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