Saturday, March 29, 2014

Noah [2014]

MPAA (PG-13)  CNS/USCCB (A-III)  ChicagoTribune (2 1/2 Stars) (3 Stars)  AVClub (B-)  Fr. Dennis (3 Stars)

IMDb listing

CNS/USCCB (J. Mulderig) review

Nat'l Cath.Register (S.D. Graydanus) review
         Q/A regarding controversies
         Interview w. Aronofsky/Ari Handel
         Vat. Radio Interview w S.D.Graydanus

ChicagoTribune (M. Phillips) review (M. Zoller Seitz) review
AVClub (A.A. Dowd) review

First of all, I would like to complement the National Catholic Register's Steven D. Graydanus for his excellent reporting (above) regarding the hoopla / controversies surrounding the release of Noah [2014] (directed and cowritten by Darren Aronofsky along with Ari Handel, based on the story of Noah in the Book of Genesis).

I would also agree with the USCCB/CNS reviewer J. Mulderig's assessment that the film is NOT INTENDED FOR SMALL KIDS (Honestly, DON'T DEPRIVE THEM OF THEIR INNOCENCE.  Let them happily continue to imagine or even draw the animals -- giraffes, elephants, lions, racoons, ostriches, aligators, etc -- entering the ark "2 by 2" as most of us have done for generations ... There's absolutely nothing that this film adds that would help an 8 to 10 year old "better understand the story").

Teens and above?  That's a different ball game.  And here I would definitely recommend the reporting of Steven Graydanus, especially his Q/A article about the film.  Teens would certainly understand his explanations of some of the film's "surprises" (most notably the presence of those strange Tolkeinesque stone giants the film called "Watchers" (which are Aronofsky's depiction of the Biblical Nephelim (Gen 6:4).

Regarding the film's telling of Story of Noah, I personally didn't mind, and truth be told ENJOYED, the flourishes of the Stone Giant Nephelim and even the "magic ignitable stones" called sohars explained in Graydanus' interview with Aronofsky and Handel (there's also a footnote about the meaning of sohar in the the Catholic New American Bible at the appropriate verse Gen 6:16).  I LEARNED about God's apparent "pre-flood" instruction to both humans and animals to live as vegetarians (Gen 1:28-29) vs the  "post-flood" permission to begin eating meat (Gen 9:1-3).

I don't even necessarily mind Aronofsky/Handel's "environmentalist" theme -- that among humanity's (or specifically "The Sons of Cain's") post-Fall sins was the devastation of the Environment.  I just find the charge somewhat tendentious with regard to contemporary concerns as (if one insisted on taking the first chapters of Genesis literally) I'd find it hard to imagine that there'd be enough people around then to really devastate the world's environment.

My biggest qualm with Aronofsky/Handel's portrayal of Noah (played in the film by Russell Crowe) is with their Noah not wanting his sons Shem, Ham and Japheth (played by Douglas Booth, Logan Lerman and Leo McHugh Carroll respectively) to have wives and hence to have children.  Gen 7:7 reads "Together with his sons, his wife, and his sons’ wives, Noah went into the ark because of the waters of the flood." 

While in a sense, film makers (as all artists) can "do whatever they want," I nevertheless take issue with the contention that God would have wanted to destroy humanity COMPLETELY (even the obedient Noah and his sons and especially after they had completed their task of saving all the animals).

Fallen as we are, we're nevertheless told in the Bible's first creation story Gen 1:26-27 that we were made "in the image of God" and then in the second creation story (about the creation of Adam and Eve) that God created essentially everything else that there is, the trees/plants (Gen 2:8-9) and all the animals (Gen 2:18ff) to make us happy.

So to eliminate humanity COMPLETELY (and leave the animals / rest of Creation behind) just doesn't make sense to me.

Further it certainly goes against the Catholic Church's conception of both God's Creation and our place within it.  And note here that the Catholic Church in no way advocates a "disrespect" MUCH LESS "PLUNDER" of Creation: For the World Day of Peace in 1990, Pope John Paul II issued a mini-encyclical entitled "Peace With God The Creator, Peace With All of Creation." And the current Pope even took the name Francis after a Saint WHO LOVED ANIMALS and EVEN PREACHED TO THEM.

So I do have a real issue with the contention that God would want Noah and his sons to simply "die off" after effectively saved the rest of Creation for Him.

With regard to the rest of the film, clearly it's very interesting.  If nothing else it will keep both teens and adults awake and interested throughout. 

I'd also like to note that both Jennifer Connelly (who played Noah's wife, portrayed as something of the family's "herbalist" - she would have supervised most of the family's food prep - and who comes up with a incense concoction that puts the animals in the ark to a restful sleep for the duration of the ark's journey) and Emma Watson (who played Shem's future wife, the character around whom most of the above-mentioned controversy swirled) did excellent jobs in their roles as did the aging Anthony Hopkins who played Noah's ancient grandfather Methoselah.

I hope that in reading this review, that readers would appreciate the (at times surprising) insights offered in the film (even if one disagreed with them) and also would understand that while not necessarily for kids (they just wouldn't understand the film), the film could actually be quite interesting for teens, especially if they were encouraged to do "some homework" reading up on the film afterwards.

Finally, my hat off, once again, to National Catholic Register's Steven D. Graydanus.  You honestly did a great job in covering launch of this film, and made the work of the rest of us (including myself) trying to review this film, much, much easier.  You did all of us and then the ENTIRE CHURCH a great service! (And that's honestly SAYING A LOT ;-)  Thanks!

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1 comment:

  1. I saw this film tonight on TV, and I don't have much to add to your thoughts which I appreciate very much; however, I want to sincerely thank you for referring me to the Stephen Graydanus review. It is stunning in its sensitivity. Furthermore, I wish I could write like that.

    I marvel at the volume of your writing and the time you put in to follow film for your friends, parishioners and anonymous followers. It's clearly a labor of love for you.