Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Noah Floods Box Office With Action

Russell Crowe heeds the call to save all creatures great and small and learns some important things about himself in Darren Aronofsky's Noah.

ARTH VADER (AV): The world needed to be cleansed of evil and wickedness. One man is tasked with saving two of each creature of the earth. According to biblical scripture. And so the stage is set for Darren “Black Swan” Aronofsky’s Noah. Religious affiliations aside, the great Rudyard Kipling (yes that one, of The Jungle Book fame) once said; “if no part of the Bible is true, then it is a colossal waste of time, but, if even a small portion of it has any truth to is, it is the most important document ever written.” With that as this film’s backdrop, Aronofsky retells one of the Bible’s most famous tales with incredible artistic license, even veering toward the controversial. Thought’s pontificator? 

THE PONTIFICATOR (TP): About continuity Vader? What continuity? This film barely resembles the source material, which doesn’t surprise me at all given the story was written by self proclaimed “humanist” Darren Aronofsky. It’s not that you have to “believe" to make a great film, but with the amount of liberties taken here…it might as well have been called something else entirely. Maybe “The Crazy Man on the Water” would have been good.

AV: Though I question some of the film’s characterizations, this cast is so powerfully presented and star A-Listers all the way down the line, it is hard not to appreciate this film based on the credentials of the film’s stars. So who are the players? Russell “I am Gladiator!” Crowe plays a driven Noah alongside onscreen wifey Jennifer “Betty Ross” Connelly, as Noah’s wife Naameh. Also, in a characterization I did NOT see coming, the greta Sir Anthony “Hannibal Lector” Hopkins plays the wise old Methuselah, Noah grandfather. Even the great Nick “48 Hours” Nolte lends his talents to voice the fallen angel Samyaza. Emma “Harry potter who?” Watson and Ray “Hugo” Winstone help complete a powerful cast to round out Aronofsky’s powerful vision of the world’s cleansing. The direction was ritzy, filled with powerfully real effects shots, environments and landscapes, portraying a world gone sour and filled with darns and despair. Ponty, would did you think of the casting? 

TP:  Russell Crowe is always a great actor and he certainly sold me on the idea that Noah had lost his mind. Ray Winstone and Anthony Hopkins were also a pleasure to watch as was Jennifer Connelly. In truth, the acting was the driving factor that made this film watchable. I did find myself dozing off here and there, so the pace dragged a bit at times, but seeing the craziness of Noah, or the villainy of Tubal-cain, or the mysteriousness of Methuselah always snapped me back.


AV: The visual effects were stunning in Noah. The pre-flood landscapes were portrayed as industrial wastelands (again, you have to acknowledge some personal takes on the story and backdrops). The most surprising elements  were the fallen (angels), portrayed as grotesque rock trolls with flaming eyes and a towering presence. The forest that springs from the ground to provide the wood for Noah and (spoiler alert!) the Fallen to build the Ark. Most compelling of though, were the animals. Ponty, I have a special place in my heart for well-done visual effects and the animals in Noah, slithering, crawling and flying toward the ark were up-lifting. Last but not least, the flood itself. Beautiful and terrifying and the ocean itself afterward was splendid, it was hard not to appreciate and since I am sure no real Ark was built, even the ark had very natural splendor to it, wouldn’t you say? 

TP: I’ll say there were effects…but they were certainly not special. I really expect more from a film in the year 2014 than this film was able to deliver when it comes to effects. Even the costumes were lacking as I swore I spotted blue jeans and Uggs here and there. At no point was I impressed with the effects, not even the animals as it was certainly nothing that I haven’t seen before…and nowhere near the best it could be done.


AV: The story of Noah is powerful one that has–literally–been around for thousands and thousands of years. There are evidences of the great Ark purportedly found in the Himalayan mountains. While this is hardly a place to take theological stand for or against, this movie was well-done. I am a sucker for any film Russell Crowe or Anthony Hopkins appear in. The first part of this film was just short of brilliant, the landscapes, the sense of hopelessness, oppressive environment that made the audience feel the oppression. The second part was much less so, visually captivating and almost void of all the intelligence an rich storytelling from the first hour. Noah’s character damn near falls apart by the end of the movie threatening to kill his own grandchildren (twin baby girls) and becomes a man caught in his own zealot-like reality. The films ignites important discussions on everything from the nature of man, to the nature of spirituality to what is right and wrong. What more can I ask for Ponty? 

TP: I’d start by asking for a good film Vader. Maybe knowing the story of Noah made me a bit jaded, but I try really hard to empty my cup when I watch movies so that I can tell when one is really bad and it’s not just my feelings of unmet expectations. This film was really bad. Forget all that stuff about it not staying even remotely true to the source material…I’m used to that. I was more concerned with the shoddy writing for these great actors I was witnessing. Noah being psychotic but still supposed to be our hero? Not buying it. His son Ham contemplating killing his father after being silent about his father’s mortal enemy stowaway for nine months, over his lust for a girl he just met? Stranger things have happened, but I’m still not buying it. I found myself asking “Are you serious?” so many times in this film that it occurred to me that the “creators” of this film just couldn’t be…so I stopped taking it as such, and even with that outlook…it didn’t improve.


AV: Normally I would be want to say that this movie has no sequel but there really could be. Both from after the landing of the Ark and the release of the animals as tides subside, or other brooks form the Bible that follow the saga of the great flood. For some I know this content is hallowed ground but Hollywood has not backed off of this content, knowing it will draw millions at the box office. If movies like The Ten Commandments, The Last Temptation Of Christ and The Greatest Story Ever Told are any indication, I have a strong suspicion we will see many more biblical stories brought to life on the big screen. 

TP: Let’s all pray that it doesn’t happen.


ARTH VADER rates Noah: While 2014 sputtered out of the gate with mediocrity, this movie is worth a watch. A good home theater will deliver the same riveting experience found in a theater and is highly entertain gin and certainly worth the 138 minute runtime. Falling short of being an ‘epic’ and not without it’s fair share of flaws but Noah washes away seven (7) busted blocks with the promise of a new day. 

THE PONTIFICATOR rates Noah: I wish I could say it was a good film, but I can’t. I wish I could say it had supreme special effects, but it didn’t. I wish I could say something more than the acting was great, and the script was garbage… but I’d be lying if I did. In the end, this film was drowning in it’s own shortcomings and could only wash away four (4) busted blocks… drowning any hope for a miracle. 

Noah: 5.5 / 10 Busted Blocks

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