I did my share of Bible reading when I was a kid and teen. In fact, I read it multiple times from cover to cover. I also read The Lord of the Rings trilogy and a bunch of Stephen King books during my formative years.
Of all the literature I read as an impressionable youth, none was more violent and more insane than the Bible. Actually, I will go as far as to say the Bible is the sickest book ever written when it comes to death and destruction. If you count the predicted Apocalypse, the whole world dies more than once in that particular piece of literature. That’s a huge body count!
Whether you are religious or not, the Bible is, no doubt, a pretty sweet platform for over-the-top cinema. With Noah, director Darren Aronofsky has concocted a totally crazy, darkly nasty disaster film befitting those few pages in the book of Genesis. I no longer keep a copy of the Bible around, but I do have R. Crumb’s word accurate recreation of the Book of Genesis—with crazy pictures!—on my shelf, so I’ve read that for a refresher course.
In what is surely his best performance to date, Russell Crowe plays the title character, a good, passionate man in a not particularly good time. The people outside of Noah’s family circle have turned Earth into a place of carnivorous debauchery. “The Creator” (this film’s go-to name for God) intends to wipe all humanity off the face of the Earth with a great flood, and Noah is tasked with saving all of the innocent animals on a huge ship to be built by him, with the help of large rock monsters.
That’s right, I said large rock monsters. This movie has rock monsters in it. They are Aronofsky’s version of fallen angels.
Now, I don’t remember reading about rock monsters in the Bible, but I will tell you that they come in quite handy when tasked with building a huge boat to house two of every animal on the planet. That’s minus the seafaring animals of course.
There were no aquariums on the ark. Dolphins and angelfish and whatnot probably just camped out under the stormy surface, while the sharks went to town on people clinging for life to mountain peaks and treetops in the rising waters. Sharks eating the biblically doomed as they scamper atop Mt. Everest are not depicted in this film, but I reckon “Shark-Flood-Oh” could be coming to a cable channel near you in our future.
The supporting cast includes Jennifer Connelly as Noah’s wife, Emma Watson as his adopted daughter, and Anthony Hopkins as the Yoda-like, mountain dwelling grandfather. Logan Lerman delivers notably good work as Ham, son of Noah, the one who eventually gets banished for seeing his dad all drunk and naked.
The movie, as spectacle, is quite good, although its CGI has a few moments of weakness. The flood itself is a frightening sequence, with a horrifying moment involving screaming people outside of the ark getting washed off a big rock by waves. I’m actually surprised this movie pulled a PG-13 rating. It struck me, very much, as an R-rated film due to its violence.
It’s also a beautiful, inspiring story about survival, free will, blind faith, killing in the name of religion and, above all, the virtues of veganism. It comes as no surprise that Aronofsky, who also co-wrote the script, is a vegan. It also comes as no surprise that the film’s main villain (Ray Winstone) bites the heads off of live animals for evil energy.
I had a blast with this movie. I imagine it will enrage a few pastors and preachers who bring their Sunday School classes to a matinee only to discover that it has rock monsters in it. It’s not a deeply religious film in the biblical, orthodox religion sense.
Noah is really just a big, bold disaster movie with a super intelligent and compassionate core. Like the best of movies, it will inspire many long, perhaps fiery conversations for years to come.