Today I watched Darren Aronofsky’s Noah (2014)
Beginning in the mythical antediluvian times, this film, fittingly enough, tells the story of Noah and his Ark. If you are familiar with the story then you know the basic plot of the first half of this film as Noah builds a big boat because God has decided to destroy the world with a huge flood because of mankind’s wickedness. That being said, this film borrows heavily from biblical apocrypha and brings in The Watchers from the Book of Enoch among other elements. Of course the other humans are not happy that they are being wiped out by a god who never really gave them much love in the first place. But then the flood comes anyways and they all die but the movie does not end there s Noah has interpreted this massive death toll as a symbol that humanity is meant to go extinct, his family will be the last as it was their duty to build the boat and care for the animals until the flood recedes. Unfortunatly for him one of his sons has a wife and she is pregnant. So Noah states very clearly that if she gives birth to a female who can then bear more children, he will kill it to prevent humanity from continuing. Will he continue on this violent path to self-genocide? Or will Noah realize he is really being a dick and should just chill for a moment?
First things first I should elaborate on my experience with Christianity, as this is a major biblical film. I was raised among protestant Christians, went to Sunday school, but quickly came to distrust the doctrine. Today I have little respect for the modern institutions of Christianity and while I acknowledge that the faith was very important in developing a foundation for modern civil rights, I also believe it to be a rather negative force in the modern era as vestigial elements of it serve to hold back the same civility which it helped build historically. This isn’t a religion bashing blog though and while I criticize the institutions, I could care less what faith you ascribe too and I just think my opinion on the matter is important to the context of my review. This film riffs on a lot of religious thought, so I think my background with said source material does require a little expose to show where I am coming from in this review.
This film is really a two parter in terms of narrative, there is the before flood times of Ark building and human villainy, then there is the post flood time on the Ark with Noah’s conflict of faith when he thinks God tells him to kill his own newborn grandchildren. The first half is heavy with an environmental and anti-society message, Noah’s boat building camp is soon beset upon by the wicked other humans to drive those points home. The thing is, those people may act evil but they just want to survive when they have been promised nothing but oblivion by their creator. It is blatantly stated that the other humans ruined the world with uncontrolled urbanization and meat eating, but it’s also blatantly stated that God didn’t do much to prevent this. God is a lazy asshole who waited for a problem to get totally out of hand, allowed his children to grow up without proper moral guidance and then punishes them for not knowing otherwise. God is the only true villain of this film because he is the only character who kills without his own existence being on the line, everyone else is desperate to live, God is just desperate to clean his house out.
Some of this is addressed in the second act of the film, as does the real biblical story for that matter. In the Bible it is stated that God feels really badly about the whole flood deal and says never again, small consolation for committing genocide, but there it is. This is a character arc going from severe to merciful but God is not a character in this film, in the film God is a force who is never seen, so they gave this arc to Noah instead. This works pretty well as it does criticize religious fundamentalism, Noah is obviously taking it too far. But without God himself having an on screen change of heart, it actually just seems like he planned it all this way, he is a god after all. So while Noah gets this really complex moral arc, God still comes across as a huge villain who does not care about killing billions. Thus this film misses the biggest and most important element of the Noah story, it’s the one where God is a fallible, relatable character, and that is stripped out completely to make room for veganism, which comes off as rather shallow on the film maker’s part.
All that being said, I still do enjoy this movie because it embraces the fantasy of the Bible. The Bible, whether it teaches you solid morality or not, is still a work of fiction and deserves to be reinterpreted as a work of fiction, which this movie does very well. Furthermore, while it misses one of the source material’s major points, it does offer more modern and relatable themes of taking ideology too far and environmentalism. It also has great design and the Antideluvian world’s post apocalyptic vibe is pretty dang cool. On that not so are The Watchers, these misshapen fallen angels are a great movie monster who get their own little narrative in the first half which is at once both movingly tragic and heroic. Really the big problem with this film, god being a villain, is somewhat unavoidable, I don’t know if you have read much of the Old Testament but take it from me, God is a bad dude in it. I actually dig fantasy stories with villainous gods though, it feels pretty realistic that any thing with that much authority would be unknowably evil in comparison the humble human, I think the film could have addressed that in some way though. 4/5