I Watched “Noah,” And Didn’t Lose My Faith

Actually, Joe Six-Pack did the unthinkable and saw two (count ’em!) movies this weekend. The first was for a date night with my wife, and the second was because of all the hullabaloo about Darren Aronofsky’s latest effort.

Since you’re dying to know what the first film was, lets get it out of the way first.

Really? “Monsieur Chuck?” Get me a beer, please.

It was Wes Anderson’s The Grande Budapest Hotel. Ranked highly by the critics (see score at Metacritic), it wasn’t as good as Moonrise Kingdom in my opinion.

In fact, I’m starting to think that if you’ve seen one Wes Anderson film, you’ve seem them all. At least in Moonrise Kingdom, I felt like the two main characters mattered to me. Despite Ralph Fiennes giving possibly his best performance since Schindler’s List (I mean, who knew Fiennes could be funny?!), I still was left feeling like the whole enterprise was an exercise by Anderson to give screen time to all of his favorite actors, one 3 minute snippet at a time.

I will say this, though. It was most certainly shot in Anderson’s trademark style, with great sets, locations, miniatures, and animation. Can you say, “centered?”

Centered, it was. A little too self-centered. Rated R for language, depictions of sexual encounters, and some gratuitous bloodletting, the film could have been shot without those detractors for the better. Still, I give the nod to Moonrise Kingdom as being where I should have quit while I was ahead. I liked the characters in Moonrise, and felt concern for them.  I didn’t in Budapest. So it goes.

On to Noah.

This is the film that I was not expecting to like better than Anderson’s film, but I did. You know what else? I took the whole family (except my oldest, who had to work) to see it and we didn’t lose our faith as a result. I didn’t even feel like I got rooked into padding the annuities of all who were involved (I’m talking to you, Anderson). No. I felt like we got our monies worth, and then some.

Sure, I read the early reviews. I even shared the news when some were crying foul from early screenings of the film. But I’ve been reading the Bible since New Years, so the biblical epics due to hit the screens this year are on my radar. I’m no professional reviewer of films, but I can tell you that I think the film worked, and that it is worthwhile to go see.

Were there liberties taken with the source material? Absolutely. Do yourself a favor and re-read Genesis chapters 5 thru 9 before you see the film. And it will be good for you to read over the passage again afterwards too. Especially when you’re discussing what you saw with your kids. Because this film does lead to discussions, and folks running to their dusty family Bibles that they maybe haven’t lifted from the shelves in ages.

If your family doesn’t have roots in Judaism, it’s likely that no one under your roof even knows what a midrash is. It’s likely that the last time you even heard of the nephalim was in an old episode of The X-Files (which you can introduce to your kids via Netflix). Reviewer Steve D. Greydanus did us all a solid by doing the homework on Aronofsky’s deviations, in case you missed them while reading the biblical text.

But like I said, the movie works. The story flowed. You won’t be watching the film and be left wondering what is going on. The Watchers help Noah, and you’re not left wondering why. Noah and his family (and Methuselah for that matter), live apart from the folks in the cities. You’re not left wondering why. Miracles occur, the ark is built, the animals come, and you understand why.

“The beginning of everything.” Did you catch that?

That Aronofsky chose to leave out several wives for Noah’s sons drives the action, and the tension, in the last third of the film. Would I have done that? Probably not. But I’m not a filmaker, see? I’m Joe Six-Pack, remember? I fly ’em. I don’t build ’em. I left the theater satisfied, happy that my kids a) didn’t think it was a waste of their time, and b) glad they knew enough to discuss the differences in the film from what they had been taught about the Flood narrative.

So it was a PG-13 win-win, as far as I’m concerned.

Unlike in Budapest, I cared for the characters in Noah. If it galls you that God’s hand doesn’t appear to close the door of the ark, or that Russel Crowe’s Noah has doubts about what his mission is supposed to be, or that the bad guy stows away on the ark, then this film may disappoint you. But if you let Aronofsky tell his story, while putting away your ideological lens for a couple of hours, you just might find yourself enjoying a dramatically different take on a story that you thought you knew like the back of your hand.

How important are the women in the story? Let’s just say that you’ll be glad Jennifer Connelly and Emma Watson are aboard the ark. The complementarity of the sexes plays a vital role in the action that takes place aboard during the rains, and after the survivors make landfall.

Say what you will about Aronofsky, but he does not continue making the same movie (this is not The Wrestler, or Black Swan, for sure.) over, and over, again (I’m talking to you, Anderson).

Be not afraid to go see Noah. I would wager that you will leave the theater satisfied.


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