Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Noah Movie Review

Noah and the Master of the Universe

If you haven´t yet read the story of Noah, it can be found in Genesis 5:32 – 10:1. It´s a rather short read, which should clue you in as to how much artistic liberty has been taken to fill a 2 hour-plus mega film. This takes turning a 310-page Hobbit adventure into three separate overly long films, filled with extra scenes and characters, and turns the intensity up to 11! Remember how angry some hardcore Tolkien fans were by Peter Jackson´s interpretation of the story? Well, if you´re the type of hardcore religious person who doesn´t take well to add-ons and adventurous re-imaginings of your sacred texts, and don´t want to go through the same heartache as the Tolkienites, then save yourself some angst and don´t watch this movie. There is barely enough time to figure out which side of the armrest is best to keep the popcorn before we are given a father and son moment which is not unlike the exposition in The Man of Steel in its, “my progeny will survive even if I have to die at the hands of a scowling villain” overtones. Director, Darren Aronofsky, made it clear from the start that I had to suspend my “believer” reflex, which is what I did, and immediately asked the host of this blog if I could write a review of a movie that felt a lot more superheroish than the last Iron Man.

The film´s protagonist is of course Noah, who is played unevenly by Russell Crowe and not portrayed at all as a saint. He knows hand to hand combat, goes along with a little genocide when necessary, even dabbles in infanticide, and winds up a wino by film´s end. It´s a wild ride for Noah, and it certainly had the potential to work as a great story arc had the writers been more diligent in creating a subtler character study of a man burdened by such a terrible task – we might have even felt pity for him and a greater understanding for God's ultimate plan. Instead, by the end, I felt that if I were not already a believer I sure as hell wouldn´t have wanted to start then. Aronofsky´s God is cruel, vengeful, kills innocents and drives loving people into psycho assassins or rageful individuals who eventually can´t even face their own families.

If enough care wasn´t taken into using the character of Noah to filter the message from the Creator above, one would think the family would have served this purpose. Sadly, they were mostly one-dimensional. I wish I could say more about them other than that the movie felt flat and burdened down whenever they were on screen. There was absolutely no chemistry between any of the siblings and even less between Noah with his wife. Not even at what was intended as a dramatic climax, when Noah is about to kill two innocent baby girls, was I sold on the emotion of what was to be a predictable resolution to the scene. As he held the knife in his hands I felt a lot like the child´s mother did when she screamed, “Just do it quickly!” This way we can get to the end of this mess. The bottom line is that the animals were more interesting than Noah´s family, and they slept through the whole movie – but more on that later.

On to the next possible saving grace: for this being Hollywood, we need a bad guy. His name is Tubal-Cain, a descendant of the evil Cain and the man who murdered Noah´s father. He is hell bent on being bad just for the sake of being bad. His world is a sort of – world without Batman with the Joker running things. There is plenty of raping, pillaging, and all around madness. There is quite a lot to work with him except that like everyone else he is more a caricature than a character. This wouldn´t be half as bad if the actor playing him, Ray Winstone, wasn´t trying to so hard to play him straight. Had he hammed it up a bit – he would have been one of those one-dimensional creatures we can´t take our eyes off of: a Godzilla or Skeletor of sorts.

There is one highlight in this whole soulless exercise and that is the meeting between Noah and his grandfather Methuselah, played by current, “give me a check and I´ll be in it for ten minutes”, legendary actor Sir Anthony Hopkins. I will admit the goosebumps didn´t come from thinking that Noah somehow got to meet his grandfather, which the bible never mentions, but of how cool it was that Jor-el and Odin got to hang out. Odin even gets Jor-el high off of some LSD type stuff. Well, don´t want to give away too many spoilers. All this movie was missing at this point was Mr. Morgan Freeman to do the voice overs for the voice of God, but since God was a bit absent in the whole movie they had no need for him I suppose.

Instead of Mr. Freeman as God we got the Watchers. Basic storyline if I remember correctly is that they used to be angels who were punished by the Creator for trying to help mankind and turned into rock creatures who could have been right out of good old Tolkien novel or a Peter Jackson re-imagining. In fact they came of a lot like Ents. Instead of the forest, they protected the barren land - which later became a forest. It all makes sense in the movie – trust me! The big difference is that these guys were like Ents on steroids, they were angry at their Creator and mankind and didn´t need that much egging on in order to start a rumble! Too bad that they added absolutely nothing to the movie other than a fun artistic liberty explanation as to how Noah managed to build the arc while fending off Tubal-Cain and his marauding companions. He had The Watchers, watching his back – get it!

And finally I reach the part of the review where I get to talk about the one part of the movie which must be flawless. The special effects! They were in fact top-notch but never executed to full awe-inspiring levels. When the long awaited for animals finally had their time to shine in all their CGI glory: they came, they rushed into the arc, and they were quickly put to sleep by some fume that was concocted to knock them out for the voyage.

Again I had to remind myself, the focus of the story was obviously not the the story of the ark but the story of Noah fighting off Tubal-Cain – which even manages to stow away with Noah´s family to give us a showdown finale right out of Cape Fear or Pirates of the Caribbean. This doesn´t make for a good movie when the writers don´t give us anything to invest in as far as why Tubal-Cain is so evil. The titles of the movie is NOAH and had the writers focused on the struggles of the man trying to execute this impossible task and the many dynamics that it would have added to his closest interpersonal relationships, than perhaps this would have been a decent and interesting movie. I guess that if you want that story rent Bruce Almighty and watch it again. It´s a fluff movie which accomplishes this task with half the budget and twice the heart.

So my dear reader, if you have a few extra bucks and time to spare, than venture out and see Noah: after all it has split audiences and you may love it. If you don´t have either of the two, than wait for the DVD or cable; your precious time and wallet will thank you immensely. And finally, if you are overly religious and per chance you do not heed my warning and still want to measure this by your biblical tolerance stick, then I can only say to you – like with the Hobbit and most book to movie adaptations – the original is better.

Post by Phillihp Ray

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