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“Noah” Takes on Water But Barely Stays Afloat

Paramount Pictures

David Ives - published on 03/27/14 - updated on 06/08/17

Noah begins with an explanation of how the descendants of Cain, aided by fallen angels known as The Watchers (that would be those twelve foot tall multi-armed rock monsters I mentioned), went out into the world to build industrial cities, eat up most of the animals, mine all the glowing explosive rocks (don’t ask me), and chop down every tree they could find. The descendants of Seth, on the other hand, became Loraxes (no, they don’t actually use that term in the movie) and tried to speak for the trees the best they could. When we first meet the young Noah, he is about to receive the mantle of protector, which comes in the form of the snakeskin shed by Satan in the Garden of Eden, from his father Lamech. Before the ceremony can be completed, however, it is interrupted by the warlord Tubal-cain who is in pursuit of a wounded dog/armadillo something-or-other he hopes to have for dinner. Lamech keeps Tubal-cain from capturing the Seussian-looking creature, but is slain for his efforts, allowing Tubal-cain to abscond with the snakeskin instead.

Years later, while living far away from the rest of mankind with his wife and three sons, Noah receives a vision that The Creator is going to destroy the world. Unsure of what to do, Noah packs up the family and sets out across the wasteland to seek wisdom from his grandfather, Methuselah, who has been living as a hermit in a far away mountain cave. Along the way, Noah’s clan rescues an injured young girl named Ila, but are then captured themselves by The Watchers, who have grown weary and mistrustful of humans. Luckily, a Watcher by the name of Og senses that Noah is telling the truth about his mission from The Creator and helps the family to escape.

Upon finally arriving at Methuselah’s cave, Noah is slipped some psychedelic tea by the elderly patriarch and experiences another vision in which he learns he must build an ark to save enough animals to repopulate the Earth after the upcoming deluge. To aid Noah in this monumental undertaking, Methuselah bequeathes to Noah a magic seed which can instantaneously grow a new forest so there will be enough lumber to build the vessel (I promise you I’m not making any of this up). Noah also receives some unexpected help from The Watchers who show up and offer to pitch in on the construction. It turns out all those arms are pretty handy for carpentry. Unfortunately, an aged Tubal-cain also arrives on the scene with a hungry army and a bunch of those glowing explosive rocks, demanding that Noah turn the ark over to him. Noah refuses, of course, and so, while the rain begins to fall, he and his battalion of twelve foot tall multi-armed rock monsters must prepare themselves for war.

So yeah, Noah isn’t exactly one for the literalists out there. And I didn’t even get into the sub-plot involving Noah’s growing conviction that God really wants ALL humans to be wiped from the face of the Earth, including Noah’s own family. There’s a lot of stuff going on in the film. And honestly, if you approach it in the same way as something like Robinson Crusoe On Mars, not as a literal interpretation of the source material, but as a science fiction/fantasy movie that borrows elements and plot points from the original narrative, it’s all pretty entertaining. The movie runs for almost two and a half hours, and not once did I check my watch. That’s a high compliment in these days of over-bloated blockbusters, and it makes me a bit wistful that we never got to see that Aronofsky directed Wolverine movie.

And to give the movie’s overzealous cheerleaders their due, even as it plays fast and loose with the biblical story, Noah does still manage to touch on many of the spiritual issues inherent in the narrative. Aronofsky is the same guy who gave us films like The Fountain and Requiem For A Dream, after all, so it’s not like he’s shy about exploring topics related to the soul. The movie asks questions about what it means to be righteous and good, is there a dichotomy between justice and mercy, and is there really anything in humanity worth saving? Now, does Noah address all these questions satisfactorily? Wel
l, I imagine that’s going to be an interesting debate over the next couple of weeks, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see a few articles popping up here at Aleteia from various folks giving their take on just that very thing.

Personally, I think it falls a tad short and never quite gets to all the answers its seeking, not the right ones anyway. Despite its subject matter, it never quite reaches the level of spiritual exploration found in Aronofsky’s earlier works. I don’t know, maybe it’s the twelve foot tall multi-armed rock monsters which keep things from getting too serious. In the end, Noah is a fun sci-fi/action movie with a little more depth than the usual fare these days. It’s Aronofsky-lite, less filling than his other stuff, but still pretty tasteful.
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