Film review: Noah

posted at 8:01 am on March 31, 2014 by Ed Morrissey

Note: Spoilers.

Darren Aronofsky recently bragged that he had made “the least-biblical biblical film ever made” in Noah. Paramount responded to the derision that followed by issuing a release stating that the film was inspired by the Biblical story from Genesis, but that “artistic license had been taken.” After having seen the film, it’s clear that Paramount engaged in hyperbole, because there is very little about Noah that is either inspired or artistic — aside from a couple of good performances that almost make the film watchable. Almost.

In short, Noah is a mess from any perspective — in regard to its source material, to its interior logic, and even to any sense of narrative. The film isn’t a glorious mess like Moulin Rouge or an enjoyable mess like Basic, but a grim and joyless mess that no one needs to pay $10 to watch. Noah goes from his Biblical characterization, as the man God chooses to safeguard the best of humanity for a fresh start to creation, to a man obsessed with the idea of killing every human being possible — including his freshly-born twin granddaughters.

Even that might have made for an interesting evening at the movies if Aronofsky offered a fresh perspective and something close to coherence. Instead, we get an anti-technology, anti-carnivore lecture that recycles predictable clichés and overlays it on the Flood story. If Wizards entered into a polyamorous relationship with Road Warrior, The Day After Tomorrow, and Waterworld, and their child was midwifed by Michael Bay, it just might be Noah.  The rock monsters — actually trapped angels who made the mistake of sympathizing with Adam and Eve — best recall Galaxy Quest’s, or perhaps The Pirates Who Don’t Do Anything.

Just how incoherent does Noah get? The entire second half of Noah revolves around the tension between serving God — excuse me, The Creator — while wiping out the human race. Noah alienates Ham by refusing to save a girl he rescues, only allows Shem to pair up with foundling Ila because Noah thinks she’s barren, and Japheth is far too young to be married at all. Noah’s vision of God’s plan is to save all the animals but make sure no human reproduces. It gets so ridiculous that Noah actually gets to the point of murdering his two unexpected twin granddaughters (after Ila gets the world’s first home-pregnancy test from Noah’s wife Naameh) in his Malthusian obsession, until “love” stops him.

All of this would be news to God, who in Genesis 6:18 specifically tells Noah to include his sons’ wives in the ark — as they are all of age and married in the actual Biblical text — which Noah obediently does in Genesis 7:13. The motivation for the latter half of the movie is totally contrived and nonsensical. And let’s not forget the redemption of the rock monsters/angels, who get beamed back to Paradise for their heroic efforts to stomp out human beings … or perhaps were just too stupid all along to try to peel back their rock covers until they were in the middle of a battle.

Those familiar with the Biblical text of Genesis could spend hours pointing out all of the obvious errors in Aronofsky’s script, but in large part that would be beside the point. He didn’t want to make a Biblical epic — he wanted to lecture everyone about environmentalism and the vegan lifestyle. That’s why Noah goes from a man who makes a massive sacrifice of burnt animal offerings in Genesis to one who violently attacks people who hunt for meat. The evil that produces the catastrophe in Noah is clear-cut lumber harvesting and “zohar” mining, rather than the standard kind of immorality that usually results in God’s non-vegan wrath in the Bible. Even flower-picking is verboten in Aronofsky’s creation. It’s Avatar, only with “the Creator” in place of Eywa, and with “zohar” in place of unobtanium.

With all of this nonsense going on, it’s easy to miss a few good performances, starting with Russell Crowe and especially Emma Watson as Ila, the wife of Shem — but that’s about it. Jennifer Connelly doesn’t get much to do as Naameh, but the same can’t be said for Anthony Hopkins as Methusaleh. Hopkins keeps muttering about berries while dosing Noah with drugged tea to facilitate another vision from The Creator, magically cures Ila’s barrenness, and apparently spikes her libido for good measure. Hopkins channels Avatar from Wizards with fewer wisecracks. Ray Winstone plays the main antagonist Tubal-Cain as the embodiment of Al Pacino’s rant at the end of The Devil’s Advocate but with a lot more subtlety than Aronofsky demonstrates or deserves, and provides a revenge subplot that could have come out of The Patriot or Braveheart. (Another biblical note: Noah’s father Lamech lived long enough to see Noah’s sons be born, and there is no indication at all that Lamech was murdered.)

Those performances are nowhere near enough to rescue this mess. Audiences will have mentally checked out of the Gaia-fest long before the first raindrop falls, even though the cinematography is stunning enough to keep their eyes on the screen.  On the Hot Air scale, Noah gets a two:

  • 5 – Full price ticket
  • 4 – Matinee only
  • 3 – Wait for Blu-Ray/DVD/PPV rental or purchase
  • 2 – Watch it when it hits Netflix/cable
  • 1 – Avoid at all costs

Noah is rated PG-13, but it’s pretty violent and intense at times. I’d consider 13 a hard floor.

Note: I’m on vacation for the next couple of days, but we have some excellent guest bloggers joining us again!

Update: If you want a different take on Noah‘s relationship to the Bible, read Steven Greydanus’ essay at Catholic World Report. I will agree that the retelling of the story of creation was one of the high points in a film that didn’t have many.

Update: Matt Lewis thinks it’s flawed but still worth seeing by Christians.


Related Posts:

Breaking on Hot Air

Blowback

Note from Hot Air management: This section is for comments from Hot Air's community of registered readers. Please don't assume that Hot Air management agrees with or otherwise endorses any particular comment just because we let it stand. A reminder: Anyone who fails to comply with our terms of use may lose their posting privilege.

Trackbacks/Pings

Trackback URL

Comments

Comment pages: 1 3 4 5

When people try to justify irrational beliefs by insisting that they possess anything like the rationality by which the scientific method operates I find it hilarious. If you were just content to say, I know it is irrational but this is what I believe, I wouldn’t find it so funny.
 
MJBrutus on March 31, 2014 at 7:04 PM

 
Quite possibly the most elaborate misspelling of “because look at the bristlecone pine!” I’ve ever seen. Well done, and praise be to your invisible bearded man in the sky.
 
rogerb on March 31, 2014 at 7:28 PM

 
What makes you think He’s invisible?
 
Akzed on March 31, 2014 at 7:32 PM

 
Great point.
 
Brother MJBrutus, is your invisible bearded man in the sky actually visible? (Well, is he visible to anyone else, I suppose.) Puhraise gawd!
 
Inquiring minds want to know, hallelujah.

rogerb on April 1, 2014 at 1:07 PM

As a Mormon the Noah movie made me nearly throw up. There was not one shred of the actual historical Noah or his family from Methuselah to the 4 grown women on board the ark. God was not in that movie.

The story of the creation of the Earth was perverse and evil.

It made me sick to my stomach and gave me nightmares.

In fact I am going to the Temple right now to try to rid myself of this feeling of complete evil that has taken over my thoughts and given me nightmares.

How could they do that to the story of the second most important prophet after Adam?

This world is too evil to live in!

petunia on April 1, 2014 at 1:20 PM

AesopFan on April 1, 2014 at 12:29 AM

Nicely done. Why is it so hard to understand that children of divine parentage have divine potential? As you thoroughly demonstrated, this is a very biblical teaching and it is just plain logical.

Particular Set of Skills on April 1, 2014 at 1:22 PM

As a Mormon the Noah movie made me nearly throw up. There was not one shred of the actual historical Noah or his family from Methuselah to the 4 grown women on board the ark. God was not in that movie.

The story of the creation of the Earth was perverse and evil.

It made me sick to my stomach and gave me nightmares.

In fact I am going to the Temple right now to try to rid myself of this feeling of complete evil that has taken over my thoughts and given me nightmares.

How could they do that to the story of the second most important prophet after Adam?

This world is too evil to live in!

petunia on April 1, 2014 at 1:20 PM

Someone posted this earlier, but this explains what you saw: link.

Particular Set of Skills on April 1, 2014 at 1:24 PM

Ed: This movie is based on the Kabbalah, not scriptures. “Zohar” is a book of the Kabbalah. It’s like an elaborate prank.

http://drbrianmattson.com/journal/2014/3/31/sympathy-for-the-devil

The Snake is the hero, the Creator is the monster. That’s not an accident.

theCork on April 1, 2014 at 2:41 PM

rogerb on April 1, 2014 at 1:07 PM

How should I know? It’s your fantasy.

MJBrutus on April 1, 2014 at 2:48 PM

I would like a “scientific method” proof that proves the assertion that only conclusions acquired using the “scientific method” are valid.

Anyone care to take a shot at that?

davidk on April 1, 2014 at 3:10 PM

There is currently a huge data set that shows that information derived utilizing the scientific method is useful and predictive, while presupposing supernatural causes to explain natural phenomena is useless and not predictive.

Mordaukar on April 1, 2014 at 3:34 PM

Brother MJBrutus, is your invisible bearded man in the sky actually visible? (Well, is he visible to anyone else, I suppose.) Puhraise gawd!
 
Inquiring minds want to know, hallelujah.
 
rogerb on April 1, 2014 at 1:07 PM

 
How should I know? It’s your fantasy.
 
MJBrutus on April 1, 2014 at 2:48 PM

 
You’re incredibly stupid. rogerb is saying that you must have directly received information from a god in order to make the definitive claims, without any evidence, that you made earlier.
 
blink on April 1, 2014 at 2:58 PM

 
MJBrutus, you did realize that was pretty much the entire point of my posting in this thread, right?
 
Or did you believe that your faith in a magical idea
 

Here’s a clue. People who leave a nation because its economy is not working do not aspire to create the same conditions in their new homeland.
 
MJBrutus on March 29, 2014 at 6:31 PM

 
was somehow more justified, noble, and correct than a young-earth believer’s because it was yours?
 
Because that would be an even funnier admission. A very Christian vs. Muslim sort of way of thinking, if you will.

rogerb on April 1, 2014 at 3:43 PM

Akzed- exactly my point. If you think every extant species of snake is descended from a few pairs of different kinds of snakes within the span of human existence, then you believe in evolution resulting in speciation at a rate many times that ever proposed by any competent evolutionary biologist.

Rather than saying you don’t accept evolution, it should be said that you believe in SUPER evolution.

Do you think mice and rats are the same “kind”?

Mordaukar on April 1, 2014 at 4:04 PM

Or did you believe that your faith in a magical idea

 

Here’s a clue. People who leave a nation because its economy is not working do not aspire to create the same conditions in their new homeland.
 
MJBrutus on March 29, 2014 at 6:31 PM

 
was somehow more justified, noble, and correct than a young-earth believer’s because it was yours?
 
rogerb on April 1, 2014 at 3:43 PM

 
I’m genuinely interested in your thoughts on that, MJBrutus.

rogerb on April 1, 2014 at 6:41 PM

Do you think mice and rats are the same “kind”?
Mordaukar on April 1, 2014 at 4:04 PM

“After only about 5 years of drought, the small beaked birds had evolved larger beaks that were almost as large as the big beaked species!”

Akzed on April 1, 2014 at 7:32 PM

He’s not smart enough to understand your question.
blink on April 1, 2014 at 7:50 PM

Maybe he’s just taking a shower, or watching Honey Boo Boo.

Akzed on April 1, 2014 at 7:52 PM

He’s not smart enough to understand your question.
blink on April 1, 2014 at 7:50 PM

Maybe he’s just taking a shower, or watching Honey Boo Boo.

Akzed on April 1, 2014 at 7:52 PM

MJBrutus is your typical proggie poseur. Put him in a position in which he has to defend his “beliefs” with something more than a snarky one-liner, and you go on his dreaded “you are subhuman scum and it’s beneath me to respond to you” song and dance. It looks like he got slapped around here and took off for the tall grass.

ddrintn on April 2, 2014 at 10:59 AM

Or did you believe that your faith in a magical idea was somehow more justified, noble, and correct than a young-earth believer’s because it was yours?
 
rogerb on April 1, 2014 at 3:43 PM

 
Dead thread, I suppose. Seemed like a pretty easy question, too.
 
And I apologize for using language offensive to believers. Please know that at no point was it meant to be an attack on you but rather a tool to make a point, and a reading of the thread will hopefully bear that out.

rogerb on April 2, 2014 at 1:59 PM

Or did you believe that your faith in a magical idea was somehow more justified, noble, and correct than a young-earth believer’s because it was yours?
 
rogerb on April 1, 2014 at 3:43 PM

 
And it’s at the bottom now. The last slot before it slips off the front page…
 
Such an easy question, too.

rogerb on April 3, 2014 at 6:39 AM

Three days since it was asked, btw.

rogerb on April 3, 2014 at 6:39 AM

Comment pages: 1 3 4 5