Noah – A review and discussion

Spoilers Abound

Darren Aronofsky is a visionary director. By that I mean he has a strong visual sense of what he wants and creates movies to match. For me, personally, he is also a director whose vision generally exceeds his capabilities.

That is the case with the epic film Noah. A lot of reviews focus on the film’s fidelity to its source material. As that isn’t the director’s intention it isn’t a fair comparison. He is telling a modern film with modern themes and values. But the movie doesn’t quite hold up.

It is a stunningly shot film. It has some good action scenes (but also some lousy ones). It has strong conflicts for Noah to face. As an entertainment it is thus largely successful.

The theme of the movie is that mankind has ruined the planet and whether they can be trusted to do better in the future.

The flaws? First the film is over long. At 2 plus hours it is too long for an action thriller. It adapts a story that is told in 5 chapters in the Bible and which can be well summarized in two paragraphs. So there is a lot of additional material. A lot is ineffective.

The characters are ciphers. Noah, portrayed by Russell Crowe, is fully realized. Ila, played by Emma Watson, has some good scenes, but no true character arc. Most of the rest spend the movie standing around stony faced. Sometimes they are scared, angry or sad as the plot demands. But they don’t come alive. The movie has a full character arc for Ham, played by Logan Lerman, but he acts every scenes with the same wooden, stunned face.

Finally the theme is bludgeoned at us. The movie is overly manipulative. Often choices are made that make no sense in order to forward the theme.

All told it is an entertaining spectacle of a movie. I think most folks watching it will enjoy it. But viewed on its own terms it doesn’t quite measure up.

Ok. The is the end of the review. But I also want to talk about choices the director made. Film making is about making choices and when doing an adaptation it is a bit more obvious what choices are being made.

I already spoke on the choice of theme. Obviously quite a bit different than what the source material describes. And most choices made support that theme.

Most events from the Bible occur in the movie. While the theme is different the movie is quite close to the written text. Two significant differences are that the movie never makes it clear that it rains for forty days or how long is spent on the ark until land appears nor does God ever speak directly to anyone. I thought not mentioning the forty days was quite interesting since it is one of the key elements everyone would know.

Bizarrely Noah is not a disaster movie. There are lots of conflict types in the movie, but not the one required for a disaster movie. Man vs. man. Check. Man vs himself. Check. Man vs God. Check’ish. But there is no man vs. the environment.

In a movie where the world floods, they never fight the water or storms. No scenes of almost drowning. No problems with the Ark leaking. No being tossed around by the storm.

That was interesting.

Next in an adaptation of a Biblical story God is almost absent. I say almost because there are many miracles depicted. But they are portrayed like magic. More importantly none of the characters have a relationship with God. In a very modern take, God is distant and unfathomable. God communicates only with Noah and only through visions that are easy to misunderstand. None of the other characters seem to relate to God. (Except the bad guy but his challenges go unanswered.) God is never referred by that term or ever The Lord, but always as the Creator.

Noah’s relationship with the Creator is not portrayed as faith, but obedience.

I thought that was interesting too.

Finally, the choice of how to portray the wickedness of mankind. While most men are shown as brutal and violent the big choice is showing the earth as a post-apocalyptic wasteland. Their evil is to believe the earth is theirs to subjugate and exploit. Noah is shown as good because he protects even the smallest flower.

Obviously this is one of the choices used to support the theme. But I still found it interesting.

Finally every other review I’ve read mention the rock angels. This was a Peter Jackson type inclusion that I didn’t find notable. They served their role in supporting the theme and plot. Their animation was cool. But mostly a bit forgettable. Their addition to the story was a choice, but I was not as interested in it as others made. Certainly not as interested as every other reviewer.

I think that is all I have to say.

Weekly Recap

I went to see The Muppets Most Wanted yesterday. The best part is the cameos. There are over 20 I think. Some are blink and you miss them. Some are teen idol types I don’t know, but you know it’s a cameo.

More jokes missed than hit. But there were a million jokes. So I laughed aloud several times – often to jokes the kids in the audience did get at all.

The musical numbers were horrendously bad though. Bad.

There was a scene in the movie where Kermit reminded me somehow of Dad. Not sure why. Suddenly I was choked up during a funny bit though.

Really I watched many movies over the weekend. Frozen, Saving Mr. Banks and Pan’s Labyrinth were all Saturday. I can recommend all three. I liked how in Frozen the girls always saved themselves without, or despite, the aid of the boy. Now that we’ve done that maybe they can do one where boys and girls are equal partners.

Haven’t even finished my comics yet. 5 left to go. But I’m spending most of my time reading the Baroque Cycle again. I stop a lot in the book to compare it to the actual history.

Hmm. Walking Dead is having its strongest season since the first. And Justified is great. Those are my can’t miss tv.

Setbacks at work over the week. But, another part of my big project went live. So it is now 9/14ths done. This next weekend another 3/28ths will go production. And if I can keep it on track everything else should be handed over to business testers for the remainder. Basically my team’s role will be done. I’ll still need to coordinate the production changes and the DBAs will do the final copies, but most of our work will be done on deadline.

Rob finished his first SW adventure. Fun was had. The gundarks might have been an unforced Chekov pistol though… But they are set up as scary for the next time. Now we will see what is in Dano’s head.

I think that is the week that was.

Weekly Recap

I didn’t write yesterday because I wanted to welcome Mom home. However her flights were delayed a full day. She should be home now.

Welcome home Mom. I hope Cuba was excellent.

My week was quiet. Work is crazy. I’ve said this before. We are in the final days of the month and I have a giant project due. Strictly speaking it has been going on for 8 months and is 4/7s complete. So there is a lot to do. A lot.

But the rest was gaming and comics and tv. The usual. Three slightly interesting bits.

Went to a party Saturday. A friend is now one year older. She is catching up to me. Yay!

Went to the dentist. I asked flat out if he thought I was gonna make. The prognosis looks good. Apparently death by plaque is not a common fear of most patients of his.

We had a new GM on Friday. Finally it was neither Dano nor I blathering. Yay! A nice job was done and great joy was found by all.

Take care of yourselves. Take care of each other. I’ll blather more in a week.

Or less…

Asleep

Do you ever wake up in the middle of the night to find your brain is disconnected? You can lie there and feel it turn on.

where am I?
This is my bed. This is my room. I’m at home.

when?
It is very dark. It is the middle of the night. Hmm. I..hmm. It wasn’t the weekend when I went to bed. But maybe it is now. No. No. It is Wednesday morning. I need to work in the morning. check clockI need to be up in three hours.

nuts. I just figured stuff out. I hope I can turn my brain off again and go back to sleep
Or let’s start to review responsibilities for tomorrow.

stupid brain. Animal hind brain wants more sleep.
Sorry. Those responsibilities reminded us of our hopes and fears. Let’s wake up the emotions and stew about them a bit.

we’re up. We’re up. Sonuvagun! It is way too early for this. Listen to your hind brain.
Stupid hind brain woke me up in the first place and started asking questions.

emotions and animal beat reason into submission

he’s out cold.

g’night. I got a good dream coming that you’ll like.

cool.

nuts. Just remembered why I woke everyone up. Need to pee.

Words of Radiance – A Review

Words of Radiance is the latest novel by Brandon Sanderson. It is the second, following Way of Kings, in his Stormlight Archive sequence.

WoR follows its four main characters as they struggle with new magical powers, new relationships, new responsibilities, a changing political situation and the fight to prevent the return of the Voidbringers and the Desolation that follows.

Long sentence above. That is suitable because it was a long novel. I’ll come back to that.

The characters are Adolin, a prince and warrior, Dalinar, his father, Kaladin, the head of their bodyguard and Shallan, Adolin’s betrothed.

In the first book of the series the arcs of the four characters are separated with little interaction. This novel slowly brings them together. Kaladin and Shallan both acquired powers in the first book. In this one those are further developed and work out whether to reveal those powers to their new allies.

Sanderson is very up front with his goals for the series. He wants to write epic fantasy. He wants it to be long. He wants the characters to drive the story. He is only partially successful.

It is a compulsive read. I couldn’t put it down. It is filled with detailed world building, interesting magic systems and a mythical plot. It has a variety of races. It has scenes of high adventure. It fulfills the epic fantasy remit.

It is long. Over 1000 pages long. So success? But it feels padded. Words of Radiance has more important items happen than Way of Kings did. The main characters meet and form relationships. The true threats of the series emerge. But we are 2000 pages into an epic and it is all act I material – establish characters and establish conflict.

Sanderson has developed some interesting characters, but it remains a plot driven book. The characters try and plan, but mostly they react to the machinations of those around them. If it was character driven each chapter would have outcomes dependant on the actions of the protagonists.

Also, Sanderson is overtly hiding information. Sprens conveniently forget all useful information and then recover it as the protagonist does. (Sprens are the living embodiment of magic.). There are minor characters walking around who know far more than the core cast, but they reveal nothing. It is the only aspect of the book I find truly annoying.

Hmm. This is a good book. I quite enjoyed it. I say come for the adventure, interesting and well realized world and the cool magic – these are always Sanderson’s strengths.

But for a current true character driven epic fantasy look to Rothfuss instead.

Weekly Recap

My week was about reading a book. Dave texted me on Monday and told me of a new book release Tuesday. While I was buying that book I found out that Words of Radiance came out the same day.

Words of Radiance is the new fantasy epic by Brandon Sanderson. It is the sequel to Way of Kings. I think I’ll review it tomorrow. But it is a 1000 page doorstop and I couldn’t put it down.

I was also sick last week. Wednesday and Thursday I was weak, tired and coughing. I read a bit but mostly I drifted off.

I’ve been playing Rock Band 3 a lot the last few weeks. It came out just as I was growing tired on the genre. I had never finished it. Well now in my guitar career I’ve 5 started each song on medium. I’ve played every song on hard but two and I’ve five starred all of hard except 12. So I’m playing expert guitar and starting my bass career.

I do like those games.

Gaming was still awesome. Big turnout again. My GM’ing was far from perfect but folks seemed to have fun.

Watched 12 Years a Slave. Good film. But certainly not my favourite. It was better than Robocop though. That movie failed on many levels.

Add comics and that was my week.

I’m tired today. Adjusting to the time change. Hope everyone is well.

Stay good.

Weekly Recap

I’m tired this am. Not sure why.

I watched half the Oscars last night. I had planned to watch a nominated movie instead, but I’ve seen all the ones currently released already. So I watched the ceremony.

I found it lightly amusing.

The big happening this week was the start of our new Star Wars RPG campaign. It is hard to say why, but there is a ton of enthusiasm. Friday night 8 souls braved the cold to take part. And we gamed. It was pretty focused too.

And I think fun was had. If the spark carries another week that will be groovy.

Meanwhile Mother Nature tried to break us. April is really the big transition month, but March is warmer than February. But the last week has been bone chilling cold.

Now March is still winter, but I think we’ve made it. Today is warmer than yesterday. Tomorrow will be warmer again. There will be more chills yet this month. Hopefully none as harsh.

Even during the cold, it looked gorgeous outside. The sun is bright and high.

In other news it was a good food week at work. Satay soup from Pagolak. Delicious. Donairs from High Voltage. Burgers from Fatburger. I ate well everyday.

Well. I think that is that. I’ll take a quick nap before my bus now.

May the force be with you.