“The film has no distributor in America. It has got a deal everywhere else in the world but in the US, and it’s because of what the film is about. People have been saying this is the best film they’ve seen all year, yet nobody in the US has picked it up.”
That’s according to Jeremy Thomas, who produced the Charles Darwin biopic Creation, and that’s fine and all, but let’s put this into some perspective. He’s the film’s producer. That means that he’s making money off the film: indeed, that he’s on the hook for the financial success or failure of the film. I’m sure there are some people who’ve said it’s the best film they’re seen all year but, you know: my mom says I’m cool, too.
It’s possible that there’s some great conspiracy of film distributors – all film distributors in the United States, based largely in those hotbeds of conservatism, Hollywood and New York City – who support a right-wing, anti-science agenda, and who would spike a great film that would make them tons of money just to keep Americans ignorant of the true story of Charles Darwin.
Alternately, it’s also possible that the film is a low-key costume drama about a 19th C. English naturalist and his internal struggles. Or as the review of the film in Variety puts it:
“Creation” feels somewhat static in storytelling terms. Once basic conflicts are established, we simply wait for Darwin to come to terms with his grief, marriage and imminent notoriety. Not much “happens,” though the pic does its best to maintain energy in both physical presentation and mixed-chronology structure.
Leads are also a little monotonous: Bettany is appealing but this Charles is at times nearly a sickly bore, while Connelly, not an actor with much lightness, is OK but emphasizes Emma’s grave concern and disapproval to the exclusion of nearly every other quality.
In other words: maybe it’s just kind of a boring movie.
I know it’s fun to beat up on Americans for being a bunch of crazy know-nothings, to point out as the author of the Telegraph story did, that “only 39 per cent of Americans believe in the theory of evolution” and that there are message boards full of nutty anti-science kooks who call Darwin a Nazi, etc. It’s certainly a favorite past-time of many Britons, and there are a lot of folks here who get in on the game, too. And, you know: yeah, it’s pretty frustrating that there are so many Americans who are kinda nuts.
But let’s keep this in perspective. Hollywood likes to make money. Lots of it. They’re perfectly willing to produce and distribute eye-poking nonsense like Religulous – which the right wing was a lot more pissed off about – if they can count on $13 M receipts on a $2.5M budget, with a $3.5M opening weekend. That’s a very nice margin, and Religulous got pretty wide distribution to get there – not just indie theaters but a fair number of multiplexes, too, opening on over 500 screens and staying at over 400 screens for a month. There’s no way Creation opens that big, so to even approach those kinds of numbers, it’d have to not just do respectable business but really blow the doors off of the art-house circuit – sellouts, $60K screens, etc. – and given what it appears to be, I’m not really shocked that it failed to find a distributor willing to roll the dice.
We’re getting into Oscar season, both in big-budget and Oscar-bait-indie vintage. The screens are crowded and you need a pretty hot property to get into the conversation. The fact that Creation doesn’t rise to that level doesn’t say anything about Darwin’s theory of evolution being “too controversial for American audiences” and everything about some pretty banal economic realities of the movie biz.