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“Noah”: Long, Grim, Visually Muddy, and Spiritually Perverse

Evan Agostini/Invision/AP

Jason Jones and John Zmirak - published on 04/03/14 - updated on 06/08/17

But then again, maybe you've wondered what the story would be like if Noah was more like the Unabomber.

[Editor’s Note: we also published a positive review of Noah by Matthew Becklo today and a generally positive review last week by David Ives.]

Darren Aronofsky’s biblical epic Noah should really have opened in Washington and Colorado, where it’s legal to smoke the only stuff that could make the movie bearable.  In fact, theaters in those states would be well-advised to hand out cannabis brownies at the door, as movie houses in the 70s distributed “vomit bags” for splatterfest horror flicks.  We really can’t imagine how else the human brain could register pleasure from taking in this long, grim, visually muddy and spiritually perverse instance of CGI gone wild—whose proper title ought to be The Rocky Horror Bible Show.  First, a sober summary of the plot, not quite in the muddled order that the filmmaker presents it.

The world gets created (the lovely Genesis account is rehashed as rewritten by Cher).  Lots of cute little creepy-crawly animals thunder across the screen.  Animals are Good.  They are innocent—though how and why is not explained.  That principle is the film’s only moral center.  Then the Creator makes Adam and Eve as glowing faceless Light People.  They lope around the Garden as gracelessly as radioactive crash-test dummies until a smiling, cute green snake leads them to the Apple that beats like a heart.  They eat it, and suddenly their two sons are full-grown and in a fight.  (Spoiler alert:  Cain wins.)  Cain stalks off to found “an industrial civilization” with tens of thousands of citizens, with the help of the Watchers—a race of eight-armed stone giants that look like Rockem Sockem Robots, who come to life when hundreds of little Tinkerbells fall to the earth from space.  Those are the Fallen Angels, the movie admits.  Except that the reason they “fell” (literally and morally) was that they came down to “help the humans.”  That’s right, the demons were cursed by God for the sin of coming to earth to help us out.  Such sympathy for the devils is reiterated throughout the movie—for instance, when Noah passes down as a treasured family relic the snakeskin that Lucifer shed in the garden.  Are you getting confused?  Relax.  Remember: The animals are innocent.

Meanwhile, Cain’s youngest brother Seth behaves much more responsibly, apparently engaging in careful family planning, since he leaves only six descendants, all of them ecologically conscious vegetarians: Noah (Russell Crowe), Naameh (Jennifer Connelly), their three sons, Shem, Ham, and Japheth, and his great-grandfather Methusaleh (Hannibal Lector).  Okay, Methusaleh is technically played by Anthony Hopkins, but the actor portrays the biblical patriarch with so much of the creeping menace he brought to Silence of the Lambs that we couldn’t help getting confused.  Every time he asked his visitors whether they’d brought him any berries, we expected him to say that wished to serve them “with some fava beans and a nice Chianti.”  Noah and his clan are not simply vegetarians, but militants on the subject.  When Noah finds three of Cain’s kin who have killed a mammal, he executes their leader for sinful hunting.  (Because animals are innocent, even when they hunt.  Man does not have the right to hunt, because he is an animal except that… he is not supposed to eat meat… because… the answer is never made clear.)  At this point we stopped seeing the denim-clad Russell Crowe as the patriarch father Noah.  This wild-eyed killer of deerhunters and enemy of technology revealed himself as the Unabomber.

And the world needed an Unabomber.  Because the teeming descendants whom Cain somehow fathered took the knowledge given them by the man-helping, fallen-angel, Rockem Sockem Robots and turned most of earth into Peter Jackson’s 

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