Saturday, August 23, 2014

Noah (New and Improved by Hollywood!)

The Bible is cool. It helps to be familiar with the various incarnations that the word of God has gone through over the ages. There's the Vulgate, Septuagint, Hebrew Tanakh with Torah, along with the various apocryphal works and eventually the King James, among others. These were all drafted in different languages and all share similarities and omissions in comparison with each other.

I thought Noah (2014, Darren Aronofsky) might be cool because I like many of Aronofsky's films: Pi (1998), Requiem for a Dream (2000),  The Wrestler (2008), and Black Swan (2010). My dad actually videotaped an episode of "48 Hours," for me in 1998 that followed Aronofsky's process of completing and finding distribution for Pi, sort of like a production diary. Thanks, Dad.

The movie Noah sucks.

First of all we get a creation myth. Okay, cool. Snake tempts Adam and Eve. They eat forbidden fruit, Cain kills Abel. Got it.

But then we are told that "The Watchers," a band of angels, have been sent to watch over Adam and Eve while God created the rest of the world. And The Watchers are giant slow walking rock people. Here's where they lost me, pretty quickly: The Watchers bore me to death for the same reason I don't watch any Peter Jackson Tolkien movies, which is because The Two Towers put me to sleep when trees started walking and talking--it's just so frikkin boring. But The Watchers also came from outer space to "protect mankind," wait isn't that the job of the Transformers and Optimus?

Also Noah takes the serpent's skin from his dad as a birthright and this thread is tied up over the course of the film by the end. But why? Why keep the skin? Why does it glow? This snake skin business is stupid.

Jennifer Connelly plays Noah's wife. She has always been one of the most beautiful actresses around--and I'm really picky about beauty. Here she looks radiant, classically elegant, natural, and her expressions are weighted with the sorrows of a lifetime of adversity and sacrifice. Her dark thick eyebrows, and mole above her left lip delicately complement her tearful visage. Right away we also may root for this handsome couple because they were also John and Alicia Nash once upon a time.

The CGI is amazing. Time lapse photography of the river that miraculously springs forth to find the Ark is one of the early spectacles shown, followed by various classes of animals finding their way to the Ark (first birds, then snakes and reptiles, then all of the beasts that walk on all fours...). These sequences of biblical proportion are the best part of the film. There's also some cool POV shots from the two doves.

Sexy as hell Emma Watson is soon introduced as Ila, who will be the wife of Noah's son Shem.

And Ray Winstone is introduced as a Tubal King who is the heavy Noah must battle. Yeah the Hollywood producers thought Noah needed a bad guy to fight, of course. So, Winstone's character stows away on the Ark (ughh!).

About 80 minutes in the flood occurs.

The movie just totally sucks from here.

Yeah okay, I get the heavy guilt laid on Noah. But I don't buy it. By this point Noah believes he is evil because he would kill to protect his family. Umm, no. Noah also refuses to let Ham bring a wife on board. And by this point I'm fuming because I know there's no way this movie is going to show God telling Noah to kill a pregnant Emma Watson. No frikkin way!

Plus wasn't it Abraham who was tested by God to murder his own child? This seems like a borrowed plot from elsewhere in the Bible.

So by the end Noah doesn't knife Ila's twin baby daughters (No-duh!). And also during the last hour one can't help but wonder who Noah's male offspring will have sex with (if at all?) if the only women that survive are Ila and Naameh. This matter is resolved somewhat adequately. Ham just straight up splits, but before he leaves there's this shot where he's staring at Ila and her two baby daughters. This moment reminds me a lot of the scene in Your Highness (2011, David Gordon Green) when the Justin Theroux wizard character tells his captive played by Zooey Deschanel that he remembers kidnapping her as a little girl and thinking to himself, "wow that's a baby and one day I will have to have sex with that baby." Sorry, okay? I had to mention it. But those questions loomed large for me and I'm sure I'm not the only one.

And at the film's conclusion Noah presents his surviving kin their birthright, the glowing snake skin! But God appears as a fireball that emits concentric light rings before simultaneously exploding and turning into a rainbow. Yay! See? God does talk!

Great CGI, I'm still a fan of Jennifer Connelly, Ray Winstone, Emma Watson and Russell Crowe, but man this piece of crap is unforgivably ridiculous and silly. At least the ethical dilemma between Tubal and Noah was clear, but fight scenes and weird rock people ruined this movie for me.

Aronofsky's longtime DP Matty Libatique shot Noah on film and it does, as mentioned, look amazing. The scale and detail of the deluge, and animal migrations are ILM magic goodies.

--Dregs

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