Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Not As Ignorant American Review: Assassin's Creed: Bloodlines


Availability: Released exclusively for the Playstation Portable late 2009. Developed by Ubisoft Montreal, hence the not as ignorant element for this title. The game is also available via digital download on the PSN for both Playstation Portable and Playstation Vita.

Version I Played: Digital download copy for Playstation Vita.

Review: I have a checkered past with Assassin's Creed. I played through a few hours of the first game in college on a friend's XBox 360. He was so nuts about the creed right from the beginning that he ordered the collector's edition and even got the cosmetic plate for the 360, all before actually playing the game (as far as I know).

I still recall the smell of his dorm.

So of course he made sure to let me know about this game and gave me the chance to check it out. I would go to his dorm every now and then to play. For the most part I was into it. The first game did have some very clunky controls, a lot of wandering around doing very little assassinating, and a speed limit on horse of about 2 miles per hour or else your ass is set for the death penalty. In short, good concept but plenty of problems. I never finished it on his console. I wouldn't even pick it up again until after college when the first game was sent to me (as a pass it forward sort of gesture) by another friend for the PS3 (cause fuck XBox). I got more into it this time. It actually reinvented my interest in the franchise. It didn't take long for me to buy the 2nd game and so forth. I was even lucky enough for the Ezio Trilogy 3 pack to be released shortly after finishing Assassin's Creed II, giving me a good deal on the next two games while making a couple bucks back by selling my individual copy of the 2nd game. I get through all those and then I get to the third game. Not nearly as impressed... and I'm still yet to play IV or Liberation.
And that brings me to now where my interest hasn't been as strong. I'm hoping IV will get me more interested in the franchise again cause I do find it very entertaining. While I still consider the first game to be the worst (unfairly retrospectively speaking) III did disappoint me, especially after playing through three (similar but still...) great games. Until I get to IV or III: Liberation on Vita I decided to jump back to visit a side story in the franchise. Hard to turn down an old PSP game when it is only $2.50 during an Ass Creed sale.
Now $2.50 was pretty much the price I'd pay to get this game. Okay, maybe $5 but I was lucky here. The reason is because I knew right off the bat the game will be a lesser experience than the console mainline games. Is that mean for me to think? No of course not. Any portable version of any modern game will be a lesser experience for the most part. I have Mega Man II for game boy and it is very different than the console version. Obviously. This is a little different now with consoles like Vita and 3DS having more power inside, but the last generation of portable was not the case. Plus I dabbled briefly with Altair's Chronicles on iOS and I wasn't interested in playing through the game entirely.

Honestly it looks like a poorly done PS1 or N64 port.

But I knew the PSP was a more powerful system than iOS (of course) and the Nintendo DS. Have you ever played the God of War PSP games? Amazing what they were able to pull off. So for a AAA franchise to port a version of their game to the PSP does seem promising.

Much better. Even if it looks like a budget PS2 game.

The first thing that I noticed about this game and was impressed by was how it did attempt to stick to the gameplay style of the main console games. It's still runny, jumpy, stabby in a free form way with side missions to break things up. You still need to jump to the top of one of the highest towers to sync up the map to open up all the objectives. There's still a bunch of guards running around to slash your ass open the first chance they get. And you still have your arsenal of blades at your disposal giving you a bit of variety in how you want to handle some of the kills. It is cool that they were to somewhat cram the console experience into a handheld. I was a bit surprised to see that, but since there was a competent version of Dynasty Warriors at launch for the PSP it should come as no surprise they were able to do that.

Despite the little praise I just gave the game there are, unfortunately, more downsides than up. Think back to the first Ass Creed game. It was a buggy mess with a lot of issues, but still functional and fun. Imagine that game but much more limited in scope and overall a lesser experience. That just about summarizes Bloodlines.
Yes the game has the same gameplay style as the console games. But due to the technological limitations you don't have multiple large maps making for a massive world. You have a bunch of very small maps that make up an okay sized world that would add up to just one of the cities in the game it was spun off from. But I get that. The technology is limited so you can have only so large a world. Still I can't help but reference back to the God of War PSP games. Those were so well done that they simply felt like portable versions of the console games with very few, some barely noticable changes. Mostly in the graphics and minor changes in control. But the core feel was there that was in the console games. Yes that's dealing with different generations of source material. God of War did original on PS2 whereas Ass Creed originated on PS3/360. Still when I look at the cities I can't help but feel they don't have their full potential.
This is also present in the side missions. How hard can it be to have a mess of side missions like the main game? Seriously! With each map you run through there's maybe two, three side missions. I won't complain about the lack of variety in the missions since that's not any different from the main games. Although it's ironic I complain about this because a common complaint with padding out gameplay is to have a mess of side missions. I think the reason I was more okay with these was because they weren't a whole hell of a lot different than the main story. It was like the writers had a bunch of leftover bits from the main game so they threw them into the side stories to, again, pad out the gameplay. Doing the same kill contracts, message runs, etc until the credits roll. But really you're not gonna want to play them much since the game is too easy and you'll want to be done as soon as possible.
Thankfully it is relatively easy to get to the end without issue. Once I got all the power ups I wanted (didn't feel the need to increase my throwing knives capacity) I just powered through the main missions cause I wanted to see if the end was any different than the rest of the game. And of course it wasn't. Much like the console games you go through a long, winding road fighting many guards (who are super easy to kill, even in the end), face the final boss, escape, and credits with a stupid ending that adds nothing to the overall story. Which is a good way to describe this game. It adds nothing to the franchise. It's such an obvious cash in it's hard to enjoy.

But am I really supposed to accept anything more from this game? If I'm playing the side story to a bigger franchise on a more obscure console should I really expect anything more? Well in one way or another yes. I think one should. Sure you're not paying for a full blown sequel, but I imagine this game was minimum $40 day one. That may not be full AAA price but it's also at least 2/3 the AAA price. So wouldn't one expect at least 2/3 the experience? Again, the first Ass Creed was very buggy and looking back quite broken. This game added nothing, if anything tried to imitate but on a smaller scale. Did it succeed? Yes, a little bit. It did provide an element of the right experience, but not enough to make it interesting or worthwhile.
In the end this game does look good and functions about as well as the console counterpart (take that as you will). On the other end, the game is not really that fun, the side missions don't add much of anything at all, the power ups are barely necessary since it's so easy to kill guards from the start, and the story is practically non-existent. You don't care about what's going on. It feels like poorly written fan fiction that REEEEEEALLY wants to be Ass Creed only to fail in most, if not every way.
Even as an Ass Creed fan I can't say to pick this up. If you have a PSP or Vita and another sale comes along where it's 2 freaking 50 then you could do worse. But don't go out of your way. Only try and get if you're more of a completionist with the franchise or if you're a game collector as is. Otherwise don't bother. Even if you're a Creed fan (with arms wide open) don't bother. You'll only be disappointed. Stick with the main games.
Now it's time for me to get my hands on ACIII:Liberation. A portable Creed (can you take me higher) that looks like it does it right.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

9.03m


There's a game on Steam called 9.03m. It's $2, lasts about ten to fifteen minutes, but it's an experience unlike anything else you've played on PC.

9.03m is less a game and more a piece of interactive art. You play from the first person perspective as you walk along a mostly empty beach. You follow a short path of glowing orbs to find a lone figure. Each one you approach vanishes into thin air, leaving a physical item behind. Each item you need to find the butterfly image, which triggers brief information on the object, or a small event associated with said item. There's about half a dozen characters you run into, all of which are shadow-like figures, with no discernible features outside of their physical presence. Like I said earlier the experience ends within fifteen minutes but your satisfaction is through the roof despite that.
No real objective, no actual enemies, and I can't really classify this as a game.

Maybe some context is needed.
This game was released September 2013 as a response to the horrible tsunami that hit Japan in spring 2011. The purpose of this piece of interactive art was to honor their memories in a very personal way. Hence the beach setting. Each item is definitely a personal item. The first person you approach vanishes and becomes a soccer ball. When you pick up the soccer ball and find the butterfly embedded, it reveals a name. The name of what you assume is the child who used to play with the ball. It then vanishes into a burst of glowing orbs like a soul ascending to heaven. Other items include a ring, music box, and even a cradle. Each item had personality and special meaning. It gave character and depth to a game that is such a humble and small project.
But what makes it even more impactful is they're talking about real people. People who lost their lives in a horrible storm and caused many other people to start over. So when you pick up each item you start to image the person or people whose lives may have revolved around it. To that kid, that soccer ball could have been his whole world. The music box featured a spinning figure of a couple dancing. It's all very sweet and tender. And when you finish the game the beach fills from coast to coast with the same shadow-like figures you've been encountering, all of which have their souls represented with the butterflies and glowing orbs scattered throughout the beach.
And then that's it. But I'm not gonna lie, I got a little choked up by the end. It's such a short experience but it only has what it needs to have. Yes you can get games for half the price on your phone that will last hours longer, but this game will likely give you a satisfaction full $60 AAA games won't.
I had pretty much one beef with this game and that was the music. While it was a well put together score, it felt a bit cliche. It had that tone a feel good Hollywood production has. Like the game is telling you to feel sad for what's going on instead of the music being a good accompaniment to the natural sadness you feel from the game's story. But really that's about it. The controls were standard WASD+Mouse like any other first person game. The visuals looked great with the excellent blue tone over the beach. And setting it at night amplified it more than any other time of day.

Seriously, go on steam and buy this game. It's a short experience for a cheap price but is very satisfying. If you have a heart and are willing to try something different then go for it. And go and play it. I can't see watching this on youtube having the same impact as actually playing and interacting would.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Review: The Raid 2


Version I Watched: Theatrical in it's original Indonesian (among other) language with English subtitles. I'm sure a dub will happen with the DVD release but bleh.

History: While a sequel, it was written before the first movie was made. Mostly because this was meant to be the movie made in the first place. After funding fell through a smaller project was put together which became the first movie, The Raid: Redemption. The movie premiered at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival with a limited theatrical run after. Despite the overwhelmingly positive reviews it didn't get a lot of money back and some theatres closed it's run after one week. Still it currently holds an 80% on rotten tomatoes.

Personal History: First viewing of this title. Am familiar with the first film which I saw sometime last year. The first film I was so blown away by I ranked it as one of the top 5 action films of at least the last decade, if not longer.Wait til you see what I thought of this one.

Review: There are plenty of genres and styles of movie that have gotten worse over the years. Many would argue horror, the lack of sci-fi (with the exception of roughly the last year and coming months), and so forth. Usually it's based on nostalgia cause the movies of today don't give them that same excitement as when they were a kid, understandably. But then blame the lack of skill of modern filmmakers even when in some cases they're doing it better than ever. The action genre is definitely one of those genres that has improved. The obvious example has been the rise in quality super hero movies when as recent as the early 2000s were turning out almost nothing but crap. But the action genre generally speaking has been amazing over the years while also pretty crap. I can't count how many times I've watched any old action flick only to find out there's next to NO ACTION. Outside of some quick, random gunfights or maybe a standoff at the end. Yet the last ten years or so has been an incredible rise in quality in action flicks.
A part of that is the increase in technology. New styles are opening up, more creative minds are making action flicks more of an art than a body-builder's cash in or a reason to make a wrestler an actor, and even with the improvement of CG comes the improvement of using it in an unnoticeable way, or the overuse of CG in some is making the non-CG ones even more impressive by still going through the organic effort instead of taking the easy way out. And of course with this increase in technology and creativity is the ever improving far eastern action movies. Kung fu, or in a more proper term, martial arts movies have always been impressive. These days they're better than ever. Two of my bronze/silver/gold action flicks are from that part of the world. One being the first Raid (at the moment, that may change by the end of this), The Protector, and then my non-Asian favorite is Crank (an action movie that promises non-stop action and actually delivers!)
So how does one of the best action films in the last decade (that was made with a million dollar budget) improve in a sequel? Well, I'll try and tell you.

The Raid 2 does what every sequel should. It uses the first as a jumping off point by taking the original story and concept and improving on it. It was made bigger, more exciting, and added much more story. The first was a pretty straightforward story. A S.W.A.T. team raids (as you would expect) and become trapped in a large apartment building run by a powerful mobster. They spend the entire story fighting and surviving (which doesn't end well for most). It's an amazing action movie with awesome stunts and fights. And the fact that it all takes place in one location in somewhat real time is something I go crazy over. Simple concept, simple story, incredible execution.
The sequel does many things similar but instead of one location they expand much further. When the story gets going in 2 you realize that the first movie was pretty much a 100 minute prologue to everything that happens next. Which makes sense because the sequel was written first, obviously not intending to be a sequel in the first place. When funding fell through the writer/director was able to fund a less expensive project that would become the first movie. I thought that was really cool when I found out. Especially since the second movie was far more massive in story. So if anything the first movie showed restraint despite being absolutely incredible in damn near everything! SO THEN despite that one would imagine the sequel would be crap since passion projects tend to be the most pretentious. Not quite. So much work went into the sequel before it became the sequel that it was finely tuned. Even the choreography was done to a point!
Now when I say the does everything every sequel should I am not kidding. In short it takes the first movie and BLOWS IT OUT OF THE WATER!

The Raid 2 takes place within a couple hours of the first Raid ending. Try not to take that too far with you because it doesn't take long to jump further than that. Anyway, within those two hours the hero from the last Raid, Rama, is approached by the police to go undercover and take down the same mob that controlled the apartment building that was just raided. Rama agrees which starts with him going to prison so he can get close with the son of the mob's head. Now this is something that could have been the whole movie. We've seen it before and it wouldn't be surprising if it was done again. This was only the beginning. He becomes close to Yuda and it grants him parole (the police are definitely not as involved as you would expect) after two years instead of the few short months he was promised.
I don't think I'm spoiling anything major when I say the rest of the movie is somewhat standard mobster fare. And that's okay. It's always an exciting move because of the unpredictability with who will live, who will be knocked off, the betrayals, double crosses, deals, hits, and the list goes on. And while it's always cool to see they can tend to look samey. Last year I got the chance to see a Korean mobster movie at the WI Film Fest, Nameless Gangster. It was a good movie overall but since it was a pretty standard story of gangsters it didn't make it as exciting as it could have been. What makes The Raid 2 so much better a mob and action movie is how it adds style over the typical mobster story. And by style I mean kick fucking ass fighting!

Action movies tend to be accused of being style over substance. In a way The Raid 2 has that. But what it has that other "style over substance" movies is the style itself has substance. The fight scenes are absolutely top notch. Again it took the already incredible fight scenes from the first Raid and amplified it. And don't take the lack of fight scenes in the first good chunk of the movie get you down. It may not have an amplified, ninety miles an hour start like Crank does. This is closer to a train engine. It takes a little while to get going but once it's going it is GOING GOOD! But this isn't meant to be a fast paced action thriller. This is a crime drama with some kick ass fight scenes. And the thing I love about overseas action is that they can do martial arts right. These are people who trained for months, in many cases years to master their moves they bring to the screen. Some do it for the show, some do it because it's a part of their life. Either way it translates very well and the variety included here is all over.
One of the first fight scenes we get literally takes place in a bathroom stall. Rama is still a newbie in jail but he managed to piss off one of the gangs. Said gang rallies up in the bathroom while Rama waits for them to break through the door. When they do he starts throwing punches and kicks at speeds I didn't know a human could. I sat in awe seeing him pull the moves he did, throwing enemies far into the air, beating the shit out of all of them single handed with the only handicap being the small entrance into the stall. A mind-bending introduction to the even more incredible fights we'll see coming up.

Yes, I specifically stated I was impressed by the actor doing the moves, not necessarily the movie makers in this case. While I do like the gritty look and feel (and some amazing uses of the color red later) if it weren't for the martial artists doing what they're doing this would almost look like any other action flick from Asia. What makes this special, much like Ong-Bak, The Protector, and so forth is the moves are real. So real to the point that they had to control their speed and landings so they don't legitimately hurt each other. They also spent a lot of time bonding with one another so the psychological reactions don't go overboard and start punching back out of frustration. So no wires, no CG, all real people fighting the way they learned how. Well... obviously they don't kill people for real. That should be understood. But all the moves choreographed are all them and DAMN does it look good!
Other fights range in expanse and tightness from scene to scene. I of course mentioned the bathroom stall, but later in the movie there's a fight, I kid you not, in the back seat of a four door. These small fights look great but also the big fights. While Rama is still in prison a huge battle royale takes place. Dudes getting killed left and right all out in this open, outdoor common in the mud/clay. It's pretty intense especially when everyone gets so messy you can't tell who is a guard and who is a prisoner. These fluctuation of fight size range constantly so you never know what's coming next. Lots of weapon fighting other than fists, a fantastic car chase, and so much more!

In second place for making these fights look their best is tied between the cinematography and editing. This movie is brilliantly shot and put together. In an age where majority of action movies are shaky and quickly cut every other frame this kind of movie stands out by not doing that... for the most part. Yes there are sadly moments where it falls into those tricks. For the most part it does not. It has longer shots than your average action flick. This helps emphasize the realism of the real fighting going on, on screen. The long shots mean you get to see every punch as it happens, not just how they organized it. It never reaches the length of the five minute single shot seen in The Protector but the look and feel of these lengthy scenes with lengthier shots make the fighting that much more intense.
Going to the cinematography itself, the way they use it was very unique. One thing I likes was how it followed the fights very naturally and in ways you wouldn't expect. You feel more like an eye witness to these fights when it's not doing quick cuts or extreme closeups. Like you're caught in the middle trying to dodge punches, kicks, throws, and getting caught up generally speaking. Not only that but the way it follows gives somewhat a perspective of the fighter itself. A few times a shot is used (as you'd see in the trailer) where it follows the fighter upright even if they've been thrown or fallen to the ground. For example, a guy jumps through a window but doesn't land on his feet. The camera turns sideways, making it appear he is laying against a wall. Similar shot when a man's face is thrown onto a table. Simple idea, really effective.

And that's one of the best things about this movie. It does have a big story but the concepts are all simple, straightforward, but done so well that it's impressive to see. Many people complain about the over use of CG in modern movies. You really don't think about it as much as you think you do until you see something like this. Something so polar opposite that you wonder why you ever watched anything unlike it. Why you bothered paying up to see some of the more popular super hero movies when you could see someone who could actually kick ass for real, not just realistically fake.  It's great how this movie is absolutely top notch with the fighting but is unafraid to be clumsy.
One of the reasons I can't stand some modern action or the "super-spy" shows is because it's too polished while trying to force clumsy goofs for the sake of a good laugh. Like that scene towards the end of Iron Man 2. Black Widow is taking out bad guy after bad guy while her secret agent buddy is having trouble with just the one out front. Don't get me wrong, for that movie the scene works yet it still gets too corny for me. And of course The Raid 2 is something totally different. In these more realistic fights we've got the incredible martial arts. But my favorite is how clumsy they are in the fights. The minions, even the heroes and bad, bad guys don't have perfect style and stance. They trip, stumble, some go down in one bad punch and for obviously good reason (the blows hit hard!), and damages are carried instead of walking away like it didn't happen.
It's one of those things where it's hard to go back to the cornball, overly produced action after you've seen action that's the exact opposite.

A part of me wishes more movies like this are being made but I also wish the opposite. Over saturation can and usually is a bad thing. The reason this is so good is because there's so many unlike it. Back to super heroes, everyone was really excited when the newest generation of these movies came out. Batman Begins, Iron Man, The Avengers, and I don't know how comic book fans feel (probably not the way I do) but I feel there's so many coming out that it's hard to be too excited anymore. They've all been really cool, but few have "blown me away." And that's because it's the same tricks over and over, and in the comic book movie case is to appeal to as many audiences as possible. Whereas The Raid and The Raid 2 are exactly what the creators wanted and it just so happened to appeal to a huge audience. The perfect hybrid.
There's talks of a third movie and that has me worried. I was open to the first sequel despite the first being so good. But this one was so much better than the first that I find it hard to believe a third Raid would be anywhere of equal value. I can't see it staying level, only going down. Probably not a lot. I can imagine it would be of higher value than most action. I'm just hoping the over saturation doesn't set in.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Wait, What? Review: Sora ga konnani aoi wake ga nai

A few months back I went on another one of my binge laserdisc purchases. I don't seem to ever get them one or two at a time, more like a short stack at a time. Sometimes a BIG stack like the one I ordered last summer:


And most of them were $1 a piece!

But they're not always the popular titles like I just showed. Sometimes the titles are very obscure. I often buy movies on laserdisc I've never heard of simply because the price is right (most laserdiscs are very cheap) and there's a chance it may not even be available on DVD, or in today's case in America. The local Half Priced Books has a short stack of laserdiscs available and to my luck they've been carrying Japanese imports in that stack. Without even knowing if there was going to be some region locking on the discs or if there would even be subtitles I picked a few up. Sending me to a whole other level of dweebiness.
So that brings me here. I want to give you my impressions on a movie that I cannot even understand audibly. I will do this for each of the laserdiscs I get that have this same... disability? Today's choice is Sora ga konnani aoi wake ga nai. Also known as Sky Cannot Be This Blue, or The Sky Does Not Ought To Be So Blue according to what looks like a rough translation stickered onto the laserdisc case by the previous owner, or the store that sold it. But apparently Sky Cannot Be This Blue is the literal translation so who knows that this would have been called if released internationally. Probably something like Why is the Sky So Blue? or The Sky Cannot Be This Blue, making it less rough to say or read.

I wanted to know as little as possible about the movie before I watched it to give it the best experience. But I did wind up doing a bit of research before hand. However I find next to nothing on it. This is what I do know.
This is currently the only movie directed by Akira Emoto, who has been acting as early as the 70s and is still acting in new movies coming out in Japan. As a sidebar he was in the 1996 movie Shall We Dance, which was later remade with Richard Gere and JLo. While I've never seen the remake, the original Japanese movie is damn good. DAMN good! Sky Cannot Be Blue was released February 20th 1993 only in Japan. I haven't been able to find any sort of box office details or critical responses. Since this was Akira Emoto's only movie he directed maybe that speaks for itself. But there could be far more to it than that.
The only other thing I know is the plot proper per AsianWiki: "Kantarou Kobayashi is an ordinary businessman who has multiple troubles on hand. He's been having an affair with a woman working in the same company, but she does a lot of eccentric things. His wife has no interest in anything but her plan to build a new apartment where their old house is. His son suffers skin eruptions. His mother appears to have senile dementia." Yeah I thought whoever wrote that plot summary did a shitty job, too.
Right from the surface this movie looks like a comedy. It's very present from the box art. Heck it even hints that there may be a bit of wackiness going on here.

Front

Back

Even the insert felt wacky!

So I throw it in and off we go. As the movie begins I almost feel like I'm experiencing something (I could have by now) I wanted to experience for some time. When I watch movies with subtitles I try to imagine how it would be for the people int he native country, seeing it as normal as we would see the new Thor movie in English. It takes me to a different culture when I put myself in that mindset. I liked seeing everything in it's native Japanese. Super cool, super fun, super stupid to some people. Shut up.
The first thing I realized was if there was as much comedy as I think there was there had to be a lot in the dialogue/dead pan delivery. Majority of the acting was done very straightforward or so it felt (remember, can't actually understand them). The opening scene shows our hero's family sitting down to a meal with the wife off the side, on the phone. Again the deadpan delivery of the family is present. But I imagine much of that is in reaction to the dialogue the mother is making on the phone and how it's supposedly so much more important than spending time with her family. It's a good introduction to how lame the rest of the movie would become.

I realize it's not fair to say but I really didn't care for this movie a whole lot. And I think that's easy to tell from what I've seen. Granted it is possible the dialogue could redeem the movie from the otherwise drag experience I had with it. After all, Wes Anderson's movies are very dialogue heavy and if someone couldn't understand it then I imagine those would be boring, too. Especially since some people think that already of stuff like The Life Aquatic. But the overall tone of the movie. The way it appears to handle itself. It came off as very dull and I couldn't see redeeming itself. And I believe that's because of how... well, 90s it is.
To all my friends who have a lot of video rental store memories. Have you ever experienced this situation? You're at Blockbuster or Hollywood Video or whatever your local video store was with your parents looking for a movie, and you come across some movie you've never heard before. Since this was before the internet was available everyone including up my ass you take a shot with it cause the box art looks funny, there are a few good reviews on the back, and it looks like it could be a good time comedy. Then you take it home and the comedy is so spread out it becomes an agonizingly long experience. How the reviews were clearly picked from very select reviews because they were the few that actually liked the movie. Then how the box art was done up in a way that made it look way more exciting than it actually is. It's a bummer cause sometimes that was your movie for the weekend. The exciting Friday night you've been waiting for and worked really hard on your math homework and now I'm making this super personal.
But that's how this movie came off to me. It's like it was a drama that wanted to be a comedy, but since it was still the early 90s there wasn't the concept of a good dramedy yet.

Again it's a bit unfair for me to judge it so harshly when I can't actually judge it properly. Still a bit part of a movie is tone. There are lots of movies you can watch with the sound off because they're either that easy to follow, or even that compelling where you'll still get an experience without having the fullest experience. This was neither of those. The visuals that went along with the dialogue just weren't exciting or gave signs of compelling. As a matter of fact most of the time it was heavy on what felt like drama with very little comedy. And if there was comedy in the dialogue then the comedy was very all over the place. I say this because there were times when there was visual or more in your face comedy that was so wacky it was damn near painful.
Still without understanding the dialogue the movie got really predictible. It did indeed feel like a typical comedy with dramatic elements from the 80s/90s if you know what I mean. Trying way too hard to be funny in the comedic sections while trying way too hard to be serious in the serious sections with a change in shift that is more jarring than a slap to the face. Very typical stuff here. Yes of course it would be a different experience (potentially) if I watched it with subtitles but I'm not dedicated to the idea enough. It was hard enough finding information on this movie at all which means a DVD would be even harder. As far as I can tell it never hit the states. Tracking down an import DVD is not something I'm ready to invest my money in.

Not a great introductory movie to this new segment. Also a shorter post in comparison to my last (took me quite a while to finish my write up on Noah). It does somewhat serve a purpose to what I was going for, though. Pick a movie where all I can interpret is the tone, body language, and everything else visual with limited tonal representation (screaming, laughing, etc). And in a way it delivered. I was able to formulate a specific opinion without understanding a single word of dialogue. I just wish the movie was a better one. But let this serve as a preview.
I have at the moment two other Japanese laserdiscs to go through for this section with more on the way I'm sure. The next movie I want to do is Suwar├┤teiru (or, Swallowtail Butterfly). A movie that I already know I'll get more out of because of a slight cheat. While the movie is Japanese it also has a lot of English in it. That'll give me a different sort of perspective in interpretation by understanding a portion of the words, giving more mystery to what they're saying elsewhere. Then after that I will do Trafic (Not a typo. There is only one 'f' in the title), which is actually a French film. I just so happen to have the Japanese laserdisc of it. Double foreign.
After that if I run out of options or I don't have the cash to get more imports I could always improvise with a few others I have. Like my laserdisc of Monty Python and the Holy Grail that includes a Japanese dub track. Do the old switcharoo on that.

Anyway, consider this a preview. More unintelligible reviews coming!

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Review: Noah


Version I Watched: Only version currently available, theatrical release. But I'll also add I went to the Marcus Theatres Ultrascreen DLX screening. Extra large screen, extra everything, like their version of an IMAX. Also they have these super comfy recliners for chairs and it is awesome! Seriously!


History: This is a passion project for Aronofsky through and through. He originally discussed it openly back in 2007. He was commenting how Noah is a figure that has fascinated him for many years. He was stated as saying Noah, to him, is a "dark, complicated character" who experiences, "real survivor's guilt."
Production began in mid-2012 with a budget of $130 million. What I'm sure is a big chunk of this budget went into creating the animal kingdom. Aronofsky reportedly used no animals in the making of this movie, but rather slightly tweaked versions of animals. Not to mention the effects needed to create a wordwide flood would have been costly.
Late in production the studio had test screenings using rough cuts of the film without Aronofsky's consent. Due to the biblical nature of the film they wanted to make sure it would be well received by the right audiences. The test screenings went poorly with many Christian groups criticizing the film. Aronofsky was very upset by these screenings because he didn't allow them. The final cut being released is in no way related to the test screenings and will not reflect any of the responses given during them.
Before release the film is already banned in multiple countries including: Bahrain, Qatar, UAE, and Egypt for obvious reasons. The censorship laws in the middle eastern countries are far stricter than they are here.
The stream of reviews are generally positive for the film, even holding a 76% on Rotten Tomatoes. As of opening weekend it is #1 at the box office, making $44 million domestically with a grand total of nearly $100 million worldwide.

Personal History: While I couldn't have seen it before this viewing I have been interested for a long time. I am a huge fan of the director, Darren Aronofsky so I'll go see anything he puts out. I own a copy of all his features which would make his filmography the most complete in my collection, technically speaking (not a lot of titles so it's easy to finish). But also as a religious man (Lutheran) I am always fascinated when a new major studio adaptation of my beliefs come out. So I was fascinated by that as well.

Review: Before we jump into the review I want to say something regarding potential response and my intentions.
If you read my blog you know the only reason it exists is for me to talk about movies, video games, and the stuff surrounding it that fascinate me. With that said I am here to talk about the movie adaptation of Noah from the perspective of a religious person's eyes. I am not here to discuss the religion itself. I only want to comment on how I felt the movie portrayed the man based on my beliefs. I do not intend to shove anything down your throat so in return I hope you can respect that and not throw anything down my throat. Some of you reading this are likely Lutherans like myself, others not but maybe another form of Christian or another religion, whereas I know there are some of you who aren't religious at all. I am not here to attack. I am here to look at a movie. Cause at the end of the day no matter what your beliefs are this is still just a movie representation of a story you may or may not believe was real.
So please, out of respect for one another do not turn this into a thread you'd find on IMDB. If you want to have your discussion then please have it elsewhere. Any harsh or harmful commentary either placed here in the blog comments or on my facebook page will be ignored and deleted (if any come up at all). Opinions about the movie itself? Fine. Heated argument about the religion? Not fine. I have my beliefs and yelling at me via text on the internet isn't going to change that. I'm not forcing you to read this review so you shouldn't force me to listen to your opinions. But if you can't get through this without having that sort of reaction then I suggest you close the window now as that sort of response will not be appreciated.
With that said here's my review.

Religious movies are almost always a tough sell to both believers and non-believers. It's an obvious tough sell to non-believers because it is going to have a level of "preaching" in the story that the non-believers may not enjoy or may not get around. But religious movies are also a tough sell to believers because of the difference of opinion on the interpretation. Even when one of the most popular and critically acclaimed religious features, The Passion of the Christ was released there was a lot of discussion internally among different Christian groups on the accuracy of the film. Since Passion was based in Catholicism that's where the interpretation would have come from mostly. Whereas if a Lutheran director made it, it would have been slightly different as would a Methodist, Baptist, denomination free, etc. But one thing they can all agree is on that the final message would be there.
It's those slight differences that I feel can be a huge hindrance not because I feel it challenges my faith (it doesn't) but because I feel most people go into these movies with the understanding that the story won't be 100% perfect, much like any other 'based on a true story' movies. I saw Saving Mr Banks a few months back. Do I believe every detail was perfect and accurate? No of course not. Liberties have to be made to cram everything into two hours more or less. Now usually the changes or alterations made in religious movies will be for different reason, but the overall message of the movie is what matters. Much like how my parents saw Son of God recently. I asked them about the inaccuracies I heard about in reviews. They recognized those were present, but they said the overall correct message was still very present. And in the end that's what matters for these religious movies.



Then of course there are times when we get religious movies not necessarily made with the same intended purpose as The Passion of the Christ or Son of God. Sometimes directors are fascinated by the religion and want to put together something as a study of it. One example that comes to mind is The Gospel According to St Matthew. The director of the film was the controversial Italian director Pier Paolo Pasolini. A man who was not only a communist but also an atheist. Not the type of person who you'd expect to direct such a film. Now I haven't seen that one but it is considered one of the best and most honest portrayals of Christ put on screen. Definitely something I want to check out. If anything it could show the width Pasolini was as a director. Especially since he would eventually direct one of the most emotionally damaging films I've ever seen. Salo.



The next big one that comes to mind is The Last Temptation of Christ. This 1988 Martin Scorsese feature was very controversial when it came out. Unlike other religious films it was based on a book instead of scripture itself. Of course the book was based on scripture but the direction it took was not. The novel (and the movie of course) went through Jesus' life from his perspective while he did what he needed to, to live a perfect life and never succumb to the sins of the flesh. The story shows constant inner thoughts of Jesus having thoughts you never imagined he would have, even at times desiring not to be the person he was sent to be. There's even a 'what if' section where it shows what his life would have been if he used his Godly powers to save himself from the cross instead of going through with what he was destined to do. Safe to say the book and the movie faced crazy intense controversy. The book has wound up on banned books lists over and over again and the movie was protested when first released. Even my old Blockbuster video manager (from back in the mid-2000s) told me that when he saw it in theatres there were people outside, that day, protesting against it being shown. If anything it is a fascinating story. I've seen the movie a few times now and while there's a lot to be said going back to scripture, it's still an idea. A perspective on how it may have been if this or that happened during Christ's life or what he may have been thinking. In no way does the movie or the book state it as the true thoughts or feelings of Christ. Unlike The Da Vinci Code which Dan Brown believes to be entirely legitimate in the theories they come up with. I would love to expand on this movie one day but I'm hesitant. That may be too big and too controversial for my cute little blog to tackle.



And that brings me to Noah. A big budget biblical epic that has meet mild controversy by comparison to other religious films. Even the more accepted Passion met more controversy than this one seems to be getting. But a big part of that was the violence (again, don't need to get into that now. A whole other discussion). From the outside Noah almost seems to aim to be a modern sword and sandals epic like Ben-Hur or The Ten Commandments. Although some reviews seem to contradict that. Yet overall the reviews have been surprisingly positive. Which makes me wonder just how accurate it will be to scripture and how much of it will be artistic interpretation. Cause usually when something sticks close to God's word it is usually panned. Almost like the critics are trying to be mean about it or something. Yet going in I wondered how this movie would be simply as a straight up epic. A simple piece of entertainment. I was hoping that if it doesn't stick to the Noah story as it should be told then it'd at least exciting and engaging. And for almost 2 1/2 hours you need to be or else butt sores will be setting in quickly. But now I feel like I'm splitting hairs by making excuses for hoping to like something that could (and likely would) go against the scripture of my God (based on some of the controversy surrounding it).

Is that the case?
Well... despite knowing this wouldn't be a very accurate and potentially controversial interpretation, I still didn't expect to see what I saw. It's a bizarre movie for many reasons. It's a bizarre interpretation, it's bizarre as a blockbuster, and it's overall pretty bizarre... but in a good way.

I think the only way I can get through my thoughts is to go through just about everything chronologically. I've got a lot to say. A lot I liked, a lot I didn't like, and a lot I was confused/felt unsure about. With that said there will be lots of spoilers. Granted if you know the story of Noah you'll know how it ends. But this interpretation is so radically different you really won't know what's happening next. Once I get beyond the point of the flood actually happening and them on the ark I will point out if it's a spoiler or not. Otherwise before that there's plenty to talk about without ruining the experience with the exception of a few things that eventually cause other events later in the movie.

Since the story of Noah is one of the earliest in the Bible it would make sense to start the movie out talking about the beginning of the world. In a very quick and artsy montage it goes through the story of creation and the few generations of people that led up to it. It also introduced something new that I wasn't expecting that wound up playing something of a big role later in the story. According to this version of creation there were angels known as watchers exiled from heaven and it is because of these watchers that mankind was able to advance so fast and cover the earth in just a few hundred years. These bugged me a bit but more on that later when they play a more prominent role in Noah's story building the ark.
What I did like about this sequence was it established the wickedness of the world at the time. The reason God sent the flood was to destroy the wickedness of man to cleanse the earth and start fresh. After only a few hundred years at the start of the world it establishes that civilization has advanced pretty far. Something that has been theorized about quite a bit. And I liked the way this world looked because it's a further advancement than many would assume for this period. But like some of those theories I mentioned they too were pretty far advanced. Which is fascinating to think about but not totally unreal. Think about how much our civilization has advanced in the last one to two hundred years. It's definitely possible that the advancement could have gone this far back then (especially if they had these angel watchers helping out I guess). Not that everyone is talking on cell phones, but the setting resembled more of a dark ages look than what you would see in DeMille's Ten Commandments.


Come to think of it, it might be even harder to place than that. They have pants.

It establishes very fast that this is unlike any Biblical epic you've ever seen before. Is that a bad thing? No I wouldn't necessarily say so. I wouldn't say I have a problem with Biblical movies. I'm fascinated by the different perspectives and interpretations they can take on the stories I've been told since before I can remember. It's a very personal experience for me so that's likely the reason why I get so into them. But once you've seen stuff like Ben-Hur and The Ten Commandments you start to realize a lot of them all look the same. Not saying it has to take a timeless setting like when a theatre director decides to set Hamlet in modern times or make Romeo and Juliet about cavemen (That would be amazing! Someone make a phone call!). Obviously all these stories happened in a very specific time of the world but for some reason they all tend to look like they're wearing the same costumes made by the same designer with little to no change from one another. And I think one of the many reasons I enjoyed this movie was because it experimented with a new visual style. The ark for example was more square, shoebox shaped than a traditional ship usually seen in Noah adaptations, paintings, etc. It felt more manmade for the time than the smooth look adapters usually go with. This was a man with his family building the ship, not a group on contractors with electric tools and everything. My full thoughts on the style for these movies is hard to explain but I think these next bit of thoughts will help.
Ladies, gents, the Bible is as dark and violent as it is bright and inspirational. Going back to the more recent go to Christ movie, The Passion, it can be vicious. The stories are filled with murder, torture, drunkenness, prostitution, and the list goes on and on. Ironically I think one of the biggest issues with faith based movies is that they can be a bit too glossy in their presentation. This is understandable since many Christians are very conservative and not interested in seeing the intense violence and sex in the Bible adapted to the big screen. Totally get it. But there is definitely a place for the unfiltered Biblical stories. I remember when The Passion came out and the major complaint was the violence. It became such a big thing that I remember The Simpsons doing a parody where their religious neighbor Ned Flanders did a series of movies from the Bible in the style of The Passion filled with crazy intense violence. Obviously the way the violence was used in The Passion is up for debate, but still the story of Christ's death and resurrection was vicious. Hence why it is so inspirational. We see what he went through for us. And when I left The Passion after my first screening I felt this feeling I've never felt before and never did again from a movie. I can't even describe it but that's because there aren't enough truly honest, truly brutal Biblical films out there.
I'm not saying this just to see more guts and gore on screen. I can see that in all of my favorite horror movies. The reason why I'm saying that is because the stories can be presented in a way that won't turn off unbelievers. If someone isn't a believer chances are they won't want to watch a movie with a preachy tone. Even some believers can be turned off when something is overly preachy. That's why we go to church, for the preaching. But if we're watching a movie based on our faith it is good to see the straight story as we know it. Hence the discussions and round tables that churches and other groups have after one of these new faith based movies come out. That's where the discussion and preaching happens, not during the movie itself. Because it's the overall message of the story that is preached, but that message wasn't necessarily preached during the actual story because the message wasn't 100% there in all the stories until after they happened.
I feel I've gotten a little off track...

What I'm trying to say is I appreciated how dark Noah was willing to go. When you think about it this is one of the most violent stories in the Bible, with the exception of Revelations. God destroys the world with a flood to rid it of all the wickedness that had risen. It's a bit of an apocalyptic story with a happy outcome because the world doesn't actually end in the end (not really a spoiler). The darkness of this movie aided the story in it's purpose of ridding that wickedness. Cause when the flood hits that is death for the entire world except this small family. Which brings me to one of my first issues with the movie.
In the Bible Noah is directly told by God to build the ark. He gives him all the details, tells him what to do with the animals, no second guessing. What happened here was a lot different. Instead of being told directly, Noah is given visions from God in his dreams. So it's all up for interpretation by Noah. Something he is able to figure out pretty quickly and easily but still it was quite different, almost setting up that there's the possibility of failure if Noah doesn't interpret the message correctly. Even after these visions he still needs some explanation from the watchers and from Methuselah before he gets it one hundred percent down. I will say this, the visions were as beautiful as they were terrifying.
In these visions Noah finds himself standing in a field in front of a mountain. Beneath him the dirt is drenched in blood. Suddenly everything around him is engulfed in a sea of water with thousands of death and dying bodies floating from the depths. These dark images mixed with the gorgeously unsettling score make for imagery you wouldn't normally see in a Biblical movie. And it's imagery like this that makes Aronofsky one of my favorite directors (I'd say second favorite right behind Kubrick). In most of his movies, even if the genre doesn't call for it, he finds a way to terrify or make me feel unsettled. Requiem for a Dream has numerous examples, but also in Black Swan when things get super intense in the second half it shows this talent. Noah is no exception as these sorts of terrifying images with haunting music come up time and time again. And it didn't feel inappropriate to have either.

Now that I've reached the right spot in the story let's talk about my... *sigh*... 'favorite' part of the movie. The watchers.
As I stated earlier, but to remind you, watchers are angels exiled from heaven sent to live on earth and eventually help man to establish the high point of civilization they do hit by the time the flood comes. What I would say I had more of a problem with was their design and execution. I'm not against the idea of angels living among us or influencing us. But I did have an issue with how these angels were handled. Basically when these angels were sent from heaven they literally became one with the earth. The result was that these heavenly creatures went from glowing gold spirits to something looks like a cross between General Grievous, Megatron, and a pile of rocks.

Seriously. Remove the lightsabers. Size of a house. Covered in rocks.

The obvious reason why I didn't like this is because this is playing super fast and very loose with the original content. I just couldn't grasp where Aronofsky was coming from with these creatures. I was never able to figure out why they are there outside of serving as literal guardian angels. But even then in the Bible there was no mention of a creature even remotely close to this. I'm not opposed to unique interpretations of the Bible as everyone reads it slightly differently, but where did this come from? It felt very out of place, even from a traditional storytelling perspective if you were to remove any thought of this being based on a Biblical story. No where else are there creatures remotely resembling these, or anything really like them at all. It didn't feel like a world where that sort of thing would be around so they felt more shoehorned in than anything.
It does change the dynamic of the story having the watchers present. First of all they serve as a bit of a exposition machine early on when Noah and his family go to see Methuselah. Then they actually help Noah build the ark, which was odd to see in the sweeping crane shots. Here's this very manmade-looking ark being built by what are supposed to be exiled angels in the form of rock creatures. When you look at everything else that happens in the story they just feel so crazy out of place. Then again I'm sure this is the section when a lot of people would try and call out other stuff that supposedly doesn't work in the Bible, but that's a totally different conversation. Speaking from the perspective of a lifelong Christian, this was an odd choice for this story. Not to mention there's a battle sequence with them that is reminiscent of Lord of the Rings right before the flood hits.

Something I did like that felt like a legitimate interpretation of what could have happened were Noah's sons desires to bring a wife of their own aboard as well as the outsiders desire to come aboard the ark when the flood is clearly imminent.
You may have noticed that Emma Watson is credited in this movie. Well her character is unique as she is never directly referenced in the Bible. Her character, Ila, was found left for dead with a deep wound in her stomach where they firmly establish her characteristic, that she may never have children because of it. In the end she winds up Noah's adopted daughter. But that doesn't stop her from becoming romantically involved with Noah's actual son Shem. Since it is established her wound won't allow her to have children there's a struggle among the sons to have wives themselves to carry on their legacy.
Looking straight into the Bible we do see that the sons have wives when the flood happens. However in this story it's totally different. Since the world is so wicked Noah has really cut himself and his entire family off from the rest of the world. Not really giving them a chance to have wives. Still there are plenty of timeline issues that differ greatly from the original story. One of which was that Noah was five hundred years old when he was called upon to build the ark and was then six hundred when the flood actually happened. Whereas here Noah looks to be in his forties, maybe fifties when called by God, and then no more than ten years pass throughout the rest of the story. All his children are still young, barely adults. They haven't had the chance to find wives so their desire is strong and understandable especially if there will be no more left when the flood comes.
This totally works in this situation. Thinking of all the struggle all the people represented in the Bible go through I can see this happening. If his three sons didn't have wives and something that would wipe out all life was coming then it would make sense for them to be scared, anxious, and angry about it. Thankfully for the sake of mankind Ila is given the ability to have children by Methuselah* just before the flood hits. Which follows up immediately with Ila and Shem having sex in the woods in a only sorta surprising move. But when Noah's other son, Ham, tries to find a wife it doesn't turn out so well. In fact he finds a strange girl in town who Ham sees as good. When the flood starts happening they run back to the ark as fast as they can only for Ham to make it back alive but not so much for the girl he just met. As a matter of fact she is trampled to death by an army attempting to break into Noah's Ark to save themselves.


A group that figured out Noah was chosen by God himself to be the survivor of this flood. This is another one of those things I feel totally works in this story. In the Bible there were many people who thought Noah was just wasting his time and didn't believe him. Of course those people paid the price for their ignorance and lack of faith. However I can only imagine there could have been some stragglers who wondered if he really was doing God's will and maybe they wanted to get on the ark with him. One can wonder if Noah actually had to fight off people from getting on the ark. This does take that idea but explodes it to an astronomical number. Right as the flood starts this army, that trampled Ham's newly found girlfriend after she got caught in a bear trap, storms the ark to take it themselves. They are stopped by the... *sigh*... watchers who are working as a barricade. This is the Lord of the Rings moment I mentioned earlier. The watchers are swinging, stomping and slamming this army away from the ark. I may scoff at the watchers and how weird the placement of this moment is, but once the flood comes it goes from odd to epic.
Earlier when Methuselah helped Noah with preparation for the ark one of the things he gave him was a seed from the Garden of Eden. When Noah planted it the seed created a burst of flowing water from the ground, something like if a pipe exploded and was now leaking through the streets. This water spread throughout the desert he was occupying at the time creating lush forests for him to build the ark with. In that similar fashion when the flood itself began it didn't just rain down. During this battle the ground beneath them explodes like a geyser with rivers of water shooting straight up into the sky. It was crazy to see because the flooding process was quickly speeding up. Also the way the disaster happened felt a lot more, dare I say, Biblical?

So from here on out it's gonna be even more spoilerific. I've got a lot of commentary pertaining to late/end of story stuff. If you still want to see the movie but want to be kept in suspense on what happens next then skip ahead to the point where I say spoilers end. I'll make it obvious.

The ark is afloat with all the animals and Noah's family on board. Everything seems to have calmed down for them in one way at least. The scene that follows the ark setting sail (for a lack of better words) is one of the most haunting to me for a couple reasons.
The main reason is because it gave me an insight into the story I never really thought about until it was pushed onto me by this movie. When they first take off there are literally hundreds of thousands of people in the area surrounding the ark. We see moments from the inside of all the screaming, dying voices outside. And even in a brief moment we are treated to the disturbing image of hundreds of people all trying to cling onto what looks like the peak of a mountain, only to be blown away by a rogue wave. Cut back to Noah and his family sitting down to a meal and it makes it even more unsettling. They have to sit there and listen to thousands of dying voices surround them. I'm starting to understand what Aronofsky meant by "Survivor's guilt."
But the next thing that comes up I have plenty of issue with.

Noah tells his family the story of creation.
All seems well at first. He talks about what was done each day with some flowery expansions here and there. Not exactly the way it's presented in the Bible but that's understandable since he's telling it from memory. I don't recall exactly how his entire rendition of the creation story went because I was really distracted by the imagery. Among the story of creation Aronofsky decided to include imagery suggestive of the big bang and evolution. I think you can see where this is going.
A few years back I heard a new belief that some still believe in God and how he created us, but he used evolution to get it started. This is a theory I definitely have my issues with, but like I stated in my preface we're not gonna get into stuff like that. I don't know if that's what Aronofsky was going for here or not. Maybe if he established the world a little bit differently then maybe his inclusions could make somewhat more sense in his alternate universe (Meaning you'd still have to change a lot to make it work seeing as how the Bible is very clear with creation).
What I had problems with on this inclusion is that he already established this world to be (altered yes but) the same world that the Bible is talking about. Even at the start of the movie they briefly talk about creation, the fall into sin, the first murder, and the lineage that leads up to Noah. You know, exactly the same stuff that is talked about within the first few chapters of Genesis. And so if he is going based on that then why try and include elements of a theory that is vastly different from what scripture says? Over and over they reference Adam and Eve and even present them as holy creatures. Not only that but typically the perspective of evolution wouldn't have an account for things like the watchers existing or the way the flood comes up, OR how God himself speaks to Noah through his dreams, and so forth and so forth. It just throws a wrench into the wheel of the story giving completely polarizing origins like this is the start of a new Tenchi Muyo franchise (obscure anime reference, check.)
I realize there's also the idea that this setting doesn't really have a place in time. At least not hardcore established. Emma Watson herself stated how it is so ambiguous that it could be placed a thousand years into the past or even the future. Well that goes back to the thoughts on what the world was like before the flood happened with the early advancement of civilization. But again this movie clearly establishes that this is not long after creation, God is definitely present, and that what we know from the Bible did in fact happen and it trails down to the point when Noah existed per the Bible's details. Throwing in extra suggestions of evolution just doesn't make sense for this movie to do outside of potentially cause an upset. I just don't see the purpose of adding it in (outside of the obvious). I don't understand the point Aronofsky is trying to make.

The next chunk, and really just about everything that happens from here on out until the end is really dark and took quite a turn I did not see coming. In terms of traditional storytelling it is a logical move, yet again it plays fast and loose with the story of Noah. 
When reflecting on his duties given to him by God Noah brings up a new interpretation of what comes next. Noah understands the purpose of the flood was to wipe out the wicked people that have taken over the earth. But he soon reflected on himself and his family. Again this is the issue with having the message sent to him via dream instead of God speaking directly, the issue that something could go wrong. What he soon interprets is that ALL man must be extinct. That people in general are wicked and that they must no longer reproduce. During the same meal he tells the story of creation among the screaming voices outside he tells each of his children who will bury who, with the obvious end being the last man alive, ever. Noah for the last act stops being the protagonist and starts being the antagonist.
Remember when I said Ila and Shem had sex back before the flood started? Well Ila is pregnant. And when Noah finds out things get even darker. Noah states if it is a girl he will murder the baby right as it's born to avoid it conceiving any more children.
While this is going on there is another evil hidden aboard the ark. The man who lead the army, Tubal-Cain found a way onto the ship as the flood was starting. Since then Noah's own son Ham has been helping him stay alive and well. He first states it's not because Noah refused to rescue the kind girl Ham just met in town, but the undertone was definitely there. Tabul-Cain makes deals with Ham and revenge definitely comes into play fast.
At the end of Ila's pregnancy is when Tabul-Cain and Ham make their move. Ila is having her child shortly after Noah destroyed Ila's and Shem's escape boat. While marching his way to Ila he is distracted by Ham who tells Noah the animals were devouring each other. Taking the more immediate task at hand Noah goes to investigate this claim. That's when Tabul-Cain and Noah get in an all out brawl where Ham is responsible for killing Noah in a weakened state if Tabul-Cain fails. In the end Noah survives because Ham has a change of heart and kills Tabul-Cain instead.
Sadly the children born of Ila are twin girls. Noah chases Ila down. While standing at the top of the ship the movie takes one if it's darkest routes when she begs Noah to let them die calm and not crying. She sings to them a song Noah sang to her when she was a young girl. They calm down. These two beautiful, newborn baby girls are being held in their mother's arms while Noah pulls his knife up and is literally inches away from killing them. Granted the movie is PG-13 and I doubted he would actually kill them but the tension was there and had me on the edge of my seat.


So in the third act Noah turns into a psychopath with the intent of killing his own grandchildren all because he misinterpreted God's commands. One could argue that he was being tested by God but I didn't get that vibe. Definitely a dark route to take. (Don't worry, everything ends well) But much like the rock monsters and the mixing of evolution into the creation story I just don't know where Aronofsky is coming from with all this. I'm trying to understand why he chose to make Noah so insane in many moments. I know Aronofsky saw Noah as a dark and complex character, but when was there hints of something like that in the Bible? Obviously the same can be said for something I mention waaaaay back in the beginning of my review with The Last Temptation of Christ. But that book/movie explicitly states it was a study and not based on scripture. I'm not saying this one believes everything it says to be true, but when you get people in there who never knew the Noah story some may then ask their Christian friends if Noah really tried to kill his own grandchildren while on the ark.

END OF MOVIE SPOILERS END HERE!

I understand that all of this is a character study for Aronofsky. I'm just trying to figure out what he's trying to say with all this. There's clearly a lot more being said here other than "this is my version of Noah." There is clearly deeply rooted belief about the man that drove Aronofsky to write him in such a way. This is a strange, deep, and puzzling piece of film for sure. Easily one of the most bizarre and artsy action blockbusters I've ever seen. I really can't think of anything like it. It's unlike other Biblical stories I've seen, maybe with the exception of Last Temptation of Christ. It's also unlike any other big budget blockbuster I've seen. You just don't see stuff like this in blockbusters unless they're from a credible director, something Aronofsky definitely is.
Now there are a lot of things I didn't touch on because the post would have been ages longer than it already is with what I've talked about up to this point. I didn't really comment on Methuselah, how Noah and his family use some strange incense that puts animals to sleep but not people, I didn't talk about the wickedness of the local city when Noah visits, the somewhat corny way the movie ends and really a lot more than that. The movie is nearly two and a half hours long with a lot going on. I do want to watch this more so I can pick up on other stuff I may have missed, too.
I do wonder how this will hit religious movies as a whole. I can only imagine some thinking this could hurt or mess with the faith of some people but I don't think that's true. Yes it's been banned in multiple countries for that very reason. But the way it all plays out, while artsy, is still very movie if you catch what I mean. There's plenty of inspiration from other big budget movies both Biblical and not. And with how many religious movies that have and will be coming out this year, including: Son of God, God Is Not Dead, Heaven Is For Real, and Exodus (where Christian Bale is Moses) this one will definitely be the odd duck out for both good and bad reasons.
The good reasons being that it was willing to take a darker route I feel more religious films should take. In the sermons I hear every Sunday there is plenty of darkness in the law only to be redeemed by the gospel. So why can't the films based on that same faith be dark as well? (Come to think of it the Luther movie had some intense scenes in it, but that's not as relevant). The bad of course being that it plays fast and loose with the story. I can't expect it to perfectly align with what I interpret the story to be. There were just lots of clear and obvious trailing off from the original story. Changes that would be obviously not part of scripture and were put in either for dramatic, storytelling, exciting, or artistic purposes.
The only thing I wonder is if this will help pioneer a new series of Biblical movies that take their own route with the story. If this movie can get made then what's stopping a studio from making en epic about the book of Revelations, done in the style of the Clash of the Titans remake, with as much accuracy as the video game adaptation of Dante's Inferno.

Aronofsky still has something of a perfect record to me. Not that all his movies are perfect but that I've enjoyed each and every one of his movies. I can think of other directors I love just about as much but they have one, two, or a few where I just don't like some of their movies. Aronofsky is not one of those. For what it's worth I did enjoy Noah as a movie. There were just a lot of liberties taken that I didn't care for. Other than that it is still exciting and epic. If you get a chance to see it on the big, big screen (like the IMAX) I would recommend it. It makes those especially exciting moments even more exciting. Like when the flood first hits.
To my Christian readers. Depending on what all you read before this (whether you skipped the end of movie spoilers or not) it is good you realize what you're getting into. Not saying you have to read up on everything about it before taking the plunge. Just know that this will definitely not be accurate and you will have problems with it. You do not have to support it, obviously. Still it's a solid movie with great character and overall satisfying experience. You may even find a few things you like whether it's in style or a new perspective on the story you never thought of before. If you do watch it just remember this is only a movie. It doesn't change what your faith says just like how it doesn't change the words in the Bible. But if your pastor starts preaching that this is more accurate than anything he's ever seen or read you may want to wonder...