In our rarely-running kinda-series Should You See It? we talk about movies that just came out. You can figure out the rest of the premise from the title of the series. That’s right: We talk recipes. Should you see Noah?
I watched Noah a week ago in theaters and I must say I was completely caught off-guard by what I witnessed. To start, I am not a particularly religious person but I have beliefs and I took the smallest bit of them and my fuzzy knowledge of Old Testament scripture with my girlfriend (who is more Buddhist than anything) to the theaters to see the latest Bible film.
Right from the opening scenes you know that this is not going to be a bright and sunny telling. There is the hunting of an animal for its meat and the immediate comeuppance from Noah (Russell Crowe) showing that hunting animals and consuming them is bad for your health because he will murder punch you into seeing his side of the story. This gives a slightly Gladiator-esque feel to the movie, but instead of fighting Rome, Crowe is now pitted against the fallen of humanity. This is an even more epic scale and the film does a good job of portraying this.
The film is relatively visceral, as much of the Old Testament is, but there are definitely a lot of modern day problems brought up by director Darren Aronofsky. The one that kind of turned me off the most was the heavy handed message that eating animals and general lack of conservation is the stem of humanity losing itself. One of the first things you hear Noah tell his sons is why the humans are hunting animals for meat. He tells them it is because humans are ignorant and think that the meat gives them strength. That was such an in-your-face advertisement for vegetarianism that I felt like I got hit with a Whole Foods ad. This theme is the main thread that continues throughout the film and each time it rears its head I just wanted to scream “I GET IT! ANIMALS ARE SACRED.”
Noah has always been a story about a boat big enough to hold two of every animal. The logistics of this have always been fascinating to me and now that technology and computer graphics have advanced enough to maybe handle this I was intrigued to see how Noah would build this thing and keep all the animals from massacring one another. The world Noah lives in is completely barren of vegetation and animals for the most part. Humans have ravaged the land and nothing is really left. Noah finds a workaround for this by planting a seed that gives him plenty of treesources (get it) to build his Ark. Even still, this would be an impossible task for just Noah and his family (three male children, his wife, and a girl they saved) so Noah gets more physical labor help from The Watchers. These guys are stone-covered golems who have been punished for going against The Creator’s (“God” is never used in the entire film) wishes by being bound to terra firma as opposed to being allowed to fly freely as they once could. They were mostly slaughtered by the evil humans but the remaining ones decide to help Noah as he is the only person they have met to have contact with God in a very long time.
The Ark is built over the course of a few months and the way the animals are dealt with is a huge letdown. They just quietly come in groups of two, they don’t really fight, they don’t really do anything, they just go inside then get put to sleep with a concoction Noah’s wife creates. This is a bit of a copout and I felt like it ignored probably the biggest characters in the Noah story.
Now this would be a pretty boring movie if there was no conflict and well, this is a blockbuster film, so revenue must be made. The conflict comes from Cain, the other side of the human coin. He is the king of the humans and when he notices that all this forest has sprung forth and all this meat is traveling to one location he takes the right amount of interest in the situation and has to see what the deal is. Cain is a savage man who has no qualms with killing animals, humans, and everything in between. He feels The Creator abandoned humans so he is just making do with what he has left. Noah says the people aren’t welcome on the Ark and Cain lays down the gauntlet by saying “when this deluge comes to end humanity I am going to come and take this Ark from you and The Watchers and we will eat all of the animals.” You know he will keep his word and the story gets its big action conflict.
This would have made for a good film but this take pushes the envelope in a great way by focusing on Noah as a human. The Creator has said that animals are the innocent on Earth so Noah takes this extremely literally and makes the jump that he must kill himself and the rest of his family must die as well. You watch the deconstruction of a righteous man over the entire course of the film and the pressure that is placed on a family when going against a higher being. Noah becomes a person you grow to somewhat despise over the film, and by the time he and his family are on the Ark it feels less like a new beginning for the world and more like a suspense thriller. You know something is going to have to give but you don’t know how Darren Aronofsky is going to take the story.
Should You See It?
I would have to say yes. This is not the best film I have ever seen, but I will say it raised a lot of questions for me and really makes you think about the story of a human dealing with a superhuman situation. You never think about all the people that Noah has to knowingly leave to perish or how a person would have to deal with unclear directions from The Creator. I have had more conversations with people about this film than many others I have seen over the years, and it has something for religious and non-religious persons alike. I can see why this caused controversy among a bunch of different factions because it is not a movie to please one group or the other, it is merely an adaptation of a story that does have some open-endedness to it.
Image source: Daily Mail