Noah (PG-13)

10 Stars

If the tale of the ark were depicted in the celestial Zodiac, what shape would the constellation take?

A semi-circle’s probably the best bet.

Luckily Noah scoops up the first ten stars of 2014.

Better call a stellar carpenter, because cosmic construction’s a go.

On behalf of director Darren Aronofsky’s epic film, I’d support a mandate for shifting some distant suns.

If you disagree, well, I guess that makes you an idiot then, doesn’t it?

Aronofsky openly dissociates Noah as a Biblical film. Case in point: The word ‘God’ is not used to describe the deity. Rather it’s referred to as ‘The Creator.’

The strength in this individual choice can’t be quantified, but along with other alterations made to the original narrative, it propels the classic Bible story to new heights. Through these tailored plot points it becomes a much more worldly tale.

After all, besides the Genesis narrative the flood myth is prevalent in many spiritual and/or religiously significant texts including (but not limited to) The Epic of Gilgamesh and Ovid’s Metamorphoses. Regardless of nationality, almost everyone on Earth is aware of a flood myth.

In Noah, the aforementioned book of Genesis is used as a jumping off point in its retelling of the cataclysm.

Animated cutaways make up a small but crucial part of this. By seamlessly intertwining time lapses with CGI, visual depictions of the big bang theory and evolution are overlaid with Noah’s voiceover, narrating the Biblical creation narrative.

The time lapses are just dynamite.

Speaking of creation narratives, how about a complete life cycle barely longer than a blink? In one take a first person camera angle follows the plummet of a raindrop from mid-cloud formation to impact upon Noah’s upraised cheek.

Another remarkable take is shot with a dim rainbow backdrop as the sun sinks beneath the horizon. Noah and Naameh appear as silhouettes conversing on the hillside.

Russell Crowe is fantastic as Noah. He’s such a spectacular actor, blending in with whatever role he takes. His place is solidified in cinematic history.

But probably the strongest acting is performed by Emma Watson as Il-la. She’s simply excellent, and even gets the waterworks going towards the end.

High stakes for PG-13, huh? If an overbearing parent, you probably don’t want freshly teened offspring watching this movie. Just remember: Every time you deny their wish for well-crafted film viewings, you delay the growth of their intellectual potential.

If our world worked in a more realistic fashion, PG-13 would be, “Any kid who’s interested and thinks they can handle the darkness.”

This cast’s got range because an old favorite, Anthony Hopkins, plays the mischievous 969-year-old Methuselah. He too turns in an outstanding (and, at times, unexpected) performance as the oldest man in Biblical history.

I’m not going to ruin the ending but it’s excellent. Satisfactory at the very least.

Another upside to Noah is the portrayal of elements from the story I’d never considered, such as: The surrounding sound of people dying as the ark weathers the storm, the use of incense to make the animals go to sleep, the debatable decision to allow snakes onboard, etc.

Here’s one of the finest nuances. As the portrait of the saintly hero, the perfect man within The Creator’s gaze, Noah’s time is devoted accordingly. Even in the moment the audience catches him at ease, he’s chiseling the miniature hull of a model boat; a microcosm of his occupation. Noah’s chosen hobby reflects the most proficient structuring of a lifestyle.

A quick aside regarding ‘zohar,’ a mineral resembling sparkly gold walnuts. It’s an intriguing plot element and incredibly original. It represents a source of combustion, a means of commerce, a cause for societal conflict and a luminous beacon of energy, power and divine mystery.

It’s an excellent mythological creation, because as an ancient element depleted before recorded history, its theoretical existence is more palatable.

I wonder if it acts as a writers’ crutch (in a good way) by generalizing less prevalent plot points that won’t translate to compelling visual entertainment.

‘Zohar’ certainly works on this archetypal ark.

Now. As a reviewer, I’m on the lookout for potential criticisms. In a positive response, I’ll detail any valid complaints I foresee.

After Noah, I genuinely couldn’t come up with any. Perhaps the film could be two minutes shorter. Instead of gushing endlessly, I thought first of my Proverbial Audence.

That’s right! How could I best serve the reader in prepping my response?

I perused a trio of thumbs-downers to see where others (Reviewers 1, 2 and 3) find rot in the tomato.

If you haven’t seen Noah, cease reading after this paragraph and bask in its glory at your nearest leisure. If delight doesn’t spring forth, come back and finish reading my review. It’ll explain why that response’s incorrect.

(I’m kidding, and welcome feedback. Particularly if it’s spell-checked.)

Anyway the trio’s criticisms can be neatly packaged into two categories: A) Obvious but ultimately miniscule and therefore inconsequential matters, and B) Some good old-fashioned absurdity.

First I will generally address the former category. These are primarily concerns with ‘the watchers’, the supposedly overbearing ecological rhetoric, the imperfect CGI, Noah’s depiction (and/or Russell Crowe’s performance), or any perception of plot distance (be it too similar, or too different) from the Biblical narrative.

These notions aren’t bizarre, they’re conceivable convictions. To qualify any one of them as a ‘major detractor’ from the overall film becomes a stretch.

Such criticisms make me suspicious of the agenda behind the keystrokes.

I’ll address the addition of ‘the watchers’, but the remaining bullets of common contention are so easily argued, I won’t waste your time.

The ‘Nephilim’ are a race of fallen angels, reinterpreted in Aronofsky’s film as giant golems made of stone. ‘The Watchers’ inclusion in the plot is the most radical alteration to the original narrative.

Continuing the earlier list ‘zohar’ is reminiscent of their biological life force. The presence of the light provides the characters with more depth, further humanizing and tethering them to the over-arcing plot. The gilded glow’s the cementuous paste, and combined with their aggregate exoskeletons, produces some concrete titans.

In description of ‘the watchers’ Reviewer #2 claims they, “come off like rejects from a Peter Jackson superproduction who are mainly there to up the fanboy-kewl quotient.”

I won’t repeat them, but those last three words make my brain hurt.

Reviewer #3 similarly claims ‘the watchers’, “look like Stone Giants in The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.” Although this last quote resembles a complete thought, it’s an utter injustice to Noah.

There is no comparison to be made between the two films other than an abundance of beautiful settings and scenery. THAUJ is a terrible movie with a horrifically bad scene involving boxing mountains and unharmed dwarves.

#2 refers to ‘the watchers’ as, “rock Transformers,” which is such a humorless notion I won’t elaborate further.

Needless to say, ‘the watchers’ are a lot of fun. But they exemplify a larger issue I find with the criticisms I’ve read. Just because a movie is epic, with vast settings and a CGI-assisted battle doesn’t make it unoriginal.

#3 refers to, “a big War of the Rings-style battle” at one point and eventually gets the reference correct in his conclusion. But along with #1, the connections drawn between Noah and LOTR are prolific.

My feeling is that we, as the viewers, can’t think like this. It’s unproductive because the two movies are set in completely different universes, let alone narrative contexts. One’s a series of fantasy novels, the other’s a classical religious narrative. Just because the physical surroundings resemble each other (at times, they’re at sea for half the movie) doesn’t mean it’s a weakness in the film.

Swimming with Sharks was made in ’94 and Office Space, another comedy with similar scenery and settings, came out in ’99. Would it be fair to say the similarities between the two films are to the latter’s detriment?

#1 claims, “Readers who remember their Sunday school lessons will no doubt be a little miffed by Noah’s take on the biblical hero (Russell Crowe), reimaged as a muscle bound wanderer and proto-environmentalist.” First of all, the Catholics refer to it as CCD.

My father taught my religious education class in sixth grade, which included the lesson on Noah.

As two perfect examples of the cited demographic, along with my best buddy (who not only attended the movie with me, but was also in my father’s CCD class) we disprove this misdirected theory. Neither of us is one percent miffed on the topic.

#1’s conclusion is built on, quite simply, false statements that offer no support to a baseless argument. He asserts the film’s worst attribute to, “how little it engages with potentially fascinating religious concepts. The concept of faith is a non-issue…notions of fate vs. free-will go out the window when your Creator is choosing whether you live or die based on which son of Adam you descended from.”

On top of being a cringe-worthy bore of a wrap-up, this is the perfect example of this absurdity I mention. It teeters on nonsense and seems like a resolution to unfilled space.

I like the first sentence because it literally says nothing through his addition of the word, “potentially.” Show me a moment in the movie where it isn’t engaged with a religious concept. Or, perhaps, all those without potential to fascinate.

The editor of the whole Internet should take this review down, because I don’t know how you could possibly believe that faith, fate and freewill are non-issues in regards to the plot. Sure we can assume it’s colloquially known that Noah lives. But beyond that, any character can undergo a tragedy at any moment.

The entire dag-nabbed movie is about the good and bad of faith, fate and freewill. All of the underlying tension stems from our certainty in the wrongness of Noah’s intended actions, and its inevitable necessity.

#1 finishes with the claim, “Aronofsky affords neither God nor man much dimension, and many viewers may find themselves sympathizing more with the teeming leagues of humanity.”

Hidden amongst this oxymoron is a solid point. The audience does indeed feel torn between the two opposing forces. But that’s a generally accepted mainstay of ‘good writing.’ If #1 finds himself siding with ‘humanity’ it’s because Aronofsky does a great job of skewing the border between good and evil.

This isn’t a tired or easily scribbled cliché.

And to posit an example, I was nearly moved to tears when Tubal Cain’s sending his final plea to The Creator. That moment of desperation is dripping with dread, and comes from an excellent performance by Ray Winstone. He leads a host of compelling scenes to produce a deeply conflicted villain.

Psh, doesn’t afford the characters much dimension. Hah.

Reviewer #1 should…afford some dimension to…my boot up his ass!

[Wrangled it, whew.]

To finish with two of my favorite insights, I begin with a quote.

#3 says something I like when relaying a potential theory in which the, “character of Noah is being used as a commentary on modern-day religious zealots who believe they have a monopoly on ‘the truth.’” This is indeed a relevant topic in current religious study and a nuance I didn’t recognize.

You may find irony in a final personal note.

There’s a swelling of joy upon sight of Aronofsky’s depiction of angels ascending to heaven. It is an excellent visual, animated with an incredible level of realism. And it’s the first movie I’ve seen in which it looks accurate. I’ve been picturing it this way since ‘before I can remember.’

Now how’s that for oxymoronic?

Thoughts, perchance?

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