Noah

Noah-2014-Movie-Poster

Release: Friday, March 28, 2014

[Theater]

The hysteria surrounding this particular release begs the ultimate question: should some stories be exempt from the full-length feature film format? Are some stories movie-proof?

Like how Moses parted the Red Sea, Noah is doing something similar to global audiences, dividing them down the middle over whether this movie is representative of the story they have known as part of the Bible. There’s no denying that some of the directorial choices made in the film are repelling more than they are attracting potential viewers, and the finished product likely will remain as not the one many were envisioning.

Admitting in an interview that the Biblical subject matter was an unusual choice for him, director Darren Aronofsky (whose Requiem for a Dream safely remains as his most identifiable project) has clearly tried to find a way to fashion one extremely popular story into his own brand of entertainment; the sui generis hasn’t taken with everyone, a fact that is also clear. He is a director known for leaving disturbing and long-lasting imprints upon the viewer’s mind; a man who won’t be comfortable until he has made everyone else uncomfortable.

It seems in 2014 he has accomplished this with ease, perhaps for reasons he wasn’t intending or couldn’t foresee. Much has been made of the film’s bizarre and head-trippy content and the characterization of its mysterious, enigmatic lead. One hesitates to call the titular role a protagonist given how Aronofsky has chosen to depict him, and this may well be the biggest challenge his film poses to viewers around the globe. It’s either that, or convincing everyone that his film is not based upon the Biblical story, but rather on a graphic novel he wrote himself, titled the same. With the written account assuming a very loose interpretation of the original story found in The Book of Genesis, the filmed version seemed doomed to do battle with an onslaught of naysayers.

Aronofosky’s Noah is less a story millions have grown up reading as it is a fantasy epic that happens to feature the popular character. We are introduced to him as a young boy, being sheltered by a protector who is later revealed to be his father, Lamech. He passes down to him a special snakeskin, the shell of the serpent that slithered through the green grasses of Eden, as part of a tradition upheld across generations. Noah grows to become a strong, brave father and husband, who is constantly plagued with disturbing dreams and visions of an impending global catastrophe. While leading his family across barren wastelands to find a suitable place to escape the human populations — people at this point are depicted as bloodthirsty, evil creatures with no redeemable qualities whatsoever — Noah witnesses a string of miracles that convince him he’s been chosen by God (referred to here as ‘The Creator’) to help carry out his plan for the fate of the planet.

Every so often we are startled by a vivid flashback — or what appear to be flashbacks; they’re actually snippets that progress the dreams Noah keeps having — that rips our attention away from the current situation and places and seems to disorient us temporarily. Aronofsky understands that for his version of this story to work, he needs to get the audience in the same kind of disturbed mental state as the titular character eventually shall experience. The task at hand is going to be physically and psychologically exhausting, this we realize quickly. What kinds of tolls are Noah’s actions going to have on him, his loved ones? Aronofsky’s second and third acts explain thoroughly, even if this is not what most people expect. . .maybe even want. Relative to the world that he has created, Aronofsky’s story makes perfect sense. Even though Noah’s safety has apparently been ensured as well as that of his family, including that of the young girl, Ila (Emma Watson) whom they adopted many years ago, scores and scores of other people are left to waste. This is a reality Noah can barely stand to acknowledge, and the burden only increases.

Despite the clutter and chaos surrounding it’s release, the storyline presented isn’t overly complex or pretentious in nature. The epic can easily be divvied up into its three distinct movements: the first forty minutes or so are devoted to tracking Noah’s nomadic existence before coming into an understanding of what he’s meant to do (become the world’s greatest carpenter, apparently). Act two beckons a strong wind of change once Noah realizes he’s going to be running the world’s first and possibly only floating zoo and has gigantic rock creatures (fallen angels who were denied the gates of Heaven by The Creator earlier for their disobedience) to help construct it. Then, the third and final part devolves into an episode of The Real World: Noah’s Ark — what happens when Biblical characters stop being nice and start being real? What happens when a movie filled with unusual events and deviations from the perceived truth hits a brick wall in terms of ideas? Turn melodramatic, of course. This is precisely what the final twenty or thirty minutes of this film unfortunately resort to.

Aronofsky, it seems, pulls the rug out from underneath me as well.

While there are quite a few aspects about the film that come across as bizarre, even out of place and to a degree, unnecessary, nothing about the proceedings is going to compel people to want to burn Aronofsky at the stake more than the twists and turns of this protracted third act. It’s here where liberties are perceived to be taken the most: the characterization of Noah seems to take a 180-degree turn (and if you ask any random attendee, they’ll probably say for the worse). Again, that’s based on the presumption that they have always pictured this man as kind and gentle, and when he farts it smells of bakery-fresh cinnamon rolls. Indeed, this is not how Crowe portrays him, nor is this the way the character is written. If it helps, picture this 21st Century Noah as the equivalent of Daniel Craig’s version of James Bond — grittier, tougher, more human than we have ever been led to believe before.

In fact, that’s the fist-sized pill everyone has to swallow watching what was once nothing more than a simulacrum of man’s savior actually living, breathing, struggling. Noah humanizes the man’s battle to understand what is being asked of him and what is occurring around him. Abundant are the arguments calling out the film’s environmental message, but this really is less of an aberration as it is being made out to be. Is it delivered heavy-handedly? Perhaps. The Book of Genesis wasn’t exactly willing to get to the specifics over what these days were like. Desperate would be a fitting description, I suppose. Epic, another.

And that’s just what Aronofsky’s film is. It’s also far from perfect, possessing more than its fair share of editing and pacing issues that give the first act more than an opportunity to stall once and again (and ditto that to the last thirty minutes or so). Thematically, it juggles cautionary tales on how people epically fail at taking care of their environment (we do, there’s no denying it); the importance of family and how it may be defined; the virtue of love versus the temptation to hate. There are many layers to deconstruct and pick apart, with no real definitive core to be found anywhere. Controversial directors often find themselves at the very center of the controversy itself.

Here is an entirely new piece of literature, a story all it’s own. With any luck, the man won’t be receiving death threats like he did after creating Requiem.

noah2

3-5Recommendation: Given that the events that take place in the film are many and extremely varied, the story provided isn’t going to be the one most expect. That’s not to say there is no place for a modern-day adaptation. Visionary, significant, and strangely mainstream, Noah can hardly be described as the most accessible film ever made, but perhaps its this director’s most accessible. By the seem of things, it could shape up to be his most talked-about effort yet. Beautifully open to interpretation, the abstract and fantasy elements will inevitably offend many, but for those who it does not, they will find greatness in this epic tale of survival.

Rated: PG-13

Running Time: 138 mins.

Quoted: “Please keep it inside, please!”

All content originally published and the reproduction elsewhere without the expressed written consent of the blog owner is prohibited.

Photo credits: http://www.impawards.com; http://www.imdb.com 

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41 thoughts on “Noah

  1. Pingback: The Epics: Upcoming releases 2014 | digitalshortbread

  2. Loved the review. You liked it a bit more than me. I’ll put aside the crazy rewriting of the Biblical account and the incredibly heavy-handed preachiness about the environment and animal rights. I thought the movie showed Aronofsky’s limitations. At times it was absolutely absurd and occasionally just stupid. Then there was the painful pacing. The thing grinds to a halt once the arc is afloat. I won’t spoil anything but there were so many goofy moments that had me shaking my head and why Aronofsky was supposedly “passionate” about the story of Noah, a story he completely revises and alters, is mind-boggling.

    I don’t know man, this thing just didn’t work for me.

    • That’s alright man, this one has a pretty split audience. It’s pretty much 50-50 it seems, where the things that work for those who appreciated it REALLY worked, while those who were unable to reconcile the difference between film and scripture really had issues. I don’t think there was a way to be just iffy about it.

      With that in mind, and this is actually kind of an exception for me, I loved how Aronofsky overdramatized and ‘changed’ the famous story of Noah and his ark. He took artistic license to a whole new level, that’s for sure, but I don’t think he necessarily had to make this movie exactly as the majority of the viewing public was expecting. I found the rock creatures really odd myself, but I felt it fit relative to the world that Aronofsky was creating.

      I found the environmentalism in the film pretty heavy-handed though, I will admit to that myself as well.

      • I really struggled with some moments that I felt we’re just idiotic. I won’t spoil anything for others but some of the instances had me wondering who made this movie. Two scenes automatically come to mind.

    • Thanks very kindly my friend, it’s one of those that if you are feeling iffy about, better leave it til you can rent it and maybe pause it and digest it in bits. It is a huge film, epic in almost every sense of the word. I became a fan of it, but it’s easy to see where and why people have become divided over it. Even if that opinion has gotten a *bit* overblown. 😀

  3. Good review, Tom! I’m kind of surprised that I’ve seen so many positive reviews of this. I assumed it would be a huge dud. Guess I should reconsider checking it out…

    • I can see why people think it could spell disaster, this is no doubt a very tricky tightrope Aronofsky had to walk in making this film. In my little humble opinion, he succeeded (mostly). There’s some questionable bits here and there but if you give it a go I’m fairly sure you’ll enjoy it. Let me know if you do see it!

    • I wait with bated breaths to read your analysis. It’s definitely provided a mixed bag of opinions, in terms of public audience reaction. Critically, however, this movie remains at a positive 75%, so I find it helps to take this one as a fantasy film rather than a Biblical transcription. I also thought Russell Crowe was very, very good here, and so was Jennifer Connelly and the pair of them helped carry the emotional burden of the craziness that goes on here.

    • Well, I thank you kindly for the compliment sir. I had the most difficult time pinning this review down but finally I had to go with the Moses comparison to start making any headway at all haha. I think we’ve all been at some stage of writer’s block at some point, and it’s never fun. This movie was so bizarre, though, and controversial. It was like a perfect storm of things happening to make the review as challenging as possible. But I’m always up for a good challenge. 🙂

      • That’s a great question man, I have struggled over a few in my time for sure lol. I guess a couple that immediately come to mind would be Enough Said (I just didn’t fall in love with that film like I thought I would, plus it was weird with the recent passing of Mr. Gandolfini); and The Act of Killing was probably the hardest time I’ve ever had reviewing something. Couldn’t remain calm enough to give that film a fair rating, unfortunately. There have been others but those come to mind

    • Well hopefully I’m not the last positive review you’ll run into. . .maybe you’ll find much to like about Noah as I did. It’s definitely a startling odd experience, but safe to say that is expected from Aronofsky. I think the fact that this is essentially a blockbuster film with a name like his attached to it is what is mostly upsetting the mass public. Darren Aronofsky has never quite been a mainstream director. His take here is unusual. I say give it a chance!

  4. Fine work here, Tom. A very interesting look at this. I’m hearing bad things already but your review has peaked my interest somewhat. I had no idea that this was a graphic novel Aronfsky had done.

    • Thanks very much man, it helps having the knowledge that this is a creation based upon Aronofsky’s take on Noah’s Ark. It’s one gigantic asterisk. Granted, I don’t think the book has been out long either (I think its just this year actually) but despite it being based upon the Biblical tale, the story has every right to be a deviation from what most are expecting. I loved what I watched, for the most part. It still fell down here and there but overall, this was good I thought.

    • hah! Good old Aronofsky at it again, splitting up opinions with sledgehammer-like force. I’d have to say I’m relieved to be on the positive side of things, i was quite looking forward to this for some time and though it definitely lacks in some parts for me still, there’s no reason for this to be as mauled by audiences as it has been apparently. sure it’s not the story most are going to be expecting but this works.

  5. Great review sir. I have to say, I liked this a whole lot, a fair bit more than I was expecting actually. I can’t remember the last big budget film that was as rich in ideas and provoking thought as this one. And those thoughts were provoked in some different directions than I would have anticipated. Plus Russel Crowe’s beard is badass.

    • Exactly! I found Noah to be pretty moving in parts, even though the film was tonally inconsistent and the final act for me was pretty lame; I enjoyed most of this to a high degree and thought Russell Crowe to be damn excellent. And I’d say his beard, was even better! Lol

  6. I’m Catholic. Born into it anyways but the few times I’ve been to church were because I was forced. I don’t care one bit about religious inaccuracies and it bothers me when I read about folks calling this film the work of the devil. Yeah, I’ve actually seen that from a few pathetic reviews. How I watched it yet? No. But I am damn sure the devil did possess the filmmakers morons? Providing he exists but that is something I’m not touching at risk of angering anybody!

    As you can guess, I’m not really the religious type. Well written review and I’ll likely check this out at some point or another. Just not sure I want to pay ticket price for it as my sole reason for wanting to watch it is….Emma Watson.

    • And she doesn’t disappoint either dude, her character is pretty heartbreaking. Noah is definitely a good film I thought. I think this could be one of those that takes some time for people to actually accept as a thing; it’s not even meant to be dedicated to upholding the Biblical version! It’s based on his graphic novel! Which, by the way, I need to get my hands on. Cuz this movie was pretty epic. Thanks for reading man!!

  7. The script is quite poor. For most of the film, Noah is this saintly vessel of God that does exactly what is expected of him without questioning. It’s hard to feel any emotional connection to this man consumed by his dreams. In the final third, he actually starts to think about what he is doing and the movie gives us an emotional reason to care. Ah but by then it’s too late. The movie is over.

    Up until then we suffer thorough a Lord of the Rings style fantasy as if it was directed by Michael Bay. It has some nice CGI moments. Not a horrible film, but it’s not every good either. 4/8.

    • Oh Noah you didn’t!!!!! 😉

      I know you didn’t just compare it to a Michael Bay production! Lol actually I do see some similarities with regards to the scale of the vision, but I felt the set-up was more deliberate and thoughtful; I don’t disagree with the LOTR comparison, though. I definitely see that. That’s really funny, too. I quite liked Noah, but its plain to see where there the complaints are coming from.

  8. It’s a strange movie, but it’s also one that I always found myself intrigued by. No matter how crazy it seemed to get. Good review Tom.

    • Thanks pal, I struggled over what to ultimately make of the picture but in general I really dug it. It was a very unique experience, glad you seemed to have the same kind of impression.

  9. Great review dude! I wasn’t really interested in this movie until I started hearing about some of the controversies surrounding it. Any story has the right to be told. I would just appreciate if the people telling it took the time to do a good job of it.

    • Hey Smash, thanks a lot! Noah has certainly become a much talked about and maybe even equally maligned movie by a lot of its audiences. There’s a pretty big misconception about the Noah they are about to watch on this, but other than that I think some people are curious about the way God isn’t necessarily interpreted. Not sure if that’s a mishandling, I really thought aronofsky did a spectacular job staying pretty impartial really. All things considered. Making a movie like this must have been quite a job.

  10. Lovely review, as always.

    I’m going to watch this one tomorrow. Also, since when are Hollywood movies 100% correct? They have never been historically accurate, so I don’t expect this one to be in line with the known story either. Hence, this is me not understanding why people make such a big deal about it.

    • Thanks very kindly Niejan! I appreciate you stopping by. I think a great number of people are going in thinking this is the strict Biblical interpretation. I tried to make a point here (I don’t think I did it very well haha) that the basis of this story actually makes the movie so much better and more interesting. If you have the Book of Genesis in your head this movie can be nothing but off-putting, so I do understand the chaos. But again, it takes a little researching on this movie to properly appreciate it I think. I really enjoyed it, even though there were still issues I had with it.

  11. Splendid sir. I am very intrigued by this I must say. A brave decision by all involved, Aronofsky most of all. The trailer had me interested enough so let’s see! I hope you receive a flood of feedback, ho ho!

    • It certainly was man, this movie was all kinds of strange but I lapped it up man, I really did. Aronofsky being the director he is, it’s amazing this film was made. He’s not a mainstream director by any means. This plays out like a blockbuster. It looks like a Biblical story. Gonna be really hard to watch another movie this year that blends so much together and so controversially, too! Thanks kindly, I like the pun. Hopefully my time away from the blog (I don’t think I’ve read anything in the last 3 days haha) hasn’t affected the potential flood. 🙂

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