MOVIE MAN

New ‘Noah’ tale awash in weirdness

By Movie Man | Published Wednesday, April 2, 2014

OK, “Noah” was weird enough. Then the movie ended, and things got weirder.

The Movie Man has provided the general public with over a thousand glorious reviews. Yet, this was a first.

When “Noah” (finally) ended, the film (well, digital projection) was stopped and a young man, accompanied by a local police officer (!), called out that he wanted to speak to the crowd about Jesus.

Just then, the movie restarted, and the soundtrack music drowned him out (yes, that’s ironic) as the several hundred in attendance with the Movie Man decided to file out.

Still, a preacher with cop in tow – that was a first.

ABOUT THE FILM

The waves of negativity arrived early for “Noah.” “The trailer is misleading!” “It’s nothing like the Noah of the Bible!” “They don’t even mention God!”

Those Internet warnings kept plenty of Christian customers away. At the megaplex where the Movie Man saw “Noah,” another faith-based movie, “God’s Not Dead,” had sold out. “GND” had aleady shocked the box office world when it took in a staggering $9.2 million in just 780 theaters.

“Noah” still had generated enough interest from Christians and non-believers alike that plenty of people poured into theaters to see what the hubbub was about. The movie never claimed it would be true to the biblical text, and with a cult director like Darren Aronofsky helming, there was no way it would.

The director said the story of Noah was always a pet project. The studio, Paramount Pictures, was worried when the final cut arrived. They tested two other versions of the movie, much to Aronofsky’s dismay. Eventually, the one the director preferred reached theaters.

But not all movie houses. “Noah” has already been banned in several countries – including Egypt and Bahrain – because it is contrary to the teachings of Islam.

To say dramatic license has been taken with the source story is the biggest understatement since the Flood. Moviemakers created new animals, made Methuselah an Old Testament witch doctor (hey, he lived longer than any person ever so he might’ve picked up a lot of healing tricks through the centuries, right?) and created a near-laughable “love the earth and don’t eat its animals” theme (that even PETA crooner Sarah McLaughlin likely said, “Whoa, that’s just too much!”).

There are plenty of other oddities – giant, “Transformer” rocks that are fallen angels/demons who practically build the ark for Noah – but the Movie Man went in as a blank slate, giving the movie a chance. He wondered: Would “Noah” be a good film?

The answer is no. It’s a movie that those on both sides of the believability of the Good Book say, “Huh?”

THE PLOT (SPOILERS, IF THAT’S POSSIBLE)

Times are tough. Noah (Russell Crowe) and his vegetarian clan are descendents of Adam’s son Seth, the good guys. But Adam’s bad descendants – from Cain – are taking over the mostly barren earth. They eat meat and are constantly warring.

Noah has a dream where he’s underwater, amid a multitude of dead bodies. He knows the dream is from “the Creator,” however he isn’t sure what he’s supposed to do about it. So Noah packs up his family to go visit Grandfather Methuselah (Anthony Hopkins). Along the way, Cain descendants pursue them, but after scooping up injured Ila (Emma Watson), Noah’s family flees into even more barren – and human and animal bone strewn – desolation where “giants” live.

They quickly come upon those rocky giants, the “Watchers.” They are fallen angels who want nothing to do with man since humans messed up the earth back at the Garden of Eden. But one Watcher believes that Noah is on a righteous mission and helps him.

On a mountaintop, Methuselah drugs Noah, and it’s revealed he must build a really big boat. He does – planting a seed from Eden that Methuselah has stashed, a lumber-supplying forest immediately rises – with the substantial help of the Watchers.

Evil Cain dude Tubal-Cain (Ray Winstone) rules this part of the land, and he creates an army to storm Noah’s ark. It looks bad for the boat fellows, but God, I mean the Creator, unleashes His gargantuan torrents of water. Yet Tubal-Cain manages to sneak onto the ark.

The world’s destroyed. While all the critters sleep peacefully onboard, Noah tells everyone that this is it; the new earth will have no human inhabitants after them. That’s bad news for Ila who is pregnant with Noah’s son Shem’s babies – yes, twins. Noah says he will kill them immediately if they are girls.

They’re girls. But will Noah obey what he believes is the Creator’s no-more-humans stance or spare the children?

WHAT WORKS

Crowe and Watson are the standouts. They share a scene late – on the deck of the now-landed ark where Watson cradles her newborns as Crowe towers before her, knife raised – that should never work but somehow does.

There’s a nice triumvirate shot of Eden’s serpent, the forbidden apple (which pulses) and Cain slaying Abel that recurs then later pays off.

The water effects are pretty cool as are all the computer-generated shots.

BEST SCENE

While they float around, Noah tells his family the Eden story. Aronofsky, whose “The Fountain” (2006, a 5) is a computer-generated wonder, shines here, summing up the origin tale and even managing to merge evolution and creationism in 60 seconds.

WHAT DOESN’T WORK

This “Noah” is some freakish combination of science-fiction, fantasy and a moral tale of biblical justice, a bizarre merging of “Transformers,” “Lord of the Rings” and “The Ten Commandments.” These do not mesh at all.

This might be the worst soundtrack of the year. Right off the bat, there’s this heavy-handedness, which is later joined by near-jazz infusions.

Noah is a jerk most of the time and so is Ham (Logan Lerman), who rightfully is curious about how he’ll attain a wife when the new beginning starts. But Ham’s allegiance to Tubal-Cain is just dumb.

Worst of all is the incessant symbolic bombardment of the evils man is doing to the earth. It’s an easy analogy and is hammered home so often that it gets annoying. Climate control advocates will dance a jig at this Greenest of Green movies.

THE RATING

There’s some blood during the battles, some floating and piled-up dead bodies, and a biblical patriarch threatening newborn twins. The PG-13 is correct.

SUMMING UP

Far-right evangelicals will nod that Hollywood has blasphemed another holy story. Regular moviegoers will stagger out wondering what exactly it was they just saw. Either way, “Noah” disappoints.

NEXT UP

“Captain America, The Winter Soldier.”

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