Creation (2009) Jon Amiel
Production Budget: $10 million
Worldwide Gross (so far): $500,000
Now in a way I’m cheating because technically it’s still in theaters. However, do any of you really expect this movie to make over $20 million to break even? I don’t think I’m being pessimistic here; I’m being a realist.
The main reason this movie did not succeed was because the distributors were scared of releasing it. It doesn’t take a grand conspiracy theory to explain that evolution is still a divisive issue. When you still have “intellectuals” like Ben Stein making claims for Intelligent Design and saying Darwin led directly to the Holocaust (a galling, offensive, and moronic view IMO), it is even more murky for many who don’t even do research on the issue. So the movie went for the longest time without a distributor until Newmarket Films (the same company that released Passion) gave it a small release. I was finally able to see it on a one screen theater that had a one week only run of it (with absolutely no advertising for it I might add).
The movie takes place prior to the publishing to The Origin of Species. Charles (Paul Bettany) and his wife Emma (Jennifer Connelly) are still grieving over the death of their first daughter Annie. The death has caused a rift in their marriage which made Charles embrace his work and science where Emma embraces her faith. Charles is haunted by his actions leading up to her death and is afraid of the consequences of publishing this book. While many theists do not have a problem believing in both evolution and God, some do have a literal interpretation of the Bible. The theory of evolution does scientifically contradict those beliefs and Charles knew it would be a major blow not just to the world but to his already severely strained marriage.
Now for all the hullabaloo (technical term) about releasing this movie and the theory of evolution, it really is a personal story about Charles Darwin and not a documentary about evolution. This is about a man coming to grips with the death of his daughter and at the same time reconciling her death with his personal religious beliefs. In that respect, the film is very good. Paul Bettany carries this movie as he shows both charm and wit, and also the torturous pain of a father losing the daughter he loved so much. This really is a great performance and I will admit to getting a tad misty (despite some of it being too schmaltzy and over the top). The direction, despite being an intimate story, is quite good. Amiel stages all of the scenes well and intercuts many of Darwin’s musings to kind of ecological shots of the interconnected web of life. It’s kind of hard to explain.
Now I have to agree with Ebert in one respect and that is in saying the director does kind of puss out in going into the theory of evolution. We get brief snippets of Darwin explaining natural selection but it really isn’t much. If you didn’t know too much about evolution before then you aren’t going to learn much watching this. And it seems kind of a waste to go through all the trouble of making this movie with all the controversy and to not really go into the subject at any depth. It is like they were scared of offending people so they cut it out, but the mere mention of Darwin’s name (no matter how much you push evolution away) stigmatized the movie.
This is a shame because I really did like this movie. It was actually a movie I had rather bland attitude going in and was actually won over by the end of it. While it isn’t all that interested in exploring the science, it is a good personal story. It certainly didn’t deserve to get shafted the way it did.