Movie Review: Noah


I was looking forward to the movie Noah. The trailers looked like it would be a truly epic movie. Here is a post I wrote about the story of Noah and Ken Hams theme park.

Then I read Orson Scott Card’s extensive review. Here are a couple of leading paragraphs:

Even though Aronofsky is a self-proclaimed atheist, I find that Noah actually does a far better job of representing the Bible and Judeo-Christian teachings in general than most films by pious believers.

But first, and most important, it’s simply a powerful movie, well-invented, well-written, and well-acted. Set aside the fact that it’s based on a story from a work of scripture that is believed in by millions of people around the world, and it’s still a first-rate film.

Card is a devout Mormon. So it came as no surprise to me that he would not only review the movie, but delve into an extensive analysis of the movie versus scripture. Among other things, he says:

While Bible literalists are outraged by Noah, and writer/director Aronofsky is quick to tell people that he’s an atheist and Noah is the “least biblical” movie of a Bible story ever made, I have reached a very different conclusion.

I think Noah is not only the most faithful depiction of the story of Noah ever made, it also offers one of the most powerful expressions of Judeo-Christian values ever presented in film.

Clearly, Card liked this movie a lot, and since I often agree with Card’s reviews on other items, with the exception of Mormonism in general, I, the self-proclaimed atheist that I am, went to see the movie with Trisha yesterday.

When we walked out, she said:

That was a one and a half star movie. Say No to Noah. They were trying too hard and didn’t stay in the genre. If you want a biblical story, you have to stay within the parameter of biblical believability. If you are a Christian, you will likely be insulted by this movie. If you are an atheist, you’ll be confirmed.

To me, it wasn’t that simple. Too much in this movie seemed hokey. One of the central elements of the plot were the “Watchers.” I had never heard of Watchers before so I had to look it up afterwards. Here is what I found in Wikipedia:

In the Book of Enoch, the Watchers are angels dispatched to Earth to watch over the humans. They soon begin to lust for human women and, at the prodding of their leader Samyaza, defect en masse to illicitly instruct humanity and procreate among them. The offspring of these unions are the Nephilim, savage giants who pillage the earth and endanger humanity. Samyaza and his associates further taught their human charges arts and technologies such as weaponry, cosmetics, mirrors, sorcery, and other techniques that would otherwise be discovered gradually over time by humans, not foisted upon them all at once. Eventually God allows a Great Flood to rid the earth of the Nephilim, but first sends Uriel to warn Noah so as not to eradicate the human race. The Watchers are bound “in the valleys of the Earth” until Judgment Day. (Jude verse 6 says that these fallen angels are kept “in everlasting chains under darkness” until Judgment Day.)

from Wikipedia

So watchers are fallen angels that apparently were punished by God. They now served the descendants of Cain, the villains in this movie, but get turned around by Noah and serve the good cause.

The problem is: Watchers are giant lava-rock creatures, vaguely humanoid, but with many “arms” who talk English with a voice that you would expect from lava-rock creatures. Their eyes are glowing spots in the lava.

I have seen rock giants in movies before, more recently in the Hobbit:

[click for picture credit]
This looks like where Aronofsky got the idea for the lava-rock monsters, the Watchers, in Noah. The problem I had with the Watchers is twofold.

First, they were just hokey. CGI generated monsters out of rock reminded me of the old Godzilla movies of the 1960s, no better. Just ridiculous.

Second, these rock-monsters not only serve bad guys and then good guys. Later they are the main workers to build the ark; the rock monsters become woodworkers and carpenters. Finally, they are the warriors that hold off the evil, depraved hordes that want to enter the ark when the flood finally comes, and they slaughter humans like giants would slaughter ants, by crushing them, throwing them, tearing them apart.

Where did that come from? There is nothing in the story of Noah in the Bible about Watchers helping Noah, so all this stuff is made up.

Since I think of the Bible as a big book of made-up fables, I really don’t care of a movie follows the Bible, but sorry, I need to know WHAT I am supposed to follow when I watch something called Noah. I expected to get a biblical story, but this was not it. Was it science fiction like Starship Troupers? No. Was it fantasy like the Hobbit? No. What was it?

When I researched about biblical accuracy in Noah, I found articles by people much more learned than I am. Here is a good one that points out many facts or rather, discrepancies.

I felt disappointed about the depiction of the animals in the ark. I wanted more about the animals, entering the ark two by two. In this movie, the animals came in three waves: First came the birds, swarms of them. They flew into their cages and “passed out.” Then there were snakes by the gazillion, and insects. Finally came the mammals. I wanted to see some elephants, and tigers, and lambs, going in together. There was none of that. For a story where animals are essential, there were no animals in this movie. All the animals seemed to be totally hibernating for all the months of the journey. Very convenient. Then there was not a single shot of the animals coming out of the ark when the journey was over, going about their ways populating the earth again and multiplying.

I also found it difficult to believe how Noah obtained his mission. Here is a man who spends decades of his life building a big boat, and then many months floating on it, ready to kill even his own grandchildren, just because it was the will of God. But we never see how God communicated this stuff to him. We see a few repeated vignettes of dreams he has, where he is under water along with all manner of animals. That’s where he learned that God wanted to wipe out all humanity? It’s pretty far-fetched. I would have liked a more credible communication from God. Then, whenever doubt set in, Noah looked to the grey cloudy sky and pleaded with God to tell him what to do. And God treated Noah with nothing but grey sky. Nothing.

As a movie, I actually thought the acting was excellent. The characters interacted believably and there were many tear jerkers. I found myself emotionally engaged, and my eyes watery at times, not because of the story of Noah, but because the actors showed their pain, their passion and their love so very well.

So while I would rate the movie Noah about one and a half stars overall, I thought the acting was actually very good. Therefore:

Rating: **

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