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DVD Review: Creation (2009)

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Have you ever wondered about the emotional or psychological status of people who have accomplished remarkable things? People like Booker T. Washington and Marie Pasteur, who revolutionized thinking, were human geniuses subject to driving motivations and demons, just as the rest of the world’s human population are. What influence did their feelings and experiences have on their work?

Creation tells the story of one such genius, Charles Darwin (Paul Bettany). Physically ill, haunted by the memory of a lost child, torn between the love of his family and the pursuit of science, and responsible for theories that would pit religious minds against scientific minds for decades to come, Darwin is depicted as a tortured man who was obsessed by what he was learning yet conflicted by his Christian background.

Emma Wedgwood Darwin (Jennifer Connelly), a cousin Charles Darwin married, was a deeply religious woman who disapproved of “the war with God” her husband waged. The more immersed he became in his theories and studies, the more their discord deepened.

Creation is an unsettling narrative of a man driven mad by his vision and his memories. Dreams, illusions, and reality alternate and merge, often leaving the viewer wondering what is real, what isn’t, and did any of this actually happen. As Creation unfolds, the repetitiveness and despair become tedious. The characters themselves are remote and passionless, leaving the audience with little to connect.

In presenting Darwin the man, Creation divorces him from Darwin the naturalist. It seems impossible that he could have created On the Origin of Species while enduring this unbearable psychic pain. Charles and Emma, divided by their grief, share scenes in which sadness is an entity, a character that robs them of their joy. Then, three-quarters through the film, they have a brief conversation that miraculously cures Darwin of his woes, restoring his health, and enabling him to complete his masterwork, reconnect with his children, and revive his marriage. The denouement is so sudden, it nearly seems tacked on and negates all that went before.

Although ending “happily,” Creation is so melancholy that the audience is not lifted up. Instead they think of how very little of Darwin they got from this film. Despite its authentic feel for its period and its experienced, competent cast, Creation is like a passing shadow, a cheerless moment in time.

DVD extra features include director Jon Amiel’s audio commentary, a making-of documentary (“The Battle for Charles Darwin”), three “Debating Darwin” featurettes, seven featurettes ”Digging Deeper into Darwin,” and a “Pollard on Film: Creation” featurette.

Charles Darwin was not particularly sexy or attractive in the physical sense, but a dead crush nonetheless. The man was brilliant, dedicated, and fearless. Those who think of him as “the evolution guy” are totally missing out on the romantic adventurer who sailed on The Beagle and revolutionized thought on religion and science, polarizing future generations who would endlessly debate his theories. Whether people accept or reject his science, Darwin was a figure who ignited thought and bravely introduced that in which he believed.

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