Monday, 28 April 2014

Noah: Bible Boating

Darren Aronofsky follows up Black Swan with what else but a massive Biblical fantasy epic. Because why the shit not, right?

You're probably familiar with the basics of the Noah story: dude gets a heads-up from the Almighty that the world is going to get a watery reboot because man is buggering everything up. God tells dude to build an old old wooden ship big enough to hold two of EVERY SPECIES OF ANIMAL ON THE PLANET to save them from his liquid genocide. Crazy people the world over think this actually happened.

Apparently Darren Aronofsky is not one of those people, as this film firmly embraces the magical, mystical, mythological elements of the story, introducing us to massive rock monsters (notably absent from all promotional material, presumably to keep the true wacky nature of the film from the lucrative christian audience), flaming swords, a glowing Adam and Eve and all kinds of outlandish fantasy imagery. And the film is all the better for it.

Aronofsky approaches these peculiar subjects with an admirably straight face, creating a moody, surprisingly dark and violent film amongst all the bizarre spectacle.

Rusty Crowes is excellent as Noah, embodying the grim determination, familial tenderness and existential confusion you would expect from a man who's in on God's apocalypse plan. He's ably supported by Jennifer Connelly as his stalwart wife - all poise and grace and reason and aging like a damn fine wine - and former Wallflowers Logan Lerman and Emma Watson - both doing arguably their best work and, in Lerman's case, being the best thing in the movie. Lerman plays Noah's hilariously named son, Ham, as a bundle of earnest befuddlement at the world and his father's heavenly mission, and his attempts to come to terms with their future, or lack of, is handled magnificently by the former Percy Jackson.

And people running through the woods shouting "HAM!" never gets old.

Ray Winstone and Anthony Hopkins crop up as a representative of man's punishable inhumanity and a genial Ben Kenobi-type Methuselah, respectively, and both are fine if familiar in their roles.

The whole bizarre thing is held together by Clint Mansell's propulsive and rousing score, teasing out emotion even when the characters become increasingly distant and lacking in empathy, and by Aronofsky's uncompromising visual style. He's not afraid to undercut a retelling of the creation myth with the entire history of evolution in fast-forward, and you have to admire the stones that takes.

The whole thing is probably about an hour too long and - Hopkins' mild comic relief aside - is relentlessly dour. But perhaps that's the only way to tell a story about God drowning the human race like an unwanted puppy in a sack.

Noah will probably sit most comfortably alongside The Fountain on the Aronofsky shelf. A spectacular, skilful, well acted bit of bizarre business which is more of a fascinating curiosity than a entertaining movie experience.

Oh, and some of the CGI animals look like shit.

But the Fallen Angel Rock Monsters are cool.

Saturday, 26 April 2014

Divergent: Uninspired Churn-Up

Divergent stars indie teen pixie of the hour Shailene Woodley as some kind of rebellious dystopian future young adult trying to find her way in an oppressive orwellian societal regime.

Yeah, it's like that other movie series that everyone likes at the moment. You know, also adapted from a book series? You know the one. Bows and arrows. The Hobbit. Or something.

Anyway, I knew this film was trouble when it walked in, opening with a clumsy world-building voice over that explains in great detail how there's this knackered up city and it's divided into factions that do different jobs and you have to join one of them or become a homeless person or some shit but DON'T FUCKING ASK WHY BECAUSE IT'S NOT IMPORTANT IT DOESN'T HAVE TO MAKE SENSE

The factions are Amity - who are dead nice to everyone but are afraid of sharks, Dauntless - who are supposed to be like the army but are really just a pack of dildos free-running everywhere and dressing like extras from a Joel Schumacher movie, er... Abegnation - who do politics or something, Erudite - who are all smart and do the science and that, and Candour, who are insensitive gobshites.

So you can see how logical this system seems and how a whole society of people would perpetuate it without question.

When kids are 16 or something, they do an aptitude test in which the sorting hat tells them which house to go into. The most amazingly uncommon thing, apparently, is for someone to not have an aptitude for one single faction, but ALL OF THEM DIVERGENT ALARM DIVERGENT ALARM

It's quite telling that being a multi-faceted individual makes you a fucking dangerous anomaly in this world of wafer thin characterisation and motivational irrationality.

It's not that I hated this film, I just sort of resent the fact that it exists. I haven't read the books, but this film plays like an uninspired churn-up of Hunger Games, Potter, Orwell, Ender's Game and most other genre pieces you can think of. And the romance reminded me of the subplot in a dance movie where the leading lady falls for her grumpy dance teacher/partner.

There is a quite lovely zip lining sequence and an amusing running gag about shooting people, but that's pretty much all that's on offer. Woodley is perfectly watchable in the lead, but she will always suffer from the obvious comparison to a certain blonde lady with a bow and arrow. You know the one. Legolas. From out of The Hobbit films.