Noah -2014-

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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)

Man of Steel -2013-

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Directed by Zack Snyder. 143 mins.

Worth my time? Yes. (Seen with a friend at Arclight Hollywood)

Man of Steel doesn’t have exceptionally lofty aspirations… and I couldn’t be happier.

Keep in mind, the last two times Snyder tried to tell complicated stories, we got the lame Watchmen and the horrible Sucker Punch. The narrative and dialogue are a couple notches below what fans may come to expect from screenwriters Christopher Nolan and David S. Goyer, but I applaud them for keeping the director in mind. They’ve fed Snyder exactly as much as he could chew.

Henry Cavill is the best screen Superman yet. I thought Christopher Reeve was charming back in the day (and Donner’s original Superman remains my franchise favorite), but I’m glad his cheesy quips have been left in the past. For the first time, a movie had me not only wondering, “Is Superman going to save the day (of course he is)?” but more importantly, “Is Superman going to be okay?” This task is easier said than done since Kal-El is pretty much indestructible. However, Goyer and Nolan have fleshed him out as somewhat of a neurotic, extraterrestrial Bruce Wayne, complete with lotsa mommy and daddy issues. It’s as deep a character study as we could ever reasonably expect from Snyder.

Aside from an inconsistent performance by Amy Adams (who’s still a step up from Kate Bosworth), the rest of the cast does a great job. It’s always nice to see Kevin Costner remind us that he’s a solid actor, particularly in a post-Waterworld-Postman world (eew, too many posts and worlds). Michael Shannon occasionally hams it up as Zod, but he’s a good choice for the villain overall, and more believable than either his characters in Revolutionary Road or Boardwalk Empire. Plus, Russell Crowe turns in a much more involved Jor-El performance than Marlon Brando – probably at a fraction of his fee, too.

It bears repeating that Man of Steel is no game-changer, and my enjoyment of the film was most likely amplified by the soft bigotry of low expectations. Haters will find plenty of blatant product-placement and Christ allegories to nitpick. Still, it beats the pants off of summer fare like Furious 6, Iron Man 3, and even Star Trek Into Darkness.

(Seen and originally written on 2013-06-14)