This is a cross post from The Matt Walsh Blog and was originally published on March 29, 2014.
On Friday, my wife and I had a very rare date night.
Naturally, we decided to spend it being pummeled by the blaring condescension of the most insipid, absurd, unimaginative, clumsily contrived piece of anti-Christian filmmaking to come along since, well, probably just last week.
In fact, if I learned anything from "Noah," it’s this: despite popular perception, you can often judge a book by its cover. Also, giant deformed rock monsters make for awkward supporting characters.
We’ll meditate on that second item in a moment, but it’s the first point that should be especially emphasized.
Image source: Paramount Pictures
Christians: you’ll hear people insist that you can’t criticize the movie until you’ve seen it. Noticeably, the loudest voices in this camp are the ones who will (rather coincidentally, I’m sure) profit immensely if you meet their challenge.
Just use context clues. Use your judgment. Use your money on something else.
"Noah" is a major Hollywood blockbuster, made by an atheist director best known for his previous flick where a mentally disturbed lesbian ballerina goes insane and bleeds to death on stage. Already, a critical person might be slightly concerned about his handling of the Bible, considering what he just did to the ballet.
These concerns grew from suspicion to reality before it was even released, when the man himself came out publicly and professed "Noah" to be both an environmentalist propaganda piece, and the “least Biblical” Bible film ever made.
He wasn’t lying.
Darren Aronofosky. Photo Credit: IMDB.com
But he forgot to mention that it’s also a terrible film.
The way I figure it, I must now convince at least two people to skip this movie in order to cancel out the $20 I just contributed to Darren Aronofosky’s and Russel Crowe’s coffers.
What better way to do that than by spoiling the entire thing?
So here goes a thorough synopsis and spoiler, which will hopefully quell your curiosity and alleviate any urge you might feel to go and experience this ridiculous train wreck for yourself.
We are first introduced to the Noah of "Noah" on a hill in the barren wasteland of the Fallen. In a captivating and subtle initial sequence, our protagonist castigates his son for pulling a flower out of the ground, right before rushing to the aid of an injured dog.
A scraggly band of Bad Guys soon show up with the wicked intentions of devouring the animal’s flesh, because, in this story, the Height of Evil is to stave off your imminent starvation by hunting wild game. (If only they’d developed Noah’s ability to be a strict vegetarian in an environment almost entirely devoid of vegetation.)
The Bad Guys attack Noah, not realizing that he’s a vegan Martial Arts master. Noah proceeds to kick some serious butt, leaving all of the Bad Guys bleeding on the ground.
One of them looks up at him in awe and terror.
“What do you want?”
“Justice,” Noah growls with a determined gaze.
Russell Crowe stars in the new film, 'Noah.' (Photo: YouTube/Official Trailer)
I was expecting him to then whisper, “I’m Batman,” and disappear, but I realized that superhero movies wouldn’t have dialogue nearly so clichéd as this embarrassing farce.
At any rate, Noah wants justice. Of course, this is coming from the same dude who will spend the rest of the movie contemplating murder-suicide and threatening to stab babies in the face.
But, hey, nobody’s perfect.
After a troubling nightmare, Noah, for unclear reasons, sets off to find his grandfather Methuselah, who, for unclear reasons, hangs out in a cave and drinks hallucinogenic tea all day.
On the way, our heroes encounter a group of the aforementioned Rock Monsters.
The Rock Monsters — a cross between the Ents from "The Lord of the Rings," "Transformers," and "Muppets" — are fallen angels who came down to Earth to help the humans after mean ol’ God cast Adam and Eve out of Eden. The ‘Creator’ was ticked at the angels for being big softies, so he cursed them and turned them into Giant Stone Gumbies.
Christian apologists for this movie have claimed that the Rock Monsters are, in fact, “Biblical” because Genesis does make vague mention of “giants.”
That’s like turning Jesus into an Olympic figure skater and calling it “theologically accurate” because the New Testament says he walked on water.
Still, the Rock Monsters are great unintentional comic relief, so I certainly wasn’t upset to have them along for the ride.
Skimming over a few parts: Methuselah gives a roofie to Noah, prompting a hallucination about the ark. Noah and the gang and the Rock Monsters then start building the ark. More Bad Guys arrive, intending to takeover, but they’re scared off by the Rock Monsters.
In this “version” of the story, only one of Noah’s sons, Shem, boards the ark with a wife. Ham, completely wife-less, is a tad displeased at the notion of default celibacy for the rest of his life.
Understandable, I suppose.
Eventually, he runs pouting into the woods, falls into a hole filled with corpses, and finds a girl sitting among all the dead people. They fall instantly in love — the classic “how we met” story — and the two of them head back to the ark. Unfortunately, Ham’s girlfriend gets caught in a bear trap and trampled by a human stampede along the way. Classic breakup story. Noah forces Ham to abandon her and leave her to die.
Ham is mad. He pouts some more.
Here's Ham, searching ditches and mass graves for a bride. The movie apparently takes place sometime before Match.com came into existence. Photo Credit: IMDB.com
Noah also pouts. Everybody is pouting. And then it starts pouring.
As the rains begin, the Bad Guys make their climactic charge on the boat. We are then treated to an extended sequence of Rock Monsters swatting swarms of drowning people.
Interestingly, only the Main Bad Guy comes up with the clever idea to, you know, go around the Rock Monsters.
The Main Bad Guy’s genius maneuver pays off, and he successfully manages to sneak onto the ark.
Luckily, Noah and crew aren’t forced to make room on the ship for the Rock Monsters, because they’re all ascended into heaven as a reward for kicking a bunch of humans in the head for 20 minutes.
Sadly, all of the (unintended) levity and humor goes up right along with them.
The rest of the film will now be dedicated to a brooding Noah glumly obsessing over his belief that the Creator wants all human beings to perish — himself and his family included.
This forces him to have that difficult family meeting where he explains to his kids that humanity is wicked and they all must die.
But, as usual, it’s right when you plan the obliteration of mankind that your adopted daughter announces she’s pregnant. We’ve all been there. Am I right, parents?
Emma Watson as Ila in Noah. Photo Credit: Paramount Pictures
Noah is less than happy about the news, and tells Shem and Ila that, if they have a girl, he will murder it the moment it is born.
Needless to say, Noah doesn’t attend the baby shower and things are generally pretty awkward for the next nine months.
Meanwhile, as Noah plots to murder his grandkids, and Shem plots to kill Noah if he tries, the Bad Guy stowaway is also plotting with Ham to kill Noah. Ham is willing to cooperate with the homicidal plan because he’s still upset that his girlfriend of four minutes was trampled to death. Essentially, this has become a floating soap opera. Think "Days of Our Lives" meets "Waterworld."
Side note: If you doubt the Bad Guy Credentials of the Bad Guy, the writers made sure to include a scene where he bites the head off an endangered lizard while sermonizing about the glories of being a carnivore (this is how vegetarians see the rest of us). His Bad Guy Monologue consists entirely of simply and accurately quoting Scripture (this is how you identify the bad guy in a Hollywood movie).
The next several minutes of emotional-manipulation-disguised-as-plot-development center around the drama inevitably created when a man wants to kill his grandchildren, and all of his children want to kill him in return.
Ray Winstone as the Main Bad Guy in Noah. Photo Credit: IMDB.com
Finally, in the predictable climax, the Bad Guy tries to stab Noah, but Ham — getting cold feet over the whole patricide thing, I guess — ultimately decides to kill the Bad Guy instead. In the midst of the chaos — wouldn’t ya know it? — Ila goes into labor.
Shem makes a halfhearted attempt to stop Noah from becoming humanity’s first abortionist, but is easily tossed to the side.
Ila gives birth to twins — both girls. GASP. Noah charges at the infants with knife in hand, but has a sudden change of heart. Even though the Creator wants him to wipe out all of humanity, he refuses.
That’s when they hit land.
Next thing you know, Noah is drunk in a cave, depressed that he didn’t have the guts to murder his twin granddaughters. Ah, regrets. We all have ‘em.
Following a pep talk from Ila, Noah decides that maybe it’s OK if people repopulate the Earth. The Creator decides to go along with this new plan.
I’ve heard the movie compared to "Titanic" and "Gladiator." Personally, I’d say it’s more of a cross between "Mutiny on the Bounty" and "The Shining." Only far less coherent than any of them.
I’ve also heard some “Christian leaders” endorse this steaming pile of heretical horse manure. I’m tempted to accuse them of being cowardly, dumb, or dishonest, but I’ll just give them the benefit of the doubt and assume they slept through the most troubling parts — like the part at the beginning, and the end, and all of the parts in between.
It’s true that it might be a bit difficult to discern the “message” in a film so filled with explosions (the Bad Guys have bazookas, naturally), monsters, and infanticide, but any supposed Christian “leader” ought to try a little harder. Pay a little closer attention. If you do, you’ll see a tale that entirely perverts the nature of God, while flipping sin and immorality on its head.
Aside from a brief glimpse of something that appeared to be either rape or cannibalism, wickedness is portrayed as mostly a matter of eating meat and mining the earth for resources. Noah — a righteous man in the Bible — is stripped of his righteousness in favor of obsessiveness. God is stripped of any characteristics at all, apart from vindictiveness.
It’s not that "Noah" strays from the text — of course it does, the actual text is only a few pages long — it’s that the movie completely and utterly distorts the message and meaning of the original story.
This movie is not an adaptation of anything at all. As far as I can tell, both Noah the Movie and Noah the Bible story have in common: a guy named Noah, a boat, some animals.
(Photo: TheBlaze TV)
If you’re looking for a movie more obviously inspired by Biblical precepts, go see anything else. Go see "The Lego Movie." I’m sure even that will bear a closer resemblance to Scripture than emo Noah and his gang of Boulder Creatures.
But what if you don’t care about the Bible and you just want to see a good movie? The critics seem to love this film, don’t they?
Yes, they do. They love it because they’re a herd of politically correct cattle and this is a movie that they’re "supposed" to like. It’s made by an "important" director. It’s "controversial." It’s upsetting a bunch of Tea Party types.
Plot and script be damned; it’s already got all the necessary ingredients for critical acclaim.
Remember, these are many of the same critics who panned "The Passion of the Christ" — a beautiful, bold, and mesmerizing retelling of the greatest story ever told.
Politics and theology aside, "The Passion" is art. "Noah" is a marketing strategy.
And, in fairness, maybe it ought to be reviewed on those terms.
You can’t condemn it for being a poor Biblical adaptation, because it isn’t a Biblical adaptation.
You can’t condemn it for being a bad movie, because it isn’t a movie.
It must be considered as it is: a gimmick. A brilliant gimmick, for sure.
The 4000 year old clay tablet containing the story of the Ark and the flood stands on display at the British Museum in London during the launch of the book 'The Ark Before Noah' by Irving Finkel, curator in charge of cuneiform clay tablets at the British Museum, Friday, Jan. 24, 2014. The book tells how he decoded the story of the Flood and offers a new understanding of the Old Testament's central narratives and how the flood story entered into it. (AP Photo/Sang Tan)
If the movie studio wanted to spin a yarn about mythical beasts, epic battles, homicidal sea captains, and a pagan Earth god, they could have done so. They could have called it anything. They could have told their own story. But they called it Noah because they knew that the supposed connection to the Bible would garner immediate fascination. They knew there would be controversy, and controversy sells.
They padded it with enough action movie clichés to draw interest from secular crowds, they hid the outright blasphemy well enough to please gullible Christian crowds, and they mocked Biblical theology blatantly enough to delight the critics.
They came up with a way to make millions while exploiting the various sensibilities of different audience demographics.
That was their first and primary intention, and in it they succeeded wildly.
As an adaptation or retelling of Judeo-Christian theology, it’s a blatant mockery.
As a film, it’s like the script for a Syfy Network miniseries got shoved into a blender with the treatment for a Lifetime channel made-for-TV movie and then mixed with enough moping nihilism and environmentalist sermonizing to fool pretentious elitists into using words like ‘daring’ and ‘relevant’ when describing it. In other words, it’s aggressively abysmal.
But, as a money-making ploy, it’s a downright masterpiece.
Four Stars for marketing
No Stars for quality, substance, coherence, meaning, or theological accuracy.
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