Sorry for the length, but I didn't have time to write a short blog.

Monday, March 31, 2014

Noah, the Zealot you've decided to see the movie Noah. You should know some things from the get go.

First this is not Noah the biblical story, but Noah the story inspired by the biblical story.  Shortly before the movie's release, the trailer had this statement added by Paramount after several in the religious community objected to the non-literal adaptation of the biblical story: "The film is inspired by the story of Noah. While artistic license has been taken, we believe that this film is true to the essence, values, and integrity of a story that is a cornerstone of faith for millions of people worldwide. The biblical story of Noah can be found in the book of Genesis."  I would point out that the movie has a little less than three short Bible chapters to work with. I would also point out that many touted biblical movies also use "artistic license."  The Ten Commandments, for example is one.

Second, if you are going to go because of the ad that announces that "If you liked Gladiator and Titanic, you'll love Noah," you should know that I have no idea why anyone would say this.  It has the guy from Gladiator in it.  There is a big boat, an ocean and a love story like in Titanic.  This pretty much ends that similarity.

Third you need to be prepared for some pretty intense moments, some pretty ridiculous ones, and some that are more than just a little strange. I must admit that during the opening sequence I was wondering what I had let myself in for, but it did finally settle into something that was more visually stimulating.  You also need to be prepared for a movie that seemed to me to be longer than it is.  Two hours and twenty minutes is longer than most movies, but it is still shorter than quite a few movies, like anything by Peter Jackson and of course The Ten Commandments, and Ben Hur.

I will let scholars who are far brighter than I argue the differences from the many interpretations of the story in movie form, because there are a bunch of stories about Noah out there.  For the most part the movie remains true to the many themes that are found in the story.  Its strongest is the one of free will.  Humans choose evil.  Humans choose good. Humans make choices.  Humanss are fallible even the most moral of them.  We see these in the character study that is Noah who is played by Russel Crowe.  Noah is the title of the movie, after all.  The framework of the movie is the flood story, and the movie is actually more about a man who must choose.

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Noah is, for lack of a better term, a zealot but not in the sense that the word has come to carry.  He is driven to be moral and good.  He is driven to try and interpret the visions of what his Creator has sent.  He is chosen, but first and foremost he must choose.  Noah is sent a vision, and he turns to his grandfather, Methuselah, played by Sir Anthony Hopkins, to receive answers to this vision.  It is the old grandfather who leads Noah to the interpretation.  Always though, Methuselah asks questions.  He does not give answers.

Noah arrives at what he must do all on his own. The flood is coming.  It cannot be stopped.  It can be survived.  He must build an ark for the innocent.  While the story parts ways with the ages of Noah and his sons, Noah still builds over the next several years an ark, telling his sons, only one of whom has a girl, that the Creator will send them all that they need.  It is this girl, Ila, played by Emma Watson, that will remind Noah again that as a man he has free will.  He must choose.

A Watcher
With the aid of some very odd fallen angels who have been encased in stone and called Watchers, Noah builds the ark and collects the animals. (I told you there was some weirdness)  The rest of mankind, led by the evil descendant of Cain named Tubal-cain (Ray Winston), come to try and take the ark.  When Noah seeks suitable wives for his other two sons, he arrives at the conclusion that all humans are guilty, and all humans must die.

His family will not have children especially since Ila is barren.  His wife, Naameh (Jennifer Connlley), goes to see the grandfather and begs him to get Noah to see that his line must continue.  Methuselah gives us the clearest statement of the theme.  He tells Naamah that if he interferes while things may change, only trouble may follow and ultimately, since Noah is chosen by the Creator, the choice will again be in Noah's hands. Methuselah then blesses Ila, and in doing so, takes away her inability to have children.

 Following this, the flood occurs and humankind, after a battle involving Noah and the Watchers defending the ark, is wiped out except for Noah, his family, and the bad guy who has managed to get onto the ark.  Tubal-cain becomes something of the metaphorical serpent for this new start for humans.  Of course, Methuselah's prediction comes true.  Ila is pregnant which means that if she has a girl, sinful humankind will survive. Noah determines that the Creator has sent the flood to eliminate man, and so if his grandchild is a girl, he must kill her.

Eventually, Ila gives birth not to one, but two  girls.  And despite being a zealot who believes the Creator has ordered him to exterminate all of man, Noah simply cannot do it.  He has killed many in the battle.  He has listened to the dying screams of humanity in the flood, and he has even killed his own personal serpent, Tubal-cain.  He cannot, however, kill the two innocent babies.  As Ila reminds him later it was never about choosing extinction but always about choosing and that was why he was chosen.  The Creator trusts his choice. Noah chose mercy. He chose love.

So if you follow the logic of all this, congratulations. After the movie I needed time to work through what I had witnessed, and so the spoiler filled review.  I will forgive director Darren Aronofsky the weirdness of some of this movie and the pacing problems in other parts of the movie.  It is well acted with multi-dimensional characters who have a clear unified theme to present.  Overall, I liked it. Is it the best thing I've ever seen,? No.  Is it biblical? No, but it is a gutsy attempt to bring something different to the big screen.  I know that many a Christian group have condemned Noah for not following the Bible, and many an atheist group condemned Noah for bringing religion to the screen.  Like many a film before it, it starts a conversation.  We all have, after all, a choice.