Thursday, November 5, 2015


Year 7, Day 309 - 11/5/15 - Movie #2,193

BEFORE: I'm coming up on a break, which naturally makes me start to think of how I'm going to spend my extra time for the next few weeks.  I've started reading books again, mostly "Star Wars" novels, like "Aftermath", which is supposed to preface the upcoming Episode VII, and also "Tarkin", which is set back between Eps. III and IV.  My 2nd job is a longer commute from my house, so I've now got about 3 hours each day to read on the subway, 90 min. in each direction.  So the first order of business is to catch up on the pile of Star Wars books that have accumulated in the past few years, even if some of them are no longer considered canonical.  

Next I've got some TV to watch.  Normally I'd be about 3 or 4 months behind on episodic TV, but right now I'm only about a month behind on fiction shows like "Gotham", "Heroes Reborn", "Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." and reality shows like "Face Off", "The Great Food Truck Race", "Mythbusters" and "Storage Wars".  November would be a great time to get more current, with the two hours I usually devote to a film I can probably knock off three hour-long shows.  

Then comes comic books.  Not just reading them, but also logging them in to my collecting database, and also putting a few hundred in sealed bags & boards.  I'm running about 9 months behind on this process, even if I don't re-alphabetize the collection this year, at least I can get some comics in protective bags and longboxes this month.  

And finally, Christmas is not that far off.  After I order some birthday gifts for the niece and nephew, it'll be time to start thinking about Christmas gifts, reading catalogs for ideas, making lists (and checking them twice), and then there's my annual Christmas mix CD.  I haven't even picked a theme for this year yet, then I have to start listening to some tracks, making some choices and playing the mix a few times to see if it meets my standards.  Then comes labeling and mailing out with my holiday cards.  So I think it will be a busy month, even if I'm not watching movies.

Logan Lerman AND Emma Watson carry over from "The Perks of Being a Wallflower", so getting to this film next makes some sense.  And since I've already dealt with a Mexican myth and Greek myths this week, why not get to a Judeo-Christian mythical story as well?

THE PLOT:  A man is chosen by his world's creator to undertake a momentous mission before an apocalyptic flood cleanses the world.

AFTER: Well, I think this film is a clear indication of how a filmmaker can start out with the best intentions, but a film can just sort of get out of control and get away from him in the end.  A conversation about this film with my new employer sort of confirms this, her opinion was that since Darren Aronofsky was coming off of "Black Swan", the temptation was to put the hottest filmmaker at the time on what seemed to be a sure thing, a very hot story (After all, how many copies has the Bible sold?  This thing's got pre-awareness that's off the freakin' charts...) and this was supposed to be a filmmaking slam-dunk.  So, what happened?  

The first problem is that the Noah story never made much sense.  The Old Testament tells us that Noah was 500 at the time of the flood, are we supposed to believe that people in ancient times just lived longer, or that they didn't know how to count?  And Methuselah, Noah's grandfather, reached the age of 969 - WTF?  Then we get to all the logistics of the Great Flood story (and yes, I know it's in the Quran too, and part of the mythology of just about every culture), which don't seem to add up either - where did all the water come from?   Where did it go after?  How was there enough room on the ark for hundreds or thousands of animals?  How did Noah keep the animals from eating each other - or did he?  And what about insects, were they on their own, like the fish were?  

Of course, now that we're living in the End Times, and our weather is all wacky, we understand a little more.  Maybe there was an ice age, and glaciers formed, causing the waters to recede.  And then maybe the Ice Age ended, causing a flood.  But this would have taken place over decades, at least, or possibly eons, so how seriously are we supposed to take this story - is it just a metaphor for a much longer phase in the development of the world?  

But for the moment, let's take the Book of Genesis (or the Quran, or whatever) at face value, and assume for a moment that there was someone named Noah, who had some kind of ark, or raft, or whatever, and that there was a deluge or flood of some degree, which appeared to cover the whole world, even if it was just the known world at the time - which seems at least a bit more plausible. 

To make a film about this, in modern times, you can almost hear the conversation at the pitch meeting - "I want to get inside Noah's head, what did it really MEAN to survive the flood, to watch the rest of humanity drown, to be responsible for saving nature and starting everything over.  What does that DO to a man?"  Unfortunately, this led to a series of decisions by a screenwriter or director that seemed to work on paper, but were still very BAD ideas.  Oh, sure, there are one or two that make sense, like making Noah and his family vegetarians - hey, that solves the problem of how they're going to survive on the boat for 40 days and still have animals left, so let's run with that.  

This concept then got stretched out to another logical, but ill-fated conclusion - in the ancient world depicted here, there are two tribes: the descendants of Cain and the descendants of Seth (Cain's younger brother, born after Abel died).  The tribe of Cain is larger, they eat meat and they have technologies of war like metalwork and some rudimentary cannons (here come those bad ideas creeping in...) while the tribe of Seth is smaller (I think just Noah and his family) and they are vegetarian hippies who live in a land that's somehow both barren and self-sustaining.  

But if the land is barren, how the heck can Noah have enough trees to build an ark?  Another narrative problem, which gets solved, I kid you not, by a magic seed given to Noah by Methuselah.  Sure, magic, that's the ticket - a gopherwood forest springs up in an instant.  But then WHY were they living in a barren wasteland, if they had the ability to conjure up a forest?  (Here we go, slipping into a morass of more bad ideas...) 

And the animals more or less assemble themselves - the birds come, then the snakes and then the quadrupeds, and they all know where to go, how to get there, and how to pair up and organize themselves.  It's all God's magic, don't ya know.  And then the animals all agree to be sedated for an indefinite period, which solves another problem, like what did they all eat and why didn't they eat each other?  Oh, sure, they were all sleeping for 40 days straight and somehow they didn't starve.

Other narrative problems needed to be solved - how can one man (OK, one family) build a giant ark? How can they load up all the animals?  How can they prevent other people from the other tribe from getting on board.  Unfortunately, the solution was magic, magic and more magic.  Specifically, the Watchers, who are a race of some kind of angels, but made out of rocks and each having six arms (I swear, I'm not making this up...)  And the Watchers serve all these purposes, stripping magic trees to make logs, and doing the heavy lifting, also serving as a sort of doormen/bodyguards for the ark.  

But it's as if solving one narrative problem here just creates another - the presence of the Watchers as angels, or fallen angels, or some other race besides human that can talk, is really ill-advised.  If they are angels, then they're proof of God, and any student of Douglas Adams' "Hitchiker's" books will tell you that proof denies faith.  Faith is believing in something despite having no hard evidence for it, so specific proof of God's existence would negate any reason for having faith in him.  Plus as other living, thinking beings, this makes humans less unique and special, plus it monkeys with man's Biblical role of being in charge of the Earth and all that lives on it.  So back up, try again.  

Also, if the Watchers are in contact with God, or receiving instructions from him, then why does Noah only receive instructions from his dreams?  Sure, dreams are a part of him, and God works in mysterious ways, but dreams are fairly unreliable and open to interpretation, no?  You'd think that if God were all-powerful he'd find a better way to communicate his instructions.  Some of Noah's theories on God's intent ended up being so off-base here you have to wonder if he was reading them right.  I mean, if you're looking for signs from God, then everything's a sign from God.  And if the dream or the prediction turns out to be wrong, then we must have read it wrong, or perhaps "God changed his mind".  (He can do that, he's God, after all.) But the problem with prophecies is that they're so vague, and if you wait long enough, given enough time, any prophecy can come true, if you choose to interpret it that way.  

In the latter part of the film, Noah is then turned from hippie radical to fatalist doomsday prepper.  I guess watching almost all of civilization perish will do that to a man.  Noah's convinced that humans are God's mistake, and the flood was meant to wipe them clean, so his family should be caretakers of the animals, and then die out and not reproduce.  Conveniently, the film also removes the wives of two of Noah's sons so it can just focus on Shem's wife, Ila, who was barren at the start of the film, but learns she's pregnant while on the ark (again, magic!).  But rather than take this as a sign that God really DOES want humans to reproduce, Noah decides to kill the baby if it turns out to be a girl.  Again, the narrative progresses logically, but results in a really bad plot point.  

Because the baby is born a girl, two girls even, and though Noah eventually comes around on repopulating the planet, who would the father of their children be?  The only people on the planet who survived were on the ark, and they were related to all of them.  Even if Shem and Ila have more children, at some point somebody's going to have to sleep with their mother or sister or cousin if this humanity thing's really going to move forward, and then we're right back where we started, wallowing in sin.  (This is a variation on the old non-believer's Bible conundrum - "Who was Cain's wife?")

So there you go, even when we're trying to do God's will, we keep screwing up.  Everything is OUR fault, not God's.  But if you believe in the Bible, didn't he make us this way?  So ultimately, it's his fault, every last bit of it.  Why did he choose to make a world with war, famine, diseases, and bad people like dictators and pedophiles?  Are we all just one of his cosmic experiments that keeps going horribly wrong?  

Unless there is no God, would that be so bad?  I mean, considering how improbable and impossible these Bible stories are, doesn't it seem like that's the simplest answer?  But I guess then as a species we'd have to start making some changes, nut up and start being responsible for our actions and for the state of the planet.  Geez, how horrible would that be?  No, better to just keep believing that the man upstairs will make everything right somehow at the end.  

See, this is what I'm talking about, a film that started out telling a story from the Bible got so corrupted by bad choices that in the end, it now supports atheism.  Which is funny, because a little research on the IMDB trivia section tells me that Darren Aronofsky is a noted atheist, so that leads me to wonder why he wanted to make this in the first place.  It means that really, this project was doomed from the start.  Much like the ancient world, this film's creator should have, at some point, scrapped the whole thing and started over. 

If you want to watch an entertaining version of the Noah's Ark story, please seek out Ricky Gervais's routine on the topic, readily available on YouTube. 

Also starring Russell Crowe (last seen in "Man of Steel"), Jennifer Connelly (last seen in "The Rocketeer"), Anthony Hopkins (last seen in "Amistad"), Ray Winstone (last seen in "Quadrophenia"), Douglas Booth, Kevin Durand (last seen in "Real Steel"), Leo McHugh Carroll, Marton Csokas (last seen in "Aeon Flux"), Finn Wittrock, Adam Griffith, Ariane Rinehart, with the voices of Nick Nolte (last seen in "Gangster Squad"), Frank Langella (last seen in "Muppets Most Wanted") and Mark Margolis (last seen in "Jakob the Liar").

RATING: 3 out of 10 cubits

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