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Creation (DVD Review)

22 Jun, 2010 By: Erik Gruenwedel

Street 6/29/10
Box Office $0.3 million
$27.98 DVD
Rated ‘PG-13’ for some intense thematic material.
Stars Paul Bettany, Jennifer Connelly, Jeremy Northam, Toby Jones, Benedict Cumberbatch, Jim Carter, Bill Paterson, Martha West.

Imagine a time when fundamentalist religion usurped law and science, and then try telling people God has little to do with Mother Nature.

That 1850s mindset is what drove Charles Darwin (convincingly played by Paul Bettany) into comfortable self-contained solitude on the English coast surrounded by a growing brood of home-schooled children, offset slightly by a spiritually bound wife (a stern Jennifer Connelly, a.k.a. Mrs. Bettany).

In glossy independent film Creation, Darwin is presented as an engaging figure who regales his children with bedtime (in fact, anytime) stories about the origins of life and death within the animal species, often characterized as a type of survival of the fittest competition.

The movie foretells Darwin’s seminal scientific literature, On the Origin of Species, regarded as the cornerstone of evolutionary biology. And while no doubt a fascinating subject to those curiously inclined, including Darwin’s precocious but ultimately doomed 10-year-old daughter Annie (a quite worldly Martha West), to the average viewer, it might not be the birds-and-bees movie they would appreciate.

Luckily, director Jon Amiel showcases a melodramatic Darwin, via flashbacks, as an anguished father haunted by his oldest daughter’s untimely passing and subsequent questioning of beliefs, the personal toll the research has taken on his health and happiness (or lack thereof) in his marriage.

In addition, Amiel cleverly uses time-elapsed images depicting the biological breakdown among select creatures to help underscore in visual terms the fragility of life and suddenness of death Darwin so resolutely put to words and sketches.

Befitting the subject, Creation features myriad special featurettes, including “The Battle for Charles Darwin,” “Debating Darwin,” Digging Deeper into Darwin,” and “Pollard on Film: Creation.”

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