A serious amount of words have been devoted to Noah, Darren Aronofsky's non-biblical/biblical blockbuster. I have been interviewed by a number of publications, and been asked to weigh in on Hollywood and religion, the ruckus over the licence taken with the biblical text etc., and a host of other things related to culture and the Bible. As I said in all the interviews I participated in, I don't look to Hollywood films to affirm or negate my life, nor am I threatened by another version or interpretation of a particular story, and that more importantly, I would watch Noah because it was an Aronofsky film, not because it was about Noah. Hence my disappointment with the film was not with the way it dealt with the Flood narrative but that it was a piss-poor movie in my mind.
Now I realize that this film was unlike many of Aronofsky's prior projects, this was a big-budget studio film with all the prerequisites that come with a venture like that, not the least of which is the need to deliver big on spectacle and spectacle that follows certain rules of the genre, so no problem there, big scenes, I mean creation of the world, humanity's evil, the destruction of the world by water, talk about fodder for a CGI wet dream--and even that didn't bother me. But it felt that none of this did anything to expand Aronofsky's abilities as a film-maker.
Noah is a genre film of a particular type and it touches on what I think is America's greatest fascination--apocalypticism. The apocalypse hangs over American culture like a blanket, covering virtually everything with this trope that the world must end and out of it a new world built upon values that were always missing or latent in the previous one. Of course, there are links to biblical ideologies in this, but you don't need a 'biblical' story to see it, it's everywhere in American pop culture. So Noah is almost a no-brainer. And the latent ideas that the film teases regarding the environment, industrialization, humanitie's destructive tendency are grist for the apocalyptic mill, so why not mine it. It seemed no different to me than the re-appropriation of other mythic tales--Thor, Hercules etc. all of them fully adaptable for the expression of contemporary cultural fears about how we interact with life, the planet and each other.
What really bugged me, and where it really lost me as a viewer, was in the look and tone of the film. The minute Russell Crowe as Noah is striding across the wasteland in boots with laces and leather soles and his nemesis is fashioning steel whilst wearing a version of a welding mask, and handling an early-gun prototype, and they are all dressed like outcasts from a distressed linen and leather factory, you lost me--all I could think of as I sat there was Book of Eli meets Transformers (those stone encased fallen angels-concrete versions of Optimus Prime if you ask me) meets One million years BC.
It seems to me there is a lot of over-inflation in terms of both attacking and defending this film from different sides of the religious community, but they all seem to deal solely with the story essentially in its narrative form. I've read theological attacks and defences, seen it described as a midrash, on and on, and that's all fine, but a film isn't just the spoken world, its the visual and musical accompaniment, that expands the world the film-maker wants to draw you into, and I found myself uninterested in journeying into this tale, in fact I felt pushed out of it by most of the choices it made in all three realms, but particularly the visual and musical--again, I usually enjoy the work of film composer Clint Mansell, who has composed the music for all of Aronofsky's films, but this had to be the most turgid and un-interesting of them all.
I have never been a big fan of the block buster genre anyway, I don't need that much spectacle and noise, so I should have known. I think I would have preferred a low-budget telling of this tale, and I'll go back to Requiem for a Dream and The Fountain to keep my Aronofsky juices flowing.