September 16, 2009 | David F. Coppedge

Trio of Darwin Films Released

This month finds us two thirds of the way between Darwin’s 200th birthday and the 150th anniversary of his Origin of Species.  Taking advantage of the extra attention Darwin is getting this year (as if he needed more), three films on his life and ideas are being released from three different companies.

  1. The Voyage that Shook the World was produced by Fathom Media for Creation Ministries International.  It features interviews with scientists and historians, interspersed with re-enacted scenes from Darwin’s boyhood, Beagle days, and old age.  Filmed on five continents, the film centers on themes and influences in Darwin’s life that caused him to doubt the Scriptures and to interpret evidence through a biased lens – especially concerning the antiquity of the earth.  See the trailer at Creation.com.  For more on this film, see the 09/19/2009 Resource of the Week.
  2. Darwin’s Dilemma:  As described in our Resource of the Week last weekend, this new film from Illustra Media shows the challenge to Darwin’s ideas from the Cambrian fossil record.  Scenes taken from Darwin’s Down House and the Galapagos islands form just a small portion of the stunning footage (also filmed on five continents) and animation.  See the trailer at DarwinsDilemma.org.  A 25-minute interview with the producer, telling about the making of the film, is available on the ID the Future podcast from the Discovery Institute.
  3. Creation: The Movie:  CEH did not review Creation: The Movie (directed by Jon Amiel), but Rowan Hooper gave his impressions at New Scientist.  This is a fully-acted dramatic story, not a documentary like the other two reviewed above.  It airs in UK theaters on September 25th.  The movie (see trailer at CreationTheMovie.com) describes Darwin’s loss of faith in Christianity that was exacerbated by the death of his beloved daughter Annie.  It concentrates on the religious struggle between Charles and Emma, and focuses on the religious impact of Darwin’s views on Victorian society.
        Hooper, a staunch pro-Darwinist (agreeing with Daniel Dennett that Darwin developed “the single best idea anyone has ever had”) did not give the film much praise.  He was dismayed at the ghost stories: “The problem with the film is the conceit of having Annie materialise and interact with Darwin in order to illustrate the impact her death had on him.” he complained.  “As a device, it is unsubtle and irritating, and makes for a cartoon account of the writing of On the Origin of Species, one that presupposes that an audience will only appreciate Darwin’s anguish if it is spelled out in gigantic, sentimental letters waved by a pretty ghost.”
        The producers have blamed American creationists for discouraging distributors from scheduling the film in the United States, but Katey Rich at Cinema Blend didn’t find that excuse convincing.  Lots of controversial films get aired on American movie screens.  In her opinion, it’s just a boring film.  “The film will inevitably be picked up for distribution, and expect there to be another round of complaints about the creationists when the movie doesn’t perform as well as they’d hoped.  It’s a handy boogeyman,” she quipped.

A century and a half after The Origin, Darwin is still being talked about.  For better or worse, we cannot exorcise his ghost.  If ideas have consequences, Darwin’s “dangerous idea” has been one of the most consequential in history.  The end of Darwin’s story is yet to be seen.

The Voyage that Changed the World and Darwin’s Dilemma are both excellent and not to be missed.  They share facts and issues that must be faced in evaluating Darwin’s ideas.  As for the badly-misnamed Creation: The Movie, well, that’s entertainment.

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Categories: Intelligent Design, Media

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