Tuesday, 22 September 2009

Creation: interactive map better than the film?

The much-anticipated Darwin film Creation, starring Paul Bettany and Jennifer Connolly, opens in the UK this Friday (25 September).

The film’s official website features a nice interactive map with pins linking to a variety of Darwin facts and web resources related to Darwin’s life and work. You can also submit your own facts and links for inclusion on the map.

As for the film itself, reviews and opinions have been mixed. I went to a preview screening at the Science Museum last week and while I wasn’t bored, I didn’t think it particularly good either.

Creation seems to have problems marrying ‘Darwin the father/husband/human being’ with ‘Darwin the father of evolution’ (or, as the film put it, “the man who killed God”). The film tried very hard to be both and appeal to both the scientific audience who will flock to see this, and the more general audience that might be drawn to its more melodramatic elements.

I’ve no problems with a bit of cheese in a period drama, but if that’s what they were going for, it was somewhat distracting to have the ‘grandeur of science’ intruding every few scenes. To me, the Science versus Religion aspect felt rather heavy-handed, particularly every time Hooker/Huxley arrived for a pep talk or someone felt like they had to explain yet again how controversial Darwin’s theory was and “how it can change the world”.

The references to evolution and its ramifications would have been better voiced more subtly. In the course of the film, Darwin tells several of his classic case studies to his daughter Annie and more of this would perhaps have allowed the audience to absorb the evidence and reach their own conclusions. Instead, there’s rather a lot of spelling out and exposition that distracts from some of the more human elements of the film.

Still, it’s decently shot, with some good moments and intriguing story elements. I was interested to learn of Darwin’s belief in hydrotherapy, particularly with a doctor pointing out how “illogical” the theory behind it was (although this was at a time when mercury was still a commonly prescribed treatment…). And while not everyone will agree with the portrayal of Darwin as a man driven mad by grief, it did allow for some of the more entertaining and stylish parts of the film. It was good to see Darwin depicted pre-beard for once too.

If you’re reading this blog, chances are you’re enough of a Darwin/evolution nerd to want to see the film anyway. Am I being harsh? Did you actually really enjoy it? Did Annie Darwin irritate you as much as she did me? Please share your opinions in the comments.


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  2. I would tell you what I think if only the film would come to the US!