My initial reaction to the movie Noah was a mixture of confusion, disgust, awe and laughter. I’m glad I went because I had to see it for myself. The fact that Biblical literalists hated it means nothing to me. I’m not a Biblical literalist and I didn’t expect it to adhere to the Book of Genesis. But I also didn’t expect it to be more implausible than the already implausible story it was based upon. I laughed a lot. And this was not a comedy.
There were some things I liked about it. I loved the way they retold the story of creation with Noah speaking the words of Genesis 1 over way cool animation that included both a big bang and evolution. I liked the character of Methuselah, who added a little levity to the film. Whenever he was on the screen, it was a delight. Even the way he got it in the end was a hoot. I liked the subplot with Ila and her infertility issue. Especially when Methuselah worked his magic on her and she immediately became a dog in heat. I also thought it was awesome when the waves came crashing in and the boards started creaking and it felt like the ark was going to be crushed. Oh, and I liked it when the birds circled above the ark and when the snakes slithered in. Very creepy!
Of all the things I liked about Noah, by far, the most noteworthy to me was the internal conflict within Noah himself. God didn’t speak to him audibly. Instead, Noah tried to figure out what God was saying to him indirectly, mostly through dreams. Of course, such things are subject to interpretation, and it seemed like Noah got it wrong sometimes. My favorite moment in the movie was when Ham objected to the fact that his father had left the woman of his choice to be trampled by the masses. Noah was convinced that all people were evil and no one was worth saving. But Ham disagreed and told his father that this woman was a good person. (The dynamic between Ham and Noah is the most interesting relationship in the film.) Noah thinks he has it all figured out and he projects his understanding onto God. His family will save the rest of creation, but in the end they must die along with all the other humans. Then, despite himself, love changes his mind. This makes him feel like a failure and he becomes a drunken, naked mess (one of the few parts of film that are faithful to the Biblical narrative). He’s a complicated guy. Aren’t we all? Yes, I liked that.
What didn’t I like about the movie? Well, it was just so… ridiculous. My biggest problem was with the stone giants who were, unfortunately, integral to the plot of the movie. They protected Noah and his family, and they did the heavy lifting on the construction site for the ark. The fact that we had just seen a preview for the new transformers movie immediately before Noah began didn’t help because these were a lot like transformers. Except transformers are more believable. These giants were made from cheesy Hollywoodesque rocks. Every time these creatures, called The Watchers, appeared, I giggled. (I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to sing the hymn “Ye Watchers and Ye Holy Ones” again with a straight face.)
Seeing the animals coming to the ark… I don’t care how big that boat was, there was no way they were all going to fit inside. Putting the animals to sleep for what must have been nine months (long enough for a full term pregnancy) was a loooong hibernation! It was a convenient way not to deal with things like their food, and excrement, and the fact that they would have a natural inclination to devour one other. But I had to wonder, why did the magical incense work on all varieties of creatures, except humans?
It also troubled me that Noah was so concerned about who would re-populate the earth when, in the end, the only way to accomplish this would involve incest. Not a great way to begin again if you’re going for quality this time around. Just sayin’. (Then again, this is also one of those places where the Adam and Eve story breaks down.)
Little things about the movie bothered me a lot, too. Noah and his family never went into town and they were nomads. So, where did their dresses and coats and leather boots come from? (Have I mentioned that Noah refused to kill animals?) For that matter, where did all the cloth curtains hanging in the ark come from? And why did Ila have on eye make-up? And why was Noah’s wife always sparkling clean like she had just stepped out of the shower when he looked like he hadn’t bathed in years? These things were just so silly. I could go on, but that’s probably enough.
I was glad I went to see Noah with people who have a sense of humor. There is a lot to laugh about in this movie. For that reason, I would suggest that the best way to see Noah is at home with friends. You could have some fun making a drinking game out of it. You might take a drink every time Noah lifts his eyes to the sky. Or every time one of The Watchers gets its wings. Or better yet, every time you see a drop of water.