We meet Noah as a young boy, with his father Lamech. Noah is about to receive a serpent's skin of the original serpent in Eden from his father, as it has been down for generations. Suddenly, a large crowd approaches, led by a young king named Tubal-Cain, who wants to make the hill that Noah and his father a farming into a mine. Tubal-Cain kills Lamech and steals the serpent's skin, while Noah runs away.
We flash forward, where we meet Noah now as a man (played by Russel Crowe, of Man of Steel fame) who is living with his wife Naameh (played by Jennifer Conolley of Requiem for a Dream fame) and his three sons, Shem and Japheth Ham (played by Percy Jackson’s Logan Lerman). Noah is quick to see a small miracle: a drop of water hits the ground, and a flower grows instantly. Soon after, Noah experiences a nightmare (or, a vision); he is submerged by water as far as the eye can see, where hundreds of corpses float around him, where wackiness ensues!
Director Arron Aronofsky had been fascinated with the figure of Noah since he was thirteen years old, explaining that he saw Noah as "a dark, complicated character" who experiences "real survivor's guilt" after the great flood that wipes the slate clean of humanities evil. Aronofsky was working on early drafts of the script for Noah around the time his first ill-attempt to make The Fountain when actor Brad Pitt left the project, leaving hundreds of Australian film workers out of work.
Ari Handel, Aronofsky's collaborator on The Fountain, The Wrestler and Black Swan, assisted Aronofsky with developing the script. Before the duo found financial backing for Noah, they collaborated with Canadian artist Niko Henrichon to adapt the script into a graphic novel, much like what Aronofsky did with The Fountain. The first volume of the graphic novel was released in the French language by Belgian publisher Le Lombard in October 2011 under the title Noé: Pour la cruauté des hommes (Noah: For the Cruelty of Men).
After the creation of the graphic novel, Aronofsky struck a deal with Paramount and New Regency to produce the feature version with a budget of $130 million. Emma Watson (of Harry Potter fame) offered that the director was going for the sense that the movie could be set in any time; a thousand years in the future or a thousand years in the past, and that audiences shouldn't be able to place it too much.
The lead role of Noah had previously been offered to the likes of Christian Bale and Michael Fassbender, who both declined. Christian Bale went on to star as Moses in Ridley Scott's upcoming religious epic film Exodus: Gods and Kings. Dakota Fanning departed the role of Ila due to a scheduling conflict, with Emma Watson talking over the role. Julianne Moore was also considered for the role of Naameh and Liam Neeson, Liev Schreiber and Val Kilmer were all considered for the part of the evil king Tubal-cain played by Ray Winstone. Aronofsky reportedly wanted an actor "with the grit and size to be convincing as he goes head-to-head against Crowe's Noah character".
The movie was shot throughout Southern Iceland, with the set of Noah's ark having been built at the Planting Fields Arboretum in Upper Brookville, New York. Ironically, Production was put on hold while Hurricane Sandy subjected New York to heavy rain and flooding during late October 2012.
Aronofsky stated that the production had to create an entire animal kingdom without using real real animals, but instead going ahead with slightly tweaked versions of real animal creatures. George Lucas' Industrial Light and Magic video effects company stated that their work on the film represented the most complicated rendering in the company's history.
The movie deals with themes such as sin, judgment, justice, righteousness, God as Creator and mercy. The movie also, controversially, promotes the concept of evolutionary creation.
The movie was given numerous test screenings, with worrisome feedback given by religious audiences (Christian concerns here for example). The feedback lead to tensions between Aronofsky and Paramount over the control of the final cut, with Aronofsky finally winning out, albeit with a bad taste in his mouth.
The movie received generally positive reviews from critics, gaining a Rotten Tomatoes figure of 75% with the consensus stating,
"With sweeping visuals grounded by strong performances in service of a timeless tale told on a human scale, Darren Aronofsky's Noah brings the Bible epic into the 21st century."
So far, the movie has made a world-wide box office total of $95.1 million off of a budget of $125 million.
Of late we have experienced our superheroes and action stars to be much more grounded in reality, thanks to Mr Christopher Nolan. Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight Trilogy set the tone of more gritty, flawed, realistic characters in real-world surroundings. This of course kicked off the reboot genre: we had a rebooted James Bond in Casino Royale, who cried and got injured, going so far as literally reciving a right bullocking. We have a super-type of man in Man of Steel, crying, being injured with his usual colourful uniform being bleached down assisted with shaky cam galore, and we have even been given a grounded Robocop, here with his uniform now cloaked in a “tactical” black.
The trailer for Noah suggests a more of an historical look at the myth of Noah, his arc and a devastating flood, with only a hint of the supernatural. Such a hint would then cause all involved to therefore be surprised at a possibility of a higher being; that Noah’s faith in a
God Creator of the universe would actually be correct, causing characters to not only ‘believe’ but to ‘know’ of a Creator that is orchestrating a mass genocide to effectively ‘reboot’ the human race and therefore, God’s The Creator’s image on earth.
It is a shock then, to view the movie and realise that it is as fantastical as The Never-ending Story, Labyrinth and The Dark Crystal. We are given a very straight adaptation of the Biblical story of Noah, with miracles being quite commonplace, magic used daily, and the existence of
God The Creator as fact: these characters live and breathe a relationship with God The Creator that is extended throughout the earth that He has provided. The care and nurture of the earth is recognised as being symbiotic to our love and care of each other, and therefore, of God The Creator.
With this backdrop, it is extremely simple to recognise then, the devastating affect the dark side of humanity can have not only on each other, but onto the earth itself. Here, the filmic universe is brilliantly set up for us to recognise the characters’ plight and the stakes. It’s just that the fantastical elements push this too far north, due to in a large part, some rock encrusted Angels.
The New Testament is set with the 4 Gospels, basically retelling the same story of Jesus but from different points of view and narrative license. Hence, where some writers write in ‘High Christianity’, pretty much presenting rich tales of the supernatural as fact, other authors choose the flavour of ‘Low Christianity’, reducing the more magical tone of the story in favour of a realistic focus. For example, Jesus is depicted as spending 40 days and 40 nights literately in a desert, where the personified form of the Devil appears to tempt Jesus. Another version of the story has Jesus in the desert for an unspecified period of time, fighting his own conscious.
Noah is high Christianity, or, High Old Testament, and then some. The movie is of course a creative interpretation of the scriptural account that embellishes the moral conflict of Noah as he answers the call of God. Great care and research has been given to tackle some very controversial themes and to be delivered so expertly that one can be shocked by their simplicity; a recounting of the story of Genesis is brilliantly executed, seamlessly delivering the theory of evolutionary creationism. However, the extremely literal vision of the piece may grate, as it may be deemed too simplistic: water running and creating instantaneous forests, animals magically descending onto the arch, glowing magical beans, and……………………………………………………….…………………………………......................................massive rock angels…………………………..
Such things would not be amiss in a children’s movie, especially a Catholic movie, however this movie is aimed at an adult audience with horrendous themes and visuals of violence, murder, infanticide and of course, genocide.
Whereas the character of Noah is very thin in the texts, Crowe’s Noah takes on the arch of God’s character as represented in the story of the arch; finding humanity evil, plans to eradicate it, and learning to show mercy and grace. Crowe’s Noah does go through this journey, made all the more difficult due to the love he holds for both
God The Creator, and his family, to the exclusion of the rest of humanity.
A movie with a strong vision that is constant throughout; its either your bag or it is not. Such an instance is a reminder that the trailer’s job not to sell the movie to you; it is to just get you into the movie theatre.
An adult fantasy adventure; 4 out of 5 rain-drops.
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows part 1 is the first part of the 7th and final chapter in the Harry Potter series.
We quickly meet Harry Potter (again played by Daniel Radcliffe) in his England ‘muggle’ house as he is to be escorted to the safety of the Burrow, by the heroic Order of the Phoenix. Hogwarts is now host to the evil Death Eaters led by the villainous Lord Voldermort, who do their best to dispatch our hero along his way. Escaping the chaos and destruction that the Death Eaters bring to their supporters, Ron Weasley ( played by Rupert Grint), Harry and Hermione (played by Emma Watson)soon choose to go their own way, constantly disapparating to areas throughout England on a quest to find and destroy the remaining Horcruxes ( physical objects that aid Voldermort’s immortality) before the evil Wizard can kill Harry and come to his full power. Wackiness this-way ensues....................
Last year’s Harry Potter and The Half-Blood Prince ended with a quest being set up, giving birth to a new trilogy of films in the Harry Potter series. Whereas each previous part started with an introduction of a plot, a year in the life of Harry and his friends and then a quick resolution of the storylines mentioned at the movie’s / books beginning, The Half-Blood Prince positions Harry on the path to his ultimate showdown with He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named. In other words, this is the start of the end and what we all have been dying to see for so long!
The Half-Blood Prince went a way to take us off of the beaten track that has set up the Harry Potter series: we usually are introduced to Harry in his muggle home, again returning to Hogwarts to learn more about being a Wizard, his mysterious past and overcoming another obstacle, most usually Voldermort’s attempts to get his groove back, all in time to go home at year’s end. At the Half-Blood Prince’s end, all bets are off and Harry and friends decide not to go back to Hogwart’s but instead to go on a mission to find Voldermort’s magical devices and destroy them, giving them a chance at ultimately defeating him.
This premise was enticing as it moved our heroes away from an environment that they, and we, have gotten comfortable with. Done with English private boarding schools metaphors and allegory, this movie chooses to showcase themes of maturity and being able to finally put theory into real-world practice: metaphors of the machinations of war during WWII brings up the atmosphere and tension of a thriller. However, in the execution, we get a road movie reminiscent of The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, complete with a shared object of evil power, worn around our characters’ necks that force them to turn on each other during their journey to destroy it.
In relation to script, Alfred Hitchcock invented a script-writing term for an arbitrary object to kick his protagonists and antagonists into action: a MacGuffin. A MacGuffin was usually something that the antagonist needed to complete their evil scheme and one which the hero must then stop him from getting. The first Mission Impossible movie was criticized for having a too convoluted plot, where the 2nd was given a MacGuffin which was cheekily constantly explained throughout. The third film went further and referenced their MacGuffin in theory only, never revealing what it was to the audience! The movie admitted that it was only a plot device to what the audience really wanted to see anyway: action action action and Maggie Q. Harry Potter 7.1 however relies on no more than 7 Macguffins, with two previously being dispatched in HP6. The story is basically a treasure hunt for our young heroes whilst avoiding the attacks of their enemies.
Another lazy script-writing technique is, when one is facing writer’s block and just cannot move their story along, they kill a character to send a shock-wave through the remaining character arc / storyline like the butterfly effect. This usually progresses the story through a myriad of new threads, setting up questions such as who killed the character and why? What sort of affect will this have on the characters and their situations and so on.
JK Rowling has done this since Harry Potter 4, and doesn’t slow down. Admittedly, a big theme of the Harry Potter series is death, what with Harry’s parents being killed by an evil wizard who wants to kill he-who-lives. However when a minor character is reintroduced to a series just to be killed-off is cheap and reeks of bad television.
That all being said, the acting and characterization in this film is great. The Hermione character hits her stride after leaving me cold in a few of the previous instalments. Emma Watson has now found a middle-ground between early adolescence and just being a brat. Harry is great as always and Ron gets a few good laughs as well. The relationship between our three heroes is well balanced out. Of note is a particularly poignant scene with Harry and Hermione dancing in the face of misery and death: not in a romantic moment at all, but just two very good, old friends being there for each other in a moment of crisis.
The look of the film is fantastic. Whereas the earlier Christopher Columbus directed films have a classic, stage and CG feel, the introduction of Alfonso Cuarón in Prisoner of Azkaban gave the series an organic, natural feel: glows from wands where not overly dramatic but looked like moonlight, and Hogwart’s surrounds were rich and atmospheric. The Goblet of Fire added wands which fired off naturalistic, organic hot and cold lava which splurted and spilled plenty o’ magic about.
David Yates joined the series in Order of the Phoenix and has kept these stylistic choices, whilst getting our characters out of their school and their uniforms, placing them in the cold, dark and mysterious UK woods, country-side and beaches. The action is great and intense, melding a lot more of the real world with its magical set pieces (such as a shoot-out in a London cafe) than any other of the instalments. This feels like a gritty Harry Potter movie that we can empathise with, away from the magic of Hogwarts and into our world.
All in all, a very solid first part to a complete movie which fans of Harry Potter will lap up. Hopefully the mechanical set up will give way to a brilliant and satisfying conclusion to a film series that surprisingly still has a massive fan base. 4 out of 5 wands.
If you had to click on any of the links in the plot section of this review, chances are you will have trouble keeping up with the goings-on in this particular episode as it references close to all previous adventures. A solid Potter knowledge is required and expected with this outing!
Luke McWilliams December 2010