Thank God Darren Aronofsky got Russell Crowe to star in his wet hot mess of a movie, “Noah.” Crowe’s massive presence and incredible skill at playing men much put upon and beset by trials and tribulations keeps the film from sinking into total silliness. Like Kevin Costner, -–remember “The Postman? -- Crow has a rare gift for making the viewer think that, no matter what it is, Crowe actually believes it in that moment. And since film is made up of moments, many moments, it’s enough to convince me and keep me seated.
And “Noah” needed everything Crowe could bring to this fascinating, awful, ridiculous, moving, powerful, silly movie.
We’re all pretty familiar with the story – God, man’s wickedness, the animals, rain, a dove – but the story in the Bible is only two pretty straightforward chapters. That’s it. And no explanations. A few minutes reading and you’re done. But a movie has got to last two hours and has to ‘splain things, and so Aronofsky had to cook stuff up. Like The Watchers, fallen angels who were punished by God for the sin of helping mankind, and were turned into waddling Transformers made of chunks of stone, one of which was voiced by a rumbling, growly Nick Nolte, if you can picture that.
So now we’ve got God, man’s wickedness, the animals, rain, a dove and . . . . Transformers! You see something like that and you gotta say to yourself, “Maudie, I think we’re in for some kind of wild ride here.”
Well, really, what can you do with this story that a few sci-fi bits wouldn’t help? And special effects, and fabulous CGI work (all the animals were computer pixels, speaking of which, spoiler alert: The Noahs, Fred and Wilma, cooked up some herbal concoction and smudged the whole ark, putting all the animals into a deep sleep, which neatly solved the problem of poop, massive piles of poop being popped out for 150 days And dog and cat fights and seasick elephants trumpeting in fear and lurching from one side of the ship to the other like shifting ballast in high seas.)
And, this being a spectacle, there were way cool explosions, creepy symbolic visions, requisite battle scenes out of Game of Thrones With Rain and a preposterously wonderful ark, the building of which caused it’s own back story.
Seems the movie was filmed in Iceland (Better visuals to indicate the crappy state of the earth and how beset and put upon Noah and his family were. Also no explanations of where their rather large yurt came from since they were only carrying small backpacks ), which means we had a terrible, bare hardscrabble landscape with no trees. So early on I was on alert wondering how they were gonna write their way out of that problem; Ark, wood . . . no trees.
Well, silly me. That’s where the screenwriters and the CGI boys come in: Methuselah (Noah’s grandfather (Anthony Hopkins), who had been living in a cave. Don’t ask.) has a magic seed that when planted suddenly causes a whole forest to spring up, so, ka-boom, trees!
See how it goes?
Unfortunately, the problem of patching plot holes wasn’t as easy to accomplish when it came to the “issues” going on with Noah’s family. For some odd reason, the screenwriters conflated the story of Noah with the story of Abraham and Issac.
In the Bible, Noah and his wife and their sons Shem, Ham, Japeth and their three wives entered the ark. They and their wives and all the animals were saved so they could repopulate the world. In the film, Noah decided that God only wanted to save the animals . And in this version, the sons had no wives, only a rescued young lady whose reproductive organs were damaged, which meant that there was only one fertile female (Mom) so the race of man would just die out. So now we had a “family situation” going on: One son gets child-free nooky, the other son doesn’t. Enter Methuselah (again!) and he magically fixes the young girl and she gets pregnant.
And suddenly we’re bang in the middle of Abraham’s narrative: Noah declares that God chose him to make sure that mankind dies off (providing nobody looked at Mom and figured out she was capable of begetting.) So if the baby was a son, it would live, if a girl, Noah would kill it and so carry out God’s commandment.
Oh, the drama! And with much wailing and hollering, twin girls are born and what’s a crazed Grandpaw to do?
Well, this is Hollywood in the 21st century, not BCE, when the God of the Old Testament was as changeable and terrifying as a Bridezilla on PMS. So, unlike Abraham, whose murderous hand was stayed by God only because Abraham was actually willing to kill his son, in this muddled script, Noah fails God’s instructions (kill all mankind) and finds his hand stayed by “Love,” a New Testament concept seriously out of time and place to the original story.
What am I saying? We have Noah and Transformers, so, sure, “Love.” O.K. Fine. Fine.
And that’s where Russell Crow always earns his fabulous salary. A man seriously beset who somehow endures and prevails and triumphs.
Oh, and the angelic Transformers? Before dying in battle, Nick Nolte begs God’s forgiveness and ZAP! all the fallen angels are returned to their fiery glory and zipped up to heaven like reverse comets.
Which made me wonder, “Why didn’t they ask sooner? Would have saved a good deal of time painfully shuffling around encrusted with mud and rocks.”