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Laramie Movie Scope: Noah

Not your grandfather's Noah

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by Robert Roten, Film Critic
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March 29, 2014 -- I probably wouldn't have paid full price for this movie if it was some average Hollywood film, but this is a film directed by Darren Aranofsky, so naturally I went to see this on opening day. Aranofsky is one of the best directors in the business, and has made some of the most ambitious, innovative films in recent years. While this film is less innovative than some of his other films, it is ambitious, particularly in terms of its scale.

If you are looking for a film that is a strictly literal interpretation of the Biblical story, this isn't it. While it is true to the spirit of the story, there are a lot of extra elements in it, like giant animated rock creatures called “watchers” who are semi-fallen angels. The Watchers play a major role in the story, as do several characters who are not major players in the Biblical version of the story.

Noah (played by Russell Crowe of “Les Miserables,” and doggone it if he doesn't do more singing this time) has a vision of being underwater, so he heads off, with his family, to a mountain where Methuselah is living as a hermit. Along the way, the family rescues an orphan girl, Ila (played by Emma Watson as an adult). The family also acquires a friendly Watcher rock creature, who agrees to help them. Crafty old Methuselah slips Noah a drug, which gives him a vision of what God (always referred to as “the creator,” rather than “god”) wants him to do.

Noah plants a seed from the Garden of Eden given to him by Methuselah, which causes a forest to spring up. This is the only forest around because men have cut down all the other trees and made a wasteland out of the rest of the earth. The rest of the Watchers arrive to drag the friendly Watcher away, but stick around when miracles start happening after the Garden of Eden seed springs to life.

Aided by his family and the Watchers, Noah builds the ark over a period of years. It looks like a rectangular box, rather than a boat, made of logs from the forest and sealed with pitch. As the time of the flood nears, the animals start arriving. Noah's wife (played by Jennifer Connolly of “A Beautiful Mind”) cooks up a compound, which, when burned, causes all the animals on the Ark to sleep, sort of like hibernation. This is very handy, since the animals don't have to be fed or tended to while they are asleep.

As the animals arrive, so do the evil descendants of Cain, led by a king named Tubal-Cain (Ray Winstone of “Beowulf”) the same man who murdered Noah's father in an earlier scene in the movie. These men plan to kill Noah and his family and take the Ark by force, but first, they have to get past the Watchers, who are very intimidating fighters. There are other complications, since Noah's son, Ham (played by Logan Lerman of “The Perks of Being a Wallflower”) has no wife. He wonders where he will find a wife now that all the people in the world are going to be killed.

Noah's other son, Shem (played by Douglas Booth of “Romeo and Juliet”) has taken up with Ila, but she is barren. Noah believes that it is man's fate to die and leave the earth to the other animals on the Ark. He believes this is God's will, so he doesn't want Ham to find a wife among Cain's descendants. Ham, and some others, think Noah has gone crazy under the strain.

When Methuselah magically heals Ila and she becomes pregnant, this upsets Noah's plans to end humanity. He vows to kill Ila's child if it is a girl. Shem, Ham, Ila and others are determined to stop Noah from killing the baby. The small band, aided by the Watchers, must also repel an entire army, led by Tubal-Cain (armed with primitive guns). Later, the family must survive all that crazy environmentalism on board the Ark. There are no shortage of plots and sub-plots in this story.

If your religion tends toward deep ecology rather than monotheism, this movie has something for you too. Not only does God save the vegetarians and kill the people who eat meat, he saves the environmentalists (Noah's family) and kills the industrial despoilers of the earth (Tubal-Cain and his followers). The underlying idea of this is that the earth would be better off with no people on it. The only person in the movie who talks about God giving man “dominion over the earth” is the evil Tubal-Cain. Bible purists will not like this intrusion of blatant Hollywood theology into this story.

As you would expect, the parade of animals, the Watchers and the flood all require lots of fancy special effects, and the film delivers that spectacle very well, but it also delivers some fine performances from Crowe, Connolly and Watson in some very dramatic scenes. This may not be your granddad's version of Noah, but it is quite a yarn, and thought-provoking. This film rates a B.

Click here for links to places to buy or rent this movie in digital formats, or to buy the soundtrack, posters, books, even used videos, games, electronics and lots of other stuff. I suggest you shop at least two of these places before buying anything. Prices seem to vary continuously. For more information on this film, click on this link to The Internet Movie Database. Type in the name of the movie in the search box and press enter. You will be able to find background information on the film, the actors, and links to much more information.

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Copyright © 2014 Robert Roten. All rights reserved.
Reproduced with the permission of the copyright holder.
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Robert Roten can be reached via e-mail at my last name at lariat dot org. [Mailer button: image of letter and envelope]

(If you e-mail me with a question about this or any other movie or review, please mention the name of the movie you are asking the question about, otherwise I may have no way of knowing which film you are referring to)