Let me start off by saying: I had no dog in this fight. I mean beyond money, I could have cared less about this being a “good” adaptation of the source material. So while we are here, let me pull out the old soap box. This little spiel is directed at a very vocal minority. If you want to skip it, go right ahead.
I understand having sacred texts. I really do, and I definitely understand going into a movie with expectations. But this film is not your Bible. It never purported to be nor should it. Darren Aronofsky is telling his interpretation of a story that has been interpreted thousands of times before, and that’s not even counting the times it was written down or the various religions and sects of said religions that have their own personal spin on the story. Do you want a perfect interpretation of your sacred texts? Well I’ll let you in on a little secret. Go read your sacred texts because it’s never going to get better than what goes on in your head. For those that need visual simulation, I get it. Sometimes it is pretty cool to see something you’ve read come to life. But you want a 100% translation of the text still. Well get ready for a pretty short and boring movie. Me? I’m not particularly interested in seeing word-for-word translation of a Bible story. That’s not even the atheist talking. That is the movie-goer. If I am going to watch a movie based on or inspired by a biblical text, I prefer something like ‘Dogma,’ ‘The Prince of Egypt,’ or ‘The Last Temptation of Christ.’ These are films that put unique spins, or “what ifs” to stories I’ve heard a thousand times, and do so in an interesting and effective way. There are movies like ‘Son of God’ and ‘God Is Not Dead’ that are out now for those that want movies tailored to their beliefs, and that is not a bad thing. Go see those movies if you want to. The other point I need to make is if you pre-hate this movie just on the basis of it being headed by an atheist, than I guess I should put out there that maybe…JUST MAYBE….you should stay home because you are going into this movie with preconceived notions that are going to make you hate it prematurely and thus fulfilling your own prophecy. I’ll flip this around on atheists as well. Do not go see this movie pre-hating it on the basis of it being a religious story. A self-described atheist co-wrote and directed the thing! This is not an argument for whether the movie is good or not. We will get to that momentarily. This is an argument for calming down, and taking the time to understand what you are even angry about. Basically, if you are interested in this movie, go see it. Just don’t let your preconceived notions of what it should be as dictated by your personal beliefs weigh you down even before you set your ass down in the theater seat.
I went into ‘Noah’ somewhat hopeful. Aronofsky is without a doubt one of the best directors around today, and it was truly exciting to see one of the greatest visual directors of our time tackle a subject this big. While I enjoyed it hear and there, the film failed to deliver on a number of fronts, and certainly didn’t live up to the pedigree the director has built for himself. However, it is a lot harder for me to place what didn’t sit right with me concerning this movie. I saw two other movies this weekend: the David Ayer directed/Arnold Schwarzenegger staring ‘Sabotage’ and the newest classic from Wes Anderson, ‘The Grand Budapest Hotel.’ The latter movie was clearly the victor in terms of quality, but I can at least place both of them in the camps of “good” and “bad” on the richter scale that is my opinion. ‘Noah’ falls somewhere in the middle. It kind of just exists as a movie. If I could sum up my thoughts in one word it would be, “meh.” (Which I guess is more of a sound…)
I will be going into some spoiler-y territory in the section below. Enter at your own risk.
“A man is chosen by God to undertake a momentous mission of rescue before an apocalyptic flood destroys the world.” – IMDb.com
Let’s start off with some of the positives. Perhaps the most controversial aspect of this film was what I honestly what I liked the most, and that is how it explores Noah’s very fragile psyche. Aronofsky’s forte has always been the psychological. Just look to ‘Requiem for a Dream’ and ‘Black Swan.’ This film gives us a man slowly going insane by his perceived mission assigned to him by his Creator (never explicitly called God in the entire film). He also witnesses how fucked up humanity is, and how it will continue to fuck up if it survives this flood. Place yourself in that guy’s shoes and imagine the pressure his job entails. Also your boss isn’t telling you what to do exactly so you have no fucking clue if you are doing a single thing right. Now try not to go absolutely coo-coo for Cocoa puffs. I think Russell Crowe did a very commendable job giving us a character on the very verge of breaking completely.
I also really liked the questions this film asked such what power do we assign faith? Is that faith separate for morality? Is that faith worth letting you, your family, and the world dying? None of these have clear and easy answers and kudos to the filmmakers for not giving us a cookie cutter Biblical tale. In other words, you aren’t going to here VeggieTales asking these kinds of questions.
Possibly the best sequence of the film was Noah’s creation story. While utterly pointless to the overall plot, it is the moment I remember most vividly. It attempts to come to a respective middle ground in terms of science and religion which is pretty risky (in terms of the majority of people that will be seeing this movie) and I thought worked out in the film’s favor. To put out the notion that both could co-exist is admirable on the filmmaker’s part. (Although it was a total cop out to stop right at apes as life was evolving. You do risky things throughout the entirety of the film, and man’s evolution is where you get blue balls?) Although it is a problem when the best scene of your movie.
The special effects are hit-and-miss for a majority of the picture. The animals didn’t look all that great in my opinion, (maybe it’s just because there are quite a lot of them) but I guess there really isn’t a better way to do than with CGI in today’s modern movie making world. I understand the effects team did quite a lot of work, but the animals on display in ‘The Life of Pi’ and even ‘Rise of the Planet of the Apes’ looked better than this.
The cast is all fairly solid, and each of their respective character reveal some sort of aspect of humanity. I really liked Ray Winstone’s Tubal-cain, who best represents man’s ultimate free will. Winstone does a spectacular job at making just about anything he says badass. Also a shout-out to Jennifer Connelly. It feels like I haven’t seen her in a movie in quite a while, and while her role as Noah’s ever stressed out wife is almost voiceless in the first half of the film, she becomes a real scene-stealer in the last.
Clint Mansell’s score is appropriately awesome and epic. I really liked the track “Wickedness of Man.” It adds so much dread and despair to a pretty graphic scene as Noah descends into Cain’s camp.
All of that good stuff being said, I had quite a few issues with the film. First off, quite a few things made no sense to me ranging from misplaced character motivations, unexplained yet crucial plot devices, and conventional Hollywood storytelling bullshit.
I would say the stuff that bothered me most had to be a lot of the more conventional stuff such as the final fight between Noah and Cain on the Ark or the Watchers (the fallen angels that have now become Rock Bitters from ‘The NeverEnding Story,’ and were kept out of the marketing of this film for whatever reason) taking part in a giant Lord of the Rings-esque battle scene. I liked the Rock Bi-er I mean Watchers. Their inclusion makes the building of the Ark more grounded which I appreciated, but having a giant battle felt weird considering who was making this movie and what this movie was about. The same goes for the final fight. Since Ham, Noah’s son, didn’t get any sex, I guess he had to become a man some other way by killing a guy from behind. Call me old fashioned but I thought the movie’s climax would’ve worked fine with the simple conflict of Noah wanting to kill two babies. I guess the Creator in this movie wanted to see a cliche fight scene so he let Cain get on the boat so he could fight Noah nine months later.
I don’t want to complain too much about logic due to the sensitive nature of the source of this story, but some elements made no sense to me whatsoever, such as the magic rocks and their ability to both create fire and work as a pregnancy test, that dog-thing with scales, Methuselah’s sleep breath, his honestly awesome flaming sword, his baby giving powers, Ila becoming super horny right after that, and many more things. I don’t need a movie to spell things out for me but all of these aforementioned incidents kind of came out of nowhere. At least to me. Although the more I think about it, the more I believe that Methuselah was just Gandalf, and the Lord of the Rings battle makes a little bit more sense…I guess.
My last very minor nit-pick: the font chosen for the opening and closing credits. I don’t really think of myself as a font guy nor do I generally care about font choice, but something was just off in this movie. Almost as if it was done last minute on someone was scrolling though fonts and lazily said, “Hey! Dis one looks like it’s old timey!” And they were hard pressed for time so they just rolled with it.
In conclusion, I wish this movie had focused more on the philosophical and psychological aspects of the story because it is really where this movie excels. In the end, I liked this movie for at least being something different. It at least has that going for it, and its ultimately what is going to make it memorable. However, I don’t just want a movie I remember. I want a movie that I LOVE to remember, ponder, talking about, and watch again. ‘Noah’ is not that movie.