Noah: Fair to Middling, with a Chance of Showers
So I went to the movies, and saw Noah. Apparently Noah’s pre-flood Earth is the sort of thing you’d get if Sauron got the ring back from Frodo: all Mordor, no Shire. The bad guys are the numerous descendants of the first murderer, Cain, who went forth and multiplied big-time; the good guys are the pathetic remnants of Seth’s line, just Noah and his little family, plus granddaddy Methusaleh, who doesn’t even get invited onto the Ark. Plus God, of course, though God gets no lines at all. Then there are bad-guys-turned-good-guys, the Fallen Angels (aka Watchers), great golems of rock formed when the rebel hosts hit the ground like a rain of meteors, back in Adam’s day. These look exactly like Ents plastered with large gobs of dried mud, and seem to suffer from severe arthritis.
I really wanted to like this movie, if only because Ken Ham hated it. Well, I didn’t hate it, but I didn’t like it much, either. The first half was reasonably entertaining; the second half, unfortunately, got bogged down in ludicrously ill-conceived plot complications, including an entirely gratuitous moral dilemma for Noah. It’s as if the movie could not quite decide whether it was a biblical epic, a bog-standard fantasy, or a moving philosophical exploration of…something or other.
Therefore, between the bouts of decent but too-brief CGI, I passed the time spotting creationist shout-outs on one hand, and departures from scripture on the other, the bits that are getting the fundies all upset. In fact, it looked to me as if the scriptwriters had done their homework as far as creationist literature goes, presenting ingenious solutions to the fairy-tale implausibilities of Genesis.
For example, how do Noah and his little family build so vast a ship on their own? They don’t have to. They have the help of the fallen angels. How does Noah gather the animals? He doesn’t have to. They swarm to the Ark of their own accord, lured along rivulets of magic water. How does Noah keep the animals fed and watered for a year? He doesn’t have to. They sleep the entire trip away. How do the animals get to the Ark from the other continents? They don’t have to. A shot of antediluvian Earth from space shows a single large continent, Pangaea-style, just as the YEC/Flood Geologists believe. Though, of course, that does not explain how the animals manage to get back. Perhaps postdiluvian kangaroos were very good swimmers.
There is one short segment that may particularly bother the YE creationists: a montage of Creation itself, flashing past while Noah tells the story in voice-over, over dinner on the Ark. The montage does not follow the order of creation as Genesis presents it – somehow, Genesis has plants created before the sun, so screw photosynthesis – but what follows then is basically a cool imaging of theistic evolution, with a critter morphing prettily through the phyla in roughly the right order.
In terms of eye candy, the movie is gorgeous, but not groundbreaking. Iceland looks cool. The morphing sequences are cool. I like the shout to Bosch in the wicked village, and the salute to Doré’s image of doomed sinners on a wave-washed mountaintop. The CGIs of creepy-crawlies and landbeasts flooding towards the Ark are also cool – but gone in a flash. And Tubal-Cain’s attack on the Ark might as well have been the battle of Isengard, right down to Ents, orcs, rickety scaffolding, and rushing waters. Ho hum.
Then there’s the somewhat ham-fisted environmental message: again, Mordor versus the Shire. In Aronofsky’s rendering, mankind’s extinction-worthy crime has nothing to do with sex with the Nephilim or general wickedness, and everything to do with wrecking the environment. The descendants of Cain have built an industrial civilization, complete with strip mining, smoking cities, proto-cannons, and – yes – welding masks. The descendants of Seth are hippies. No contest in the wickedness stakes.
God is never directly heard from. He does not issue Noah all those detailed instructions for the Ark. He gives Noah no guidance in his moral dilemma – though I suppose, given the fact that He had just massacred the human race and most of the animals, the Almighty was leading by example. Even Tubal-Cain, bad-guy-in-chief, complains that God never writes and never calls. Apparently God only communicates through dreams, hallucinogenic substances, and weather phenomena, including bizarre rainbows blown like smoke rings from God’s celestial hookah. Modern-day hippies, take note.
Overall, I’d grade Noah as a C; though I’d be tempted to bump it up to C+ on the strength of Noah getting shitface-drunk and nekkid after the Ark lands. Now that scene, at least, was biblically accurate.
Addendum: Dr. Brian Mattson has provided a brilliant explication of the clever use of extra-biblical motifs in the movie Noah – see http://drbrianmattson.com/journal/2014/3/31/sympathy-for-the-devil Zowie. I may have to rethink my rating. (With thanks to Clarence at the ‘Pit, who posted the link.)