I Saw Noah So You Don’t Have To

I feel the need to start this by saying that I really didn’t enjoy Darren Aronofsky‘s Noah independently of the fact that it was based on a Bible story.

I sort of walked out of the theater somewhat baffled, and now that I’ve made it to my laptop, I feel deeply apathetic about it. Which is a bummer, because when I found out that Creationist Ken Ham hated it, I thought “Well, I am going to love this!”

“Noah” is an insult to Bible-believing Christians, an insult to the character of Noah, and most of all, an insult to the God of the Bible. As a result, I believe Hollywood will have a much harder time in marketing future biblically themed movies to Christians.

I was a bit rusty on my biblical knowledge, so while watching the movie I wasn’t sure exactly how much of the plot was original to the script and how much was just an embellishment of what the Bible actually said (which is arguably an embellishment of what actually happened). I re-read Genesis 5:32 – 10:1 in the King James Version and realized the bare-bones plot that I knew of Noah was pretty much all that the story is at its source.

Here, then, are my pros and cons of Noah. There is one minor spoiler ahead, but I’m guessing you have an idea of how the thing ends.

Pros:

  • I thought it was really wonderfully acted. Russell Crowe, Jennifer Connelly, Emma Watson, and Anthony Hopkins all delivered interesting and compelling performances. Also, everyone on the ark (the aforementioned — sans Hopkins — plus Douglas Booth, Logan Lerman, and Leo McHugh Carroll who played Shem, Ham and Japheth, respectively) were very handsome folks, indeed. I mean, if they were the ones repopulating the Earth, we’d be an attractive people, is all I’m sayin’.
  • The special effects were pretty cool as well. There is obviously a lot of green screen work happening, but it’s virtually seamless. From what I’ve read, all of the animals were CG and generally looked great.
  • Shockingly, I was fine with how they handled the whole “We’ve got thousands of animals all in one place and need to feed them and prevent them from eating each other for the next few months” thing. Ditto with the question of “How do we gather thousands of animals and get them on this rig?” Basically, paired animals just kind of showed up and were put to sleep by some potion/incense thing. The movie also just skipped over the 600-year-old Noah along with the clean/unclean animals nonsense.
  • I appreciated their treatment of the Noah myth in general. They never used the word “God,” sticking instead with “Creator.” There was no parting of the clouds and Monty Python and the Holy Grail-style God telling Noah how many cubits the ark should be. It was more that Noah had a weirdly vivid dream and interpreted it as a message from his Creator. (It’s worth noting that this was one of the many elements that Ham hated about the movie.)
  • It took an unflinching look at the cruelty of an entire population being wiped off the face of the earth. They didn’t vanish, they didn’t die quietly off-screen, they didn’t have peaceful deaths. We hear survivors screaming and clinging to life, and it is as unpleasant and disturbing as it should be.
  • There was a really cool segment of Noah telling his interpretation of the Creation story, which was delightfully pro-evolution.

Cons:

  • Ohmygoditwassolong. Two and a half hours. When did we decide movies have to be so damn long? And God help you if you have to pee as the constant rain/water will make the experience highly unpleasant.
  • Women are… shall I say… under-represented. I mean, even considering the source material. There are three women who have names, though my boyfriend who went with me is convinced we never hear Noah’s wife’s name — it’s Naameh, by the way. (I didn’t see it in the KJV of Genesis, but it appears to have been used in some other interpretation. Feel free to let me know where that came from if you happen to know.) And the third young woman has about 90 seconds of total screen time. If we’re talking Bechdel Test rules, it certainly fails. There was one conversation between Connolly’s character and Watson’s Ila and, though it was about the latter’s pending pregnancy, they literally only talk about how Noah will react. Ila, who is Shem’s “lady friend” believes she can never have children and tells Noah that Shem deserves a “real woman” who can bear children. Ouch. AND there is a point when we see two young gals literally being used as currency. I think they get traded for a pig? I don’t know, I was busy shoving popcorn in my face at that point. I think what particularly frustrated me about the fact that there are so few women is that even the Bible has more female characters than the film. Two of the three wives of Noah’s sons were dropped from the bulk of the plot, likely due to the fact that they were quite a bit younger than in the original texts.
  • Two words: Rock. Monsters. There were monsters made of rock. The Watchers, they were called. Apparently, they’re pulled from another part of the Bible, though it was Aronofsky’s interpretation that they were made of rocks. They basically filled the exact same role as the Ents did in the Lord of the Rings movies. But rocks. It was just baffling and I couldn’t get past the similarities of the first half of Noah to The Two Towers. Also, I just now found out that Nick Nolte voiced one of them. That’s not a con. I just wanted to share.
  • It was super violent. I kind of hate myself for complaining about that — it feels very pearl-clutchy to say. I was just very put off by some of the brutality.  I also get a bit bored by random fight scenes, and Noah is chock-full of them.
  • There’s a whole subplot with a character named Tubal-Cain that mostly confused and annoyed me.
  • This problem is larger than just Noah (Walking Dead is the worst offender), but why don’t women pull their hair back when they are doing intense labor? You’re helping build an ark. Grab a damn scrunchie.
  • I am now doubly creeped out by the following children’s Bible song (couldn’t find the Flanders’ version):

Like I said, with a little distance, it wasn’t the worst movie I’ve ever seen. After reading a couple of reviews, a lot of people seemed to like it just fine. It seemed to be reasonably faithful to the source material, such as it is, but took plenty of liberties to add some kind of substantive plot. Aronofsky wasn’t too precious with the biblical story, but nor did he treat it as anything that could have possibly happened in the real world through the use of not-quite-real CG animals and plenty of magical elements. I almost wonder if he tried to please both religious and non-religious audiences and failed to do either. That said, a lot of people saw the film, making it #1 at the box office over the weekend.

I was hoping for a movie that I sincerely enjoyed or one that was so laughably bad that I could make fun of it, and I got neither.

About Jessica Bluemke

Jessica Bluemke grew up in the suburbs of Chicago and graduated from Ball State University in 2008 with a BA in Literature. She currently works as a writer and resides on the North side of Chicago.


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