Noah: A Sunday School story gone wrong


Religious and atheist viewers alike packed into theaters last weekend for Darren Aronofsky’s new film Noah which is an interpretation of the Biblical story from Genesis. In fact, the director himself is an atheist so the movie should have worked, no one was trying to force the bible down your throat. Whether this happened or not (and it didn’t) the film promised to be impressive, one of the greatest bible stories combined with breath-taking CGI, what could go wrong? Surprisingly lots.

 The film has a promising start, beginning with a quick briefing of the story of Adam and Eve, for those who are not familiar with the bible. Right from the start, viewers can tell this is going to be messy. Awkward patchwork scenes of silhouetted Adam and Eve skip to a disturbing, animated snake slithering towards the screen, and then to a pulsing, heart-like apple hanging from a branch. Seeing these images once during the film is alright (the snake frankly creeped me out), but they are repeatedly brought up over and over again.

  After the briefing is over, the protagonist Noah, (Russell Crowe) can finally take the spotlight. I was impressed with the beginning and had high hopes for the rest of the film, that is until the rock monsters came into the picture. These monsters (trapped angels who became imprisoned on Earth after trying to help Adam and Eve) are hard to believe. It becomes even harder to believe when they agree to help Noah build the ark. Then later, the creatures are seen battling to keep hordes of people from entering during the flood. When Noah takes on a “Transformers” feel you know things have gone horribly wrong.

  One of the biggest problems with Noah was the internal conflict of the protagonist. It’s hard to believe that Aronofsky wanted to depict Noah, the loving, ark-building grandfather we heard about in Sunday school stories, as a man bent on killing every human in the world, even the newborn twin of his daughter Ila (Emma Watson.) Towards the end, Ila and her husband Shem, played by Douglas Booth, rush to hide the twins and Noah, stumbling around the ark like a drunken murderer, searches with a dagger in his hand ready to “strike them down.”

  All this manic violence on Noah’s behalf is not even the worst of it. In my opinion, the movie should have been rated R because of disturbing scenes. In one part Noah ventures to the village and witnesses men trading their wives and daughters for meat. As pigs and donkeys are thrown into the heaving crowd they are graphically ripped apart, screaming. Another scene shows Ham, one of Noah’s sons played by Logan Lerman, racing back to the ark with his new wife he rescued from a mass grave. In one jarring moment the girl’s foot falls into a bear trap and she collapses on the ground screaming. Of course at that very moment an approaching army coming to save themselves from the flood tramples her with some sickening snapping noises, as if getting your foot ensnared in a bear trap isn’t dark enough.

 While getting caught up in this confusing story viewers can easily miss a few good performances. Emma Watson does a great job portraying Ila, the young mother wanting to protect her newborn twins from murder. Especially towards the end when Noah stands towering over her, a knife against her infants sleeping head. You believe and feel her terror as she screams “Make it quick, please make it quick!” Also, the star of the show Russell Crowe handles the difficult task of playing Aronofsky’s schizophrenic Noah, switching from noble, to loyal, to murderous, to loving with ease.

 Aronofsky knew what he was getting himself into saying he was taking, “artistic license” with the story. Most preview audiences were okay with this according Paramount executives, many gave the movie a positive score of A or B. Noah also did okay in domestic ticket sales with an estimated $44 million surpassing Lionsgate’s “Divergent,” which was estimated to make $26.5 million.

 Even though the bible story of Noah we heard at Sunday school is dark and hard to imagine Aronofsky took too much liberty with making the movie. Maybe he wanted to focus in on the challenges Noah must have faced and add a dark twist to intrigue moviegoers. Or maybe he wanted to add the fallen rock angles for a different outlook on how the ark was made. Sometimes directors can go a little too far and Aronofsky did.