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Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Reflections on the first 50-minutes of the film Noah

I don't believe the Old Testament story of Noah and his ark full of heterosexual animals and the flood that destroyed all of mankind thus paving the way for the Earth 2 continuity ever actually happened.  Now, a lot of you are probably saying, "Well, duh," but do you realize that just as many readers have this minute cursed me as a heretic and begged God to purge their minds of the offending sentence they've just encountered on this sinfully liberal, obviously atheistic and virulently anti-Christian Web site?  Look, it's a fine story, an uplifting tale in which an angry deity mass murders his creations because they turned out to be a bunch of jerks, a real heartwarming yarn repeated by others scores before the Bible was even in pre-production, I just don't believe any of it happened.  Starting the post out with this statement is intended neither as a warning to believers that some hardcore religious intolerance is on the horizon nor as a sneering indictment of Christianity as a whole.  I'm merely attempting to illustrate why a lot of what irritated Christian viewers about Darren Aronofsky's 2014 film Noah, didn't bother me all that much.  In my opinion, the story of Noah and his ark has never been rich enough to justify a feature-length film adaptation, so why not include rock monsters?

I should also admit here that I've only seen the first 50-minutes of Noah, and 20 of those were spent on a treadmill--I'm training for a 10K, blah blah blah whatever, stay tuned--so, my thoughts on the compleat Noah experience is not fully formed, though forthcoming.  Netflix issues made it so I had to stop watching around the scene where Hermoine is chatting with Noah about being infertile or something, but I'm pretty sure I've encountered enough of the "offending material" to offer some thoughts.  

The following are my reflections, seasoned a bit with that classic GEP wit you've all come to know/love/roll your eyes at, on the first half of the film.  They are not intended to make religious folks feel dumb or give the impression that I am some Bill Maher-style Christianity hater.  Also, it should not be concluded that I am a super fan and/or defender of Aronofsky's film.  I've only seen 50-minutes of it, for Methuselah's sake, and those 50-minutes, frankly, were just OK.  It's not the worst thing I've seen, but I'm not necessarily champing at the bit to leap back into the fray, if I may use two cliches in one sentence (I may.  It's my blog and I can do what I want.).

1. I conducted the tiniest amount of online research--regular readers of the blog will recognize this as my typical modus operandi--regarding the Christian community's reaction to Noah, and, as you can probably guess, I immediately bumped up against Answers in Genesis, the organization that, among other nutty things, believes that Man and dinosaurs lived together Flintstones-style.  AIG has posted numerous reviews and concerns about Noah online, most of which I, admittedly, barely skimmed, but the thing they took umbrage with that most interested me was Aronofsky's use of artistic license.

Yes, Mr. Aronofsky is presenting his own take on the Biblical account of Noah and the ark.  I do not remember hearing anything about rock monsters and mystical vision tea in Children's Church.  And what's all this about Noah being a vegetarian and respecting the environment?!?  The Noah story "they" tell you when you are a kid goes like this:

God was mad at everybody; He told Noah to build a giant boat and cram two of every animal inside it; He sent a flood to destroy the world--it rained for 40 days and 40 nights, if I'm not mistaken; after the rain stopped, Noah sent a dove on a secret mission; the dove came back with an olive branch, revealing that dry land does exist in Waterworld after all; Dennis Hopper and his band of jet ski thugs are defeated; God sends a rainbow, says "Sorry, dudes;" the animals engage in a massive re-population orgy; and you can't buy beer on a Sunday until after 12 PM.  

I don't think I need to tell you, but the Flood story is one thin soup.  There ain't much to it.  To sustain two hours of prime Russell Crowe brooding, it is necessary, nay essential, for one to take some form of artistic license.  My question to AIG is this:  Who cares?  Aronofsky didn't take the story of Christ's crucifixion--without a doubt a far more important story in the Christian tradition--and add a wise-cracking dog to it.  He didn't depict the Last Supper as some kind of Sushi Girl-style revenge dinner.  He didn't make a movie about the Nativity in which Baby Jesus is protected from an evil wizard and his orc army by a hobbit, two elves and a roguish swashbuckler played by Chris Pratt, and slap the label "Based on a true story" in the opening credits.  He took a straightforward, dusty old bland myth from the Old Testament and added rock monsters to it.  Again, who cares?  Is the Flood story that precious?  It certainly seems so to the AIG people.  To them I say, it's Noah's ark, guys.  So, Aronofsky's Noah doesn't dig on meat and is kind of a treehugger.  It's not Jesus with sunglasses, a black leather duster and a machine gun in the temple warning the tax collectors and falafel vendors , "I'll be back."  It's a Bible story for children.
2. OK.  I've mentioned these rock monsters enough, lets get down to it.  Yes, there are rock monsters in Noah.  I don't yet know the ultimate fate of their race, but they are around, a lot, and they're helping Noah build the ark, which totally makes sense if you think about it, because how did Noah and his family build a boat large enough to house two of every animal on the planet without the help of super-strong giants?  The answers, I'm afraid, are not in Genesis, so Aronofsky had to come up with his own, so, rock monsters.

But it's not like he doesn't explain what they are!  I mean, the movie doesn't just throw in a bunch of rock monsters like it's the most normal thing in the world.  The rock monsters are actually a race of beings called the Watchers.  They were once beings of pure light (i.e. angels), created on Day #2 of God's infamous Creation Binge (AKA The Big Bang).  Through their observations of mankind, the Watchers grow to care for humanity and even begin to pity them after the Fall.  God doesn't particularly like this, so he banishes them to Earth, where they become encased in rocks an dirt for some reason.  The Watchers make the best of a bad situation, and use their banishment to help humanity, until humanity turns on them (i.e. hunts them down and slaughters them mercilessly).  Many Watchers are killed, and the remaining few are rescued from extinction by a fire-sword-wielding man named Methuselah, Noah's grandfather.  When Noah meets the Watchers, they are pretty much just wandering the wasteland surrounding Methuselah's Mountain Fortress Playset, still bummed about being tossed out of Heaven and pissed off at mankind for being a bunch of insufferable dicks.

That said, I still can't quite get a handle on who Aronofsky's Watchers are exactly.  My first idea was that maybe they were the director's take on who God conscribed to stand guard at the Garden of Eden after Adam and Eve were evicted.  After hearing their story however, and it was revealed that they are considered fallen angels, I wondered if maybe this was Aronofsky's take on Lucifer's rebellion, but then I couldn't recall if that was Biblical or just Paradise Lost.  And then when that one Watcher tells Noah that they came to Earth to help humans out, I wondered if maybe he was admitting that he was, or at least knew, Satan, and the the whole Tree of Knowledge sitch was what he meant by "helping" (i.e. humans gained free will, put on some pants, etc), but God didn't like that.  In the end though, it doesn't actually matter.  Noah didn't have access to bulldozers or cranes, so, giant angels encased in rocks.  Why is that any crazier than anything else in the Bible.

3. Methuselah is, like, a magical witch doctor, I guess.  I don't know.  It's dumb.

4. I finally have a name for my current look: The Noah
Me, just add glasses, self-control and a boring American accent.

5. I've never been able to come to terms with the fact that Noah had a son named Ham.  That name makes me so hungry for a hoagie!

6. That armadillo dog at the beginning: Is that a dinosaur?  Is Aronofsky saying dogs evolved from armadillos?  Did one male and one female armadillo dog make it onto the ark, or did they get left behind to die with the dinosaurs, dragons and unicorns?  No major spoilers please, but can someone tell me how this whole armadillo dog thing shakes out?  Put it in the comments or send me an e-mail.  Do you think they taste good?  What do you think armadillo dogs taste like?  And don't say chicken.  Could you keep an armadillo dog as a pet?  Are they good with kids?

Next time: My reflections on the rest of Noah, if Netflix can get it's act together!!!

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