‘Noah’ Has Great Effects, But Strays From Story


Noah is the first big blockbuster of the year. Much of it is excellent, as the computer-generated effects show the destruction of Earth, fallen angels build the ark and the animals do their move into the huge lifeboat. Even the human element seems strong. But, somehow, much of the story gets lost in politically correct melodrama. Even more confusing, the most important protagonist, God, somehow went missing as director Darren Aronofsky decided to make a lot of dramatically useful (even if not in the Bible) changes to the story.

The “real crime” Aronofsky focuses on is the destruction of the Earth, stripping its resources and killing animals. Somehow, 10 generations from Adam, man has destroyed the Earth. Since thousands of years later we haven’t yet managed that, it is just one of a series of inventions created to make this a politically correct film. The one good man, presented as one of the last of the line of Seth (the third son of Adam and Eve), Noah (Russell Crowe) gets visions telling him to build an ark to save the innocents, all the plants and animals. He gets a magic seed from his grandfather Methuselah (Anthony Hopkins), which re-creates the Garden of Eden, from which a race of fallen angels, who are now made of rocks and mud, actually do much of the work to build the ark. In the meantime, Tubal-Cain (Ray Winstone), a descendant of Cain, is a major king who, having killed Noah’s father, wants to either destroy or take over the ark.

Noah is presented as a religious fanatic, wanting to destroy all human life, including his own family. Another addition to the biblical tale is a young orphan unable to have children, Ila (Emma Watson), who comes to love Noah’s son Shem (Douglas Booth). Ham, the second son (Logan Lerman), wants a mate, but Noah prevents the girl he chooses from joining them. He calmly tells his family that they will be the last humans, there only to make sure the animals survive. Noah’s wife Naameh (Jennifer Connelly), who creates the world’s first pregnancy test, discovers Ila is pregnant (from a blessing from Methuselah). Noah announces he will kill any daughters since that would mean the continuation of the human race. She winds up with twin girls, but, with dagger raised to kill the infants, he cannot do it.

As noted, much of this is not in the Bible. Although the fallen angels are mentioned, they are not part of this story, but we get some nice special effects to liven up the movie. And “fallen angels” is usually the term used for demons. In the Bible, Tubal-Cain is the brother of Naameh and a great artisan, and no more. Here he is evil, brilliant and the “spokesman” for those who believe man can do whatever he wants. Somehow, in Neolithic times, at best early Bronze Era, he has armored knights and projectile weapons using gunpowder. Methuselah, known mainly for his longevity (over 900 years) is portrayed as a rather silly wizard. He can somehow make Ila fertile but cannot seem to find any berries.

Aronofsky claimed that he wanted a modern Noah, one for the present day, and created a psycho environmentalist who calmly tells his family that he set his family up for long, lonely lives and is ready to kill to ensure it. It gets confusing that at the start of the movie he is the good guy and then becomes the evil nut job before backing off from that at the very end.

On the other hand, the movie does work. For all its enormous flaws, you are swept away (as in a flood). The animals, seen moving only briefly, play their part. The special effects are excellent. The cast is good. The two leads, Crowe and Winstone, both know how to dominate the screen. Crowe is one of our strongest actors and is able to somehow be many different things. At the start he is the really good guy, trying to survive away from civilization. Then, through visions, he starts the ark project and becomes the good-guy patriarch, while being an exceptional warrior. Then he is the crazed nut who wants to kill his granddaughters, and finally creates his own self-exile within his own family that only ends as Ham leaves and he finally returns to Naameh.

This film is a pro-environmentalist screed, but it does it well. For people who like biblical movies, this is a good example of the genre, with the obvious note that it is a blockbuster and more of a “Lord of the Rings” version of the Bible.