Thursday, July 12, 2012

Aronofsky's "Noah" Will (Probably) Cause Our Next Big Bible-Movie Shitstorm

Darren Aronofsky has tweeted the first set pic of construction for his upcoming film "Noah," he of Ark-building fame. If completed on schedule, it's on-track to be the first of a potential wave of Biblical epics - elsewhere, Steven Spielberg is circling an update of "The Ten Commandments."

I'm kind of psyched about the prospects of this.

From a strictly literary perspective, Bible Stories are among those rare cases were visually/narratively bizzare material also happens to be material that a plurality of the mainstream audience is not only familiar with but takes as... well, gospel, for lack of a better word. It's the only genre where you can pack the screen with devils, demons, flaming swords and guys splitting oceans with magic staffs and still sell tickets to people who'd never turn out for, say, "Lord of The Rings." But Aronofsky's plans for "Noah" look to push that to acceptance to the breaking point...


The version of Noah's Ark that most present-day religious people (it's my understanding that despite being part of the "Old" Testament, Noah's Ark is more "popular" in a retelling sense among Christians than Jews, though Jewish readers are enthusiastically welcome to correct me on that) are familiar with is highly sanitized, coming from (comparitively, given that the events described are - literally - pre-historic) recent translations that specifically worked to tone-down the more "mythological-sounding" elements from Genesis (giants, monsters, dragons, etc) and other pre-Exodus Biblical texts. The meat of the story is always the same - the world has become hopelessly corrupt, God aims to wipe out said corruption with an apocalyptic flood, Noah is warned by God and tasked with building a massive ship that will whether the storm - allowing Noah, his family and a cargo of mated-pairs of every known animal to survive and repopulate the planet. Because strikingly-similar "flood stories" occur in hundreds of other disparate religions, the story is a fixture of pantheist/monomyth theories as well.

In most modern tellings, the "corruption" the invites the flood is just the traditional post-Exodus understanding of sin; but as Noah's adventures pre-date Exodus by millenia, you'll be unsurprised to learn that the pre-cleanup versions (there's never just one with stuff this ancient) were a little more... "complicated:" Mankind's corruption ("mankind," incidentally, being a race of long-lived superhuman's having descended directly from Adam and Eve in some variations) was incited by a sect of Angels called Watchers (yes, "the guys from Dogma") who migrated to Earth in order to seduce human women. The children of these unions were giants (or sometimes just really, really bad guys) called Nephilim, and it was the havoc they caused (and other sundry violations caused by forbidden knowledge given to man by the meddling Angels) that despoiled the Earth and necessitated the flood. Depending on which version you consult, figures like Enoch, Gog and even Lucifer turn up.

It's this more mythic, creature-featuring and (with no offense meant to my religious readers) "high fantasy"-flavored version that allegedly informs Aronofsky's take on the material. While much of it is being kept under wraps for now, it is known that The Watchers are onhand, and that the depiction of them and other Angels is described in-line with their "original" conception; i.e. less "guys with wings" and more "bio-mechanical horrors with multiple eyes, wings, limbs, etc."

How will religiously-devout moviegoers respond to a Bible Movie that's less Cecil B. DeMille and more Guillermo Del Toro? We'll see...

33 comments:

Fett101 said...

I'm more interested to see how moderately-devout moviegoers respond. Guess it's too much hoping for "Wait, this stuff is really in the Bible? What then hell am I in thus crazy club for?"

Then again, those people already see the flood as just a metaphor anyway.

Omorka said...

Go Team Nephilim!

Hmm. After the last attempt at filming A Wrinkle In Time failed so spectacularly, the chances of getting a movie of Many Waters is probably nil - which is a shame, as in the post-Twilight era, its depiction of seraph-nephil-human relationships might well sell to the teenybopper girl crowd.

JUSTINtimeforalaugh said...

I can't wait for this! As a Christian (but not one of those "All-Hating anything that isn't White and Straight kind of Christians), I've always been interested in seeing classic Bible stories being retold in cinema. I definitely prefer them being made by an actual film crew, and not a church trying to state a "message", so this sounds like a win to me!

biomechanical923 said...

I'm a little surprised nobody has tried to make a stylized re-telling of Sodom and Gomorrah, what with all the opportunity for making fire rain down from the sky and people turning into pillars of salt.

Daphnaie said...

"It's this more mythic, creature-featuring and (with no offense meant to my religious readers) "high fantasy"-"

I wouldn't worry about upsetting anyone Bob, since anyone who would be offended by the Great Flood being referred to as "high fantasy" deserves to be. No need to tiptoe around something so obviously ridiculous.

Anonymous said...

I hope we get more movies based on the Old Testament just for how epic shit goes down in that. Who wouldn't want to see a Samson movie? Watching some guy mass murder Philistines with the jawbone of a donkey? That is ridiculously awesome.

בזינגה said...

I wonder if they'll take on Noah's alcohol problem.?
He's a bit of an odd fellow in the bible – we're told he was of the Righteous of men "in that time" so he wasn't no saint. In addition he was the first drunk in the bible. It's written that after the flood he built himself a Winery, made wine and got drunk and rolled around naked at his house so his kids had to get in and take him on.
Oh and I think a sadom and gamora movie won't work because the movie will have to be R-rated if they want to do it right. The story is not about a happy place. Just think about the scene where the crowd calls out for Lot to bring out his gests so they could RAPE them.

Albert Schneider said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
J said...

@ biomechanical923: The problem with a Soddom & Gomorrah movie is that it'd be like expecting the audience to cheer as they watch los vegas get nuked out of existence. That sort of old testament morality doesn't actually sit very well with most modern christians. or most anyone else for that matter.


Interesting thing about a lot of biblical mythology is that if you go into it without preconceptions, god really is the villain in a lot of the stories.

-stories of Abraham and Job: god cruelly dicks with people to prove a point. the moral apparently being that obedience to god is more important than love for your family, and you should stick with god and keep loving him no matter what he does. just like an abused spouse.

-Soddom & Gommorah and The Flood: god commits genocide over vaguely defined 'wickedness'

-Exodus: this one's especially interesting because it really does seem pretty black & white; Egypt = bad, Israelites = good. But then you realize that the god of the Israelites is basically a war criminal. He uses biological warfare on a civilian population, poisons the water supply of a major city, and flat out murders civilian hostages to get what he wants.

-Tower of Babel: god disrupts and destroys humanity's ability to communicate with each other & coordinate their actions. This is especially notable as he does this apparently out of fear of what the humans might accomplish through cooperation, suggesting that god may not actually be as omnipotent/invincible as is claimed.

-Genesis: humanity is told to remain ignorant & punished for obtaining knowledge. Like above, god appears to be fearful of human potential should they eat from the 'tree of life'

Of course i don't expect to see much of that perspective coming out of any Hollywood movie any time soon.





If anyone's interested, here's a really good talk on the topic of pre-biblical mythology. It includes a much more thorough telling of the version of The Flood that Bob alluded to, with a lot of details of what angels used to be like. It really is a much more fascinating mythology than a lot of people realize.

http://www.talechasing.com/2009/03/episode-25-dragoncon-09-gothic-panel-blood-of-angels/
http://www.talechasing.com/media/broadcasts/ep_24_dc_angels.mp3

ANImaniac said...

Being a person of the Christian faith this interests me greatly.

The Bible at times can be a wired book and I've always wanted to see less toned down cinematic versions of biblical stories. Hell I've read someones interpretation of the Book of Revelations that seem to say that a Godzilla style giant monster battle will be the grand finale of the Apocalypse, of course this "theory" is only someone personal interpretation of the text. As

Christopher Delvo said...

Bio-mechanical horrors, you say...hmm, perhaps my atheist-bias against this movie will have to be shelved if this is the case. If only for the sake of pure curiosity.

-Chris

Razmere said...

WANT!!!

SOOO


BAD!


The Black Swan/Wrestler guy doing a badass OLD TESTAMENT HIGH FANTASY BIBLE STORY with Angels that look like they did in the book, demons, and GIANTS?!


I don't care if the meme is overused.....


SHUT UP AND TAKE MY MONEY!!!

Aiddon said...

@J

Yeah, the Bible is full of Jehovah being a straight up dick to people who don't blindly follow him.

Anyway, this could be a fascinating project, though this could turn into another "The Fountain"

Sylocat said...

@J & Aiddon

I've always felt that the writers did god a terrible injustice by RetConning all that "omnipotence" and monotheistic stuff into the NT and the KJV translations. Judaism, and by extension Christianity, used to be monolatric instead of monotheistic.

If you read the Torah and assume that Yahweh is LESS powerful than most of the other Elohim, then he comes out looking resourceful and well-intentioned, and the narrative makes sense.

Anonymous said...

As a Christian, this looks amazing and I can't wait to check it out. What bothers me is the comments section; people who are (rightfully) upset at douchebags who use the Bible and the faith as justification for their douchebaggery (and general ignorance) always choose to insult, demean, and attack ALL Christians in defense. It's not as bad here, but it's hard not to see a pattern all over the Internet. I'd really like it if you guys actually ACTED as modern and enlightened as you say you are, learned some manners, and learned to tell the bad guys from the guys that are neither hurting anyone nor trying to. Just saying.

Also, Bob, I'm a big fan of yours, but I just gotta correct you on this: It's "bizarre", not "bizzare".

Also, yeah, movie looks great, I can't wait to see what the angels look like. It looks like something I'll really enjoy.

KevinCV said...

@Anonymous 2:36

I'm Christian myself, and I agree with you. I feel all these anti-Christian sentiments from some people are a bit too defensive and reactionary for my tastes.

You wouldn't believe the amount of people I've met online who said to me "Have a mind of your own!" when I mention I'm Christian. They don't even give me a chance to properly explain myself. They just see "Christian" and think "Oh, another mindless self-deceiving drone." Hell, I laugh my ass off at comedians like George Carlin who have pointed out the flaws in religion.

I look at it like this: If religion were as perfect as some of these extreme fundamentalists continually purport it to be, I'd frankly be a bit more skeptical. It's the fact that it's flawed that keeps me believing in God, because it makes it a bit more credible and understandable.

All that said, I'm actually kinda interested in a "high fantasy" version of the Noah's Ark story. It might be pretty awesome. Also, if those extreme zealots are gonna be offended, let 'em be offended. It's no different than how people flipped their shit when "Passion of the Christ" came out. I even heard of an instance where one of 'em in particular was pissed off because Jesus died at the end. The mind boggles sometimes when it comes to human stupidity... -_-'

Joshua the Anarchist said...

I remember as a kid church suddenly getting momentarily a hell of a lot more interesting when my dad (he was the pastor) would offhandedly mention a race of half-angel giants. I'm very curious about this movie.

ANImaniac said...

@KevinCV

I agree with you, Whenever it comes up in conversation that I'm a Christian suddenly I'm treated like some closed minded moron hick that's been preprogramed. Which I Fucking hate I mean hell my favorite comedian is George Carlin (with Bill Hicks in second) My favorite Movie: A Clockwork Orange, Book: Hunter Thompson's Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, Album: Nine Inch Nails - The Downward Spiral (come to think of it I like a lot of transgressive entertainment) . Science has always been one of my best subjects when in school, some of my best friends are gay, and most of my other friends don't share my beliefs. I am not some closed minded hick and yet every time my religion comes up (and its almost never by me) instantly I'm treated like some bible thumped.

James said...

Bob: Admit that Obama is as bad as Bush & Romney, you mindless sheep.

Jake said...

@ANImaniac
Aside from the other stuff in the movie, A Clockwork Orange actually has a message consistent with Christianity, in that being forced to be good isn't morality at all. The prison chaplain (who is most associated with this message in the movie), is actually portrayed as a wise and kind man, and not some insane zealot like the film could easily have made him. And Anthony Burgess, the author of the book, was also the co-writer of the Zeffirelli Jesus of Nazereth miniseries.

Sylocat said...

@Anonymous 2:36

Comment section? Which one? All I've seen so far is the Tweeted pics, is there a trailer or something?

TheAlmightyNarf said...

Ok, so while I've always taken the New Testament (or at least the Gospels) as being more or less accurate accounts, in recent years I've come to be more and more... skeptical of events described the the Old Testament, particularly the Torah. Enough cultures have Noah's Flood like stories that I'd consider it probable that something vaguely alone those lines happened at some point, and the story certainly has a lot of modern cultural significance, but I really don't give it much more consideration than that.

That said, I think it certainly would be interesting to see a Del Toro-esque retelling of the story. It really only works when it's played for fantasy anyway.

Sylocat said...

So far the only angels that have been confirmed are the six-armed Watchers, though... I want to see the Cherubim that Ezekiel described as four-winged and four-headed creatures with the heads of a man, a lion, an eagle and an ox.

I'd also like to see the Thrones, which were downright Lovecraftian... they look like gyroscopes with the wheel rims covered in eyes.

biomechanical923 said...

@ Chris Delvo
Just google or look up the different groups or "choirs" of angels as they're already described in the bible.

I remember reading one group of angels looks something like a spinning wheel covered in eyeballs and wings.

Honestly, I'd love to see somebody make a movie at some point that depicts God as some sort of unfathomable Lovecraftian elder god with a hunger for souls, and he just thinks the "pure" ones taste better...because that's kind of what my personal view on God is (in the unlikely even that one exists)

James said...

Bob: how many innocent people will Obama have to kill before you admit that he's as bad as Bush & Romney?

Lee Kalba said...

Continuing the Sodom and Gamorrah mentioned,

R-rated, indeed. Not just the townspeople wanting to rape the two angels, but what happens with Lot and his daughters after they escape the city.

The Old Testament is full of that kind of stuff.

Sylocat said...

I love how Lot offered up his two virgin daughters to the crowd that wanted to rape the angels, and we're supposed to think of Lot as the good guy in this story.

In other news, someday I want to go to a sporting event and hold up a sign saying, "EZEKIEL 23:20" (or 25:17, of course)

Anonymous said...

Oh man I can't wait until all the people who are hyper-sensitive about Christianity see this, and freak out because it showcases just how insane old school religion is by modern standards. You know they'll flip a shit, no matter what, if anyone does anything other than treat the Bible in the most favorable light possible, accuracy be damned. The best part is, they'll have to look at everyone else and say "Aronofsky is mocking our religion by taking it too seriously! He purposefully highlighted the non-mainstream stuff to make it look crazy!"

saar yaffe said...

while admittedly my knowledge of the noah story comes from the jewish torah and hebrew school, i don't remember any dragons, giants, nephlem, watchers, or super people. to be fair i never read the christian bible, i just assumed the first 5 books were the exact same thing with revelations tacked on to include Jesus.


also in all versions of the torah written in hebrew through out all sects of judaism there are only 6 differences and they're strictly punctuation, so i don't actually agree with that different versions around the world statement, not trying to be annoying, just thought i'd give my 2 cents

TheAlmightyNarf said...

@ Saar Yaffe

Yes, the first five books of the Bible and the Torah are more or less the same. Most of the crazier fantasy stuff that tends to get refereed to comes from "extra-Biblical" books written in the 1st or 2nd century that were never canonized for obvious reasons.

biomechanical923 said...

@ TheAlmightyNarf

Yeah, didn't they just make a surreal fantasy game based on the Book of Enoch or something?

What was that called?

Danny J said...

@biomechanical923

Yes indeed there was! It was called El Shaddai: Ascension of the Metatron and it is Awesome!

I actually wanted to give my copy to Moviebob since it is right up his alley. Strangeness, beautiful graphics, a control scheme you could map to an SNES controller, and tackling of a rarely used material. Unfortunately I only own the PS3 version.

Jacob Durshimer said...

Raised with a Jewish mother and Methodist father so I can assure you that Noah's Ark is just as popular a Sunday School story in one religion as the other.