Movie Review: Noah – Myth, Faith & Beauty

Last night I went to the first showing of Noah.  My reaction during the film were across the board of feelings of wonder, joy, sorrow, and horror.  Yet, what I can say first and foremost is that the movie is absolutely beautiful.   Director Darren Aronofsky is known for his beautiful, even raw shots in films such as Requiem for a Dream.  On the scale of the Biblical epic that surrounds the events of the flood he did not hold back in illustrating the struggle, both natural and human elements, founded in the story.  For Christian viewers hoping for a positive message or some obvious sense of God, I wouldn’t recommend this movie.  I’d even go as far to say that trying to insert how the flood occurred will make this movie rough for you.  Aronofsky has a Jewish background and it comes out strongly through this movie, from the traditions that Noah and his family par take, to the imagery that is continually present throughout the film.  There were still implicit movements of the Holy Spirit that I thought were more telling and beautiful than an obvious command from the Lord.  Noah was about the flood, yet it was also about the family that was given the mission and blessing to be the new root of humanity.

(Spoilers)Alright, now I’m going to launch into a real analysis of the film or at least the places that struck me the most/meant the most to me.  Now to start at the beginning…we find Noah(Russell Crowe) with his father, Lamech(Marton Csokas), about to undergo the right of manhood.  This is all interrupted when the sons of Cain come and kill Lamech and Noah flees.

Flashing forward to when Noah is now a father of three boys, Shem(Douglas Booth), Ham(Logan Lerman), Japheth(Leo McHugh Carroll).  We watch as the they carry on and are always on the watch for the sons of Cain.  Noah is then approached by a dream/vision, which is basically how God speaks to Noah throughout this film.  He is the only one to receive any guidance, which is mostly locked into random images of the the Garden of Eden, the Fall and Cain’s betrayal of his brother, Abel.  And he is then struck by the image of the entire world underwater and the movie’s conflict/plot is set.

We come into contact with the Watchers, which for some may be the most ridiculous part of the movie.  These stone giants, contorted horribly and multiple armed, but are actually angels that sought to help Adam after the exile from Eden.  Yet, there was something utterly fantastic about them that kept me interested and they fulfilled a role in helping Noah with building the ark.  Another note should be made upon Methuselah(Anthony Hopkins), who provides the role of priest/wise-man up until the flood.  His rather humorous ‘berry obsession’ was something that was endearing, but never over the top.  He provides a pseudo father figure to Noah, in trying to tell Noah to trust himself and what he has heard from the Lord.

The coming of Tubal-cain(Ray Winstone) and his ilk provides not only more conflict aside from the flood, but brings out the human drama that Noah and his family had to endure.  It may seem shocking to see how Noah changes in his perspective in seeing the wickedness of Man and knowing that the fallen nature of Cain is in all of us, but to me it is almost understandable.  I found Tubal-cain an interesting character insofar as he only wanted to hear from God.  “Man was made in His[God’s] own image” as it is pronounced multiple times by him in the film and the distortion of what this means comes out in how man has twisted the world to his goals and desires.  A strong moment is at the point before Tubal-cain leads the charge against the ark, hoping to save himself, he shouts to the sky “Speak to me!”.  There are no agnostics in Aronofsky‘s film.  Every person/being is fully aware of their Creator, despite whatever misgivings or even hatred they have of Him.

The drama on the ark between Noah and Ila(Emma Watson) is incredible.  It made me shift uncomfortably in my seat to think he would kill his own granddaughter and therefore bring alienation upon himself from his family, but it played out beautifully.  In a situation where they witnessed the destruction of thousands if not millions of people, how can anyone believe they are worthy to be saved?  We have lovely Jennifer Connelly playing as Noah’s wife, Naameh, who gives a marvelous performance as well as a mouth piece for God’s Love/Mercy.  It all comes down to the miracle that is new life and the beauty of new creation founded in the twins that Ila gives birth to, which stops Noah in his tracks.

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As the final resolution to the conflict we find him drunk in a cave.  Which honestly is another excellent mark of the film, because Noah despite forever being in our minds from Sunday school as a servant of God, we find a distinctly human man, who is filled with self loathing and feelings of failure.  It is here when his sons come and comfort him.  It is this starting moment that Noah finally achieves a sense of peace with what he has accomplished.  He has done all the Lord asked him, despite the dramatic cost it has brought upon his family and himself.  He took on another burden too with failing to see the goodness of new life and innocence in Ila’s babies at first and could not forgive himself for nearly killing them.  In the last shot of the film though that it all comes together and ends in Noah reciting passages from the Old Testament and the sky is literally filled with the colors of the rainbow.  The darkness that the family has endured has been overcome and now beauty, new creation and life have begun anew for all of them.

I promise go see the movie, you will not be disappointed.  It is already my favorite for this year.

*Last Note* -There has been a lot of talk on how Noah presents an ‘environmental message’.  I’m going to be frank and say take your head out of your ass.  If you are only seeing that superficial message you are missing a huge portion of the movie.  Noah was given the task of saving the animals and man, of course there’s going to be mention of saving the earth, but it’s an emphasis on stewardship.  I could go on, but I might save that for another post.

Review: Man of Steel

Alright, so last night I watched the movie Man of Steel.  I personally didn’t like it.  It had its moments and great one-liners, but the overall execution of its themes and characters were severely lacking and lacked any emotional impact for me.  Of course your own perspective may differ from mine, but I’m just going to write about a few specifics that bothered me the most.  There are some spoilers, so if you haven’t seen it and do not want the movie ruined do not continue reading.

First, Man of Steel couldn’t really decide on what sort of movie it wanted to be.  The consistency was entirely off throughout the entire film.  Let’s do a recap:  The beginning involved a fight between Jor-El (Russel Crowe) and General Zod (Michael Shannon), which lent a tone of tragedy and action, which must end disastrously.  If anyone knows even a sliver of Superman lore, we all know that it has to end badly for the Krypton(ians?).  Yet, beyond this opening we have disjointed flashbacks from Clark Kent or Kal-El (Henry Cavill) as we later find out, who dwells on various events in his life of where he struggles or even saves the day. This goes alongside the fact of the real story progression involving the threat of General Zod terra-forming Earth to make a new Krypton. To me it seemed as if the writers and director (Zac Snyder) couldn’t decide what they wanted to make this movie into, it seems to be all at once an origin/superhero/action movie.

Second, There are these allusions to Plato alongside heavy Christian themes, which are only thinly veiled as something else.  What springs to my mind first is when Clark is remembering his father’s words of bringing humanity up and saving them from similar mistakes like the Kryptonians. It has a superficial allusion to Plato’s cave, which can be confirmed by the fact that young Clark Kent is seen reading Plato’s works in a flashback.  The Christian elements are referenced in how Kal-El must become Superman and save the human race(stated by Jor-El in dramatic fashion).  He leaves General Zod’s spaceship after a daring escape by Lois Lane (Amy Adams), yet takes the time to form Christ’s posture on the Cross for a moment, before proceeding to narrowly save Ms. Lane from a crushing death.  Earlier in the film, when Kal-El is taken into custody by the U.S. government he admits to being thirty-three years old. Any Christian who grew up in Sunday school would know that it is the same age that Christ was when He completed His ministry and was then crucified.  Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy it when movies give themes that present goodness or Christianity in a better light, but when it is thinly veiled it tends to be seen at least by me as shallow and unimaginative.

Third, The characters as a whole do not truly grow or develop as the movie progresses.  Given, there are only two hours to really have growth or change, but the characters should change somewhat from what they were five minutes in, to someone different by the last ten minutes.  Sure, Clark Kent realizes his destiny as Superman(though the name is never mentioned) and Lois Lane falls for the Man of Steel, but these were the obvious progressions of the film and nothing new to surprise the audience.  In another degree, Clark Kent seems to make a movement of finally being able to use his abilities for the good of all humanity.  Yet, that seems to be the only growth of a character in the entire movie.  Sure, I may be asking a lot from a superhero movie, but I think the audience should demand better from directors after the masterpiece of Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy.

And this is what I thought.  Maybe you agree, disagree or don’t care about what I think here, but just some small notes to stroke the interest.  I may do more of these as I watch movies, because in a sense they help me process them better.