Film Friday: ‘Creation’ and ‘Extraordinary Measures’

by W. Andrew Powell

Creation starring Paul Bettany and Jennifer Connelly

Creation starring Paul Bettany and Jennifer Connelly

Paul Bettany stars in not one but two new films opening in theatres this week, including the drama Creation, about the life of a young Charles Darwin, and the horrific action thriller, Legion. Other new arrivals include Extraordinary Measures with Harrison Ford and Brendan Fraser, plus the sugary-sweet comedy, The Tooth Fairy starring Dwayne Johnson.

Starring: Paul Bettany, Jennifer Connelly, Toby Jones, Jeremy Northam, Martha West
Director: Jon Amiel

Charles Darwin is a monumental figure in the scientific world. His theories on evolution helped shape the modern study of biology, and it seems almost overdue that a modern film should look at his exploits.

With Paul Bettany as Darwin and Bettany’s wife Jennifer Connelly as Darwin’s wife, Emma, the film explores some of the theological and political problems that plagued the scientist throughout the earlier years of his life.

Struggling with his daughter’s failing health, and eventual death, Darwin is ultimately torn between religion and science as he attempts to finish his book, “The Origin of Species”, which has been in progress for a number of years. While Emma is very religious, she is still supportive of her husband, but they both realize the implications of Darwin’s research and what it will undoubtedly mean for the church.

Haunted by images of his daughter, Darwin’s research, while exhilarating and life-consuming, is causing him to question how he can go forward before God if he were to finally reveal what he has discovered. The memory of his daughter also causes him unending grief, making him second-guess whether he should release his research at all.

Directed by Jon Amiel, best known for his films Entrapment and The Core, Creation aims to be a potently interesting biopic as it mashes Darwin’s psychological state against his scientific reasoning, but more commonly the film meanders into unfortunate clichés.

The film is randomly engaging, but it fails to energize what could have been an unquestionably interesting story. Amiel’s clumsy attempts at wringing emotion from these characters can only be called ham-fisted missteps, and the overall flow of the film is jumbled and messy as we jump back and forth through Darwin’s life.

Perhaps a straightforward approach to the story would have been dull, but it felt like the film was confusing, more than it was being clever. Something that utterly tainted by interpretation of the film and its story.

Performances in the film are generally quite good though, particularly Bettany and Connelly, who were both deeply invested in the darker parts of the story. Co-stars Toby Jones and Jeremy Northam also stand out, as does Martha West as the young daughter, Annie.

Creation fumbles around at times, and misses big opportunities, but it’s by no means a terrible film. It’s just messy. While it might be worth a watch, it’s not what I consider a big-screen event.

Also in theatres this week…

Extraordinary Measures
Starring: Harrison Ford, Brendan Fraser, Keri Russell
Director: Tom Vaughan

Brendan Fraser, Harrison Ford and Keri Russell star in the story of a couple fighting to save the lives of their two youngest children.

Fraser plays John Crowley, an average working-class man who is starting to make a name for himself in the corporate world when his daughters fall gravely ill. With his wife, played by Russell, the family seeks for help and answers, but discover that there simply is no cure.

However, there is hope in the form of a scientist, Dr. Robert Stonehill, played by Harrison Ford. Robert is an untried and unconventional researcher who may have the hope that John’s family needs, but to get anywhere they will need a lot of money, and time – two things which are in short supply.

If they can raise the money, John’s only hope for his children is that Robert can develop a drug that will save their lives.

At press time there were very few published reviews, but the early consensus is that the film is a safe retread of numerous films we’ve seen before. Bill Goodykoontz of the Arizona Republic summed up the film by saying, “The road to mediocrity is paved with good intentions.”

Starring: Paul Bettany, Dennis Quaid, Lucas Black, Tyrese Gibson
Director: Scott Stewart

In what I can only call one of the most inept looking action movies of the year, Paul Bettany and Dennis Quaid star in the end-of-the-world story that pits humanity against a legion of apocalyptic angels.

With Bettany playing the Archangel Michael, the story centres on a small group of people fighting to stay alive. The story apparently revolves around the fact that God has lost faith in mankind, and his angels have been sent in to clean up the world with fire, brimstone, and mayhem.

Reviews have not been available as it looks like the studio is not screening the film for press. Based on the horrible trailer alone, and the ridiculous special effects in that trailer, it’s safe to say you can skip this one unless you’re really desperate for a laugh.

The Tooth Fairy
Starring: Dwayne Johnson, Ashley Judd, Stephen Merchant, Julie Andrews
Director: Michael Lembeck

And speaking of desperate laughs, The Tooth Fairy stars Dwayne Johnson as, yes, the Tooth Fairy in a film by director Michael Lembeck, who previously directed The Santa Clause 2.

Early reviews out of Australia suggest this film is short on anything that might be construed as entertaining. Apparently Johnson is happy to stick his name on any dumb film that comes along.

Ben McEachen of Australia’s Sunday Mail compared the film to “oral surgery without laughing gas,” which he simply stated “is an annoying pain we could all do without.”

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