There have been several adaptations of the Genesis flood myth and as religious pictures tend to make for good box office dollars I’m sure we will see more, but this latest version by Darren Aronofsky is easily the grimmest yet. I’m not a biblical scholar so I certainly won’t rain on this movie’s bona fides by comparing it to scripture as most of my bible knowledge comes from watching Charlton Heston epics. I just tried to view this movie as fantasy story about a man, a boat and a lot of water.
Darren Aronofsky is a very good director and even detractors of his work have to agree his stuff is interesting to watch, so when I heard he was taking a crack at the Noah story I was a little intrigued, sadly after watching it I feel Evan Almighty may have been the more entertaining take on the myth.
In the beginning there was nothingness, then God created the Heavens and the Earth and later a badass named Noah. The story of Noah is a simple one and one that many of us heard repeatedly in Sunday school; God is unhappy with mankind, decides to wipe the globe clean and asks Noah to gather two of every species of animal, load them and his family onto an ark, and then he floods the world. Cue dove finding land and RAINBOW! In Darren Aronofsky’s version God is even more of a dick than usual, and Old Testament God was already a huge prick with all that smiting and shit, but in this movie God has chosen Noah (Russell Crowe) to help him start all over and to do this he must turn this nice family man into a raging asshole that makes Jack Torrance from The Shining look like father of the year material.
The world has turned to shit, ever since Adam and Eve ate that apple and their one kid murdered his brother things went downhill. Cain went off to create a massive civilization that would plunder the Earth’s resources while Seth, Adam and Eve’s third and not much talked about son, went his own peaceful way. Cain and his descendants got some help from a group of fallen angels called The Watchers and spread their wickedness all over the globe. Now these multi-armed rock golems use to be glorious beings of light until God punished them for helping man, remember God is a dick, they are eventually betrayed by Cain’s people and are left to wander the barren burnt wastelands. Angels just can’t catch a break.
Meanwhile Seth’s people would be the ones to restore the world. (Question: How can Cain and Seth have descendants when as far as I can tell Eve was the only other woman on the planet?) Noah and his family are such magical descendants and they to seem to be wandering bleak wastelands until they come across a group of slaughtered people and one young survivor Ila, who will grow up to be Emma Watson, Noah’s wife Naameh (Jennifer Connelly) patches up the poor girl and Noah, Naameh, their three sons Shem, Ham, and Japheth are then chased by a group of marauders led by evil King Tubal-Cain (Finn Wittrock) later to be played Ray Winstone) who happens to be the man that killed Noah’s father.
Noah and family are forced to flee into the burnt forbidden zone that The Watchers now live in, but instead of killing them one of the fallen angels takes pity on the poor mortals and gives them aid.
God gives Noah a dream tipping him off to the whole “Destroy the world with giant flood” scheme, Noah then enlists the aid of his grandfather Methuselah (Anthony Hopkins) who gives him a seed from the Garden of Eden. This magical seed instantly creates a massive forest that Noah and his rock friends can now chop down to make the ark. Aronofsky is certainly sending mixed messages about environmental responsibilities here.
The building of the ark moves along quite quickly, as it would if you had stone giants helping you, and soon God is sending birds, snakes and all manner of beasts for Noah to load into the ark. Here Aronofsky tries to answer that age old question, “How did Noah feed all those animals?” Well it seems Noah developed a knock-out gas that only effects animals and puts them into some kind of suspended animation. Why he felt the need to answer that one and then ignore the bigger question, “How do you fit two of every species of animal onto a boat roughly the size of two football fields?” is beyond me. Unfortunately for Noah and company the evil Tubal-Cain has noticed all the birds heading into this forest of Eden and followed them. He also brought his army.
Tubal-Cain wants Noah to hand over everything to him, including that big wooden fortress he’s building. But when a bunch of rock formations surrounding the ark stand up revealing their fallen angel status Tubal-Cain decides on a tactical retreat, but only until he can get a bigger and better equipped army to smash those stone bastards to pieces.
Now invading armies isn’t the only problem Noah is facing as his one son Shem (Douglas Booth) is spending precious ark building time fooling around with Ila while his brother Ham (Logan Lerman) is upset by the fact that he is out in the cold in the girlfriend department. Noah promises Ham that he will go and get wives for his boys, and an extra one for Shem as Ila is barren, but upon visiting a nearby encampment he witnesses rape, cannibalism and downright wickedness. Noah gets an epiphany, it’s unclear if its god given or not, but he’s decides that the human race is a failed experiment and that the creator only wants the animals to survive and not so much man, thus Noah and his family are the last of humanity and with their eventual passing the world will be free of the stain of man.
Ham is not cool with this and makes his own trip to the settlements to find a girl, but while fleeing that place ahead of an angry mob the girl pulls a Kim Bauer and steps into a cougar trap. Ham tries to free her but Noah shows up and drags Ham away leaving the poor girl to be trampled to death by the mob. This does not endear Noah to Ham.
Spurred on by the rain and coming apocalypse the angry mob/army arrives at the ark and we are treated to a big battle as The Watchers fend off the attackers until one by one the fallen angels are killed and their celestial spirits return to Heaven.
Eventually God kicks it into high gear and massive torrents of water shoot out of the Earth. The geysers and torrential rains wash away all the bad guys except Tubal-Cain who manages to stowaway on the ark.
Now up to this point the movie has been a grim humorless slog but it’s when on board the ark that things really get dark. Noah explains to his family his “extinction agenda” for the human race and that in time Shem will bury Noah then Ham will bury Shem and Japheth will in turn bury Ham and I guess Japheth will have to get a pre-dug grave ready to throw himself in when time his time comes. But Naameh has thrown a wrench into this plan because earlier she went to see Methuselah about Ila’s child bearing problem and he used his magic to make her fertile and now she is pregnant with Shem’s child. Noah is at first put out by this new information but then states that if it’s a boy all is good as it can just join the line of burying, but if it’s a girl he will simply kill it. God’s will and all.
Meanwhile Ham has been secretly helping injured stowaway Tubal-Cain who fuels the kids hatred for his dickish father, and who can blame the kid when dad is a girlfriend abandoning asshat and professed baby killer to be. So while Tubal-Cain tries to get Ham to help kill Noah Shem is building a raft for him and Ila to escape on. Noah discovers this and sets fire to the raft. Cause you know…he’s a dick.
The movie wraps up with Ham luring his father into a trap but in the end saves Noah and stabs Tubal-Cain, the ark runs aground on a mountaintop, Ila gives birth to twin girls, blade in hand Noah goes after them but at the last minute, with a dagger over their hearts, he realizes that he has too much love in his own heart to stab babies. Give this man a Nobel Peace Prize.
The family settles into their new home, Naameh forgives Noah for almost killing her grandkids, Shem and Ila are happy parents, but Ham is basically “Screw this and a bag of chips” and takes off for parts unknown. Can you blame him?
I found this to be just a brutal slog to watch. There are hardly any likable characters in the film and the few that are have little to no impact on the story, Darren Aronofsky has just collected a group of talented actors in service of a terrible script. The story of Noah is supposed to be about hope and Aronofsky’s tacked on “happy ending” doesn’t cut it. I’m surprised he didn’t go further with the story of Ham as some theologians interpret the biblical verse, “Noah became drunken and he was uncovered within his tent” and Ham saw the nakedness of his father, and told his two brethren without” to mean that Ham castrated and sodomized Noah. That would certainly be in keeping with the rest of this movie.
Special Note: We get an entire sequence where Noah explains “Creation” to his family and we see a sped up version of the formation of the universe, our world, and then the evolution of life on Earth. Aronofsky seems to be implying that the “Six days to create the world” could have meant the days were not your typical 24 hour jobbies and that evolution is a part of this bible story, but then when Adam and Eve show up they are these glowing beings that God just conjured up. Looks to me like Aronofsky was trying to serve two masters with this script which resulted in an inconsistent mess.