"Noah": Craig's First Take
on 2014-03-28 13:48
It’s remarkable how much the story of “Noah” looks like a combination of J.R.R Tolkien and Cormac McCarthy’s “The Road”. I’ve never actually read the bible story myself, supposedly it’s very short, but as a kid growing up in the internet and video game age, I see large books and I become scared. No matter, Darren Aronofsky (“Requiem for a Dream”, “Black Swan”) has covered it and then some.
Tell those who have a problem with Aronofsky taking creative license that this is still every bit a story of faith, love, and a call for civility. Tell those who have a problem with it because it’s a bible story that it’s still as fantastical and exciting as anything in “Lord of the Rings”, dramatically driven by people facing challenges. And tell those studio heads who were worried after test screenings that it’s every bit as breathtaking and rewarding an experience as advertised. Yes, this was probably the kind of pain-in-the-ass 100+ million dollar passion project that would make any director feel like Job, but it deserves to be celebrated.
Russell Crowe is brilliant here as Noah, who receives a disturbing dream involving people being drowned. A visit to his grandfather Methuselah (Anthony Hopkins) reveals that he and his family are to build an ark in order to save the animals, who are basically the only nuns left living in the whore house that is planet Earth. And Aronofksy really drives that point home. The Earth has been picked clean, all that’s left is dirt and tree stumps. Most of the people that are left would sooner kill or rape you for one more meal than look at you.
There are a band of very tall creatures in this film called Watchers. They sorta look like giant lava monsters and they are ridiculously cool, and from what I can see do only appear in the book of Genesis (don’t know what they’re supposed to look like there, I don’t think the bible thrives on character development). They are fallen angels who turned their back on God to help man, only to see the treachery of men’s ways. They are not an easy group to win back but not only does Noah manage to get them to help him build, he is able to miraculously get trees to grow where there was but only desolation.
Ray Whinstone is brashness and false grandeur personified as a descendant of Cain, the evil son of Adam and Eve who started men’s decline. He doesn’t like that Noah is leaving people, especially him, behind. He prepares the people for an epic attack that reminds of “Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers” where the Watchers basically wind up playing a game of whack-a-mole, effectively blocking the entrance to the ark. A rising tide only adds to this scene’s exquisiteness.
This takes us to the last third, which is by far the film’s best dramatic moment and also Crowe’s best work. A man ruled by the task given to him, he soon finds himself at odds with his own family, which includes son Shem (Douglass Booth) and adopted daughter Ila (Emma Watson) sexing it up to the point of challenging his “extinction of mankind is essential” rule, his other son Ham (Logan Lerman), whose anxious to crank out some kids himself, and his wife Naameh (Jennifer Connelly, also just terrific in this last act) who just wants to see the kids happy. There’s also the constant screams heard from outside the ark, people, some of whom innocent, dying for no other reason than because it fits into the plan. The torment Noah feels over his task is combined with just how scary and heartless he is willing to get in order to do as he is told.
No actual animals were used in the making of this film, but rather all the animals (most of which we have locked up in zoos now, i’m sure many of which are saying “thanks a lot for saving us”) were created by Industrial Light and Magic effects company, who says this is the “most complicated rendering in the company’s history.” Interesting considering they’ve done work on some of the biggest movies ever (All Star Wars movies, Indiana Jones, Harry Potter, Jurassic Park, Titanic). The effects work done here is awe-inspiring and should be commended.
“Noah” has lulls, but it’s also one of those incredible movie experiences that astonishes as well as offers up a strong biblical story that doesn’t forget that capturing its humanity comes first.