So. Noah. That new Darren Aronofsky movie. Let’s talk about it.
It’s an adaption, obviously. And it hits all the main beats of the biblical narrative. Noah’s told to build an ark, he builds an ark, animals, dove with the olive branch, landfall, the wine incident we don’t talk about at church, and the rainbow. That’s all there.
What Aronofsky and crew do is build on that, and for good reason. The account in the Bible is short and not terribly cinematic. Noah, too, is a terribly uninteresting character. He builds the ark and all that happens. There’s little explicit characterization in the Bible. Noah asks how someone copes with being told that the earth will be destroyed; how someone lives with being told that YOU are one tasked with saving the innocent; how someone deals with the notion that God is displeased enough with mankind to wipe them from the face of the earth. How does someone take this?
To that, Noah is presented as a sort of a proto-superhero. Like any superhero, he’s given a a purpose and an exceptional means with which to do it (in lieu of a Batmobile he builds an ark). Also like many recent superheroes, though, Noah is grounded and made very human. Which is cool because biblically he’s, y’know, human. Aronofsky’s answer to those questions listed in the prior paragraph is a man who comes to embody the concept of justice.
And here is where the film is strongest. Noah deconstructs the role of justice in society. What’s fair? What do people deserve? How far must Noah go to carry out what he believes to be God’s will? Noah wrestles with the interplay of justice and mercy, something amplified by the whole flood thing. We see justice in the judgment of the flood, mercy in the ark. Then with all that we see the effect of embodying the concept of justice on a person.
So is Noah a perfect movie? By no means, no. The pacing’s a little off and it drags at times. I’m not a huge fan of the presentation of the opening, but it serves its purpose. Some other bits here and there don’t quite work, a certain external conflict in the third act feels unnecessary and distracts from the justice/mercy dichotomy. That said, the movie succeeds for what it is, and what’s cool is that it explores ideas of the biblical Noah story that most adaptions don’t.
This is where Aronofsky as director really comes in to play. Noah isn’t what you’d call a ‘Christian movie‘ — and all the better for it. Noah here isn’t held up as being some perfect saintly hero, instead he’s treated as a very human character, allowing for an interesting story. More importantly, unlike many ‘Christian movies,’ Noah didn’t seem like it was trying to sell me something. It didn’t feel like a propaganda tract, instead it was an honest story about justice, mercy, and love.
Noah is an adaption of a very familiar story in a very different way. It’s different and mildly surreal (as you’d expect a movie by the director of Black Swan to be). As a whole, Noah isn’t one of the best movie of 2014 thus far (that’d be The Lego Movie), but it is a successful adaption of the Noah story.