by NEVIL GIBSON
It’s two generations since major Hollywood studios produced
blockbusters based on biblical themes.
So the release of Noah (Paramount) will be watched with keen
interest in its commercial fortunes as well as its entertainment
It may be more than a blip, too, because others are said to be
in the pipeline, including titles such as Son of God and Exodus.
Plus there is talk of screen treatments for Moses, Mary, Cain and
Abel, and even Pontius Pilate.
Older viewers will recall such Charlton Heston classics as The
Ten Commandments and The Greatest Story Ever Told, which were among the most popular films of their day.
The history of biblical dramatisations is mixed as often
they have fallen short of audience expectations, either for being too preachy or too sensational, particularly when dealing with Christian themes.
But even the Old Testament is not without problems; some
Muslim countries have banned Noah because it depicts a prophet, though Hollywood has made several major films about Islam.
So far, Noah has survived a critical mauling that is usually
the fate of any film with overt religious themes. It has achieved this despite writer/director Darren Aronofsky declaring he is an atheist.
He says has been fascinated by the story of Noah since school and, though it takes up only about 2400 words in Genesis, he has expanded it into a two-hour-and-more epic.
Nothing in Aronofsky’s most recent work suggests this interest: Black Swan (2010) was a surrealistic backstage drama about ballerinas, while The Wrestler (2008) had an equally harrowing behind-the-scenes story.
Background notes say the screenplay of Noah was embellished with material like ancient Jewish texts, theological treatises and Dead Sea Scrolls.
On screen, it resembles a cross between Sir Peter Jackson’s Rings trilogy, with its use of digital wizardry, and Transformers.
This is not to denigrate the result. The ark itself follows
the literal biblical description, while some fallen angels called
“The Watchers” become rock monsters.
They act as protectors to Noah and his family as they start to build the ark after he receives the revelation from the Creator about the fate awaiting other Earth dwellers.
This sets up the mighty climax that thrill-seekers demand as the hordes try to storm the ark as the deluge begins from both the ground and sky.
It is heavily implied that the Creator’s wrath extends beyond humanity’s lack of spirituality to its destruction of the environment. Noah is the first greenie and makes this clear when
someone attempts to pick a flower in the arid land where they
Noah, well played by Russell Crowe, faces a grim dilemma in having to decide between zealous obedience to his Creator (the term
God is not used) and love of his wife (Jennifer Connelly), three
sons and an adopted daughter (Emma Watson, of Harry Potter). Thanks to Methuselah (Anthony Hopkins), Noah’s grandfather, she becomes
betrothed to the eldest, Shem (Douglas Booth).
Noah clashes with the middle son, Ham (Logal Lerman), when he is unable to bring a potential partner on board.
In a twist, Ham plots against his father in an alliance with a
descendant of Cain, Tubal-Cain (Ray Winstone).
Mature audiences (violence):137 minutes.
by NEVIL GIBSON