Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Noah (2014)

It's only fair that a critic of a movie acknowledge his biases if he is commenting on a film where those biases will color his perspective. In order to speak about Darren Aronofsky's Noah, I need to first assert that I am a Christian, I believe that the Bible is inerrant in its original form, and I hold the Bible to be sacred truth.  Generally, I find movies based on the Bible or those to designed for Christian audiences to be artistically inferior productions regardless of how good their intent might be.  There are exceptions. I am an ardent supporter of The Passion of the Christ.  I enjoy the grandeur of Cecil B. DeMille's The Ten Commandments. I appreciate the earnestness of The Greatest Story Ever Told, even if my eyes roll when John Wayne appears as the Roman centurion.  I find interest in some movies that are set with Biblical events in the background, such as The Robe, Ben-Hur, or Quo Vadis (these tales were apparently popular in the 1950s).  There is a lot of mediocrity in Bible adaptations like King David or King of Kings or Samson and Delilah.  John Huston's The Bible is excruciatingly dull, and Martin Scorcese's The Last Temptation of Christ is blasphemous.

Initially, I had no interest in seeing Noah. Upon its release, the slight preponderance of positive critical reviews swayed me and I then wanted to see it for myself. I'm not a big fan of director Aronofsky.  Requiem for a Dream is too abstract in a world that doesn't interest me. Black Swan had some great strengths but the fantasy elements were distracting to me.  I'm a big fan of The Wrestler, however. I knew that some things were in the movie that were not a part of the Genesis record of the event, and I attempted to keep an open mind about that.  Obviously, I know that any filmed Bible story is going to be interpretive on some level but I doubted that Aronofsky was the man to present the story of Noah.

The best thing I can say about the movie is that it never bored me -- and that's a major plus since this is a Biblical epic running over two hours. Russell Crowe was a fine choice to play Noah. Jennifer Connelly, playing Noah's wife, elevates most movies when she's in them and she doesn't disappoint here.  Aronofsky keeps the film moving, and I liked his view of the Ark itself. He also uses CGI to good advantage with the storm , the flood, and the arrival of the animals.

But I can't deny that the major deviations from the Biblical record troubled me greatly.

Much of the film was a lot more Lord of the Rings rather than Lord of All Creation.  I'm specifically referring to the angels that are consigned to Earth. They seemed to have a lot of inspiration from Middle-Earth with a touch of reference to Transformers.

I don't know what kind of a toll it would take on a man to be one of the last 8 survivors of humanity, and there may have well been emotional turmoil with the real Noah. But he is presented in the Bible as being resolute in his faith, and his depiction in the film Noah as an irrational, nearly crazed man after the Ark closes is disturbing and the most distasteful thing about the film.

I could accept the fiction involving Tubal-cain (well-played by Ray Winstone) as the power hungry leader of the community closest to the Ark until he stowed away on the Ark.  I wanted to laugh at the absurdity then.

The soap opera elements such as Ham's betrayal of his family to assist Tubal-cain and having Shem's wife (demurely played by Emma Watson) deliver twin daughters out-of-wedlock with Noah threatening to slay them were not only complete poppycock but they also diluted the powerful story of salvation and redemption which is what the actual life of the Biblical Noah illustrates.

If I could separate MovieRAM the moviegoer from MovieRAM the Christian, Noah as a work of fiction and as a cinematic experience is a better film than a lot of modern fantasy films (such as the bloated The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey). But the film Noah is too far outside my comfort level for of a telling of the sacred Biblical story of Noah, and I still fell dirty for not only seeing the film, but for enjoying it in the limited amounts that I did.  I wish I could shake the film, but it bothers me to my core.

It saddens me that this is the only exposure to the Bible that some people will see, or that some people will perceive this presentation as truth.

I remember several years ago when I refused out of principle to see Michael Moore's hit documentary
Fahrenheit 9/11. I knew that the views expressed in that film would offend my moral sensibilities and I wisely chose to ignore it for the drivel that it was. I wish that I had followed the same principles for Noah, but I can't unwatch the film. Watching it certainly wasn't worth troubling my soul this extensively though.  Grade: C-.

I watched Noah at the Pullman Square Marquee Cinemas on Friday evening April 25, 2014 with my friend Brian.

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