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Saturday, March 29, 2014




God said to Noah, there's gonna be a floody floody

As the torrent of rain floods the world in the third act of Darren Aronofsky's Noah, Noah himself sits with his family in their massive wooden ark and regales them with the First Story, the Creation: how God created the Heavens and the Earth, and all life in seven days, and the tale of Adam and Eve and the Original Sin that lead to banishment from Eden and all the misery Man inflicted on himself and the world that follows. What's remarkable about Noah are the visuals accompanying Noah's narration: From a Big Bang, God (addressed exclusively as "The Creator" in Noah) started creating life from single celled organisms, rapidly evolving them into every creature that swims in the seas, soars through the skies, or walks on two legs or more on the land. One would think we were actually watching an episode of Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey hosted by Neil deGrasse Tyson. It's as powerful signal as any that this isn't your (devout evangelical) father's story of Noah. Well, that and the rock monsters that used to be angels.

Noah is an aggressive, bombastic, yet delicately even-handed attempt to tell the story of the Great Flood of the Bible. An epic that's part Old Testament and part Lord of the Rings, Noah literally starts at The Beginning, detailing how Noah (Russell Crowe) was descended from Seth, the third son of Adam and Eve. After Cain murdered Abel, Cain and his descendants established a corrupt, vainglorious, greedy population of mankind who "ruined" the world. Seth's descendants were not so prolific or destructive, with their single unbroken line of progeny that counts Methuselah (a decrepit-looking but cunning Anthony Hopkins) as Noah's grandfather. Wandering the Earth with his family, including wife Jennifer Connelly, their three sons including Logan Lerman from the Percy Jackson movies, and Harry Potter's Emma Watson, a dying girl they adopted who is "barren" from injuries she suffered as a child, the purpose of Noah's life becomes clear when The Creator sends him dreams of a great Flood. 

"He's going to destroy the world," Noah realizes. Not if Ray Winstone, as Tubal-Cain, the descendant of the original Cain, has anything to say about it. (He doesn't, as far as The Creator cares.) Winstone is the vile leader of men, who eats meat ("because they think it gives them strength," says Noah the vegetarian) and threatens to take the ark Noah built. Aronofsky tackles the logical issues of how Noah could have built a vessel the size of a city block by inventing a forest bloomed for him by The Creator from a seed from Eden, the original garden. This provides more than enough wood for the Watchers, the misshapen rock monsters who are fallen angels condemned by The Creator and betrayed by Man, to do the dirty work of actually constructing the ark. (If this were a Transformers movie, the Watchers would be Rockticons.) Later, the Watchers form a chain to defend the ark from Tubal-Cain's invaders, swatting hordes of men away and earning ascension back into Heaven as beings of light. As for the animals, two of every creature that will repopulate the Earth, The Creator sends them in CGI waves, hordes of snakes, birds, and massive predators magically assembling on the ark, very politely waiting to be placed to sleep by Noah's magic incense.

As Noah, Crowe segues from wise, determined savior to God's right hand madman, ready and willing to stab a baby in the eye. His sons were promised wives, but when Noah takes a field trip and sees the debased Wolf of Wall Street-like party Tubal-Cain's people were having in their makeshift city, he is consumed by fear of the corruption of all men, including himself, and determines that The Creator wants all men to die, including himself and his family. Noah's family took that news as well as you'd expect, but there's no time to argue as the Flood waters rise and Man is washed away (gruesomely, with much wailing and suffering) by Old Testament God's no-negotiations, take no prisoners wrath. 

When Connelly asked Hopkins to use his magic Methuselah powers to allow Watson to bear children, he acquiesces and Watson immediately jumps Noah's oldest son's bones. Soon she is with child, and Noah completely loses his shit at his family's direct violation of what he believes The Creator wants. Shame on Noah's family for wanting to live. Soon, Noah turns into a demented Biblical version of Jack Nicholson in The Shining, stalking around the Ark with crazy eyes plotting to "strike down" Watson's infant upon birth if it's a girl. (If it's a boy, he gets to live until old age and be the last man to die.) 

Yet in the apparent year or more they were living in the ark, Noah never once noticed Tubal-Cain had managed to stow away on the ark. There Tubal-Cain was, lurking in the dark corners, thoughtlessly eating the sleeping animals (thereby decimating an untold number of the animal population -- Noah never noticed?), like Homer Simpson would. Tubal-Cain also whispered sweet nothings of revenge in Lerman's ear because Noah let his girlfriend get trampled by the invading hordes instead of save her. In some ways, Tubal-Cain was making some sense: Noah was a complete lunatic, hellbent on doing what he thinks The Creator wants from him. But when Noah and Tubal-Cain came to blows, Lerman did the right thing and chose family over the scumbag who symbolizes why there was a Flood that wiped out Mankind in the first place. Still, when Noah finds out Watson birthed twin girls, he was right there, knife in hand, ready to shiv some babies. But he couldn't shiv. He chose love. Which is heartwarming, although he spent a year putting the fear of God in his family, so...

And so it goes the ark found land, the waters receded, and Noah's family set off to start anew and repopulate the Earth. How, exactly, is the question? Let's look at who's left in the world: Lerman leaves to wander off by himself, presumably to live and die alone in the East, having never known a woman's touch. Noah and Jennifer Connelly die of old age. Watson has the oldest son, and there are the twin girls. Who are they to mate with? Noah's youngest son. Their uncle is going to get busy, one supposes. But then, the same questions can be asked of who exactly the original Cain and Seth mated with to begin with? The story has some holes, is the point. The most amusing part of Noah was after the Flood was over and Noah turned into a Biblical Nick Nolte; separated from his family, living in a cave, getting drunk on berry wine, and passing out naked on the beach. We see that Noah is fat. How does a prehistoric vegetarian who was living in a floating wooden box for a year get so chunky? These are questions that will be pondered and debated until the end of time.

Someone MIA from Noah: the Devil. The snake that tempted Eve appears in dream sequences and flashbacks, but where was Satan during the Flood? He must have sat this one out. Frankly, with all the crazy shit going on between Noah, Tubal-Cain, and God Himself, the Devil must have felt redundant.