Whimsy. Netflix’s ever insightful recommendation algorithms put Noah on my radar because I watched The Dark Knight Returns. Somehow Batman leads to the bible. Not sure about the math on that, but nicely trolled, Netflix. And on the subject of trolling, I wonder if Darren Aronofsky is worthy of some praise therein.
Let’s take it for granted that everybody knows the story of Noah, the ark, and god’s watery genocide. Rather than bore you with a summary therein, because the movie is pretty much what you might expect it to be on that front, I’ll colour in a few of the details that Aronofsky and co-writer Ari Handel shoe-horned into this Roland Emmerich sized, but seemingly Uwe Boll photographed, disaster movie.
The movie is set on the super-continent of Pangea where the descendants of Cain have built a vast urban civilization based on mining a shiny rock called “Zohan.” Yeah, like the Adam Sandler movie. I wouldn’t waste time talking about trivia like Zohan were it not amazing in its ability to turn Noah into a science fiction movie. Perhaps the Illuminati suppressed the parts of the bible which included Zohan powered blunderbusses, generally used to penetrate the rocky exo-skeleton of fallen angels, who came to earth to help Adam and Eve after their expulsion from Eden. Zohan also proves useful when Noah crafts an holy incendiary hand grenade as a prelude to attempted infanticide.
The church and I may have parted ways a long time ago, but I don’t remember firearms and grenades in the bible. Baby killing? Yes. Cock mutilation? Check. Stoning people for…well…everything. Double check. I think we all have fond memories of god’s obvious and insatiable murder-boner. However, rock monster angels and gunplay? File not found.
Meanwhile, as Noah uses his non-union slave labour angels to build the ark, the movie diverts along two equally tiresome subplots. Subplot one delivers a world of teenage angst as Noah’s kids want to have sex. The oldest one, Shem or Shemp or something, takes a liking to his adopted sister, which is apparently not troublesome to Noah and his wife because the movie is set in bible times. Meanwhile, the middle child, afflicted with the curse of not being able to jerk off – again, bible times – almost ruins the entire ark operation because Noah “won’t find him a wife”. On that note, let’s talk about Emma Watson’s part in this freak show.
Emma Watson is something of a leading voice when it comes to advocating for gender equality, as seen in her appointment as a United Nations Goodwill Ambassador. She was the public face of the #HeForShe campaign. Assuming these beliefs are not the product of being in Noah, I’m left to wonder why she did a movie that celebrates one of the most misogynistic religions on the planet? There’s a scene in this movie where Watson’s character, made barren through a childhood injury, says that “Shem(p) deserves a real woman who can give him children.” The bible: demonstrating the value of women through the viability of their uterus.
Subplot two focuses on the balance of humanity not wanting to be killed in a massive flood. Even though the Caininites (PS: I know Caininite ≠ Canaanite, but I don’t know what else to call these people other than humanity’s innocent bystanders of god’s petulant wrath) are supposed to be the film’s antagonists, what with all their meat eating (the truly devout are sustainable vegans) cannibalism, and raping, the movie presents them as somewhat sympathetic figures. This is due in no small part to the fact that Aronofsky makes a point of showing us how the majority of Caininites are victims of circumstance, particularly when Ham meets a would-be wife in a mass grave.
Meanwhile, King Tubal-Cain submits that man’s monstrous nature is god’s fault as god created man in his image. Though he and his followers do some horrible things, is an audience really supposed to look at them and see their desire to survive as villainous? Tubal-Cain points his finger skyward, blaming god as the architect of a divine predestination paradox. His logic is irrefutable, and in the face of genocide, it’s hard not gaze at humanity’s doomed remnant and feel pity. Pity all the more poignant in light of Crowe standing on the prow of his ark, channeling Darth Vader, as he states there are no more innocents in the world. Ergo, all those girls who got raped, and all those people who were eaten, they had it coming.
If this divine justice isn’t enough to turn a rational person’s stomach, the screenplay takes it upon itself to try and reconcile creationism and evolution. With the last few Caininites clinging to an outcropping of rock, screaming to be let aboard the ark, Noah regales his family with the story of creation. Therein, the mythical 6-day story is a voice over set against a super-cut of Neil deGrasse Tyson’s Cosmos. The world forms, cells divide, life crawls out of the ocean, and so on. One can practically feel Aronofsky reaching through the screen to pat the science-minded on the head with teleological jazz hands befitting a first year philosophy student. Alas, this shallow attempt at reconciliation is so condescending that even Noah’s kids turn against their father.
Thus do we return to the subject of trolling. If this movie is meant to celebrate Christian mythology, it’s an abject failure. It shines a light on everything that is alternatively evil and perplexing about the flood myth. If Noah’s a bible movie, it’s the worst public relations imaginable. Alternatively, it could be a brilliant attempt on Darren Aronofsky’s part to give would-be atheists a primer on all the ugly parts of Christian mythology. In truth, I honestly don’t know what I should make of Noah. The only thing I’ll say for certain is that Noah is a lousy movie which plays at being as over-the-top as a Peter Jackson adaptation of Tolkien, but falls flat on its face with unlikable characters, retrograde social messages, and lousy special effects.
Directed by: Darren Aronofsky
Written by: Darren Aronofsky and Ari Handel