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NOAH (on DVD)… too weird to recommend to anybody

Posted on July 16th, 2014
Posted on July 16th, 2014

by Coop Cooper

The movie narrates hastily through the book of Genesis, explaining how after Cain killed Abel, Cain’s progeny – with the help of fallen angels – spread across all the land and created a Godless industrialized nation. Only the last of the descendants of the third brother, Seth, continued to protect creation, the last of which is Noah (Russell Crowe) and his family. When Noah receives a vision that the Creator will destroy the world by use of water, he seeks out his grandfather Methuselah (Anthony Hopkins) for guidance with the help of the fallen angels who become his protector. Methuselah gives him a seed, a relic from the Garden of Eden and the vision suddenly becomes clear to Noah. He must save as many of Earth’s creatures as he can by building an ark using wood from the planted seed to carry them through the coming flood. The life-bringing streams created by the seed attract the animals to the ark, but they also draw the attention of bloodthirsty humans, especially Tubal-cain (Ray Winstone), the self-proclaimed king of all men.

Director Darren Aronofsky is a self-proclaimed atheist which makes this biblical subject matter an odd choice for him to adapt. He does make some interesting choices, like showing the globe of Earth and the giant continent of Pangea as the dominating landmass during this time period. He also presents this world as a mystical wasteland that already appears post-apocalyptic with most humans starving and surviving off of anything they can find only to be consumed in flames when they grow too wicked.

The depiction of the ‘fallen angels’ themselves is bizarre in the extreme as they appear as giant, moving rock monsters. Their design comes across as cheesy and poorly rendered for and A-grade movie. They reminded me of sloppily created Transformers, speaking with metallic-sounding voices… not exactly a good thing in a biblical epic. There are also weird magic rocks Noah and his family use to start fires – presumably because they had not discovered the technology to create fire without God’s help? There is also a strange and needless solution that Noah invents to keep the animals sedated for the big event. Did this story really require these inconsequential plot solutions or is ‘God’s power’ an adequate explanation for everything in this film? The balance of these two ideals are uneven at best.

There is a ‘save the environment’ theme going on in this story which I expected but it did throw in a few other ideologies I was not expecting. For instance, you never witness Noah and his family eat but it is insinuated that they are vegetarian and look down on their enemies for eating the endangered animals.

Aronofsky also found a strange workaround to deal with the possibility of incest between Noah’s children, but this seemed like a trivial plot device considering the overall bizarreness of the film. Even Noah’s youngest son, Ham (Logan Lerman), asks an awkward, ‘Am I going to get a woman?’ question that nobody really wants to answer at the time but eventually becomes a large issue and object of bitterness within the story.

There is some forced drama in the acting but a couple of performances stand out. Emma Watson has a few weepy moments as Noah’s adopted daughter Ila who cannot bear children. Ray Winston has a very effective scene where he indicates that he might not wish to kill anyone if God would only talk to him. However, Crowe becomes irritating, especially after his character becomes cynical after seeing the full wickedness of the other men and decides no women are worthy of his sons, therefore the planet’s wildlife is a suicide mission for him and his family. Other than that, Crowe might as well be playing Maximus from “Gladiator” for all his action scenes except he’s much less likable in this role. Jennifer Connelly (as Noah’s wife Naameh) is allowed a self-righteous speech when everyone turns on Noah for a mean-spirited and nonsensical promise he makes to God near the end.

This feels less like a faithful adaptation of the story of Noah’s Ark and more like a sci-fi reimagining of the classic scripture. While there were many gaps in the Bible’s account and many liberties were required to bring it to life, it’s still an interesting take of the subject. There are some fantastic visual imagery to accompany it, especially Noah’s retelling of the seven days of creation halfway through the film. While visually breathtaking, it incorporates a unique way of integrating evolution into the theology which is bound to offend many people.

That one sequence illustrates what a risk this film was for Aronofsky to make and that he couldn’t have expected to please hardly anyone with such a stylistic interpretation of this story and the liberties taken. It felt like it represented a sloppy, failed compromise… one that is too strange and not biblical enough for the believers, and possibly too biblical and hokey for the non-believers. I might even go so far to say Aronofsky was arrogant for even trying, but I appreciate this film as a cinematic oddity if not as a faithful adaptation. Alas, appreciating something isn’t the same as liking it and I’m afraid this film was not meant for me. I suspect many others will feel the same way.

Noah” arrives on DVD on July 29th.

Rating: 2 and 1/2 out of 5 stars

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