Liz Tells Frank What Happened In Darren Aronofsky’s “Noah”

Dear Frank,

noah-posterMonday night, about ten minutes before a screening of Darren Aronofsky’s Noah, I made the following joke on Twitter:

Do you think I’ll have a hard time understanding “Noah” if I don’t read the book first? (I remember hearing it was based on some book…)

Not exactly groundbreaking, as jokes go. But it happened to be couched in some amount of truth. I would probably consider myself a spiritual person, but that spirituality owes absolutely nothing to the Good Book and any knowledge of the material within is due largely to pop culture’s appropriation of it. Like, I know what Gethsemane is, but only because there’s an X-Files episode called that, you know?

(DAMN IT I almost made it a full 24 hours without referencing The X-Files in some context. Frank, I was doing SO GOOD.)

Point is, I know the basics of the Noah story — God decides to punish Man with flood, one guy builds a really big boat to save the creatures that can’t swim to survive it — and went into Aronofsky’s interpretation assuming that the rest of what happened in the film would be drawn from the original text.

But the next day, when I was talking with people online about what I’d seen, I was surprised to learn that NOPE. Not only is the original text, in one person’s words, “really bare bones” but Aronofsky took some, um, liberties with the source material. And Aronofsky’s version? BONKERS.

So, um, God made the heavens and the Earth, and then on the seventh sixth day he made Man. That’s literally how this movie begins. There’s a lot of very pretty CGI, taking us through all seven days, and also the thing where Cain murdered Abel and his descendants suck. They have mined and ruined the Earth with “industry”! What dicks! (Who totally aren’t a metaphor for modern society!)

Ah, but the third son of Adam and Eve no one talks about, Seth (basically the Buster Bluth of the family) — well, his descendants are awesome!

When you think about it, Buster actually does have a kinda Biblical suffering thing going on.  Very Old Testament.

When you think about it, Buster actually does have a kinda Biblical suffering thing going on. Very Old Testament.

There aren’t a lot of Buster descendants, though, and there’s about to be one less. We meet Tween Noah, just about to be blessed by his father and turned into a real man while they crawl around on unindustrialized outlands, when a bunch of Cain Men show up and murder Dad.

(By the way, there’s a whole thing with a magic snakeskin that Noah’s dad is supposed to use to make Noah a real man, but he’s murdered right before that can happen, and while the magic snakeskin shows up again I don’t really get its significance because snakes are supposed to be bad, right? Anyway, I shall be actively ignoring everything relating to the magic snakeskin going forward.)

Tween Noah runs away after the murdering, and then we cut immediately to Noah as a father of young boys, out exploring similar outlands in search of this magic gold rock that does everything from start fires to fuel rocket launchers. (Believe me, Frank, we’ll get to that.)

Noah tells his kids not to be a dick to nature. He fights some Cain guys who are trying to kill a nice weird armadillo-like creature for food — apparently the descendants of Buster Bluth do not approve of eating meat.

The world is apparently going down the crapper, by the way: The armadillo thing was the first animal the Cain guys had seen in a while, and pretty much everywhere you look is scorched earth due to mining of the magic gold rocks that Noah and his kids were harvesting in a sustainable fashion THIS MOVIE IS SUBTLE.

Speaking of subtle — Frank, lately you might have noticed that, in an effort to avoid the more blasphemous side of cursing, I have begun swapping references to God or Jesus with Hugh Jackman, because if you ask me, Hugh Jackman is the exact opposite of a false idol. (Writing this is making me realize that I have internalized a lot, lot more of the Bible than previously thought.)

Ironically, Indiewire had a pretty interesting article about how Noah and one of Aronofsky’s previous films, The Fountain, have a lot in common. The Fountain, of course, stars Hugh Jackman! Thus, in service to Our Lord, I shall be filling the rest of this post with photos of Him.

Also the movie's still in theaters so screenshots are a challenge.

Also the movie’s still in theaters so screenshots are a challenge.

Noah and the boys head back to their camp, where Jennifer Connelly and another baby boy are waiting. Noah and Jenny mack on each other hard, and seem pretty happy — but in the middle of the night, Noah wakes up after a totally weird dream. (Pretty CGI alert! There’s so much of it in this movie.)

Wanting to understand the totally weird dream, he decides that what they should do is go visit his grandfather Methuselah, whose name is impossible to spell so I’ll just be calling him Anthony Hopkins from now on. They break camp and it’s ROAD TRIP TIME, picking up foundling Baby Emma Watson on the way.

Even younger than this, if you can believe it.

Even younger than this, if you can believe it.

Baby Emma Watson is adorable, but has a belly wound that Jenny is sure will make her barren. (Not the preferred nomenclature, Jenny.)

This is literally a tale as old as time, Frank, so I’m going to speed things up. Noah tracks down Anthony Hopkins on his mountain, and Anthony Hopkins not only helps him figure out the dealio — humanity sucks, God’s gonna give the Earth a deep power-wash, Noah and his family are in charge of the big-boat-that-saves-the-animals thing — but gives him a magic seed to grow trees that they can use to build the big boat!

I keep calling it a big boat because every time I type “ark” I first spell it “arc,” because I spend a lot more time in general writing about plot arcs than big boats. Please bear with me.

Another ten years pass, and the big boat is nearly done thanks to the efforts of Noah, his family, and a bunch of the rock angel monsters–

–Oh, I should explain about the rock angel monsters, or as your good friend and mine Whitney Bishop refers to them, the Nephilim, who in the Bible are some sort of mystical giants, but in Aronofsky’s world are… well, giant rock monsters who at first don’t like Noah, but then agree to help him build the big boat.

(Good thing, because they are giant powerful rock monsters and I’m sure the boat would have taken a lot longer, otherwise.)

Because ten years have passed, Baby Emma Watson is now Emma Watson, and making out hardcore with Noah’s eldest son Shem. However, while she clearly likes the dude, she has some major hang-ups about how she is BARREN and cannot be a proper wife to Shem and look, Emma, I get it, but that’s no reason to leave the guy with blue balls.

Why you gotta play that way, Emma?

Why you gotta play that way, Emma?

Speaking of blue balls! Noah’s second son Ham is kind of annoyed by the fact that Shem has a special lady and he doesn’t. This is understandable, but I don’t know if a full 20 minutes of this movie needed to be devoted to the fact that Ham and youngest brother Japheth will never get laid if they don’t get some other bitches on board the ark.

Weirdly, Noah does not suggest that they go pick up extra wives at whatever wife store he got Jenny from. (Seriously, when we make the age jump from Tween Noah to Father-of-Three Noah, he just has a wife from out of nowhere.) Instead, he just blows off Ham’s concerns about NEVER GETTING TO HAVE SEX EVER to focus on boat-building.

Ham, understandably, does not take this well, especially as the boat is nearly done and the animals it will be transporting have begun to show up in packs, sedated into peaceful sleep for the long boat trip to come. (Carnival Cruise has a similar strategy for its passengers, involving the midnight dessert buffet.)

Now, Frank, this movie’s been flirting with the tropes of a post-apocalyptic narrative all this while, but here’s where things go full Mad Max: The King of Cain’s descendants (who, remember, are all total dicks) shows up with a big army to try to steal Noah’s big boat, and they set up this totally terrifying camp that Noah visits one night… I dunno, for kicks?

But Murder Camp is all fire and rape and fighting and people eating meat and murder, and Noah’s like, well, clearly humanity is fucked. So not only will he make sure that the big boat successfully saves all the innocent creatures, but he’ll also make sure that he and his family are the last humans ever on the planet.

That is a bummer. Here, Hugh Jackman in "The Boy From Oz" will make you feel better!

That is a bummer. Here, Hugh Jackman in “The Boy From Oz” will make you feel better!

Which would be fine, except Barren Emma? Not so barren anymore, thanks to a visit from Anthony Hopkins, who has magic powers! He blesses her belly, and then she immediately runs to Shem and RIPS THEIR CLOTHES OFF AND THEY DO IT HARDCORE.

And also, Ham’s gone wandering into Murder Camp to see if they have any wives available — and he finds one! There’s a nice girl crouching in a crevass filled with bodies, and Ham does a pretty good of convincing her that he is a) not going to rape her and b) totally into making her his wife.

Which would be great, except when Ham and the girl run back to the big boat, the girl gets her leg caught in a bear trap, and when Noah finds them, he doesn’t help save her — he just drags Ham back to the boat, while the girl is crushed beneath the feet of a stampeding army.

Because the rain’s started, Frank! And mankind is freaking out! Fortunately, there are giant rock monsters! Anne, the friend to whom I owe having seen this film, compared them to Ents, which works pretty well, except I don’t know if the Ents stomped the everloving shit out of orcs the way that the giant rock monsters do man. Like, the giant rock monsters have two arms and two legs and two rock-encrusted wings, and all of them are called into service to BASH MEN UP. It’s maybe a 10-minute-long sequence, and it is just BRUTAL.

I guess the rock monsters are vaguely fallen angels, but as each is eventually killed by the onslaught, they’re forgiven and shoot back up into Heaven. One of them, in fact, is killed by that rocket launcher I mentioned before, wielded by that stupid King I also mentioned before.

Frank, the King stuff pisses me off because it’s so boring and predictable, so I’m just going to tell you that the King sneaks onto the big boat, he makes it for a few months because of Ham’s help, and then he’s the instigator of a fight sequence that only really happens to break up the other really stupid stuff that happens on the boat later. He gets killed. Nothing really matters.

After hundreds of people get Rock Monstered to death but Noah’s family makes it onto the boat, things descend into a rather grim “listening to people outside screaming for help because they’re drowning in this Creator-sent flood” sequence.

But Noah’s like, this is great! Everyone here can just live out their natural lives before dying, and God will be totally psyched about totally getting rid of humanity! After all, there’s no way there can be any more humans, because the only young woman on this boat is barren!

Except, whoops, remember how Emma got cured by Anthony Hopkins and fucked by Shem? Well, now she’s surprise pregnant! Noah, upon learning he’s about to become a grandpa, reacts the way you’d expect — he tells her that if her child is a girl, he will totally murder it, because there’s a chance said girl could become a mother and make more men, which he is against.

After that scene, I made this face for a good solid five minutes.

After that scene, I made this face for a good solid five minutes.

Emma, understandably, does not take this news well. Pretty much everyone is like DUDE THAT IS FUCKING CRAZY. But Noah ignores them.

After that scene, I made this face for a good solid five minutes.

Time passes? Originally, I thought that the flood was 40 days and 40 nights (much like a Josh Hartnett movie about not masturbating). But here, the flood lasts at least nine months. Because CUT TO Super-Pregnant Emma, waddling around trying to stock a mini-boat she and Shem have made to escape the boat and Murderin’ Grandpa Noah before her baby arrives.

Unfortunately, Murderin’ Grandpa Noah SETS THEIR MINI-BOAT ON FIRE, and then Emma goes into labor, and OH SHIT not only does she have a daughter but she has TWIN DAUGHTERS. TWICE THE BABY MURDER, Frank! Our lucky day.

Grandpa corners Emma and the kids up on the top of the boat, knife drawn, and she does what every brand new mother would do — begs for a minute to comfort her baby daughters, so that when their grandfather murders them, they’re not crying.

To shut the kids up, she sings a lullaby Noah had taught her back when she was Baby Emma, and it ends up staying his hand. Noah drops the knife, just as a dove arrives from the mainland carrying a olive branch (I think that’s it), meaning that the flood is officially over.

You’d think that’d be good news! Everyone’s on land! The animals now have made baby animals! But Noah’s bummed about not having been able to murder his granddaughters, so as soon as they hit land he learns how to make wine and spends a bunch of time being super-drunk in a cave.

This is the first image that comes up when you Google "drunk Russell Crowe." If you were wondering.

This is the first image that comes up when you Google “drunk Russell Crowe.” If you were wondering.

This, by the way, is when the famous “uncovered Noah’s nakedness” scene happens, which apparently is the subject of much discussion and study. The film’s version: Noah passes out super-drunk and naked, his kids find him, and Shem covers him up with a blanket. No metaphor for sexuality or incest, sorry to disappoint.

And despite the fact that his sister-in-law just pushed out at least one totally eligible baby wife (it’s the Old Testament, Frank, incest ain’t nothing but an artificial construct only considered taboo in cultures with Internet dating sites), Ham wanders off in search of… I don’t know, willing livestock? But Noah stops being super-drunk and re-embraces his family, and there are a shit-ton of really pretty CGI rainbows in the sky. And THE END.

Frank, this movie’s really really fucking weird. It tries really hard to honor its Biblical roots, but then it jumbles in all these other super-confusing elements and plot twists and Russell Crowe technically giving a great performance except DID I MENTION THE BABY MURDER STUFF ALREADY YEAH I DID…

This is already so long, so let me summarize Noah‘s schizophrenia with just one scene. There’s an interlude in this movie covering the full Genesis story, with all the CGI you could ever hope to see, and there’s an incredibly weird bit where we see the scientifically-agreed-upon journey of man’s evolution take place — fish to lizards to small furry mammals to bigger furry mammals to apes. This then transitions… into full-formed Adam and Eve wandering around the Garden of Eden.

Evolution and Creationism smashed together into one scene? No wonder this movie can’t full-on please anyone except Aronofsky fans. And no wonder no one believes me, when I tell them what happened in it.

Love,
Liz

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About Liz Shannon Miller

Liz Shannon Miller, based in Los Angeles, is a writer for the screen and the web, her work including G4's Attack of the Show and the tech blog GigaOM. She also co-hosts the podcast Timey Wimey TV, contributes to the video curation site Here's Some Awesome, and tells her friend Frank about stuff at Liz Tells Frank.

Posted on April 3, 2014, in All the Spoilers, Movies, Spoiler Alert! and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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