels.  The best, and probably most hilarious scene, comes early on in the movie, when Charles witnesses the end of a failed social and cultural experiment in converting children of a island group to Christianity.  Also excellent are the sequences involving Jenny the orangutan, where Charles engages in social contact with her and witnesses Jenny’s willingness to learn and adapt.  Her death scene, parallel to Annie’s death, is touching.

As a biopic, it’s not bad.  It’s better than a recent one, Amelia, which came off more bland than anything else.  The filmmakers tried and largely succeeded in connecting the two story lines together, but mostly because of Bettany’s performance as Darwin.  It could have worked better if some of the characters were more rounded (Emma, Annie (unfortunately, her only personality traits were mass curiosity and disappointment), Northam (as the family priest)), but, as it stands, it’s serviceable.

B-

Note: the movie was adapted from the novel Annie’s Box: Darwin, His Daughter, and Human Evolution, by Randal Keynes (a descendant of Darwin), which I’ve added to my quell on both Amazon and my Sony eReader.  Here is a link to the Amazon page.

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