Friday, May 2, 2014

Noah (2014)

A World Cruise with Animal Double Occupancy (Except for a Single Crowe)
"How Long Can You Tread Water?"

The story of Noah has been filmed quite a bit: beyond the Bible study presentations, it played a part in Michael Curtiz's 1928 silent film, as well as figuring in films in 1998, 1999, and 2007. Both Yogi Bear (Yogi's Ark Lark) and Donald Duck (Fantasia 2000) have piloted arks, and the story was lampooned in Evan Almighty

The most famous depiction is probably John Huston's recreation in The Bible: In the Beginning in which Huston played Narrator, Noah and the voice of God—clearly the director was typecasting.

Now, Darren Aronofsky, who's made Pi, The Fountain, The Wrestler and 2010's Black Swan, has made a distinctly different version of the Old Testament tale, this time verging on a SCI-FI Testament.  

Noah tells the same old story, but in a visually arresting and decidedly bizarre kind of way, trying to satisfy literalists and Darwinists, while probably not doing either. It might, however, satisfy fans of "The Lord of the Rings" films, as Aronofsky has skewed the film slightly in that direction.
Adam and Eve pick the forbidden fruit
(They glow, and the fruit throbs)
It begins with the legend "In the beginning, there was nothing." Then, picks up the story in images of the Bible, but not from the Bible...or any depiction of the Bible known to man. We see the snake in the Garden of Eden first slithering at the screen (oh, yeah, that's right this is in 3-D), then we see Adam and Eve, glowing like the aliens in Cocoon (to get around their nakedness to secure a PG-13? or to advance the notion, like 2001, that they were "deposited" by a higher power—which is basically the story, right?). It's a little disconcerting, a little weird and more fantasy-skewed than "traditional" Bible stories,  The perspective is fresh, probably wanting to appeal to a new generation of movie-goers (who only know super-hero and other fantasy movies) who won't show up for something that smacks of the Bible.
Cain slays Abel, then things get complicated
Once the first murder happens (Cain 1, Abel 0), the world divides into camps—the children of Cain and of Seth.  Cain's descendants are rapacious and murderous, whereas Seth's descendants, like Methuselah (Anthony Hopkins) and his grandson Noah (Russell Crowe) "only take what we need and what we can use." Cain's descendants, led by Tubal-Cain (Ray Winstone), who has a murderous connection with Noah, have built a sort of primitive industrialized society, but they are draining the Earth (pictured with a Pangaea-like single continent) of resources (one of which is a glowing mineral that provides a long-sustained source of light). It is revealed to Noah (through a single rain-drop that instantaneously sprouts a flower) that The Creator has something on its omnipresent mind, which is expanded on in a dream that recaps Genesis, reveals Noah standing on a plain covered in blood and the world deluged with water. 
Now, that, dear readers, is a Darren Aronofsky shot
He takes his family, including wife Naameh (Jennifer Connelly) and sons Shem and Ham (note to parents: NEVER name your child "Ham") to grandfather Methuselah, who has been living—for a very long time—in a mountain guarded by The Watchers. The Watchers may be the most controversial aspect of Noah, but anyone familiar with fantasy films of the past few years will think nothing of them. Ostensibly, the are angels who came to Earth to help the humans cast out of the Garden of Eden, and who, for their defiance, are punished by the Creator to be forever shackled to the Earth. They're large rock-like giants, a cross between such pop-creatures as Transformers and Ents.  But, they are not in the Bible, and so they are controversial. So, is Noah's telling of the Creation, which sounds like Genesis, but looks like Cosmos, with creatures evolving out of the sea.  This is not your Father's (or your Minister's) Old Testament.
Noah's family wears pants, not robes.  That's different.
The most interesting part of Noah, though, is its transition (which is traditional) of the Creator as, initially, a vengeful destroyer, and the compassionate God who can promise "All secure" by coating the sky in a rainbow. Noah (the character) becomes convinced that The Creator has charged him with saving the innocents of the earth—the animals, and that's it. He will be a care-taker, but his family is all that will survive, and the children are all boys, and an adopted child (played by Emma Watson) who is barren. That's it for humans. No more generations. No more begatting.
A shot from God's perspective (or is it Wes Anderson's??)
The struggle of the story is that once Noah understands The Creator's intentions (as he understands them), he begins to resist any hope that maybe human beings just might be allowed to continue on after the deluge. Even in the face of miracles (as unusual and unexpected as that initial sprouting flower), he is convinced that The Creator's original intention should be carried out, no "if's," "and's" or "birth's," even at the cost of his own progeny. Noah has to learn what it means to "inherit the wind" and learn the spirit of the Word (or image in this case), rather than the letter of it.  

That also won't go down well with fundamentalists.

Not that they'll be missing all that much. It's an interesting interpretation and struggles mightily with themes from the Bible and with the way of Nature, as evidenced, trying to combine them, in word and visual. Anybody trying to do that is brave...and creative. But, Noah, for all its flashes of inspiration, feels a bit inert, an empty spectacle with lots of flash, but not a lot of life, a standard story of good versus evil, with lots of fantasy elements thrown in, the mystical elements being handled by God and his own way with pixels. In a sense, it feels like any other Hollywood block-buster, a disaster movie with a little Faith thrown in, but as false as 2012, with its Mayan miracles. It may be the end of the world as we know it, but I didn't feel fine at all.
All aboard!  Many creatures (many of them fanciful) ready for embarkation.

No comments:

Post a Comment