Noah -2014-

Image

Directed by Darren Aronofsky. 138 mins.

Worth my time? Yes. (Seen at AMC Promenade 16, Woodland Hills)

After his relatively small-scale The Wrestler and Black Swan, Aronofsky has returned to the batshit crazy epic storytelling he demonstrated with The Fountain almost a decade a go. Like its spiritual successor, Noah is going to be divisive. This film doesn’t simply go off the rails ­– it was never on the rails in the first place. I loved The Fountain, and while Noah doesn’t ascend to its level, you’ll like it if you’re willing to roll with it.

From what I’ve read online, many viewers, religious and secular alike, take issue with the bizarre creative license that Aronofsky and co-writer Ari Handel take with the story of the Flood as told in the Book of Genesis. The most infamous deviation from the source material has been the film’s inclusion of the Watchers, more commonly known as “the rock monsters.” I have no idea why folks are dwelling on this one point.

First of all, the Watchers are awesome. I was sympathetic to their plight, an impressive achievement considering that these characters are literally made of stone. The team at Industrial Light and Magic deserves props for successfully bringing these dudes to life so well.

Secondly, this is a fucking adaptation of the fucking story of Noah’s fucking ark. This is one of the weirdest stories ever to come out of the ancient world, and it’s the Watchers that break your suspension of disbelief? Fuck off, you’re just looking for something to whine about.

The film is flawed, to be sure. Noah’s shift to psychological-thriller territory in the third act is an interesting narrative choice, but the film still feels a half-hour too long. Still, there’s a lot to like here. There’s plenty of eye candy ranging from Griffithian wide shots to the Requiem for a Dream-esque rapid-fire montages which cover the stories of Creation and the Fall. And per usual, Clint Mansell’s score is damn good.

(Seen and written on 2014-04-02)

Dark City -1998-

Image

 

Directed by Alex Proyas. 112 mins (Director’s Cut).

Worth my time? Yes. (Watched on Blu-ray)

Who would have thought that before directing turns such as I, Robot and Knowing, Alex Proyas made arguably the best sci-fi film of the 90s? I mean, I would have thought as much since I’ve seen Dark City before. You, on the other hand, may have been none the wiser.

The film was a flop in 1998 because Titanic was still dominating the world box office at the time. The Matrix, having lifted much of the Dark City premise without any of the style of context, was the toast of the town the following year. Luckily, the director’s cut – and be certain that it’s the director’s cut – is on home video for everyone to enjoy.

The film is a visual marvel, taking cues from German expressionism and the American noirs that followed the movement. Many films demonstrate these aesthetic influences, but Dark City is unique in that it takes the hallmarks of the subgenre and incorporates them directly into the narrative. The amnesiac protagonist, the twisting streets and alleys that lead nowhere, the clashing architectural styles, and the night that never ends all have deeply unnerving explanations.

What I personally find most disturbing about Dark City is the way in which it reminds me of Bertrand Russell’s Five Minute Hypothesis. Russell contended that for all we know, the Universe sprang into existence five minutes ago along with the Earth and everyone on it. All of our memories prior to the five minutes are false, but so long as they are generally consistent with how the Earth appears to be, we would never be able to know. Russell didn’t actually believe in the hypothesis – rather, he used it as a thought experiment to highlight the limits of epistemology. And in Russell’s mind, it wouldn’t much matter even if the hypothesis were true since the Earth would be identical to how it would be if it had been billions of years old as is today’s scientific consensus.

Dark City shows, in horrifying fashion, that Russell was wrong; a young world with a population saturated with false memories could hide sinister secrets.

Aside (SPOILER ALERT SPOILER ALERT): One of my favorite  mysteries of Dark City is the fate of Earth. Did the Strangers simply harvest a select few humans from our planet and then leave it alone? Does humankind even exist beyond the City anymore? *shudders*

(Seen and written on 2014-03-08)