Written by Guest Contributor: Jefferey Pinkos I know you know the myth of Noah. Every little Judeo-Christian boy or girl hears it a bunch of , maybe through a Sunday school teacher, maybe through a broad strokes/primary colors cartoon. And why not, it certain speaks to us at a level we understand. A six-hundred year old man and his family lived a good, honest, humble existence out in the country, far away from the rabble and sin of the pre-diluvian cities, when the creative deity, fed up with mankind’s dickishness, said, “FINE,” and shook Earth’s Etch-A-Sketch clean. Then, under divine mandate, Noah built an enormous boat called an ark, and stored two of every animal on earth on board, until the coast was clear and lived a happy uncomplicated existence, minus all the survivor’s guilt and the incest just around the corner necessary for species survival. You know, grade level stuff.
That is, more or less, Aronofsky’s Noah. Months ago when Paramount announced the epic of Noah, audience felt more or less baffled. What more is there to tell? Aronofsky couched the narrative within the familiar confines of sf/fantasy/the ever popular post-apocalypse cinematic language. In fact, if I said that the first two-thirds was like The Road and later turned into an orc battle but with Transformers, it wouldn’t feel out of place. Think less chintzy proselytizing of Cecil B. DeMille and more a metaphor on climate change by way of Cormac McCarthy.
The first two-thirds of Noah is what you might expect from a Sunday school lesson, only with a grimmer thematic and visual emphasis. As the famous boatbuilder Russell Crowe looks good for six-hundred, a growling bear in his performance — tame and tender with his family, hiding a snarling mean interior. He remains the final descendent of the lineage of Seth, the mysterious third child of Adam and Eve. The rest of everyone — read: the dicks who die — are born from Cain — read: the dick child of Adam and Eve who killed Abel, the other child of Adam and Eve — and, accordingly, behave like a bunch of murderous, warmongering, rapemongering, sinmongering, pre-Sodom and Gomorrah dicks. Don’t worry, though. They all die. (“FINALLY, BECAUSE OF GENOCIDE THE WORLD IS SAVED,” the creator said, totally wrong.)
He receives the Creator’s cryptic apocryphal word, confirmed by dear doddering grandpa Methuselah (Anthony Hopkins, who’s a doll). He and his family begin building with the help of Watchers. (“Who are the Watchers?” you may ask. After the Adam and Eve’s expulsion from Paradise, a band of angels fall to Earth to help them out; and because the Creator was so pissed off, cast the fallen angels in the stony earth of their new home, forever doomed to look like that rock creature from Galaxy Quest.)
The day creeps closer and closer. A band of scavengers led by the thoroughly British Tubal-cain (Ray Winstone) seeks passage on Noah’s party boat. Denied, they promise to return in legion. (Cue rain battle straight out of Tolkien.) It’s about then when we come to Aronofsky’s meat and potatoes of the picture. Mr. Aronofsky deals in desperation and obsession as currency in his work, and here Noah’s fanaticism sours on his family’s favors. Adoptive daughter Ila (Emma Watson) informs the family, “Ayo, we pregnant up in this,” Noah goes, “Gonna throw ‘em in the sea.” Whaaat. What it amounts to is the conviction of Noah’s faith. Things are cool when we allowed children to drown — a point Tubal-cain rightly mentions — but murder one of our own and it’s weird. He finally relents. The rains stop and land is found and he becomes a drunken wreck; but he forgives himself and his family forgives him. Love and mercy override faith, that’s the message, as the exploding rainbows the Creator issues declare.
Its pacing is peculiar, saving the interesting material for the last third of the movie, beginning with a somber retelling of a familiar myth. However cool your CGI menagerie looks boarding, it looks silly. Crowe’s performance is subdued to the point of appearing flat. His hair delivers half the story. (Bald : MMA HXC MF :: Harry Carey hair : OH NO WATCHOUT.) The breakout performance is Jennifer Connelly as Naameh, the faithful wife of Noah and even faithfuller mother of their children. She plays humility, passion, anger, and fear so well she often speaks on behalf of the plot. When Noah gets all murdermad / survivor’s guilt, Naameh’s reactions are key to watch for. It’s not the religious epic we expected, nor the one we deserve.
Director: Darren Aronofsky Writers: Darren Aronofsky, Ari Handel Studio: Paramount Pictures Run Time: 138 Minutes