Title: Noah (2014)
Director: Darren Aronofsky
Cast: Russell Crowe, Jennifer Connelly, Ray Winstone, Emma Watson, Anthony Hopkins, Logan Lerman
Just so you guys know where I’m coming from with this review, I’m not a Christian, but I’ll watch movies like Noah because I love movies and I love how they attempt to wow us, how they comment on humanity and how they try to entertain us. Biblical movies are an interesting bunch because if done wrong, they will always end up pissing somebody off, probably a Christian. But to me, biblical movies are as entertaining as any other fantasy film, what matters to me when I watch any film is if it’s entertaining or moving somehow, if it has something to say. I went to see The Passion of the Christ (2005) to see what the big deal was all about and to my surprise I ended up being genuinely moved by some moments in the film. Any habitual film goer and book worm finds it interesting to see a book they’ve read come to life in some way, so that's the mentality I go with when I go see movies like this one. So my status as ‘unbeliever’ does not stop me from enjoying films that deal with Christian themes. In fact, since I am a former Christian; I can enjoy them on a whole other level because I know the source material. I read the bible a couple of times back in my church going days, so I know the text and I know when a film is stretching the limits of their ‘artistic liberties’, case in point Aronofsky’s Noah and its myriad ways of telling a different story then the one depicted in the bible. On this review I pinpoint the specific elements that aren’t related to Noah’s tale, so if you don’t want certain elements spoiled for you, you’ve been warned!
For those of you who haven’t read the tale of Noah, this is the story of a man who is contacted by God himself. God tells him that he is going to be destroying every human on the planet because man had become evil, corrupt and violent. In other words, God wants to reboot humanity. Yet Noah and his family are lucky; In Gods eyes they are the only good people left in the whole entire planet. The bible says that Noah was “righteous” and “blameless” amongst the people of his time, so when god’s wrath comes down on the earth through a massive planet wide flood, Noah and his family will get a free ticket to survival. But before the rain starts to fall, God tells Noah to build an ark and put two of all the animals in the world in it so they will survive the flood. That’s the gist of it. And that's essentially what you'll get in this film, the problem is that along with it, you'll get a bunch of other elements that have nothing to do with the bible, in fact, they are so alien to the story of Noah that they just might completely take you out of the film.
When it comes to biblical movies, as a filmmaker, you have to be very careful. You don’t won’t to deviate too far away from the source material because then you’ll have Christian’s boycotting your film and you don’t want that because it could mean the death of your film. You don’t want to anger your target audience, which is basically what this movie undoubtedly does. It has so many elements that are not in the bible! What elements am I talking about? Well, for example, in the film Anthony Hopkins plays Methuselah, who according to the bible was one of the oldest humans to ever exist, so okay, we’re good till there…but then Aronofsky gives Methuselah magical powers? Now I don’t find that all that weird because the bible actually acknowledges magic as being something real. The problem is that in Noah’s story, Methuselah is not a practitioner of magic! Now the bible talks about magicians and sorcerers, but it doesn’t say that Methuselah was one of them. The artistic liberties don’t stop there.
Then we have the most controversial element of the film, the giant rock creatures. I know right? Now strange creatures aren’t all that controversial to me when it comes to the bible because the bible talks about dragons, unicorns, creatures with ten heads, four faces and a whole cornucopia of strange beings, but the thing with the rock creatures that aid Noah in constructing the ark is that they are not in the bible, at all, and so right here is where Christians will put a screeching halt on this movie and say its heresy. I’ve yet to understand why Aronofsky chose to use these creatures as part of the story. I mean, did he do it on purpose to piss of Christians and get them to go to the movies? Was it to get everyone talking about it? Some sort of publicity stunt to get people talking furiously about the film? In either case, it’s a risky move because this could go either way. It could get Christians to boycott the film and call Aronofksy the Antichrist, or it could make people want to see the film more. Now knowing how Christians react to films like this, I think it will make them see the movie in droves; just to see what the big deal was all about. But there’s no way of denying that Aronofsky took a huge risk here.
To top things off, Aronofsky depicts Noah all wrong. You see, in this film Noah thinks that God is bringing the flood because he wants to completely eradicate humans from the face of the earth, when in reality, it’s the complete opposite. Allow me to explain. True; God does feel disappointed with humanity and wants to wipe them out, but in the bible, God clearly states to Noah that he wants for humanity and animals to continue living; I mean that’s the whole point behind saving the animals, so that after the flood is through they can roam the land once again and propagate, it goes without saying that God wants to save Noah and his family for the exact same reason. For all intents and purposes, God wants humanity to continue. But for some reason, Aronofsky’s Noah thinks he and his family are meant to be the last humans on the planet and that they are not to have babies? So when one of Noah’s family members becomes pregnant he thinks he has to kill the babies? That whole thing? So not in the bible! This course of action makes Noah look evil and crazy somehow. Now killing your children in the name of God is not something unheard of in the bible (just ask Abraham!) but again, this does not happen to Noah in the bible.
Now if you’re keen on reading between the lines and enjoy extrapolating on ideas and possible interpretations of what we see in films, then you might infer, as I have, that Aronofsky is actually trying to point at some particularly hard to swallow elements in the bible. Through Methuselah and his use of magic, Aronofsky points at the fact that in the bible, magic is real, and condemned, which is a preposterous idea in my book, hell even sorcerers are real in the bible. Through the now infamous rock creatures, Aronofsky seems to be saying we shouldn’t find them so strange, after all, the bible talks about talking snakes, giants roaming the earth and even dragons! By depicting Noah as a man who thinks he has to kill babies in the name of God, well, Abraham was going to do that at some point, which if you ask me is the craziest part of the bible, and one that I am completely against. Honestly, if God told me to kill my child I’d scream from the top of my lungs “HELL NO!”; yet I’ve personally met Christians who say they would kill their child if God asked them to. And to me that’s just crazy. So through his depiction of Noah, Aronofsky addresses issues of blind fanatism in religion.
Aronofsky is one of my favorite filmmakers, he’s made some truly amazing films and the question remains, is Noah one of them? I’m not gonna say it’s a terrible film or badly acted or written, because it’s quite the opposite. The cast is amazing, the visual effects work astounding, the only real problem is that it’s not the story you might expect. Arnofsky takes incredible liberties with the text in order to say what he wants to say. There’s no doubt in my mind that these elements will irk some people out there. I’m just saying, if you’re going to see Noah, don’t expect to see the biblical story represented faithfully, Noah was just Aronofksy playing around with biblical themes and ultimately, if you ask me, pointing a finger at the more difficult to accept elements from the bible. Discuss!
Rating: 4 out of 5