Noah (dir. Darren Aronofsky)

Posted: July 26, 2014 in Uncategorized

Darren Aronofsky had never directed a bad film, prior to “Noah”. “Pi”, “Requiem for a Dream”, “The Fountain”, “The Wrestler”, and “Black Swan” were all, to me, excellent films that hit their marks perfectly in terms of being interesting on the levels of story, visuals, and characters, and communicating their respective messages clearly. The most divisive of those films, “The Fountain” was perhaps hampered by the fact that it was originally set to go with a larger budget and different leading man, but eventually the script was adjusted to meet a smaller budget, Hugh Jackman replaced Brad Pitt, and the film bombed at the box office while attaining a cult following that enjoyed its unique visuals and quasi-Eastern Philosophy themes.

“Noah” is the closest to “The Fountain” that Aronofsky has come since making that film. After the stripped-bare, low-fi visual styles of both “The Wrestler” and “Black Swan”, Aronofsky delivered his highest budgeted film thus far, a rather bizarre and often times unintentionally funny interpretation of the biblical account of Noah. While “The Fountain” was thought by some to be a tad cheesy at times, I found that film quite moving and was along for the ride. Not so with “Noah”, which feels like the cross between low-quality Terrance Malick and Pink Floyd’s The Wall type visual acid trip. The film is at times visually stunning, with its scrapbook-like quit cut progression montages depicting events like evolution (go figure), but they don’t make up for how goofy the damn screenplay is.

We all know the basic story. Noah (Russell Crowe) gets a vision from God (called “The Creator” in the film) that a flood is coming to wipe out the wicked, and he builds an ark to save two of every animal. The film expands from that by giving us things like giant rock monsters (really fallen angels trapped in rock form…sure), cannibals, and a Noah that is really misanthropic and comes off as bloodthirsty and way too into letting humans die horribly. Noah being so eager to let people die and *SPOILER* being ever-so-eager to murder two miracle twin babies calls to mind modern day religious fanatics whose surety in their religious faith leads to them caring not for human suffering or the extinguishing of life. You can’t really call Noah our hero in this film. Whether it’s letting girls get trampled to death or cockblocking his son, Noah is a dick.

The other side of things is our antagonist, Tubal-cain (Ray Winstone), a descendant of Cain and leader of a large tribe of war-like slave traders and cannibals who wants to survive the flood on the ark. Noah and his family are the last descendants of Seth, the other brother of Cain and Abel. How both Cain and Seth have descendants when Adam and Eve had no daughters, well, the logical assumption of incest is the Bible’s fault, not the film’s, but incest lurks throughout the film. When one character gives birth to **AGAIN SPOILER** twin girls, the only logical way humans could continue to multiply is if the girls are impregnated by either their father or one of their two uncles. Yuck. That’s religion for you!

The film takes us from a quick recap of the creation to its present: creation of the universe, fall of man, and Cain’s descendants “industrializing” the world. An attack on Capitalism wreaking havoc on the world? Seems like it, but mainly in the sense of its destroying the environment. Anyway, we get our recap, we see Noah and his family, the vision, the rock monsters, a battle, the flood, and then some time on the ark contemplating infanticide before waters recede and Noah gets his drink on. That’s our movie in a nutshell.

Oh, and Anthony Hopkins is a shaman who is Noah’s grandfather, can magically heal women’s wombs against God’s will, and really likes berries.

The dialogue in this film is short, inelegant, and utilitarian. This could have easily been a silent film and nothing would be hard to understand. Sometimes the visuals carry things, and sometimes we’re just looking at murky fog and/or rain soaked people looking gravely concerned about things. The music is bombastic but forgettable. The acting is workmanlike. The visual effects are both pretty to look at and shoddy at the same time.

The films has many problems, but chief among them is the inability to pull a message out of this mess. Okay Aronofsky, you’ve taken a Bible story and reinterpreted it in this fashion. Why? On the surface it feels like a Greenpeace treatise on Capitalism’s destruction of the environment, with some quasi-Native American or vegan Hippie philosophy about not picking flowers you don’t need and not eating animals. The problem with this message coming through is that it is delivered to us by a bloodthirsty, misanthropic, fanatical lunatic named Noah. Sure, some members of Noah’s family are a bit more sympathetic, but not by much. His wife (a wasted Jennifer Connelly) goes along with things up until the potential baby murder without question. One of his sons (Logan Lerman) seems mainly obsessed with getting laid, to the extent that he falls for the first non-family-member-or-brother’s-girlfriend female he meets. The youngest son has maybe 2 lines in the whole film. The eldest son and his girl (Emma Watson) don’t have much to do until they abruptly fuck in the woods (after magical Anthony Hopkins apparently makes her horny?) and then try to protect their babies from the religious bloodlust of Noah.

If we have no one to root for, we’re pretty much just rooting for God to drown everyone and end the film. If the film’s message is supposed to me Humans Are Scum, fine, but we know this ends with Noah and his family surviving and continuing humanity, after some banal expressions about love and choice that feels tacked on at the end of the third act, following Noah’s bender.

Maybe there is no message, and the film exists simply to piss of Christians by making Noah an asshole, adding montages of evolution and paying lip service to environmentalism, and allow for CGI rock monsters to martyr themselves (also a mixed message. So it’s GOOD to kill yourself in battle for your God? Because the rock monsters are doing that, and the film seems to think, if not well, than certainly better of them than of Noah, our baby-murder-wanting hero).

I have a theory about the film that it’s supposed to take place in our future rather than the past (as biblical literalist do), which explains the film being shot in colors that make it look like the adaptation of Cormac McCarthy’s “The Road” from a few years ago. Instead of depicting the “first apocalypse”, it’s just predicting our own. Human intervention will lead to destroying the Earth through the diminishing of resources, there will be a war between the religious and those who practically want the last remaining resources left (oil?), and the human race will perish. Fine. But Aronofsky, you have to make your message clearer. Don’t build Noah up as a nice guy for the first, I dunno, twenty minutes of this film and then have him go bugnuts crazy.

it doesn’t help that the film is laughably bad in the way “Battlefield Earth” can be sometimes. A Rifftrax commentary for this film is sorely needed. This film cannot be taken seriously, precisely because it insists that it is a solemn and important film while Noah is sliding home between a rock monster’s legs. You can either make an impassioned argument for preserving the environment or you can make a lousy Lord of the Rings wannabe, but you can’t do both. Maybe SOMEONE can do both but you, Darren Aronofsky, cannot. C-.

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