Friday saw the release of two science-centered films: the medical drama "Extraordinary Measures" opened around the country, while the British-made Charles Darwin biopic "Creation" finally found a U.S. distributor and began limited showings on this side of the pond. Starring Brendan Fraser and Harrison Ford, "Extraordinary Measures" tells the Hollywood-ized true story of researchers racing to find a cure for Pompe disease, a genetic affliction affecting fewer than 10,000 people in the world. Two of those people, however, are the children of John Crowley, Fraser's character.
"The movie is a great exposure for a rare genetic disease," said Duke University School of Medicine's Priya Kishnani, who studies Pompe and participated in much of the research that led to the first and only approved treatment for the disease.... "I would have never thought in my lifetime, a disease that I'm so passionate about would make it into mainstream Hollywood cinema" [The Scientist]
. While Dr. R. Rodney Howell also applauded Hollywood for making the film, he wrote for the Miami Herald that people must be careful not to imagine that the Hollywood version of finding cures—Crowley overcoming all odds nearly alone to successfully save his children—is the way it really works.
There's much more to the story of how drugs are developed in the real world. And, as Americans turn to the promise of science to correct deadly genetic mistakes, we need to realize drugs don't get "discovered'' the way Hollywood says they do [Miami Herald]
. The real-life Pompe treatment upon which the film is based, called Myozyme, took 20 years of work, with teams of scientists building on the work of other teams, Howell points out.
As for "Creation," prospects looked grim last fall for the film even finding distribution in the United States. Producer Jeremy Thomas ranted to The Telegraph that the poor percentage of Americans accepting evolution, compared to residents of other countries, was keeping his movie out of the United States.
Less than two weeks later, however, the U.S. distribution rights were picked up by Newmarket Films - which was ironic, because five years earlier the same company handled "The Passion of the Christ," Mel Gibson's worshipful (and graphic) tale of Jesus' death and resurrection [MSNBC]
. Actually, according to director Jon Amiel, the holdup happened mostly because U.S. distributors didn't see a period drama about big ideas as a big money-maker, as opposed to say, blue creatures with tails piloting dragons in 3-D. “I’d love to say that it was a conservative, right-wing religious conspiracy that hampered the film’s distribution prospects,” he said,
“but the truth is a little more complicated”
"Creation" stars Paul Bettany as the great naturalist and Jennifer Connelly as his wife, Emma Darwin. Amiel's film focuses particularly on Darwin's personal life, reviews say, especially the fact that the real Darwin wasn't the religion-smasher that some critics make him out to be, but rather held conflicted feelings on the implications of his singular notion for humanity's place in the cosmos. Related Content: The Intersection: Darwin Film "Too Controversial For Religious America?" Discoblog: Darwin May've Had "Cyclical Vomiting Syndrome" (It's As Fun As It Sounds) Discoblog: Worst Science Article of the Week: The “Dark Side” of Darwin Discoblog: Sneak Preview of Darwin: The Musical DISCOVER: Vital Signs, all our medical mysteries "Creation" Image: Newmarket Films