(Probably best read after seeing the film, due to spoilerishness)
I’m later than many, but finally got on board this new Noah film, in which Russell Crowe plays a crow-rustler (and rustler of every other animal). Overall I thought it was a bit wet with a strong narrative ark.
Much has been made of the rock-monsters. And while no Bible mentions the word ‘rock-monsters’, fair enough it does in one verse hint at a race of large descendents of angels. So all Darrenarren Aronofsky has done is interpret them as pebble-dashed Transformers.
Weirdly I had far less of a problem with that than with what happens on the ark itself. The biblical Noahic account is just under 100 verses long. Barely enough for a short film. So they had to add stuff. So why did they take stuff away? Genesis 7:6 speaks of Noah taking his sons’ wives on board. So (SPOILERS!) why did Russell Croah only take on one son’s missus? In fact he goes out of his way to make sure his middle son doesn’t take a wife on board. Now I understand that the film I saw needn’t be a word-for-word retelling of the Bible story (my recent publication ‘Genesis: The Bibluffer’s Guide’ certainly doesn’t – have I mentioned that book? I have but you’ve yet to buy a copy? Well it’s here then: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Genesis-Bibluffers-Guide-Paul-Kerensa/dp/0232530750/). It’s an interpretation. But I see no benefit to re-interpreting it so that Noah practically kills off his future daughter-in-law, when all versions till now have had him bringing on-board enough spouses for all his chiddlers. It just causes that giant question-mark at the end of the film: Is the human race going to develop entirely from Hermione Grainger?
Speaking of whom, the whole dramatic crux of the film (although crux is really a New Testament concept) is (MORE SPOILERS!) Russell Crowe being convinced that his job is to ensure no future humanity survives. So he chases after Emma Watson and her newborns. I should have been moved by this. I was utterly devoid of worry though, as we all know he won’t do it. And in today’s day and age, given the international reach of cinema, I find it worrying that the film purveys the attitude that male babies should live while female babies should be instantly killed. There are cultures today that still practise or preach this – it is a centuries-old attitude that is far from being extinct on this planet. How utterly unhelpful to add this to the Noah narrative, when it doesn’t feature at all in the Genesis account. Portray what’s in the book by all means, add extra plotlines, dialogue and characters – even mad old King Tubalcain – by all means. But to fabricating something like this that adds nothing, yet only creates possible harm in the world? Personally I found the ‘female babies to be scrapped’ plotline at best unhelpful and at worst potentially damaging. I never thought I’d be glad that the film was banned in Qatar, UAE and Egypt, but given that these are some of the scarier countries when it comes to gender difference, I found myself glad of it.
On a lighter note, the effects were good. And the whole ‘creation retold by Noah’ was excellent I thought. It showed how evolution and the biblical creation narrative can co-exist, and also how Cain & Abel’s tale can be seen as an allegory for all human violence, rather than just about two rowing siblings.
All in all, a miss, but I’m glad they’ve done it. It’s good to see a bit of Bible on-screen, and it helps visualise it a little. But to those who’ve not read the book of the film: the Noah I’ve glimpsed in those 99 verses is a little less child-killy. And Mrs Ham seems to come out of it a little better…
As for what Ridley Scott and Christian Bale will make of Exodus, we’ll find out this December.