Darren Aronofsky has called Noah ‘the least biblical biblical film ever made’. Come on Darren! You got the ark, the animals, the flood and a big rainbow at the end! Admittedly you also got the Watchers, aka fallen angels aka Transformers with a maglite inside. And magic. LOTS of magic. Magical snakeskin. Magical pregnancy testing kit. Magical bits of rock that magically made huge fires…
The first thing I wrote down (thanks to the handy opening In a galaxy far far away subtitles) was that Noah’s family were the descendents of Seth. Now that’s already great. Who wouldn’t want to be descendents of Seth? – Seth Lakeman, Seth Rogen, Seth MacFarlane all excellent Seths.
The next thing I wrote down was that Noah was the first eco-warrior and a vegetarian. We know this because he gives the first of his motivational speeches about looking after the environment and only eating vegetables. Good for him. At this point, he is Young Noah (150?) because his unfeasibly good-looking son is a mere boy. Later on he becomes Middle-Aged and Judicial Noah (250? People aged so quickly in the bible days). By the end of the film, he is very grey and wrinkled so he is obviously Old and Psychologically Scarred Noah (but not as old as his grandfather Methuselah who was 969 when he died.). Oddly, Mrs Noah didn’t seem to age at all. As my friend Claire remarked, she must have some wicked hair dye going. All of the Noah family – apart from Noah, who was Russell Crowe – were very pretty indeed. And very white. One of the many unanswered questions we had was ‘how did black people happen then?’ More magic, perhaps.
As far as religion is concerned – Darren may be an atheist, but he packed in a lot of spiritual/mystical references. There were Noah’s dream sequences, one of which happened after the Welsh Druid Merlin, sorry Methuselah, had given him some ayahuasca. And god was referred to as ‘The Creator’. I guess Darren had to call him something, since ‘Big Bang’ might have given the wrong impression. Adam and Eve were portrayed as weird glowing people who ate an apple that looked like a beating heart, but Darren gave the atheists a nod by making it clear that the world was created by Darwin.
Much has been made of the film’s CGI, much of which was really crap. The animals and birds were crap. The Mad Max-esque/Mordor landscape was quite crap. The Watchers/Transformers were weird and crap. The best bit of CGI was the magic forest that sprang up just as everyone in the audience was wondering how Noah was going to build the ark when the world had been turned to a wasteland because of man’s destruction of natural resources etc etc. But lo! A magic Ikea forest grew! And it was good, and it sent forth a magic river that went all over the world so that the animals and birds could conveniently work out where to come. And not just any animals. Biblical animals, which are like fantasy animals.
Once the animals were on the ark, which took about 10 seconds because they all conveniently knew exactly where to go and settled down quite happily, the Noah family got some herbs and put them to sleep so Darren didn’t have to bother about them for the next two hours. They were on the ark for 9 months, so how come the animals didn’t starve in their enforced hibernation? Magic.
The best magical thing was the pregnancy testing kit. In the gospel according to Darren, just spitting onto a leaf can determine pregnancy. Who needs Boots?
The other thorny issue was that of incest. Half-brothers and sisters all re-populating the world – hence Suffolk, the American Midwest and Afrikaners.
The other other thorny issue was ‘why Ray Winstone’? Actually, why so many things? It’s not like the story is that boring to begin with. Ray plays Tubal-Cain, a sort of biblical Kray twin, a descendent of Cain, who killed Abel. Ray’s main purpose was to tell us that he was a man, and descended from men. “We are men. Men take. Men eat meat. I choose who lives and who dies. You made us in your image,” he says in a conversation with the Creator. Unfortunately, the Creator is in a bad reception area. “Nobody has heard from him since he marked Cain,” Ray tells Noah. Ray has a forked beard. The snake in Eden had a forked tongue. Is there some symbolism here?
I think Darren missed a trick with Tubal-Cain, who hitched a lift on the ark in order to eat a lizard and try to persuade Son No. 2 that Man was the dominant species. “We have dominion over the animals,” he says, before magically engraving the motto on a tea-towel. No, I made that bit up.
If I were writing Tubal-Cain, I might have made his ‘we have free will’ schtick a bit more convincing. There are interesting things to say about this, and in between the magic and clunking dialogue, there are also some compelling moments between Noah and his family about right and wrong, and how far justice goes before you end up certifiable.
In the hands of someone less craggy, magisterial and tormented, (Tom Cruise?) Noah’s psychological inner war would have made you want to chuck him over the edge. Crowe was actually pretty good, but Jennifer Connolly as Mrs Noah and yes, Emma Watson as Shem’s wife Ila were better.
There was one moment, though, where you could hear a million voices screaming ‘nooooo’ and it came when little Ila said to Noah. “Can you sing me a song?” So there you have it. Funnier than Les Miserables, and with a lot less singing.