Kurt Loder Movie Reviews

Noah

Russell Crowe at the end of the world.

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Paramount

Darren Aronofsky's Noah takes off like a sci-fi head trip with a sequence of hallucinatory images depicting the creation of the world out of a vast black nothingness. Lightning flashes in the dark, punctuated by jolts of thunderous percussion. Soon there's a serpent gliding through water; then we move up onto verdant land, where a blood-red apple throbs ominously in a tree, and a woman's hand reaches up to pluck it. Before long two men appear in silhouette, one pushing the other to the ground—Cain and Abel, the sons of Adam and Eve, enacting what is recorded in the Book of Genesis as the world's first murder.

This shorthand backstory is a powerful opening, a rush of imaginative filmmaking whose energy, unfortunately, can't be maintained. Leaping ahead 10 generations, the movie next introduces Noah (Russell Crowe), whose story is pursued in a much lower key. We find him and two of his sons rooting around in some scrubby vegetation on a dismal plain, gathering ingredients for what would have to be a very humble repast. It's an awfully quiet scene, although soon enlivened by a burst of action. But coming off of the movie's spectacular beginning it still registers as a jarring downshift.

This imbalance in the picture's structure is never resolved (despite Paramount's reported efforts to re-cut the film into a more blockbuster-like form). The movie's sumptuous digital artistry and bloody fight scenes are appropriately rousing, but the picture is most passionately concerned with spiritual issues—the silence of God (or "the Creator," the term used here) and the frustration and anger of humankind in trying to interpret the ways of this inscrutable deity. "Why do you not answer me?" Noah asks in a moment of moral crisis. This is not the sort of question that's often entertained in a Hollywood movie, and it's a tribute to the director's commitment to the material that it occupies the central place in a film with a budget said to be north of $130-million.

The script, written by Aronofsky and his longtime associate Ari Handel, is a necessary expansion of the rather thin Genesis narrative. Noah is a descendant of Adam and Eve's third son, the virtuous Seth. He's a good man living in a world that has fallen into depravity, and he is beset on all sides by the violent descendants of Cain, who have turned their back on the Creator. They are led, in this telling, by Tubal-cain (Ray Winstone), the king of a barbarian tribe devoted to vividly rendered pillage, cruelty and meat-eating (a major turn-off for Noah, who's a pioneering vegetarian).

In a dream, Noah sees himself deep underwater, with dead bodies floating all around him. He takes this to be a communication from on high, and tells his wife, Naameh (Jennifer Connelly), that a great flood is coming. "Men are going to be punished for what they've done to this world," he says (he's also a proto-environmentalist). Only the innocent animals of the Earth are worthy of survival, and Noah believes it is his task to save them. He will build an ark.

Assisting him in this task is a group of towering bodyguards called the Watchers—fallen angels imprisoned in the ground who now rise up to safeguard Noah's undertaking. These CGI characters are problematic. They're big lumbering rockpiles—an effect that was already ungainly in representing the battling stone giants of the first Hobbit movie—and their deep rumbling voices (provided by Nick Nolte, Mark Margolis, and Frank Langella) are sometimes unclear in the manner of the tree-spirit Ents of the Lord of the Rings films.

The movie's other digital creations are more successful. There are grand overhead shots of legions of animals—birds, elephants, all manner of snakes—pouring in through the woods to board the ark (a huge, boxlike vessel that Aronofsky went to the trouble of actually building). And the flood, when it comes, is a suitably majestic cataclysm, raising up the ark while swamping Tubal-cain's soldiers, who've been desperately clamoring to get inside (Tubal-cain himself actually makes it). This is all very well-done, if inevitably underwhelming: after decades of computer-generation, what once seemed magical is naturally no longer fresh.

In the midst of all the end-of-the-world chaos, a domestic drama is also unfolding—possibly an unwelcome distraction for action fans. It involves Noah's three sons, Shem (Douglas Booth), Ham (Logan Lerman), and Japheth (Leo McHugh Carroll) and the family's adopted daughter, Ila (Emma Watson). Shem and Ila are already an item, and Ham is concerned that, with the rest of humanity being wiped out, he may never get a date. The resulting complications push Noah over the edge into a demented religious fanaticism, based on what he thinks—but can never know—the Creator wants him to do. This is a resonant issue, and Aronofsky gives it plenty of room to play out. (The movie runs nearly two and a half hours, which also allows time for a bit of comic relief by Anthony Hopkins, playing Noah's ancient grandfather, Methuselah, who lives on a pile of rocks in a pit somewhere.)

Aronofsky endeavors to link Noah's story to our own time by dispensing with the usual robes and sandals of past Biblical epics and opting instead for a curious burlap-and-macramé look. This is odd at first (Noah also wears boots, of a sort), but it effectively moves the story out of a mannered period setting, and allows us to focus on the actors, and on what they're saying. As a man tormented by the Creator's ambiguous designs, Crowe anchors the movie with understated dignity, bringing human dimension to a character only scantly characterized in the Scriptures. And Winstone's Tubal-cain is Noah's wonderfully profane opposite number, a man who has his own quarrel with God. "Why will you not converse with me?" he bellows at the heavens. "I give life and I take life away—I am like you. Speak to me!"

Noah is a serious project from a director whose visionary gifts have never been in question. But it sometimes feels like two, maybe three movies contending for narrative dominance. The filmmakers must surely be praying there's one audience for all of them.

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  1. The title should’ve been ‘Frozen’ because that’s what Noah and his little animal party would’ve been had his planet actually entirely flooded.

    1. Never thought of that angle. Do tell.

    2. So, what you are saying is that if something preposterous and impossible happened, then it would have been different from what was imagined by some tribal dudes in the desert making up stories thousands of years ago? I’ll be damned.

      1. I just want to see Noah and his animal party frozen fucking solid on a humongous ball of ice, ZEB. Don’t over-analyze my biblical fantasies or I will fuck you up so bad with some prayer, bitch.

    3. Water absorbers light and heat pretty well. Much better then polar ice caps, snow covered mountains and white winter plains. Also Humid air is a pretty good green house gas.

      Are you sure about this?

  2. I liked Noah better the first time I saw it, when it was Captain Ron.

  3. I really like Aronofsky, and my favorite film of his is probably The Fountain, which sounds a lot like this in some ways. I wasn’t planning on seeing this but now I think I might.

    1. The Fountain

      Ack…

      I was sooo looking forward to this movie before it came out.

      Did not like.

  4. Any black people on that boat?

    1. I believe that came through on one of the ladies as a semen deposit captured during a drunken orgy at a pre-flood party with the Ethiopians.

    2. Noah was black. Dr. Dre told me so.

    3. The black people came later on when God darkened the skin color of a group of sinners and sent them into Africa, at least according to the Bible. Scientists on the other hand make a bunch a crazy claims about the sun and something called melatonin.

      1. The long-held belief was that Ham’s descendants would be cursed to be the servants of servants, in other words, they were to be slaves.

        This belief was used, in all seriousness, in the US debates over the morality of slavery. People from Africa were, supposedly, the descendants of Ham and therefore rightfully enslaved…

      2. Noah got drunk and passed out in his tent naked. Ham walked in, saw his dad naked, and walked out. He told his brothers, “Hey, Dad’s drunk again.”

        Shem and Japheth *walked into the tent backwards* so they would not see their naked father, and they covered him with a robe.

        For the crime of seeing Noah passed out naked, God cursed his progeny to be slaves.

        1. seems proportional and just to me –yahweh

        2. A cursory reading of wikipedia can discover a history or possible explanations of the entry based on competing translations.

          One not found there is the belief that the word ‘erwath’ did not mean nakedness, but was used as its root meaning of ‘skin covering’ which could have referred to the coat of skins Adam wore when leaving the Garden of Eden. This garment had significance as to the right of leadership and the priesthood, so although Ham continued to have the right to bear the priesthood, his family was cut off and so his son and descendents were ‘cursed’ in that way.

          In other words, you don’t know what you are talking about.

          Also, Ham’s wife, Egyptus, was a descendent of Cain. To clear up the previous discussion.

          1. There was a logical jump that I left out on accident. Some believe that he took the garment and that his brothers covered Noah back up with something else. Therefore, Noah knew something had happened.

      3. The black people came later on when God darkened the skin color of a group of sinners and sent them into Africa, at least according to the Bible.

        Well, not really, although the “Curse of Ham” was used to justify racism by some religious nuts a century ago.

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Curse_of_Ham

      4. Melanin. That would be the word you are looking for.

      5. Melanin. Melatonin puts people to sleep.

  5. “Ari Handel”

    “Take that, Georg Friedrich – how many Bible movies did *you* make?”

  6. I think it’s amazing that they tried to make a big budget film about Noah–the biblical Noah story of Noach attracted $130 million in funding?! I wonder if attracting $130 million in funding wasn’t the problem:

    “This imbalance in the picture’s structure is never resolved (despite Paramount’s reported efforts to re-cut the film into a more blockbuster-like form)”.

    I know film is both an investment and an art, but the more money it attracts, the more likely the studio is to treat it like an investment.

    It’ll be interesting to see the director’s cut.

    1. If I was movie producer I’d be producing all sorts of King James-based films.

      I’d be the atheist godfather of Christian filmography and rich as FUCK! because Christians have money, they’ll pay anything to watch quality movies about their religion, and they like pretty woman and handsome men.

      1. They could do a David movie and make a bundle.

        Doing Elijah v. Ahab and Jezebel would make for a blockbuster, too.

        Ahab slaughtering priests. Jezebel being all harlot and ultimately defenestrated. And how often do I get to use the word “defenestrated”?

        And it all ends with Elijah in a chariot of fire!

        And it’s even better movie plot because for a lot of your movie audience, it’s a true story!

        1. I always thought a movie about Solomon would have to be rated X. 1000 women? He could bang a different one each day, in order, and when he got one pregnant he wouldn’t be back around to her until the kid was celebrating his second birthday!

        2. “If you see one defenestration movie this year….”

        3. “King David” with Richard Gere was actually a very good Biblical movie (there are some silly objections to it by the uninformed and immature — Gere “dancing in a diaper” as David enters Jerusalem). But the modern audience, which doesn’t really believe in God, didn’t get the theme: the frustration of a worldly man trying to know and serve God.

      2. they like pretty woman and handsome men.

        Actually Christians consider those impure thoughts. If you think of sex in any context other than procreation then you’re going to spend eternity in a lake of fire that doesn’t exist.

        1. This, 100%. I actually knew somebody of the Southern Baptist ilk in jr. high admitted that when he rubbed one out he though of “faceless black people” fucking in the bed of a pick up, because he didn’t know any black people and so it wasn’t considered an adulterous act.

        2. I didn’t know I thought that. Please, tell me what I think before I confuse myself with what I think I think!

          1. Then you’re not a good Christian.

        3. You have a very silly conception of what Christians think…

          Pretty much the whole point of most forms of Christianity is that you can sin and be redeemed through Jesus….

          1. Actually they try really hard to make it a point that you can’t just “sin” however much you want and expect God to always forgive you.

    2. I don’t quite understand all of it either. When Passion of the Christ came out, whole churches would organize trips or rent out the theater to watch it. There’s a market for making movies that follow closely with the Bible.

      A professor once told me he recommended all his PhD students read the Bible at least once during their studies; he read it at least once a year himself. He said you can’t understand Western culture without being familiar with the Bible, whether it be references or way of thinking. He wasn’t a Christian either, just a sociologist.

      One problem with Biblical films is that, for Christians, we’ve heard these stories for a long time and have already built the stories in our heads. Imagine making a film about a book your audience has been reading since they were five years old. That’s not easy.

      1. He said you can’t understand Western culture without being familiar with the Bible, whether it be references or way of thinking. He wasn’t a Christian either, just a sociologist.

        Yes and no. You do need a working knowledge of Christianity to make sense of our culture, as one English teacher understood when she explained the Christian plan of salvation as a back story to Billy Budd. OTOH, what everyone knows the Bible says and what the Bible says are often 180 degrees apart.

        1. King James Bible, Macbeth, and some Twain and you have enough quotable material for years.

          1. Oh, and throw in some Bastiat and Mencken for libertarian win.

      2. Imagine making a film about a book your audience has been reading since they were five years old.

        *cough* Dune *cough*

        1. Dune? At 5 years old, no, not really. Now if they made The Hobbit into a movie, that would make some serious dough 😉

        2. Dune? At 5 years old, no, not really. Now if they made The Hobbit a breeze of a book called The Hobbit that you can read in a day and a half into a movie three movies, that would make some serious dough 😉

          FTFY

  7. Does Jennifer Connelly get her kit off?

    1. I hope not.

      Since she started starving herself, she must look like a bag of bones.

      The curvy sexpot of the Rocketteer is long gone.

  8. Noah 2: Snakes on an Ark

  9. FYI, there is no mention of an “apple” in the Book of Genesis. I wish that movies based on the Bible were cast with actors who look Middle Eastern.

    1. I do laugh seeing old Jesus paintings in Lutheran and Methodist churches with the Son of Man, from the Middle East, being whiter than me.

      1. And Jesus was a carpenter working with bronze and iron tools, but gets depicted as a skinny wuss.
        Can you imagine driving a bronze nail?

        1. Can you imagine driving a bronze nail?

          Harder and sharper then iron ones and are cast (easy) rather then drawn or forged (hard)….

          Anyway as a carpenter at the time he probably used mostly wood pegs and wedges.

      2. Get with the program. Jesus was a strawberry blond, and Mary liked to wear Renaissance Italian clothing.

  10. I would love to see movies made that literally portrayed sections of the Old Testament. Just imagine what people would think if they heard god say: “If a man strikes his male or female slave with a rod and he dies at his hand, he shall be punished. If, however, he survives a day or two, no vengeance shall be taken; for he is his property.”

    1. Movie?! Just go to Uncle Warty’s Sex Slave Preserve and Dude Ranch.

  11. So… does the movie suggest how Noah repopulated the Earth after the flood? (Hint: Incest is best)

    1. I also wonder if they depict him getting off the ark after 378 days aboard, growing grapes, making wine and drinking himself unconscious, naked in a puddle of his own puke?

  12. Sounds like a mess. You lost me with the fallen angel stone giants .

    1. Best humanoid pile of gravel depiction ever: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EQG3I5efwWo

  13. Trapped on a boat for couple months with those two gals? A fella could do worse.

    1. Three hundred seventy eight days aboard. The story says it rained for six weeks. And no Draino to help it go down.

    2. He probably stuck it in some of the animals after eating one too many fermented fruits.

      1. think no evil.

        1. mmmmm Alexis Texas *jiggle jiggle jiggle*

  14. The good thing is that Christians are being exploited and losing money over a story they’ve heard many times.

    1. Sure, they are being exploited, by them there EVAL corporations and their trickster ways. Because going to pay money for a movie you want to see is clearly an example of “losing money”.

      1. Well I mean he does have a good point though. Those ignorant religious troglodytes are forking over 20 bucks a ticket to watch a cinematic retelling of an ancient story they’ve heard a million times while the rest of sophisticated secular society is making Michael Bay a billionaire selling out the theaters for the 5th Transformers sequel. MUH SUPERIORITY!

      2. @ JWatts

        I knew someone was going to take my comment out of context.

  15. Is it as good as Bill Cosby’s version?

    “What’s a cubit?” still kills me.

  16. “Men are going to be punished for what they’ve done to this world,” he says (he’s also a proto-environmentalist).

    So the movie isn’t true to Genesis over the most critical question — why? What a shock.

    The Lord saw how great the wickedness of the human race had become on the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of the human heart was only evil all the time. The Lord regretted that he had made human beings on the earth, and his heart was deeply troubled. So the Lord said, “I will wipe from the face of the earth the human race I have created?and with them the animals, the birds and the creatures that move along the ground?for I regret that I have made them.” But Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord.

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