The Benefit of Second-hand Smoke, Part 2

When last we met, my husband and I had gone to see a real movie in a real movie theater, a movie theater that quickly filled with cigarette smoke. I know. I didn’t believe it, either.

Warning. Spoilers abound. Skip to the next bold print if you need to.

I introduced you to the marvelously stupid rock-Transformers, otherwise known as the Watchers. Remember them from Sunday School? Nah, me neither.

Yeah. The Watchers were fallen angels (the Nephilim in the Old Testament. But instead of marrying the daughters of men, these guys helped build the ark. I know. And they looked pretty much like this, give or take a leg or two.

Yeah. The Watchers were fallen angels (the Nephilim in the Old Testament. But instead of marrying the daughters of men, these guys helped build the ark. I know. And they looked pretty much like this, give or take a leg or two.


Originally, I thought it was a period piece. I was kind of right. It’s bloated and made me scream a lot.

I don’t know what the message was supposed to be. Was it a fitness movie? There was a lot of running. Or maybe it was about hugging? There was a lot of hugging, too.

It wasn’t about the ark. In reality, it took years. In the movie, it was built in a two-minute montage with the aid of a magic seed and the rock-Transformers. It wasn’t so much about his adventure with the animals, either. They were glossed over, arriving in an amorphous mass and appearing to be generally the same species. Has the director only seen two kinds of snakes in his life? And the moment they arrive, he tucks them neatly away by putting them to sleep with the help of special happy smoke so they don’t eat each other or him during their time on the ark. (But if they wake up with the munchies, he pretty much defeated his own purpose, right?). So they’re going to sleep for the next year.

I think the movie’s biggest failure is that the director forgot he was making a movie that was based on a book – a book that maybe a few billion people have read. It’s a huge risk. There are a couple of ways to pull it off successfully. A director needs to think so far outside of the box that it hits viewers right over the head and they know to expect the unexpected. “Oh, Brother, Where Art Thou?” comes to mind. It’s a genius retelling of the Odyssey, and one of my favorite movies. I get a lot of satisfaction finding the elements that tie it to the original story. The other way is to stick pretty darned close to canon. This director does neither. Big mistake.

I know Aronofsky is an atheist. I don’t think he had to believe in God the Creator in order for the film to work. Sadly, though, he did not believe in God the character, either. He commits the cardinal sin for writers everywhere. He tells instead of shows. Rather than hearing God’s voice and hearing the message right along with Noah, we are treated to a dream in which Russell Crowe spends ten seconds underwater. The moment he wakes up, he’s all “The Creator said I gotta build this big boat and we’re all gonna die!” Really? That’s what you got from that dream, Noah? Right. Last night, I dreamed my dog Phoebe ate my wallet and turned into a jackalope. So I’m pretty sure that means God wants me to buy a wardrobe of pink hot pants, strap on some rollerblades, and run for President. That leap was weak at best, lazy at worst.

The problem with taking God out of the story is that without Him, Noah’s motivations become muddied. In the first hour, Noah isn’t shown in any act of worship, he just seems to have a general idea about what’s right. It reminds me of the phase of my life when I went to church on Easter because I had this vague notion that’s what I was supposed to do. Would someone with that level of devotion believe they were being told to build a giant boat? And would they obey? Doubtful. Maybe he would build the boat out of self-preservation, but then how do you work killing his grandbabies into it? Suddenly the film makes no sense. There’s no believable catalyst.

Imagine The Lord of the Rings with no Gandalf. Frodo just tells us he met this old guy who said he was supposed to hike 1500 miles and dump a ring into a volcano. Would we buy it? Probably not. We needed to see Gandalf, to experience his terror  first-hand. Only then can we swallow the premise of Frodo’s perilous journey. And we do, hook, like, and Slinker/Stinker.

Maybe it was about vegetarianism? The bad guys were first labeled to us as bad guys because … wait for it… they ate meat. Killing animals is wrong, wrong, wrong. Forget that (in the Bible) God actually instructed man to make animal sacrifices and that Noah was to bring seven pairs each of the sacrificial animals.  Or that in the story of Cain and Abel, the murderer was the veggie-raiser, not the shepherd.

Oh, wait. I did say I would bold a section to let the spoiler-haters know when to tag back in. Here you go!

It was a mess of a film with everything and nothing going on at once. I know it was directed by an atheist. That doesn’t bother me. It could still have been a thought-provoking and engaging film without the religious aspect. But when the intent is to remove the religion from a religious story, it needs to be replaced with something else equally compelling and profound, more than just “eating meat makes you the devil.”

I can live with poor movie making, lazy plot and silly CGI, though. The deal breaker, what prompted us to get up and walk out of the theater, was the over-the-top violence that partially involved over-the-top cruelty to animals. When I buy a ticket for a movie rated PG-13, I should feel comfortable in knowing I am not about to be subjected to animals screaming while they are ripped apart  or have to watch them try to get away after their body is mangled. PG-13, huh? Is that the kind of thing you want your 13-year-old desensitized to? I don’t. When the violence is taken to that level, the film needs to be slapped with a big, fat R. It’s not a kid’s movie. It’s not a teenager’s move, either, in my opinion.

Was Aronofsky thumbing his nose at believers? “Here’s what I did to a favorite religious story! Neener-neener!” I don’t know. Maybe. But it reminds me of the time in an act of supreme defiance, one of my toddler children peed on the dog. Yes, the kid made their point and I had a bit of a mess to clean up, but the kid was the one who stooped to peeing on the dog. Which of us had the bigger problem? So Darren, dude, I hate to be the one to tell you, but you just peed on the dog.

So we walked out. And thanks to the smoker, we had a good enough reason to get our money back. Because that’s what we did. We could have gotten return tickets to come back when Smoky Joe wasn’t there anymore, but we didn’t. We got the refund. Because life is too short to sit through a pointless picture.


35 thoughts on “The Benefit of Second-hand Smoke, Part 2

  1. Thanks for saving me the money and, more importantly, the time. What a disappointment when the Ark could be such a compelling movie if done in a way similar to The Passion. And that cigarette smoke – god awful and selfish!!

  2. Wha- Why were animals being ripped apart?! Were those the sacrificial animals, or were those scenes of the eeeevil carnivorous meat-eaters being evil and carnivorous?

    You make a very interesting point, about the possibility of making a good non-religious adaptation of a Bible story. I’m trying to think of movies I’ve seen that might fit that bill…the only ones that come to mind are the musicals Godspell (which, actually, is very religious in tone and message, but it’s presented in such a unique, goofy way…) and Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. To this day, one of my favorite high-school memories is being part of the Spring 2001 production of Godspell — I was in the 60-person “Chorus” our director decided to add as background for the main cast of thirteen.

    • Yeah, it was the evil meat-eaters who tore apart an animal. Carnivores are terrible people, you know. Terrible.

      I think he could have pulled it off and made it meaningful without the religious themes had he gone about it the right way. Listening to an interview with him, though, it doesn’t sound like there was a lot of forethought into what he was doing. It’s too bad, too. It could have been incredible!

      • *Sigh* Maybe he was trying to make a comment about factory farms or something? Which I have heard awful, awful things about…but then he should’ve made a movie about that instead of sticking it into a movie about something completely different.

        It’d be like if someone made a movie about the Titanic and made the bad guy an evil whale hunter so they could push forward some message about saving the whales, and it’s also a cartoon with talking dolphins and the iceberg was actually *thrown* in the Titanic’s path by a giant octopus. *laughs awkwardly in an attempt to pretend I actually made all that up. Laughter turns into crying like the Cowardly Lion because I unfortunately did not make any of that up.*

  3. I don’t know where I’ve been. Aronofsky directed this? What? That seems…disparate from his normal work, doesn’t it? Eek.

    I want a movie consisting of nothing but those rock-Transformers and children peeing on dogs. I think that’s where we make our millions right there. I’d watch that, yo.

    • I don’t know that I’ve seen anything else he has done. I don’t go to the theater much, and I definitely won’t be in a hurry after this!

      I’ve got just the kid to star in this flick we are making here. I do! We will be rich!

  4. I love “O Brother Where Art Thou?”… It was a fantastic film, and I agree about changing the source material so much without the obvious, nearly satirical caveat. Reading what they changed for “Noah”, I am in awe at the power of a buck…. but shaking my head at how little they respected the source material. (I wonder how many people are going to think that’s the real story now.)

      • I’m definitely worried. We already have people who think that modern artists doing covers of the Beatles are the ones who wrote the songs… It’s not a far stretch. 😛

  5. This is a great review. It’s exactly what my co-worker was telling me this morning when he came in and had seen the movie last night and was extremely upset, especially about the rock transformers. After some discussion, we concluded that they may as well make a sequel called Jurassic Ark.

  6. At first, I thought I might like to see this, but reading so many reviews similar to yours has convinced me my time and my money would be better off saved. You’ve done an excellent service here to those still sitting on the fence — sorry you had to suffer through some of it, but hey, at least you got your money back!

    • Thanks. I’m glad I could help. Sometimes when a movie gets bad reviews, I go anyway because I think “How bad can it be?” In this case, the answer is “Really, really, painfully bad.”

  7. I honesty don’t see the point of taking the religion out of a bible story. For Christian kids, isn’t it one of the first bible story we are exposed to? I know it was for me. Normally I cannot enjoy stories that are embellished or changed to add in a director’s point of view. I guess if the movie shows up on cable and I have free time, I will see what it is all about, or maybe not.

  8. Pingback: So Maybe I Failed Another Drug Screen | Becoming Cliche

  9. Glad to read your review. I’ve read one or two others, but yours gave the best synopsis. And I liked your suggestions about what could have made it better and what it could have done without.
    I was a little on the fence about seeing it, but now I’m sure I won’t go. Or maybe I will, just to see for myself how bad it is.

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