Tuesday, April 1, 2014

NOAH (The Movie): Prepare For A Flood Of Needless Disappointment

From Sunday's Times and News-Star

In one of my favorite panel cartoons, two dinosaurs sit on what’s left above water of a small island. In the distance, Noah’s Ark floats in the rain as one dinosaur says to the other: “Oh crap! Was that TODAY?”

And now you know why dinosaurs became extinct. It was either the flood, or Zumba.

The biblical Noah has gotten a bad rap for centuries now. First they made fun of him while he built the ark, then they were mad because he closed the door at God’s command when the rain began, even though he didn’t rub it in and say, “I told you so!”

Likely he’ll take some shots this week too. Russell Crowe plays “Noah” in the movie by the same name that opened Friday. It’s not going to be like the story in the book. I haven’t even seen it yet but I have been to the movies plenty and few movies are like the book. This one can’t be because there’s not enough in the original story to make a Hollywood movie that would make any money at all.

So, to stop at least some of the flood of disappointment, remember that the movie is just a movie. It’s not a re-telling of Noah’s depicted in the Bible, though it’s based on the story. It’s not a documentary; it’s only a movie.

Sigourney Weaver isn’t really on the run from a space creature in “Alien.” Bruce Dern didn’t really shoot John Wayne in the leg and back in “The Cowboys.” Nobody protested Bill Murray and Harold Ramis for making “Ghostbusters,” because they were fairly sure a gigantic Stay Puft Marshmallow Man wasn’t really going to try to take over their city.

If you want a movie that follows a book almost exactly, try “Lonesome Dove” or “Field of Dreams” -- although the original book title from which the story comes is “Shoeless Joe Comes to Iowa” and they had to cut a main character – The Oldest Living Chicago Cub – because of time. Otherwise, the movie’s the book and the book’s the movie.

So, if we go to “Noah” expecting the original Noah story, we’re bound to be disappointed. Not as disappointed as the people who couldn’t get on the original ark, but still disappointed.

I have anticipated the movie since I saw the previews. What’s not to like? You’ve got impending doom, a huge ark, the animal factor, and Hollywood tools to make this all “come alive.” And you have, as the elderly Methuselah, Anthony Hopkins, who grabs the silver medal behind Robert Duvall as my favorite actor. Photo finish. Hopkins has played a psychotic ventriloquist controlled by his dummy in “Magic,” a brilliant doctor/cannibal in “Silence of the Lambs,” a possessed priest in “The Rite,” and the main characters in both “Nixon” and “Hitchcock.” He’s even been Quasimodo in “The Hunchback of Notre Dame.”

Man’s got game. Man never gets old. (Unless he’s playing Methuselah.)

If you’ve been to a movie before and if you have a working knowledge of “the drama as a genre,” you know that in “Noah,” these things will most likely happen:

Somebody will punch out, probably unexpectedly. Could be during the building of the ark or the loading. “Watch out for that hippopota…! Too late. Poor Shem. Poor, flat Shem…”;

Someone will fall in or out of love, and somebody else will fall in or out of love with one of those people. If this happens on a boat, and it rains for 40 days and nights, even the sloths are going to know something’s up;

There will be a close-up of somebody who is facing a Life Crisis. Dramatic lighting. Tense music. Somewhere, a dog will bark. Or a seal. On a boat it’s always tough to tell.

Somebody will protest the movie but don’t let it be you: again, it’s just a movie. Moviemakers are trying to entertain and make money. My guess is it will do both and might even cause someone who’s never read the original story to read it, in context. Most often, no matter how good the movie is, the book is almost always better.