'Noah': Blending the Bible with 'Transformers,' J.R.R. Tolkien

Published: Friday, April 4 2014 9:51 a.m. MDT

Noah (Russell Crowe) sees the rain starting to fall as the great flood begins in the biblical epic "Noah," which adheres closer to "Transformers" and something by J.R.R. Tolkien.

Paramount Pictures

There was an interesting juxtaposition of imagery in the trailers preceding the matinée showing of “Noah” that my wife and I attended last weekend. And it couldn’t help but affect the experience.

It’s always a kick to see what movies are deemed appropriate to be hawked before the film you’ve come to see. Before “Non-Stop” we saw trailers for a string of upcoming action films, which is logical. But before “Veronica Mars” we saw trailers for a string of upcoming horror movies, which seemed not just random but, well, odd.

This time, we expected a couple of big-budget action-film trailers, since “Noah” is filled with mayhem. But we thought we might also see previews for “Mary” or “Exodus,” since those are also Bible-based movies headed for theaters before the end of the year.

Instead, there were nothing but spring- and summer-blockbuster superhero/fantasy flicks — “The Amazing Spider-Man 2,” “Captain America: The Winter Soldier,” “Hercules,” “The Maze Runner,” “Transcendence” and “Transformers: Age of Extinction.”

Well, OK, whatever. The studios are just trying to ring the bell for their biggest upcoming films, which, to them, are all PG-13 “event” movies just like “Noah.”

Also shown was a trailer for the next Cinemark classic-movies cycle, which includes Cecil B. DeMille’s 1956 “The Ten Commandments” and the 1959 multiple-Oscars-winner “Ben-Hur.”

So once “Noah” got going, it was difficult not to think of it in comparison to any other Hollywood action flick, as well as older movies that were more respectful of their biblical reference points.

“Noah,” it is safe to say, is not your mama’s Bible epic. Actually, it’s truly weird. In fact, it wanders so far afield from scripture that it seems to have sprung from some other book. Perhaps one by J.R.R. Tolkien.

Let’s start with the film’s opening line, “In the beginning, there was nothing,” which is later articulated by Noah himself. That should give you some idea of where we’re going.

The word “Creator” replaces “God,” and the Creator doesn’t speak to Noah, instead giving him visions or hallucinations, which Noah must interpret. And far from understanding he’s been chosen by God because of his righteousness, Noah has no idea what he’s supposed to do, so he seeks out his grandfather Methuselah, who is portrayed as some kind of magical shaman.

And why is the Creator going to destroy the earth? Not for sins of idolatry or murder or adultery, although they seem to be in evidence, but rather because of an abundance of meat-eating frackers.

Self-appointed king Tubal-Cain is apparently strip-mining the land. What equipment is he using in this primitive age? Who knows, but they must be somewhat advanced since he also employs a primitive rocket-launcher. (Later, Tubal-Cain will stow away on the ark and lead one of Noah’s sons to mutiny.)

Noah, his wife and their three bachelor sons, along with an adopted daughter, are vegans who have so much respect for the earth that when one of the boys picks a flower, he’s chided by his father. The villains are the only meat-eaters here, and animal sacrifice is never mentioned.

Noah is such a rabid environmentalist that when he builds the ark and gathers the creatures of the earth onboard before the great flood, he believes survival applies only to the animals, assuming that the Creator wants Noah’s family to die along with the rest of humanity once their task is complete. Yikes!

In the end, it is Noah’s wife who must explain to him what the Creator really intended.

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