“Noah” doesn’t take the easy way out

"Noah" floods the screen with excitement

“Noah” floods the screen with excitement

I’ve had this long-standing debate within myself trying to determine if book (or any other medium) adaptations should at least follow and at least respect the source material. Because that’s all Hollywood can conjure up nowadays. It’s not we are in the 90’s where the next spec script could be the next big hit. No. We can’t really comprehend anything “new.” Heck, even “Pacific Rim” got flack for not being original enough.

But what about Bible adaptations?

There is a semi-rich history of Bible movies such as “The 10 Commandments,” which is heralded as a classic. And by the looks of it, we are about to have another Renaissance of Bible movies with “Son of God,” “Noah” and later this year’s “Exodus: Gods and Kings” directed by Ridley Scott and starring Christian Bale.  So, how does “Noah” stack up with the rest?

As mentioned before, adaptations can be a tricky thing; especially with the source being the Bible. But we all know the story of Noah and the Ark, right? Well, in this telling the seed of Cain has built up cities of sin and inequity that spreads throughout all the connected continents. The only righteous ones are the ones of the seed of Seth, Noah (Russell Crowe) and his father, Lamech (Marton Csokas). After Lamech is viciously murdered, it is Noah’s responsibility to carry on the seed of righteousness. Time passes and Noah, now with a family of a wife, Naameh (Jennifer Connelly), and three sons, Shem (Douglas Booth), Ham (Logan Lerman) and Japeth (Leo McHugh Carroll). They live in a pre-historic-like post-apocalyptic wasteland what is barren to live. They are vagabonds who struggle with the bare necessities. They rescue a small girl, Ila (Emma Watson), when escaping danger. Noah gets his call from The Creator through dreams filled with death-filled imagery.

And the same beats of the Noah story are hit… and then some. King of the seed of Cain, Tubal-cain (Ray Winstone), catches wind of Noah’s scheme of ark building and gathers an army to overtake it, just in case it actually happens. As you can tell, this is where the Hollywoodizing comes into play. I’m not a big Bible scholar, but this isn’t entirely canonical. Yeah, I’m sure there would be some pretty pissed off people who would attempt overwhelming a lifesaving vessel as the ark. And this kind of logic doesn’t bother me. It builds tension and adds drama. There is also a plot convenience of rock creature, reminding me too much of “The Lord of the Rings” ents, who help Noah build the ark then protect it. These mystical giants are added seemingly to answer “Noah didn’t really build the ark by himself, right?” and to give the evil armies something to fight against. Whatever. I can overlook that.

Don’t go into the theater thinking you are going to enjoy yourself. My experience was that I found it exciting but not enjoyable. It leans more toward an overly serious biopic than a comedy or a superhero flick. If you enjoy those kind of serious monotone movies, ones with action and drama, this would be for you. But if you want to have a “good time,” not so much.

Russel Crowe is back in the epic seat.

Russel Crowe is back in the epic seat.

Director, Darren Aronofsky (Black Swan, The Wrestler) is, by my estimation, one of few directors who is pushing the boundaries of storytelling and film-making into new territories. None of his movies is without substance and “Noah” is no exception. There is one sequence, which seemed to be in the vein of “The Fountain,” where Noah retells the Creation story and the visuals matching up could have been taken straight from Neil deGrasse Tyson’s “Cosmos.” Suggesting that the two theories can coincide is a bold one. He knows how to pack his movies with meaning and philosophy.

The cast is intimate with everyone’s intentions being held in plain view. We understand their wants, needs and their needs to obtain them. Aronofsky does something amazing with them as well. In the second half the viewers’ allegiances change as the characters do. We are pulled in every which way as the characters clash right before our eyes.

I guess I should make a content advisory. Well, there really isn’t one, but just know that this isn’t a soft-telling of Noah, it’s rather hard and coarse. There are pretty horrifying images and ideas that come into play that you wouldn’t share in Sunday School. Just sayin’.

Noah-2022-HD-screencaps-full-hd-wallpaper-1920x1080There are some logical holes that leave me scratching my head concerning the central conflict in that second half. Nonetheless, that was my only huge gripe except the overly-serious tone.

I evaluate a movie mostly on the level of which it makes me think and feel. “Noah” got me thinking plenty about good versus evil and the nature of God and his intentions with us, and the cast made me invested in their characters. The film could have been a paint-by-numbers retelling with some easy plot filler. But it took serious chances, filled it with intention and meaning and held my interest throughout. So overall, I’d say Aronofsky is heightening his art with this Biblical tale.

Rating: Pretty Good!

What did you think? Did the deviations from the Bible bother you? Let me know.

Next up: Captain America: the Winter Soldier. 

Most Anticipated Summer Movies

As far as I’m concerned, the summer movie season starts NOW! Summer is easily my favorite time of the year for movies because they’re usually huge blockbusters that have massive appeal so talking with others about them is easy. There’s just so much to look forward to this year I had to make a list. But while coming up with a list I couldn’t restrict it to just a top 5 or 10 or even 15. This summer is going to be one to remember. A lot of money for tickets, popcorn and pop will go toward these blockbusters. But I think that we’ll get our bang for our buck because these movies are either sequels that step up from their predecessors, re-envisionings, strong adaptations, or  original ideas that will take us to new and exciting places. Let’s start!

Kick-Ass 21) Kick-Ass 2- August 16

I have been following this movie ever since the release of the original. I’ve bought and read the comics and wishing and watching for the sequel to be announced. Kick-Ass brought a touch of realism, violence and over-the-top fun which sets up the sequel to go above what the first set up. With the addition of comic genius Jim Carey, who is returning to his great character work, it’s sure to entertain and thrill.

2) Man of Steel- June 14

The DC Universe is taking a page out of Batman’s book and approaching Superman with the dark and serious tone that made The Dark Knight trilogy such a cinematic wonder. Which is no surprise since patron saint of comic nerds Christopher Nolan is producing. The draw back is the direction of Zach Snyder (300, Watchmen, Sucker Punch) who has a tendency to go over the top with visuals. Hopefully Nolan’s rein will set this re-envisioning of Superman to the right tone.

3) Only God Forgives- July 19

I think the only way to express why I’m excited for this movie is to watch the trailer. Only God Forgives is director Nicolas Winding Refn’s follow-up to 2011’s Drive with Ryan Gosling starring. The mise-en-scene (meaning the camera angles, colors, tones) is truly what gets me excited to witness this on the big screen.

4) Iron Man 3- May 3 Iron Man 3

Begins tonight and we already have our tickets for tomorrow! Iron Man 3 is the first follow up to The Avengers and is the one to kick off the summer season this weekend. From the look and feel of the marketing, the franchise is going to take a deep dip in tone and seriousness, putting our hero, Tony Stark, into serious danger of a foreign terrorist. It’ll be fast, thrilling, dark, but hopefully funny.

5) Star Trek Into Darkness- May 15

I’ve never been a Trekkie in any sense of the word. But J.J. Abrams’ 2009 reboot made me a fan of at least the new direction the franchise is taking. The mystery behind the villain, played by Benedict Cumberbatch, and plot has me intrigued. No set up needed, just straight to action, adventure and drama. Should be great fun.

The Great Gatsby6) The Great Gatsby- May 10

This movie is this high on my list no thanks to the high school reading assignment because I never did it. But what has me this interested is the director and the star. Baz Lurhmann directed my guilty pleasures Moulin Rouge! and Romeo + Juliet. What made those movies great in my eyes was the look, pace and acting that elevated the tone of the movie to a whole other level. The other factor is Leonardo DiCaprio who, in my opinion, is one of the greatest actors of our time. Hopefully this gets him the Oscar attention he deserves.

7) Elysium- August 9

I’ve been hearing about this movie through the grapevine but the trailer is what really won me over. District 9’s director, Neill Blomkamp, is teaming up with Matt Damon and Jodie Foster to deliver this sci-fi epic of class warfare through an action set piece. The big screen is just the right format for such content.

8) After Earth- May 31

I’m an M. Night Shyamalan apologist. I think his self-written movies have compelling premises and suspenseful directing and editing techniques. I just think the public got tired of his plot twists and made a joke out of him because of it. But After Earth, a post-apocalyptic father-son tale, will change his reputation. Starring and partly produced by Will Smith, also starring his son Jaden, gives me faith that it won’t be a rehash of Shyamalan’s formula.

9) The Bling Ring- June 14

Written and directed by Sofia Coppola (Marie Antoinette, Lost in Translation) and starring Emma Watson has me already in my seat. A group of teens obsessed with the Beverly Hills  life go on a robbing spree of celebrity’s houses to live vicariously through them. Sounds good to me!

10) Much Ado About Nothing- June 7

I haven’t seen a trailer or screenshot of this at all. All I know is that it is directed by Joss Wheadon (The Avengers), filmed in 12 days, and takes straight from Shakspeare’s play. Yes please.

Pacific Rim11) Pacific Rim- July 12

Ever since the premise and director was released, the hype was everywhere. Directed by Guillermo del Toro (Hell Boy, Pan’s Labyrinth) Pacific Rim follows the efforts against underwater monster invaders by using giant Robot Jock-like robots to defend all of mankind. In another other director’s hand it would look hokey and like any other action set piece. But del Toro’s monster and robot design and action choreography looks like a fun ride.

12) The World’s End- August 23

The last in Edgar Wright’s “Blood and Ice Cream Trilogy,” preceded by Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz is about friends attempting an epic “pub crawl” in an apocalyptic setting. That’s all all I know, but I’m willing to watch.

13) World War Z- June 21

Loosely adapted from the cult hit novel of the same name, World War Z is a zombie movie that takes the genre to the next level. Fans of the source material are skeptical about how close it will be to the novel. Through various reshoots and rewrites, it’s been a long and windy road, but having Brad Pitt on board to star may be the saving grace.

14) The Wolverine- July 26

I’m one of the few fans of X-Men Origins: Wolverine, but I know its flaws; especially those amateur CG claws Wolverine has. This new chapter will put our buff and clawed hero back on the right track as he travels to Japan to go under some training. That’s pretty much all I know of the plot and that’s all I need.

Lone Ranger15) The Lone Ranger- July 3

From the same team of the Pirates of the Caribbean trilogy (I don’t count the train wreck that is On Stranger Tides), brings us Johnny Depp as Tonto and Armie Hammer, who was incredible as both Winklevoss twins in The Social Network, brings us the re-imaginary of The Lone Ranger. I like director Gore Verbinski style and cinematography choice; it makes for a cinematic thrill. The action set pieces and comedy that Depp can bring to the screen should be a sight to behold.

16) Monsters University- June 21

My favorite of all Pixar movies has to be Monsters Inc. It’s charm, humor and concept was the great combination to make a lasting impression. And that’s the only reason I’m remotely excited to see the prequel. Does anyone really know what this movie is about yet? With the exception of the Toy Story movies, Pixar really needs to get off the sequel/prequel trend and make original content once again.

17) Now You See Me- May 31

Robin Hood magicians. If that’s not enough to put you in your seat it’s starring Jesse Eisenberg, Woody Harrelson, Mark Ruffalo, Michael Caine and Morgan Freeman. Cool concept with good actors. Let’s see if it pays off.

18) This is the End- June 12

Okay, I was really excited about the concept of this movie when I first heard of it. Famous actors playing themselves in an apocalyptic episode got me laughing before I heard anything else. Then… the trailer hit the web and my excitement want down. The vulgarity and raw humor put a damper on my enthusiasm. I could pass on this one but I don’t think I will.

And that’s it. After this summer has passed we will have big talking points for the movie industry.

What are you excited for this summer season? Did I miss one?  Let me know in the comments.