Brace yourselves, for a storm is coming. I’m about to address religion. Well, sort of…
Darren Aronofsky’s Noah is about to hit cinemas, and is due for release here in Melbourne on March 28th. Obviously I haven’t seen it yet and one shouldn’t judge a movie just based on a poster and a premise. Still, the whole concept of this film bothers me. I’m an atheist, sure, but that doesn’t mean that I can’t enjoy films with religious stories, religious themes, or even some religious messages. I like Michael Tolkin’s The Rapture, M. Night Shyamalan’s Signs, and Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ. The problem I have with this one, however, is entirely factual.
The story of Noah and the Great Flood is not history. It’s not fact. It’s nothing. It amounts to no more than a fable or a fairytale, like Red Riding Hood. I have no problem with fictional films, of course, so long as they are clearly fictional.
When I watched the trailer for this bilge, I couldn’t believe my eyes. What struck me the most was how Aronofsky and the producers have decided to set the film not in any historical setting that we know of…but in Bibleland. The whole thing appears to have been shot inside Ken Ham’s “Creation Museum“. Where is this tribal European world where people walk around speaking modern english and wearing burlap sacks? Darren, what the fuck? Let me show you something:
See that juicy red slice of jelly pie? See the number on it too? That’s the percentage of U.S. Americans who think the Noah’s Ark story is actually true!
That’s right, it’s not all fun and games anymore is it? With a significant majority of the American public believing that this myth either does or should reside in college textbooks next to chapters on The Roman Empire and Ancient Egypt, I strongly suggest that making a 160 million dollar feature film about it with no clear and resounding declaration of its historical inaccuracy is, at best, irresponsible. I don’t honestly care about how moving the story of Noah is, or how allegorical it may be with modern environmentalism. All that literalist Christian audiences seem to see is the American film industry embracing the same ignorance that they already cling to and it ends up effecting things like this:
That’s the percentage of Americans who reject the theory of evolution in favour of something else, typically creationism, as the origin of man.
It’s unbearably depressing to see human ignorance dissected in front of you like that and usually you have to sit back and go “hey, people are stupid, what you gonna do?”, but in this case Aronofsky has provided me with a specific target to aim for.
Do not do this kind of thing! Making a film like this with no connection to the real world, packing it full of symbolism and inferred messages, and then expecting the average cinema audience to get that it’s not meant to be a factual event is so fucking stupid I can’t even begin to describe it. I know that you, Aronofsky, know it’s not meant to be taken literally, but an alarming amount of people out there aren’t intellectually positioned to understand that. You think I’m being arrogant, elitist, and condescending?
How about now?
Most people do their work, pay their taxes, buy their groceries, and then kick back expecting the TV to take over and tell them about the rest of the world. It’s not a judgement I’m making on them, it’s simply understandable behaviour from the common man who is too busy to spend time analysing what’s fact or fiction. It’s up to you, the makers of entertainment, to not needlessly lead them astray.
I know that Darren Aronofsky is an intelligent man, and doubt that he’s especially religious himself (if religious at all), so I expect this film to be less of a preachy Bible epic and more of a sweeping character piece with frequent memorable and arresting images. Yet, what worries me is that if this film is sufficiently successful it may cull back an era where religious thinking is in the mainstream rather than peeled off into the fringe to die a natural death (as it should be).
Luckily for me and those likeminded, the film seems to have already run aground in some waters (lame pun intended). Not because of any secular or anti religious criticism…but because of other religions. Noah has thus far been banned in Pakistan, Egypt, Qatar, Bahrain, and the United Arab Emirates, which is not good news for a film which likely has the greatest chance of success amongst a religious audience. The filmmakers pleaded, therefore, for an opportunity to screen the film in front of everyone’s favourite hippy Pope Francis, all in an attempt to give it the official Vatican seal of approval and hopefully open the door to the most hardcore of catholic christians. Indeed, people seem to forget that the biggest threat to the expression of their own beliefs is not atheism, but theism.
Enough of that, though. I have two antidotes to this singular but persistent problem. This is the first:
Many people will already know this, but Cosmos is back on television for the first time in 28 years! For those who are unaware, the original Cosmos was and still is the most famous and financially successful scientific series ever to premiere on the small screen. All the show ever consisted of was astronomer Carl Sagan talking about and illustrating our current collective knowledge of…well, everything. It was fact, it was science, it was truth. Sounds dry, I know, but he infused it with such love and passion that it became the most watched series on American public television for the next ten years. Now, it’s been resurrected and reinvented by Family Guy creator Seth McFarlene, with an equally charismatic new host; cult science hero and astrophysicist Neil DeGrasse Tyson. Oh, and it’s fucking awesome!
McFarlene “spared no expense” putting this thing together, with state of the art CGI, animation, and a powerful theatrical score from film composer Alan Silvestri. Cosmos is by far the most cinematic learning experience you can get your hands on; a show that (if you’ll pardon the poetic licence) speaks as much to your heart as it does to your mind. Never have math, chemistry, biology, or physics been this exciting!
My second antidote to stupidity is a weird little under-promoted film called Mr. Peabody and Sherman. I recently went to see this by myself at my local cinema, surrounded by nearly a hundred tiny children high on sugar and adrenaline…and I had a lovely time!
Based on the original cartoon Peabody’s Improbable History from the 1950’s and 60’s, you’d think a movie about a genius talking dog and his adopted human son traveling through time and meeting historical figures would be nothing but lame. Not at all! It’s absolutely brilliant. This movie is so funny, but at the same time manages to be educational. There are sharp jokes and intentionally blunt “dad” puns that play to both younger and older audiences. Along the way, you’re treated to a thick collection of historical trivia and even corrected on several of your commonly held historical misconceptions, making it something akin to a feature film version of a Q. I. episode.
Here’s a mere 62 second clip in which you get the specific date of the Trojan War, a plot point that spoofs the Trojan Horse, references to Athens, Sparta, Thebes, Agamemnon, Diomedes, Menelaus, and a hilariously weird depiction of Odysseus.
For more historical figures, like Leonardo da Vinci, George Washington, Tutankhamun, Vincent Van Gogh, and Einstein, followed by a host of inspired gags at their expense, please do go check out Mr. Peabody and Sherman at your nearest cinema. Better yet, bring along any young child you can…that you know. Don’t, like…grab one off the street or anything. Hell, go see it twice, while intentionally boycotting Noah.
– Rant Over!