UK Release: April 4th 2014
Already seen as one of the most controversial films this year is, comes 2014’s most unique blockbuster of Darren Aronofsky’s big screen step up of ‘NOAH’, with Russell Crowe (singing here) in the title role, and Jennifer Connolly, Emma Watson, Logan Lerman and Anthony Hopkins. Already causing a split critical divide between reviewers, here is my film thoughts, which (WARNING NOW!!!!!!) does contain spoilers.
Before this film release there has been a lot of controversy about which cut of the film should be shown. Studio Paramount did several different edits of the film to be shown to different test audiences. With many of the results reported by trade publication of Variety, it looked like the film no matter what edit they did saw a portion of the audience of a particular faith seeming to not like the film. Wanting to appeal to the widest audience possible (and the reported budget ballooning bigger during production – Aronofsky has never done anything on this scale) so it can get their investment back. Aronofsky and Paramount did get into a fight which eventually saw Aronofsky get his cut to be shown. Originally seeing this as his passion project, Aronofsky has always looked at the story of Noah as a superhero story, with Noah himself being the superhero. Now I have never been a fan of people doing their passion projects as I have always found that it can become too self indulgent, and while it does become dangerously close to doing that (often it is a tad dull and uninvolving) you have something which is philosophically interesting. The film itself does mirror of alot of Aronofsky’s 2006 film ‘The Fountain’, which made profound statements on human beliefs, and ‘Noah’ does the same. Doing the profound thing of putting together several religious believes into one with how the Creator (not God – he is never mentioned by that title) created this world and why he wants to purge the planet, all of which is illustrated in the film by a beautiful pastel art graphic.
A lot of religion has been ‘rewrote’ so to speak, I prefer the term ‘adapted’ and audiences expecting some biblical epic might want to look away from this. There is certainly an approach which could be more seen in a Sci-Fi film if anything. You have this idea you have fallen angels coming down to Earth helping the humans advance (with their mystical ‘technology’) and then getting incrusted in rock by God for their troubles. I don’t think it helps that the marketing has shown the film as some gritty biblical epic (the gritty part is), however there is elements which have been omitted (like these giants – who if my knowledge is served correctly are in the Book of Genesis) in its advertising. The giants themselves, I hear caused groans at its UK premiere when they appeared on the screen, I don’t have a issue with them, they serve well in the needed by studio action set pieces, and it goes in keeping with this bonkers religion of its own with these Ray Harryhausen stop motion looking rock creatures. This idea of Noah being a Superhero is also very much apparent as well, other than beard and hair combinations changing throughout the film to represent how he is torn between the war between his family and God, he is presented as some huge animal rights activist whom has been running in his bloodline since the opening scene with his father played by Marton Csokas. This Superhero idea is fine, I can see where Aronofsky is coming from with it, however to do this he has created an antagonist of Ray Winstone. I understand why he is in the film and his purpose being the embodiment of Noah’s envy and greed, but I just find it disappointing that he is the main antagonist then the force of nature that is the flood, as arguably all of Noah’s family disputes come from the wave before it hits (in premonition form). Anyone asking about the violence itself – it really does push the boundaries of the ‘12a’ certificate, and I recommend anyone under the age of ‘12’ who, yes can legally see it shouldn’t as at times the implication of savage deaths are horrifying. One scene with a bear trap and then head stomping by an army is going to the leave a mental mark for the remainder of the film year.
I think this idea of ‘Noah’ is indeed that it is a character study (it is called ‘Noah’ after all), he is very much the snake in the Adam and Eve story. Religion to him as a character is to examine what it is. This really does stream into the idea the film having a dare-to- go-there attitude in this examination. And this is understandably why people might disagree (and I think it is fair to be) with how their beliefs are represented. One example can be seen with the religion of what Jehovah Witness believe in with the idea and believe of the Apocalypse coming and wiping our sins and decisions on the life of new born children (the later point is very much in the Emma Watson story arc, who is terrific in this film – even with CGI babies). It would be interesting to see how this film plays to strong Christian and Jewish audiences. There are moments which you do think that online message boards will take the piss out of this. Anthony Hopkins mystical grandpa comes to mind giving out magical ‘’Viagra’’.
In conclusion I think ‘Noah’ is about what you take away from religion, and the film is that point. Do you want to take away something which fundamentally is bonkers with giants – just like people who don’t believe in God? Or do you take away something which is an ambitious character piece, like what some open minded individuals take away respecting, (even if they don’t believe) religion?
I do find the film bonkers-ly fascinating even if I am more in the middle ground between the diverse good and bad criticisms. All I can say, again it, like religion, it is what you take away from it, and that’s the point of this film and the point of this character piece. You will not see a Blockbuster this year which will divide (nor make people talk) and have ambition like this*. Ridley Scott’s ‘Exodus’ come December has a little fight on its hands now.
*An example of a diverse opinion is here: http://variety.com/2014/film/news/noah-is-the-biblical-epic-that-christians-deserve-1201150333/