In the early 60’s a huge shift was taking place within the Hollywood system, a movement traceable to shifting tastes of cinema’s audience, a rare occurrence in which Hollywood took note of it’s own excesses and genuinely listened to the people. Thanks to this change of paradigm, countless legendary directors and iconic actors were born and classic movies made, Scorcese, Coppola, Lucas, Spielberg, Kubrick, Cimino, De Palma, Peckinpah, Polanski, De Niro, Pacino, Dustin Hoffman, Jack Nicholson, Peter Fonda, Dennis Hopper, the list goes on.
The “old” Hollywood as the parlance goes was stuck in the same cycle of perdition as it is today, churning out musicals and “epics” in a vain attempt to cling to some semblance of it’s former glory. Films like 44 million dollar, (that’s somewhere in the region of $300 million when adjusted for inflation) 3 hour plus, mega-turkey Cleopatra (1963) were making substantial losses.
The advent and subsequent proliferation of television had quelled the power that cinema had earlier in the century and European filmmakers were becoming more and more sophisticated with their techniques and the topics they were tackling, Spaghetti Westerns were taking off and the French had a whole New Wave of cinematically literate art house-directors, spurred by their day jobs as critics and their distaste for the ever devolving state of Hollywood productions.
Coupled with the fact that the age of the typical cinema-goer was getting younger and that these young cineastes had increasingly higher levels of education, the old guard started to panic. In the wake of this then, producers looked to a new gang of younger filmmakers who’s tastes were more in line with the audience itself and in a stroke of genius, relinquished all creative control to these directors. As a result you get The Graduate, Taxi Driver, Bonnie & Clyde, Apocalypse Now. Easy Rider and so many other seminal films.
So, in this day and age, wherein the internet, piracy and cheap, affordable streaming sites such as Netflix, Blinkbox and iTunes are once again shifting the balance of power away from cinema and television, how do we end up confronted by a 130 million dollar movie by typically dependable but increasingly sketchy director Darren Aronofsky based on the story of Noah’s Ark? Who missed the memo? How can the industry be so blatantly unaware of it’s own previous failures? Can we not please have some progress?
As you can see from the above trailer we have all the trappings of a stereotypical Ridley Scott film (In that Russell Crowe has a beard and frowns a lot, can people please stop casting him in things?) mixed with awful CGI animals and standard Roland Emmerich-esque end of the world shenanigans. Lots of well respected actors (Antony Hopkins, Ray Winstone) turn up and say things that are vaguely effectual but in the 2 and half minutes of running time we are never given any indication as to what is going on.
I’m certain most people know Noah’s story but this has obviously been tampered with, extended and twisted into something altogether more Hollywood. There’s a bit where somebody wielding a flaming sword stabs the ground and that in turn, sets on fire, Ray Winstone is ostensibly the king of something and he shouts at Crowe, Emma Watson shows up as a girl of some sort, who knows? None of this is explained. It seems to me to be a coldly calculated stab at remythologising, sexing up and generally Game of Thronesing Noah into some mighty battle for survival and your hard earned cash.
Now when these outlets are out there for gripping, narratively complex stories to be told ala Breaking Bad, The Wire, Mad Men etc, how can there still be a market for this? Since writing this article, the trailer has jumped from 27,000 views to 41,000 having only been released today and the comments section is rife with the kind of low-level, ill-informed nonsense arguments that a biblical epic in 2013 is expected to produce. The film will certainly cause controversy since there will always be some niche, militant sect of Christianity out to villainies any movie, let alone one based on The Good Book.
Whether or not audiences flock to it or not is yet to be seen. In comparison, The Passion Of The Christ made 600 million dollars whilst also being an 18 rated flick filmed entirely in Hebrew, but the controversy on that one was huge, based on the final half an hour that very brutally dealt with the crucifixion of Jesus Christ himself. I can’t see Noah reaching those kind of heights myself, but I do know that it feels like a backwards step for an industry already in the throes of franchise/sequel/guaranteed-earner addiction.
Noah is out on the 28th of March, hold your breathe for a presumably scathing review around that time.
– Oliver Drew.