I use hands to help my fellow man / I use hands to help with what I can / But when I face an unjust injury / Then I change my hand into FIST OF FURY

Noah

tn_noahHere’s one of those beloved I.P.s that the studios are always looking to repackage and the fans get real excited for. It’s a high concept that’s practically a movie trailer already, it’s like LORD OF THE RINGS meets TITANIC meets DR. DOLITTLE. And just like with Batman or Superman there’s alot of great interpretations from different eras for the filmatists to draw from. You got the Bible version, you got the Quran version, you got the FANTASIA 2000 version. Alot of people grew up on the Noah property. But like THE LONE RANGER last year maybe the whole premise is a little bit too campy for today’s audiences. It might be a little too late for this to become a franchise.

Russell Crowe (NO WAY BACK, THE MAN WITH THE IRON FISTS) plays Noah, a survivalist living off the grid in the wastelands traveling with his wife (Jennifer Connelly from PHENOMENA) and kids, trying to avoid men and cities. I’m not sure if it’s the future or the past, but they dress kinda like the people of Zion in THE MATRIX. There’s a weird scaly dog like Riddick would be friends with. We see when he’s attacked by barbarians that Noah does know how to kick ass, but he and his family live by a monk-like code, or maybe a hippie one. They don’t carry weapons, they don’t eat meat, they respect nature, the women are allowed to wear pants.

I mean Noah is pretty cool and enlightened in some ways, don’t get me wrong, but also you gotta admit he’s like a lot of cult leaders. He believes he gets messages from God and he pushes his terrified family into going along with this crazy plan to build a giant ark type boat to fit animals on because there’s gonna be a worldwide all-life-destroying flood, he says. And it’s kinda uncomfortable because he’s real judgmental, thinks everybody else on the entire planet is sinners and has to die.

On the positive side he’s not one of these survivalists whose focus is entirely on defending himself and his property. His plan is all about rebuilding, ensuring the survival of every type of animal (except, I’m assuming, the Riddick dog). A male and female from each, and luckily God is on the same page and compels the right animals to just show up at the ark. If Noah had to find ’em all himself they’d never finish this archiving project. I mean back then how were you gonna look up how to tell which one is a boy and which one is a girl, to name only one thing that would be hard.

(idea for Dreamworks computer animated movie: talking animals compete to see which two of each species are worthy of getting on the ark)

mp_noahNOAH is directed by Darren Aronofsky, who I consider a great director because of THE WRESTLER and BLACK SWAN. He also has a Noah-like sense of crazy ambition. He failed to get his versions of ROBOCOP and THE WOLVERINE off the ground, but remember how long it took him to do THE FOUNTAIN? He almost was filming and then Brad Pitt dropped out and the whole thing came crashing down and he gave up and did it as a comic book and then started over and made it with Hugh Jackman. NOAH is another one he was trying to do for years and he made a comic book version and then the movie. So don’t put it in the same category as comic book adaptations, it’s like TIMECOP and COWBOYS AND ALIENS that the comic was done to help get a movie made.

I’m surprised they didn’t split this into three movies like THE HOBBIT and the flood doesn’t even happen until the third one. But Aranofsky does kinda do what Peter Jackson did there. Jackson used supplemental material from the appendices to RETURN OF THE KING, Aranofsky uses these characters called The Watchers who are mentioned in the Bible but more fleshed out in the Book of Enoch. They’re fallen angels and in the movie they became covered in the earth, so they look like twenty foot tall rock monsters. They’re cool animated characters and before you accuse them of being a rip-off of RETURN TO OZ or something keep in mind that ancient Mesopotamians would say the whole Noah’s Ark story is a beat-for-beat rip-off of one of their beloved flood stories that they grew up on.

These Watcher guys are great though. I wonder if Aranofsky remembered that Jennifer Connelly was in LABYRINTH and thought that she’d feel more at home if there were weird monster dudes wandering around. One of them who seems very somber and resigned to misery like Teddy in A.I. becomes Noah’s buddy. Because it’s kind of like a post-apocalyptic movie, most of the people in the world are horrific savages led by a descendant of Cain with the ROAD WARRIOR-esque name Tubal-cain (Ray Winstone, BEOWULF). The Watchers help Noah to fend off the Tubalites and to build the Ark. So don’t worry, if you thought it was fakey that he built that giant Ark it’s got a logical explanation. Rock monsters helped.

In my opinion this is a story that works better as a book. When you see some of this stuff depicted literally you start thinking wait a minute, is this really supposed to be inspired by real events? They manage to be pretty ambiguous about how big the boat is exactly, and they don’t get into the specifics of the operations at all. It’s not an Ark procedural. They don’t even address how to feed all the animals (the Bible does), or any concerns about them eating each other, or anything about shitting. They do have this incense that puts all the animals to sleep, so we don’t have to hear them fuckin yappin the whole movie. And that may have been also to cover up some of the horrible, horrible smell. I mean can you imagine going inside an enclosed space where two of every species of animal have been shut in for a long period of time? Even if God made them not have to pee or shit just the fur would smell bad.

That would’ve been an interesting acting choice if they all constantly had horrified “what is that smell!?” face for the whole movie.

Emma Watson from HARRY POTTERs plays a new character, adopted by Noah as an injured child and seen as potential mate to his son. Which I guess is okay, it’s like Paul Rudd was Alicia Silverstone’s step brother in CLUELESS but they still fell in love at the end. This girl is wounded on her belly and thinks she’s barren, so it’s an issue. I mean, I feel that pressure too, it’s not standard to be my age and not a parent. Do I want to have kids? Is it too late? Will I always regret it if I don’t? Am I selfish that I didn’t want to do it yet? What’s wrong with me? She has it much worse because she’s got a ticket on the U.S.S. Repopulate the Globe and she can’t do the job. It’s fucked up! She feels worthless, but Noah convinces her she’s important to him. She’s part of the family.

(just to be safe she should probly learn more about boating in my opinion)

But again, don’t go thinking Noah’s a sweetheart. He turns pretty David Koresh later on. He decides that God wants the human race to die, and when things turn out differently he thinks it’s a blasphemy, not a blessing. This is one of this year’s few movies where the hero holds a big serrated Rambo knife to a newborn baby’s head. Kind of a weird movie.

It’s also beautiful, and Aranofsky and cinematographer Matthew Libatique (who’s done almost every Aranofsky movie, plus IRON MAN and INSIDE MAN) make sure it looks different from other Bible reboots. A highlight is a scene where Noah tells the story of Creation, and we watch it in a jittery digital simulation of time lapse photography. A little Book of Genesis easter egg for the fans, setting up the prequel.

I feel bad for the ladies in this movie. You can’t pretend there is gender equality here. What Noah says goes. The wife always looks pained, but what’s she gonna do? One night Noah goes into the city to get his sons some wives. You know, just go out and pick a couple up for the trip. The boys wait at home, excited. But Noah is so appalled by the wild orgy/barbecue he sees in town that he calls it off. When Ham gets lucky and actually meets a girl who seems to like him she quickly ends up stepping in a bear trap just as an army of barbarians is headed their way. Noah shows up just in time to try to save her… and instead he grabs Ham and runs. Just leaves her to get trampled. Sorry, son. We can’t keep her.

I don’t think the movie’s POV is misogynistic, but I also don’t think it’s critical of it. It’s just very matter of fact. Imagine how phony it would feel if it was the Old Testament and the women were treated fairly. That’s the problem with being such purists and literalists about bygone eras. You think we’re bad now, we were some savage motherfuckers back then! I don’t like the idea that God signed off on every word and translation of that thing as the be-all end-all for all of time. Whether you’re religious or not you gotta believe we can always learn things and get better and be nicer.

That brings me to the big question: what is this movie supposed to be about? I’m not sure, but I got some thoughts. There’s definitely a parallel drawn between the Noah story and the contemporary debate whether we should a) try to be more careful about fucking the environment or b) go whole hog and be wasteful and encourage corporations to dump toxic spew all over animals and just shit all over ourselves until we’re choking on chemical fumes, our skin is burnt to a crisp and we get whiplash going from random flash floods and tornadoes to DO THE RIGHT THING swelters every week and we’re on TV saying you know what I’m no scientist but I did hear that there was one scientist somewhere, I don’t know the guy’s name but he said that he wasn’t totally sure this was man made and he he was tired of being picked on by all of the other scientists throwing all of their “studies” and “measurements” and “proof” at him like a bunch of fucking bullies it’s not fair.

Aranofsky establishes Noah as believing in “stewardship,” feeling a responsibility to protect God’s creation (Forrest Taft), and Tubal-cain as the poster boy for “dominion” (Michael Jennings). In a goofy plot contrivance Tubal-cain actually stows away on the Ark, pleads his case to Noah’s impressionable son Ham (basically the same character as Blue Eyes in DAWN OF THE PLANET OF THE APES), and has a duel with Noah. It’s worth it for the part where he’s talking to Ham and he casually picks up a lizard and takes a bite out of it. Sorry, whatever species you were. Man has dominion over snacks.

Of course this theme being in the movie is upsetting to some people who are religious but don’t believe in giving a hoot about not polluting. It’s not really what was meant by the original story, merely an attempt to find application to the modern world, as if it were some sort of allegory. And it leaves out the part where after the flood God says okay Noah, it’s totally cool to eat animals now. I recommend the steak.

I think it’s a small minority, but there’s a vocal group of religious people in the U.S. who don’t want to believe in science and progress, they think it’s in opposition of their faith. They want the Bible to be infallible and not subject to changes in ways of thinking. If the people saw it this way a couple thousand years ago then that’s how God wants it. But personally I think that goes against the subtext of the Noah story. It says take this information and prepare for the future. Take all the species with you. Be sure to have future generations. Be fruitful and shit. Start a new and better world. True, this is harsh and judgmental of the people left behind, but doesn’t it also suggest a belief in progress? The survivors get a clean slate to start a new world, doesn’t that mean they try to keep making it better? Each progressive generation trying to stop making the mistakes of the last generation and build upon the successes?

That time-lapse type shot kinda looked like evolution, didn’t it? Like maybe it’s okay to believe in science without denying the poetic truth of a story. They don’t necessarily have to be in opposition to each other if you don’t look at your scripture as a documentary. I think if you take everything – Holy books, movies – on a literal basis first then you might be more shallow than you think you are. Stories are not science or math. The real substance is in the interpretation, not the facts. The imagery, not the words.

So stop being so uptight about Enoch page 23 or whatever. It never said they weren’t rock monsters.

You know what could be a pretty good NOAH movie? They follow the lead of CAPOTE and biopics like that, where it just takes one telling chunk of their life and not the whole thing. But in this one instead of doing the ark story it takes place entirely afterwards, when he has a vineyard and he’s drunk all the time. There is the whole scandal where he gets drunk and Ham sees him naked and that’s why he curses him (seen briefly in Aranofsky’s version). But this would mostly be a movie about him getting in long drunken conversations with people about what it was like on the ark and how he’s 950 years old and shit. And they’re like ha ha, great story old man.

Well, that’s what my version would be. Or a martial arts version. I like that Aranofsky did the only-Aranofsky-would-try-to-pull-this-shit version. That’s why we got guys like that.

VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.

This entry was posted on Wednesday, September 17th, 2014 at 9:34 am and is filed under Fantasy/Swords, Reviews. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

54 Responses to “Noah”

  1. I haven’t seen this, but Aranofsky loves Kurosawa’s samurai movies and this seems like it’d be a good outlet for that style of action filmmaking.

  2. I really enjoyed this movie. And your write up is great.

    My favorite scene is where everyone is in the boat and the waves are crashing hard. People are climbing up a mountain peak trying to get away and they’re screaming in terror as they’re being crushed by waves or drowned, or otherwise brutally murdered. It pans to Noah and co in the arc as they hear people screaming in terror. Pretty cool scene, in my opinion.

  3. What does the Michael Jennings reference mean?

  4. Before the religious discussion inevitably kicks off – and it should probably be somebody a bit more clear-headed (or less insane) than me who does the kicking – let me compliment you on an excellent and insightful review, Vern. I missed seeing this one I actually considered going to see it, but let’s face it, as an atheist who grew up in a strongly religious family it’s not exactly a subject I want to explore any more than I have to. That said, your review – and others from the time – make it sound like a great action / spectacle movie with some strong central characters, which I can always get behind, regardless of source material. So I’ll probably catch it on TV.

    Ok, that’s the last clear, level-headed commentary you’ll get from me – let’s get to the fun stuff! Anybody want to start the flaming?

  5. Oh man, I fucking love this movie. The combination of impeccable filmmaking, utter grimness, expensive production and total fucking insanity is just so spectacularly perfect. I mean, who could possibly think this was a good idea except Aranofsky? 100% earnest about the tragic life of giant rock monsters, huge battle scenes, and at the end it turns into a slasher flick, like SUNSHINE. What’s not to love, unless you have the misfortune of being a normal human being or anyone who has even a glimmer of irony?

    Way too blasphemous for the religious, way to religious for the secular, too slow for action fans, too much spectacle for serious critics, too dumb for intellectuals but to talky for the popcorn crowd, and the one thing you might imagine would be the easy selling point of Noah’s ark (the animals!) are a tiny, minor plot point. It may be one of the best movies ever made that no one alive could possibly be expected to like. But I have no choice to love something this absolutely wholeheartedly crazy, and I suspect that some of you will feel the same way.

    I mean, it’s really good, that’s the thing, in its own wildly ill-conceived sort of way. But what audience could they thought would have possibly appreciated something this bananas?

  6. “The wife always looks pained, but what’s she gonna do?”
    Yeah, what’s she gonna do, she’s Jennifer Connelly. She’s always playing pained characters.

  7. This movie was interesting but it left me kind of cold. It’s the first Aronofsky movie that I didn’t have a strong visceral reaction to. (My strong visceral reaction to PI was a headache that lasted two days, but I think that was his intention so I consider that a success.) I watched it, I appreciated the weirdness and the ambition and the pretty pictures, I almost immediately forgot it. You’d think a movie this distinctive would stick in the memory, but it just sorta went in one eye and out the other. Needed a unicorn, in my opinion.

    The main thing I remember about the movie was that it prompted me to do some research afterward about all the weird Bible shit it featured. Man, the Old Testament is some crazy nonsense. Then you throw in the subsidiary works and you are looking at The Most Batshit Story Ever Told.

    One infuriating thing I learned came from researching why motherfuckers lived a thousand years back then and were totally down with incest. Turns out the modern evangelical wackadoo thinking on the subject is that back in those days, people were “purer,” having just recently been created by God. Their cells were strong with heaven juice and could live for a millennium. This is also why they could inbreed without passing on any defects to the next generation, because they had no defects. Then the population grew and, with it, sin. As people became more corrupted by earthly desires, their lifespans dropped precipitously and incest started producing mutants and Leatherfaces, so they had to put a ban on it.

    And that, my friends, is why you only live a scant 80 years and can’t bone your sister. Because you’re a sinner.

  8. I really liked how this film embraced the more larger then life mythological aspects of the tale of Noah and presented it in a way that feels similar to how we have seen Greek mythology portrayed in cinema.

    Watching this film it dawned on me that Russell Crowe is kind of playing the same character in this film as he is in MAN OF STEEL. Both Noah and Jor-el see them selves as shepherds, both are faced with the doom of there planet and race due to over exploitation of their natural resources, Both make choices that they believe are good for their species but are hard on their families, and both build some form of ark so that their race and culture will live on after the extinction of their world. I would also add that Crowe presents us with interpretations of these charters that are way more badass then we have ever seen before. However, the difference is that at some point Noah begins to question himself if his kind is even worth saving, and Jor-el is never given the time to question his decision.

  9. …I don’t want to watch any recent movies with Jennifer Connelly in them. Seriously.

    Her character from “The Rocketeer” was my childhood / young teenage crush for years. I don’t want to spoil the memory by seeing her older, more cynical, and “pained” as you put it.

  10. Did you just write a review of Noah without mentioning Anthony Hopkins? His was one of the crazier roles, even in this.

  11. You do have to appreciate that this movie at least grasps how fucking horrifying the Noah’s ark story is. God decides to kill everyone — every man, woman, and child on earth, and all the animals too*. Most mainstream Christian stuff tries to play down that stuff, remember this quote from the insipid EVAN ALMIGHTY: “God: I love that story, Noah and the Ark. You know, a lot of people miss the point of that story. They think it’s about God’s wrath and anger. They love it when God gets angry… Well, I think it’s a love story about believing in each other. You know, the animals showed up in pairs. They stood by each other, side by side, just like Noah and his family. Everybody entered the ark side by side.”

    Yeah, except that not EVERYBODY entered the ark. A few guys and their wives did. EVERYONE ELSE on Earth drowned horrifically. This is a not the work of a God that loves you, that wants to forgive you, or particularly cares what you think about him/her/it. This is a God that will murder the shit out of you and your whole family and not really worry too much about it. This is about a God you’re not supposed to identify with, you’re just supposed to OBEY.

    In fact, it makes total sense that Noah gets the impression that maybe God just wants humanity gone, period. And the movie even leaves it open-ended that he might well be right, that God may very well have wanted him to murder his granddaughter as a test of his faith.

    *except for the ones that can swim, they were without sin.

  12. “And that, my friends, is why you only live a scant 80 years and can’t bone your sister. Because you’re a sinner.” I think this may be one of my favorite things you’ve said Majestyk.

  13. Yeah, it’s definitely an interesting movie. I just think I appreciated it more than I liked it.

  14. That last one was to Mr. S. To you, Maggie, I say thank you.

  15. Maggie, highly reccommend you read Mr. M’s most thorough examination of the complex interplay between incest, diamond heists, and chainsaw fights:

    http://mistermajestyk.blogspot.com/2012/04/white-fire.html

  16. Did they get 2 of each of the human races on the boat? Or did, like, black people and asians and whatnot just come along later?

  17. Hey, I just watched this a few nights ago. And it’s…..it’s something else. Not a bad movie, not a great movie, but a truly unique, visionary, unforgettable movie. Cheers to Aranofsky for refusing to compromise and getting it made. I’m glad it exists.

  18. Great review, Vern, just saying. Ow, my god-damn sides!

  19. Mr. M. & Mr. S. – that was indeed a brilliant study of incest, diamond heists and chainsaw fights. And, in case no one has said so yet, I can confirm that all little girls want to ride a unicorn and grow up to be unnecessarily surgically altered into someone’s sister to engage in sexy hijinks and wiener play.

    Dan – that’s a whole can of worms about the Noah story. I had to look up what the thing with Ham seeing Noah naked and getting cursed was about, because I didn’t remember that part from Sunday school. There was a school of thought in the 18th and 19th century that says the “curse” was that Ham’s descendants were black, which is what people used to excuse slavery and other terrible things.

    The story took a weird and crazy turn with that whole curse of Ham thing. There’s also crazy theories about what his crime truly was – everything from just seeing Noah drunk and naked, to either castrating or sodomizing him. That old testament is hard core, yo.

  20. I like that Aronofsky didn’t make a literal interpretation of the Bible story. Aside from PASSION OF THE CHRIST, which is supposedly mostly faithful to the text, other Bible movies I’ve seen very rarely work at engaging me on an imagination or inspirational level. Especially the older ones like KING OF KINGS and GREATEST STORY EVER TOLD. They’re often like reading a childrens Bible story picture book. Nice to look at, gives you the warm and fuzzies, puts the kids to sleep.

    As for radicals on both sides who think religion and science need to be in opposition, why can’t they compliment each other? If you believe in God, or a Creator/Higher Being, and you believe in an intentional Creation of the universe and of earth and mankind, it’s not blasphemy to consider that God may have used what scientists label The Big Bang as the starting point for his creative work. On the flip-side, Science is about discovery and progress, but just because you understand how the universe works, or you discover DNA or the life cycle of plants and animals, it doesn’t mean you have found the meaning of life, or the reason they exist in the first place. It just mean’s you understand our world a little better, and can then choose how to use that information.

    One highlight, and the most emotional parts of NOAH for me were in Emma Watson’s character and performance. The scene where Noah was gonna kill her babies was intensely draining. I also like the way Anthony Hopkins’ patriarch Methusela handled her in the scene in the forest, calling her ‘daughter’, and blessing her barren womb. Watson was completely convincing and effective in this role.

  21. Darren:

    As for radicals on both sides who think religion and science need to be in opposition, why can’t they compliment each other?

    And Vern:

    That time-lapse type shot kinda looked like evolution, didn’t it? Like maybe it’s okay to believe in science without denying the poetic truth of a story. They don’t necessarily have to be in opposition to each other if you don’t look at your scripture as a documentary.

    See I used to have ideals like this, until my dear old Christian mother said she could see why people might think homosexuality was “unnatural”. We didn’t speak for three days after that. And I’m straighter than a slide-rule.

    Here’s the difference between me and the faithful: if somebody offered me clear evidence that God or any other supernatural being existed, I’d change my opinion. Easily. My opinion is not an ego-thing, it’s not something I think because everyone else I know thinks it, it’s not something that I profess to believe “to be part of the crowd”. It’s the best I can come up with with what I have. I try to look for contrary opinions – I’m well-aware of “confirmation bias” and how people tend to look for opinions that match their own, a tendency I do my best to try and overcome for myself – and I’m not afraid to say “I don’t know”.

    Religion doesn’t work like that. You’re given something that you should “believe”. If you don’t believe it, you’re a bad person. (Note that you can do as many other bad things as you want, because God will “forgive” you. You just have to have faith in him.) You’re supposed to trust what you’re told, not because of evidence given to you of its veracity, but because of the supposed authority of the source. Now, even if I thought that authority was infallible, I’d STILL not be able to accept this. It’s not how I work.

    Now nobody in my family (thankfully) would say that I was going to hell for being an atheist. How many Christians would? I don’t know. What I do know, though, is that there’s a fundamental and inconsolable divide between those who rely on verifiable facts and those who rely on faith – be it faith in an idea, a religion, anything that is used as an excuse for bigotry or hatred – and that divide can appear anywhere, even in tight-knit families. It’s very much appeared in mine. Because while I believe that anybody, of any religion or none, is capable of the greatest good or the foulest evil, I also believe that you don’t need God to “forgive” you for the GOOD things that you do; and I believe that in the society that I live, people should be judged on how they treat their fellows, not on what supernatural entity they profess to “believe in”.

    And by the way, I agree with one thing: I think the men who wrote those early chapters in the bible were probably men of science. They wrote about a “creator” because, not having access to modern scientific discoveries, it was the best explanation they had at the time; however, they also predicted the exact history of the earth’s development about two millenia before Darwin or evolution. And they did it all through examination and deduction based on their observation of the world around them. What would these men think of modern religion, and what it’s become, if they could see it now? They’d probably weep.

    Short version: no, religion and rationalism can’t co-exist in the same place. That’s been proven throughout history, on every scale, from the grand to the familial. Religion disrupts progress because progress brings with it new questions. And questions are absolute poison to “faith”, upon which religion relies. You can’t set yourself up as the one and only holder of “the truth” if people are allowed to question it.

  22. The hurricane zoom-out rocked my socks off.

  23. “I think it’s a small minority”

    it’s really not though, it’d be great if it was, but the belief that evolution is a lie and scientists are evil anti-Christs is just part of the beliefs of modern mainstream Christianity, sure not literally EVERYONE believes in it, but it’s hardly a fringe movement, speaking as someone who’s lived in the Bible belt their entire life it irks me when people try to excuse the stupid and/or hateful sides of Christianity as just being a “vocal minority” when it’s really not, if it was you wouldn’t hear about it the way you do

    and the reason Christians don’t care about global warming is because it doesn’t jive with their beliefs about the apocalypse, which is a UN led by a smarmy European anti-Christ taking over the world and banning Christianity, nowhere in there does it say anything about flooding coastlines or whatever and also, Christians believe the apocalypse is not only inevitable but necessary, so why should they really even care?

  24. One Guy from Andromeda

    September 18th, 2014 at 1:39 am

    I really liked that he treated it as basically a fantasy movie, loved it until the final part on the boat after the flood, then it kinda loses it’s steam – there wasn’t much suspense if he’s gonna kill the baby for example, pretty clear he won’t. Very impressive visuals though, even though i like the Aronofski movies more that have a smaller scale. But for the “lets grow a forest” scene alone it was worth the price of admission.

  25. Oh boy… I really was Mr Grouchypants in that last post, wasn’t I? Sorry for being a little strident / preachy.

  26. Paul, I had the polar opposite family to yours. My parents were mostly atheistic in their outlook, no regard or talk of religion or God. I do remember going to a church once as a tiny kid for some occasion, and I innocently thought the old grey-haired priest was God. As I got older I looked into some different ideas. I did the spirituality thing in my teens, a bit of the occult, a couple of ouija board attempts with some mates. Wasn’t much to report there I’m afraid.

    I’m not interested in organized religion, but I think there is something to be said for personal faith in a higher power. For me it goes beyond what can be reasoned on in the world. From what I understand about the meaning of the word “faith”, it’s that our usual cerebral approach to rationalizing and analyzing is overridden by a confidence in something or Someone who knows more about the universe we live in than we do.

    So I believe Religion(read- Faith) and Science can co-exist if you distinguish between the different natures and purposes of both.

    And Maggie, can I ask a favor? The next time you address both Misters Majestyk, and Subtlety in the same post, can you please refer to them as Mr S & M? Just for my amusement. Thanks!

  27. See, Griff, this is why, for all the Crusades and child molesting, I prefer the East Coast Catholicism I was raised under (and subsequently abandoned) to that snake-charming y’all practice in the flyover states. There’s a fundamental difference in philosophy there. Catholics famously live their lives under the yoke of guilt, because it’s taken as a given that we’re all sinners. But the upside of that is that it accepts that sin (a.k.a. human nature) is an essential part of what we are as a species and cannot be denied, just forgiven. We’re lowdown dirty fuckers here on earth, but if we say we’re sorry (and mean it) then we can get into heaven eventually.

    These evangelical fuckers, though, seem to really believe that they can eliminate sin here on earth, which is an appalling concept that leads to them trying to control every aspect of everybody else’s lives. Catholics wrestle with sin their whole lives, but evangelicals really seem to feel like they got it licked. That kind of arrogance is what makes them long for the Rapture, because they’re so goddamned sure that they’re gonna be the ones sucked up to heaven, not the ones Left Behind. Ain’t a Catholic alive who wants the apocalypse to come, because they know wouldn’t be ready. They’re all still sinning until the day they die and the priest gives them their last confession, so the last thing they want is to be caught unawares by a Day of Reckoning. It’s still a ridiculous religion like all others, but at least it gives its followers a vested interest in keeping the world around a little longer.

  28. Darren – I think that’s a little different maybe. I was careful to distinguish between “religion” and “faith”, which comes more down to how you see the world. “Religion” is a specific belief-system that’s based on a combination of two factors: faith in an uncorroborated idea, encouragement or pressure from peers or authority figures. The specific level of each of those two things obviously differs from person to person. Some people have a “personal faith” that they’ll sometimes discuss with others, but which is entirely their own. Others take religious dogma to heart and are strict in denouncing those who don’t follow it.

    But here’s the thing. A lot of people have “faith” in something that does them no harm at all, regardless of what it’s based on. My mother believes that my father watches over us from heaven. My cousin believes the same thing about her own mother. Do I believe that they’re right? No, of course not, but that’s no reason whatsoever for me to try and persuade them of that. Indeed, I’d be a horrible person if I did. That sounds more like your own experience.

    But the moment that you (and I’m not at any point here referring to you specifically here Darren) start having “faith” that, say, vaccinations / contraception / GM crops are “evil” or “meddling in God’s plan”, or that gay people are an “abomination” or Jewish people a “plague”, then you’ve got yourself a religion. In other words, a fixed and rigid “moral code”. And regardless of advances in science or morality or ethics or whatever, that code cannot be changed. This is why I say that while people of all faiths or none are capable of great good or great evil, religion itself is not. It’s just a form of moral control. How “good” or “evil” it is depends entirely on whether or not you agree with its principles at the time.

    Of course, having principles “at the time” also gives you the luxury to revise or change them according to your personal experience. Religion doesn’t give you that luxury. I’ve changed my opinions many times about many issues, because I have the privilege of judgement and free will. Religion would take those things away from me and claim that, in fact, it is the sole provider of the “truth”. My opinions don’t matter if I subscribe to a religion because my actions – heck, my very thoughts – should be determined by an external omniscient authority, one whose existence is both unproven and totally at odds with the observable world that I see around me. And the more “devout” or religious-minded I am, the more of these things I’m actually sacrificing.

    However this world was created, or whoever created it, I know one thing for certain: I have the ability to learn, to reason, and to revise my opinions based on my experience of the world. To me this might be the greatest gift that any hypothetical creator has given the human race. A lot of people would deny that gift. They’d say that we shouldn’t be questioning dogma, we already have all the answers. And you know why this is so damn popular? It’s EASY. You don’t have to do all that nasty work of, y’know, thinking about things in a way that might force you to say to yourself “hold up, I might be wrong about this.” And you don’t ever have to admit that there are things you don’t know. Because nobody wants to admit that they might be less knowledgeable than others right?

    And I get it. I do. It must be very nice to accept a particular God-given idea. It must be comforting to feel that you “know” – even if you have to deny certain inconvenient truths in order to do so. But when your acceptance of that idea leads to you to discriminate, to hate, or to cause suffering, as it so often does, and you’ve let it become so much a part of who you are that you’re not willing to learn any different… That, I think, is when you are truly damned.

  29. Majestyk: As a fellow East Coast Roman Catholic (well, like you, raised in it, no longer exactly practicing–in New England we joke that everybody here is really a Transcendentalist anyway), that was very well said. My compliments. You clarified the basic difference between our Christianity and their Christianity perfectly.

  30. Thanks for the name drop! Thought I’d sworn of Aronofsky passion projects after sitting through The Fountain twice. But I might give this one a go one day.

  31. Mr Majestyk, judging by that last entry you’re a protestant.

  32. So black people exist because Noah’s son saw his dick? That’s awesome.

  33. I was waiting for you to get to this Vern. Its finally here.

    I cannot express how much affection and respect I have for this film. I am 100% with Mr. Subtlety’s remarks. This is a ballsy, harsh film that takes the story seriously, and does not at all water down the unfuckinggodly terrifying implications of the story. As an agostic who thinks if God IS real, he’s a sadistic, cruel, tyrannical piece of shit who doesn’t deserve our devotion, I LOVE this film for saying ‘yeah, he can be WRATHFUL. Keep that in mind next time you want to gush about how all-loving and forgiving he is, fuckers.’

    I love how God is depicted as this mysterious, unknown force who you don’t know exactly what he wants out of Noah. I love Anthony Hopkins as Methusulah (you didn’t mention him, Vern!). I love the look of the film. I love the score (Oh my God, what a thing of beauty). I love Ray Winstone’s surprisingly layered, sympathetic villain. I love the idea of Noah as this deeply conflicted man who sees the worst of humanity and decides’ fuck it, I’m just saving the animals. Because The Creator would be fucking insane if he meant for me to save man after what I just saw.’ I love the moment of the people on the rock screaming out in despair and terror, as Noah’s family sits in silence, listening and shaking. I love the Creation montage. I love the third act in all its The Shining On An Ark glory.

    But most of all, I am so fucking impressed beyond words that this movie was STILL able to pull off having a hopeful, inspiring ending in spite of all the horror and tragedy. This movie is making the statement that: even if current humanity does not deserve a chance…maybe the next generation does. As awful as our world is, we MUST try to fix it the next go round. Do not give up. Keep trying. We might get there.

    As someone grappling with depression and some hardcore misanthropic thoughts, this film spoke to me, and as I think about it right now, I just am filled with awe all over again at the achievement this movie is, on a story, acting and thematic level. Fucking masterpiece. Aronofsky, you just keep kicking my ass with your work. Don’t EVER stop.

  34. Majestyk, if you don’t live your days in constant fear of a vengeful god, and you’re not an atheist, then you’re a protestant. Don’t make me ask you about the use of condoms!

  35. I said I was raised Catholic and subsequently abandoned the faith. That happened when I was 14. For the past 23 years, I’ve been 100% an atheist. I believe in no higher power or guiding order besides the exquisite seeming chaos of physics. Call me a lapsed Catholic, call me a filthy heretic, just don’t call me a fucking protestant.

  36. I know you’re an atheist, I’m just messing with you. You’re way too smart to be religious. But I see people here in Norway who say that they are religious and at the most visit their local church for 30 minutes on the 24th of december. So I figure a protestant’s the most laid back you can be and still call yourself a christian.

  37. Here’s a question, guys: why do you suppose Aronofsky wanted to make this movie? I mean, as I understand it, he’s an atheist himself, so it’s not like he really shares Noah’s sense of the burden of God’s will. He could have just made it as a ridiculous fantasy movie with big fun setpieces, but there’s no evidence that he understands it’s ridiculous, and while there are big setpieces there’s no evidence that he believes they’ll be fun.

    The movie’s most overt theme seems to be environmentalism, but if that’s the case why put that in a story which is so much about a religion which you don’t believe in and fits rather imperfectly with that message? The central relationship in the movie is clearly between man and God, not man and nature.

    Is this actually a criticism of religion, then? Maybe sort of a huge scale parody of how bizarre the whole thing is, or how inherently disturbing it is? I mean, it definitely gets seriously dark and presents a pretty bleak vision of God and of religious people (if, arguably, a worse vision of everyone else). But why? What is Aronofsky’s goal in doing that?

  38. Now I feel that I have to see this movie. Actually saw a copy in the store when I was buying secondhand DVDs today, but it was fourteen quid (?!?!?!!!) and I was like “No. Nope. Just nope.” But I’ll keep an eye out and try and get it when the price drops a bit.

  39. Mr. Subtlety: Like a lot of atheists, I figure Aronofsky has a fondness for or fascination with the cultural aspects of the religion he grew up in, the stories and songs and shared communal experiences. I know a bunch of former Catholics who get all nostalgic for the hymns they grew up listening to, despite several of them becoming Marxists later in life.

    In that respect I don’t see Aronosfsky as being all that different from the Coen brothers.

  40. Best film of 2014 so far.
    And, based on what I’ve seen, #2 is not close.

    Mr. Subtlety, Justin, and Jonathan have it about right. Glad to see I’m in good company atop the cinephile misunderstood/underappreciated snob pile.

    (Oh and as for the “why” question:
    http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2014/09/19/darren-aronofsky-and-leonardo-dicaprio-s-descent-into-environmental-hell.html
    Just published a few hours ago. One of the best, most powerful articles/journals I’ve read in a long while. The godliness may be hokum, but Aronofsky’s environmentalist sentiment is real. Bless him.)

    Where to start? The score, my god my Creator, the score. What a tune. It’s 3 notes at first, innit? BAH-Dah-dhvooo… Then when Ray Winstone starts getting the evil star treatment, in the first of many climaxes, it’s two notes – BAH-braaahkmpaa. Something like that. (This is why you don’t type about music, kids. And why Art Vandelay should never don a tutu.) Anyway, Mouth wants to kiss this movie’s music on the mouth.

    Jennifer Connelly.

    Jennifer Connelly. Never better.
    If she’s not nominated for the big awards, then the system is broken and its voters should be washed away in some kind of ironic apocalyptic flood. Jennifer and her eyebrows just annihilate my soul here.

    (Emma Watson is kind of an atrocious feature actress, but whatever. Even Titian occasionally accidentally smudged the edge of his masterworks.)

    Jack Knife Javert SuperMan’s Pops Noah kills dudes with a hatchet. He kills dudes with a spear. He condemns an entire barbarian society and righteously abandons humanity while envisioning a scenario in which he may be forced to Abraham his own offspring’s infant offspring.

    He does all this after he chastises his son for killing a flower.

    I’m as 100% atheist as they come; this is a story (and “property”) that is animated & elevated beyond what its nonsense origins deserve.

    [By the way, I think the purity of essence of the animals, in proximity to their pure original creation, explains the lack of defecation and funny business (and basically excuses what we, from a more complicated period of history/evolution, call ‘incest’). Suspension Of Disbelief via Divine Fiat, if you will.]

    If anyone or anything merits a hosanna, my silly terrestrial prayers are directed toward a man named Darren, The Director.

  41. I don’t think there’s anything concerning the cultural aspects of Christianity present in NOAH. The movie treats the Judeo-Christian myth like it’s DUNE or something, a sci-fi-fantasy world reminiscent of but far removed from our own. I think Aronofsky probably just appreciates the allegorical aspects of the story. I don’t think atheism precludes a fondness for myth. Quite the opposite, in fact. Once you stop seeing religious texts as the gospel sent from on high and start just seeing them as stories meant to shed some light on the human condition, they become much more open to interpretation and thus much more interesting.

  42. I used to be a militant atheist, but I’ve calmed down (a lot) over the years. Still, I find this intellectual wanking Aronofsky and others do these days really offensive. Atheists – and we’re all born atheists, by the way – should help out by slowly making the bible part of the fiction section at our local bookstore, not confusing the victims of this sad mass hyphnosis by trying to find some sense in the damn book.

  43. I get that Aronofsky is serious about his environmentalism, but doesn’t this seem like a kind of weird vehicle for that message (even aside from it just being a weird ass film to begin with)? I mean, the way the final film plays, the conservation message (build an arc, save the animals) is a pretty minor point compared to Noah’s fretting over God’s will and the whole message that God is punishing mankind for its exploitative ways.

    I mean, if the point of the movie is “we’ve got to stop being so shitty to the planet” I don’t see how that message is particularly well conveyed by the story here, which essentially depicts a scenario of intentional and inevitable environmental disaster. It seems to make the case that we’re already damned by outside intervention, rather than that we should try to avoid environmental catastrophe of our own making.

    The most interesting thing in the movie, IMHO, is the weird relationship Noah must have with a divine being whose will cannot be understood and who had very little sympathy for puny humans or even divine superbeings. But although it’s an interesting story, its not particularly relateable for anyone who doesn’t think that such a being exists… is it? I mean, it’s almost another take of PROMETHEUS / STAR TREK V’s great philosophical hook, “What if you met God, and he was an asshole?” Pretty trippy, but not something I really have a lot of experience with day-to-day.

    I guess I found it pretty interesting, so I can’t really complain. I just wonder why it spoke so strongly to Aronofsky that he bet big on this weird-ass movie. I kind of like the explanation that he –like me and I bet a bunch of you here– just has a kind of nostalgic fondness for Biblical stories. You get ’em so early and often in Western culture that they just feel kind of fundamental to the whole way we tell stories and describe our world. Maybe that’s the appeal, kind of going back to something which seems so superficially simple and foundational, and kind of seeing what it looks like when you start filling in the details?

  44. I fucking loved this movie. Not in an ironic way, not in a “I find this more fascinating than entertaining” way, I just flat-out love this film. I think it’s the best thing that came out this year (maybe tied with Apes) and I’ve been trying to encourage everybody to watch it. It’s too bad that it gets caught up in religious debates, because I don’t even see it as a religious movie. I think it’s more of a big fantasy adventure like Lord of the Rings or Jason and the Argonauts. When you watch it, it’s hard to deny that it has a lot more in common with Clash of the Titans than The Ten Commandments.

  45. I loved this thing. I’m not a believer, but obviously this is a foundational story for our culture and it was just so exciting to see it treated as grand mythology.

    We’re so lucky to have a guy like Aronofsky. If I remember correctly, he was set to do The Wolverine (a sure-fire hit), but with the unexpected smash-hit Black Swan turned out to be (and the resurgent interest in Biblical movies) he opted to gamble his buzz on this long-held, crazy take on The Flood. So fucking ballsy.

    Would still love to see him do a super-hero movie, tho. Preferably something a little off kilter, like Ronin, Planetary or The Authority.

  46. I believe he left THE WOLVERINE because they were going to film in Japan and he ended up in a custody battle that would’ve been jeopardized by leaving the country.

  47. The Undefeated Gaul

    September 22nd, 2014 at 3:02 am

    And a major shame that was too. THE WOLVERINE was ok as it was, but Aronofsky would probably have lifted it to a whole other level. I’m sure he wouldn’t have put in fucking acid spitting reptile ladies and giant CGI robots drilling into people’s knuckles to suck out their healing powers. It’s high on the list of “greatest movies never made” for me, together with that Verhoeven/Schwarzenegger Crusades project.

  48. I seem to be the only one who remembers that he was also set to direct a Season 2 episode of LOST.

  49. Listening to “Make Thee An Ark” right now. Grand as fuck.

    I seriously could rant endlessly about the things I love in this movie, but I specifically wanted to gush about how much I love Crowe in it too. This is one of his finest hours. Topping it all is the little tour de force of internal conflict he does as he listens to Watson sing that lullaby, his knife inches from the baby’s head. Crowe is one of the masters of conveying so much emotion and soul with so little, and Jesus he moves you to tears in this.

    I will always have a grudge against the religious nuts who have done all in their power to insult and slander this film, and I honestly think that is to blame for its paltry box office. The majority of Americans are Christian, and so these fanatical fucks had one helluva big audience to brainwash and turn against the film. Masterworks with this kind of intelligence, ideas, emotion and astounding poignancy don’t come often right now, and I am livid that this one was not embraced by more people. Fuckin’ hell.

  50. Yeah Crowe deserves credit for that performance. What struck me when I first saw NOAH in the cinema was Crowes strong masculine presence. And in spite of my feeling that GLADIATOR is nowhere near as good as I first thought it was back in 2000, it remains watchable from time to time because Crowe brings a conviction to Maximus that the film ultimately fails to live up to.

  51. Hey Jonathan
    I love this movie, and am a huge fan of Aronofsky in general, but there’s no way this movie would have been a huge hit*. It’s an odd mix of High Fantasy and claustrophobic suspense which takes huge liberties with what’s expected of a biblical epic. It’s such a prickly, weird and personal project that I’m surprised (and very happy) it even got made in the first place with such a huge budget in the fist place.
    Not that I’m complaining.

    About why he made the movie – the guy had a conservative jewish upbringing, so that might play into it. Also, Noah is just such an Aronofskian character… I suspect at some point he conceptualized the character this way and boom, he just had to make the movie.

    *: Actually, looking into this**, it looks like it actually was a huge hit. Hurray! Now get cracking on Job, Darren!
    **: I also found out that he was one of the scriptwriters on Below. How awesome is that?

  52. Dreadguacamole – Really? I’d heard it bombed for the most part. Then again, in my ideal world this would have had Dark Knight-level grosses, so maybe I’m just too ungrateful for what it did achieve.

    And I’ve been transfixed by Aronofsky’s work since the first movie of his I saw, The Fountain. Yes, it was really complex and weird and hard to understand at times, but somehow…it still was gripping and emotional and beautiful. I’ve since seen Requiem for a Dream (one of THE harshest movies in existence, but it needed to be), Wrestler (beautiful, poignant stuff) and Pi (really trippy and interesting concept). I’ve unfortunately had yet to get to Black Swan, but I intend to soon. But man…Noah is like his Magnum Opus of Brilliance.

    Darren – with respect, I love Gladiator, but it could very well be that Crowe’s performance absolutely sells the whole thing to me. Well, him AND Joaquin Phoenix, who is one of the most unsettling and sickening villains in a big movie like that I’ve seen. Skin-crawlingly unbalanced performance.

    It’s just a damn great heroic journey for Maximus. And I simply don’t see the action scene criticisms. They feel intense and brutal, but never appallingly nonsensical or poorly edited. I do feel its been unfairly mocked and dismissed in the years since it came out. But to each his own, I suppose.

  53. mother! movie (2017) - Official Trailer - Paramount Pictures

    Jennifer Lawrence, Javier Bardem, Ed Harris and Michelle Pfeiffer star in mother!, directed by Darren Aronofsky. See it in theatres 9.15. A couple's relation...

    I think this looks pretty good but it really totally screams of a “she was dead the whole time” twisty vibe to the whole thing. You know.

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