Apparently, “Noah’s” Ark was built by giant stone creatures. I didn’t know that. I must’ve missed that when I last read the Bible. In the latest trend in delivering biblical tales to the big screen, director/writer Darren Aronofsky (along with screenwriter Ari Handel) decided that the centuries old biblical tale of Noah was lacking something. And that something was a sci-fi / magical twist!
We start out with a pre-story to Noah about a magical snake skin (presumably the one shed by the snake in the Garden of Eden) that gives Noah his birthright and, in the movie’s biggest WTF?? moment that defies all logic and takes us straight into SyFy Channel land, a legion of fallen angels that fell to Earth and became (and I am NOT making this up) a band of giant, multi-armed rock creatures that look like Transformers!! These “Watchers”, as they are called, apparently are the ones responsible for aiding and abetting mankind in building their cities and towns. Are you $#@&% kidding me??
After I stopped laughing, I composed myself and watched as fatherly Noah (Russell Crowe) and his loving wife, Naameh (Jennifer Connelly) are living at the poverty level in a black desert. He has three sons: Ham (Logan Lerman), a headstrong teen that wants to be independent, Shem (Douglas Booth) who has found his true love in a rescued girl named Ila (Emma Watson), and the youngest, Japeth (Leo McHugh Carroll). But uneasy rests Noah. He’s having the most unsettling and horrible nightmares imaginable about snakes and blood and water you can think of. So much so, he packs up the family to go see his old father, Methuselah (Anthony Hopkins) with the help of a (*snicker*) Watcher (*chortle*). Soon Noah learns of the Creator’s (they never really say “God”) plans from his dad from some drugged tea: He’s gonna wipe out all of Earth’s civilization with a major flood, but spare his family and all the animals. But first, Noah must build an Ark. With the help of a single seed from the Garden of Eden, an instant forest grows up around them faster than you can say, “Yosemite”, and the building of the ginormous Ark is started. . .with the help of a dozen (*snicker snicker*) Watchers (*gaffaw*). I guess I missed that part in the Bible.
Anyway, years into building the monster project the neighbors come a’callin’. It’s Tubal-cain (Ray Winstone), a childhood nemesis of Noah’s and the self-appointed King of the massive population of degenerates he’s leading. He thinks Noah’s crazy about building an Ark (but he’s okay with the rock creatures helping him. Go figure.) Crazy, that is, until it starts to rain.
Meanwhile, all the animals, birds, reptiles, etc. show up (yes, two-by-two) and find a place to sleep on board the Ark while the family busies themselves for the end of days. Ham is nervous about not having a wife for his own for the trip, so he sets out to find one, but with disastrous results.
Soon, the clouds come rolling in and you know what that means! RAIN!! Noah gets his family secured while Tubal-cain rallies his people to take the Ark and lead an “every man for himself” attack. The (*big snicker*) Watchers (*chortle*) try to protect the Ark from the stampeding mob, but they get killed and turned back into angels again. Funny, I didn’t see that coming.
The tsunami waves and water geysers explode and the Ark is off and floating on the high seas with Noah, his family, a whole lotta sleeping animals. Here is where Noah drops a bombshell on his kin. He recounts the tragic story of Adam and Eve and their kids, Cain and Able. He states that since mankind is inherently evil, that ALL of mankind must be wiped out. . .even them! None can live once they reach land. Ila announces that she’s pregnant and Noah says that if the child is a boy, fine, but if it’s a girl, he will kill the child upon her birth. Hey, nice grand-parenting skills there, buddy.Yes, Noah has lost his mind. His family thinks he’s crazier than the bats on board and Shem and pregnant Ila try to leave via a raft they built. But Noah blows it up with these magical glowing stone thingys and, did I mention that Tubal-cain stowed away on board? Well, he did and wants revenge. But soon that dove with the olive branch appears (What? No eagle with a cactus?) and Noah comes to his senses as the Ark comes to rest on Mount Ararat in Turkey. Ham, disappointed with life in general and no Watchers to play with anywhere, takes off for parts unknown, while Noah blesses the twin baby girls he was going to murder only a few days before. What a nice, happy ending.This is one stupid-ass, ridiculous movie that had me laughing and scratching my bald head throughout the 2 hours and 17 minutes. Preposterous and utterly bizarre, this was written by someone who claimed that he took the biblical story of Noah into account (Really? Must’ve been some OTHER story of Noah I’m not familiar with). It lost all creditability the very moment those idiotic stone Watchers were introduced. What the $#@& was Aronofsky thinking? This is NOT a SyFy Channel goofy movie with sharks falling from the sky or “frankenpythons”. What’s next? Moses helped free the Israelites because he was a superhero from another planet?
Yes, the CGI was good and there were some nice “moments” once you got away from the nonsense of the criminally butchered main story, but on the whole, this is one diabolically twisted and screwed-up movie that should NEVER be shown to kids. EVER!
Note to Aronofsky: you can save this train-wreck if you re-cut the movie and digitally remove all those stupid Watchers and magical stones/snake skins. It won’t be a joke and might even have a chance.
The Ten Commandments (1956)
There’s a line in “Blazing Saddles” where the Waco Kid says, “I must have killed more men than Cecil B. DeMille”. He wasn’t too far from the truth; given his tyrannical reputation on the set for “getting the shot” and risking injury to his actors. Whether it was his tenure as silent movie director or his lavish “Cleopatra” or “The Greatest Show on Earth“, excess on film was DeMille’s trademark. Too much was not enough for one of Hollywood’s greatest directors that ever lived and “Ten Commandments” was the last film he ever directed, and WOW! Did he ever go out with a bang!
This almost by-the-book retelling of Moses (Charlton Heston), the Jewish slave baby saved from the Pharaoh’s slaughter of newborns, is rescued by Bithia (Nona Foch), the Pharaoh’s own daughter and brought up as her own son in the house of Kings. As Prince Moses, he and his half-brother, Ramses (Yul Brynner) are constantly with the sibling rivalry over their dad’s (King Sethi–played by the great Sir Cedric Hardwicke) affection. This is also because the Jewish people love Moses because he is kind and loving to them (a day off from slavery, more food to eat, less whipping, etc).
But when King Sethi finds out his “son” Moses is actually Jewish AND the prophesied “deliverer” to the slaves, he has him banished into the desert. This would normally kill anybody else, but Moses is rescued by Sephora (Yvonne DeCarlo), a sheepherder and one of many girls that work for their dad, Jethro. Moses marries Sephora and lives as a sheepherder until he learns of God and His home in the mountain of Sinai. Undaunted, Moses goes and talks to God himself (voiced by Heston, BTW), and is giving instructions to back and get his people out of Egypt and bring them to “the promised land”.
Which Moses does. But not without a whole lotta trouble, I can tell you that! His step-brother is now Pharaoh and doesn’t give them up without a fight. But after plague after nasty plague, Pharaoh capitulates. Moses leads them out through the parted Red Sea (nice SPFX) and to the mountainside where God delivers them the stone tablets for His Ten Commandments. Seems that the people, after seeing the many plagues, the parting of the Red Sea, and all the amazing sights, STILL don’t believe that God exists and start to worship a golden cow! Are these people nuts or what?
Finally, because these are a “stiff-necked people”, God forces them to wander forty years in the desert to get rid off the rebellious generation while we see an elderly Moses appointing his brother Joshua (John Derek) to succeed him as leader, says a final good bye to Sephora, and goes forth into the desert and his destiny.
This movie has it all. DeMille’s awesome direction with his ginormous big-budget for its time, a huge cast of named stars (look for Vincent Price and Edward G. Robinson!), and a three-strip Technicolor process that made the colors just POP on screen. A dynamite screenplay by Aeneas Mackenzie, Jesse L. Lasky Jr, Jack Gariss, and Fredric M. Frank that yes, took some liberties with the Bible (NO angelic stone creatures!), but still made it entertaining and exciting. Solid acting from the entire cast, even the supporting actors.
And then you got Charlton Heston at his prime. Between this and “Ben-Hur“, he was a born superstar and carries this picture so effortlessly that he makes it look easy. Filmmakers try and remake this picture all the time, but honestly, they pale in comparison to the original grandeur and style of this 1956 masterpiece that was pure Hollywood. This is one movie you buy for your collection, not rent.