April 4, 2014
I decided I had to see this because all the press surrounding it was so damn hilarious. I mean, this whole narrative about how the studio was upset because they thought they were getting a film they could market to conservative Christians and then it turns out the movie wasn’t, you know, at all Biblical, and I’m thinking, OF COURSE NOT, YOU IDIOTS, NOT WITH DARREN ARANOFSKY DIRECTING!!!! This is the man who directed Pi, The Fountain, and Black Swan, for crying out loud. This is a director known for cerebral, visually complex literary films. What on God’s green Earth (no pun intended) made them think they were going to get a film evangelical audiences would flock to? Then it started getting really decent reviews from the critical side of things, and I got even more curious.
So. First off, there was no disclaimer assuring audiences that this isn’t a strict interpretation of the Bible, at least not on the version I saw. Really, though, the thing was surprisingly faithful to the source material, in the way that most book-to-movie transitions are faithful. I absolutely loved the first half of the movie, because it slotted cleanly into the category of Sword and Sorcery, with wizards and warlords and deep magic and pleading to long-vanished gods who may or may not be listening. It reminded me, of all things, of the original Conan the Barbarian, and I mean that in the best possible way. This is a genre we don’t see taken seriously very often in the movies, and this was a solid, gorgeous vision of different kind of Hyborian Age. I believed the world, the despair and desperation. I was there, I was sold.
And then it all fell apart. They did that thing where they add a whole second movie on to the first one.
We got to the Deluge, and the aftermath, and I started checking my watch. And checking. And checking. I thought, “Oh, here’s the start of the third act…. oh no, I guess this is the start of the third act…. No, maybe this is the start of the third act… Or, maybe this movie has six acts. Or maybe seven. Oh dear…”
There’s actually a compelling storyline here where Noah has just gone completely stark raving crazy, which is understandable. But it’s not very interesting, because he’s being crazy and threatening to kill babies, and everyone else is running around screaming and crying and not doing anything else, for like five hours (time dilation — it was only one but it felt like five). What the story should have done is given all the other characters a spine. So that the story then isn’t Noah Goes Crazy and Everybody Runs Around Crying. The story is, Noah’s family points out that he isn’t the only one who gets to say what’s a miracle and what’s not. Because that’s what killed the storyline for me: the whole movie up to that point, miracles abound. But this last miracle? No, Noah isn’t buying it. Made no damn sense. My version? Would have taken fifteen minutes and everyone would be happy.
Anyway. The last half went on too damn long, especially when the audience was already looking for the end of the movie when it all started. Pacing, people. And I fear it needs to be said that there wasn’t a single person of color in the entire film, not even in the swarming crowd mob scenes.
Oh, and what I think happened: evangelicals weren’t upset that this movie wasn’t accurate to the Bible. They were upset that there’s a beautiful surreal cinematic depiction of the formation of the universe and evolution in all its glory spread across billions of years. It’s one of the really great things I loved about this movie, which has fallen firmly in my personal category of “I’d love to take a hatchet to this when the DVD comes out.”