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Noah

Noah film posterSynopsis

Aronofsky’s film about the biblical hero of the flood.  It’s a post industrial ravaged world and the Creator has sent a warning to Noah. about a flood to destroy wicked humanity.  He receives this message through Methuselah (Anthony Hopkins). Noah is helped in his ark building by angels trapped in rock.  Tubal Cain (Ray Winstone) and his people want to get on board the ark and so there is conflict.  The ark sails. Noah’s daughter (Emma Watson) is giving birth but Noah thinks he must sacrifice the babies because he’s entrusted by the Creator to rebuild nature and end the human race…

Review

A short paragraph in Genesis becomes the blueprint for an epic science film.  Noah presents us with Crowe playing the eco warrior determined to save nature and cleanse the world of human wickedness by ensuring there’s no one left to be wicked.  Tubal Cain as played by Ray Winstone, is involved in a macho face off with Crowe.  I couldn’t get over the absurdity of the angels of light trapped in rock, they look like something out of a cereal commercial.  Noah and family look like backpackers in a post industrial world and I’m not sure this will go down well with those who revere the bible.  Indeed, the film has to steer fairly cleverly through the offence-sensitive strictures of contemporary monotheistic religions (but it is still banned in some Muslim countries).  Noah as eco-warrior is a pragmatic solution to this.  Aronofsky shows Noah as self destructive obsessive (just like the ballerina in his film Black Swan) and Crowe is good on carrying the portentous weight of the Creator’s designs.  His family drama ensures the stark simplicity of a parable considering the gloomy menagerie they’re sailing on (Adam and Eve look like two aliens wandering around in a pretentious commercial).  Noah invites us to spot other biblical stories it contains.  The most obvious is the recreation of life after the flood, the ark as a Garden of Eden.  There is also an allusion to Abraham being prepared to sacrifice Isaac as Noah holds the knife over Emma Watson’s infant.  The ark itself is a tar splattered wooden box containing masses of anaesthetised fauna, and is also a floating forest.  I couldn’t help comparing it with John Huston’s version of this story in The Bible made in 1967.  That film didn’t have the benefit of CGI but was a faithfully sentimental rendering of the bible story.  Its inoffensive jollity papering over the scientific implausibilities of the events.  Crowe’s Noah is a darker even malignant force in a world beyond Hobbesion nightmare.  Patchy but usually good to look at.

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Posted by on May 11, 2014 in At the cinema, Film Reviews

 

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Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2Synopsis

H.P. and chums finally battle the dark forces led by R. Fiennes as Voldemort with Helena Bonham Carter and co.  They attack Hogwarts and there is a final battle in which H.P. seems to die but meets Michael Gambon  and he survives though Voldemort thinks he has killed Potter.  Snape is killed and among the secrets about H.P. is that Snape loved Potters’ mother.  H.P. and co defeat the forces of evil.  At the end the adult Harry, Hermione, and Ron send their kids to Hogwarts.

Criticism

For me this film repeats the limitations of the other films which I’m told, are not as good as the books.  This public school farrago with painted hats once again has actors pointing sticks at each other but this time they bring in some Lord of the Rings type trolls.  Voldemort looks like a latex Quasimodo.  Potter and his cronies look like lottery winners in a special effects bonanza.  I’m bemused as to why this Tom Brown’s Schooldays with Dr Who, has caught on globally.  The franchise has simply grown by a sort of populist osmosis.  Like a house pet it’s been around for years and acquired a cosy familiarity.

It’s all safe and unchallenging, too comfortable with its middle class preening.  There’s nothing disconcerting or innovative.  It’s too rooted in the early 21st century to be able to say anything universal about childhood or our fantasies.  Still, crticizing it makes you feel like the Christmas party pooper, the guy who mugged Santa Claus.

Rowling has become Britain’s Disney and she may do impressive things yet, but these films lack the magic that many of her readers find in her books.  Can’t say I’m sorry to see the end of these films.  This is the last, isn’t it?.

 

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Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1 posterSynopsis

Ralph Fiennes leads a Capone like committee of baddies who are out to get Harry Potter.  We see H.P. himself at his house and he must escape from Fiennes’ pursuit. Lots of pals assume H.P.’s appearance to throw pursuers off the scent.  H.P., Ron and Hermione  disguise themselves as adults to get into the Ministry of Magic where they take a locket. Then they go from place to place and camp out in a tent  Ron gets jealous and quits, leaving H.P. and Hermione to bond. Then H.P. and Hermione turn up at his parents’ on Christmas Eve and are attacked by a snake. Then they’re in a forest and H.P. gets a sword from a frozen pond and he’s rescued by the returning Ron.  They then chat to a sorcerer in his lonely house who tells a story of three brothers.  Then they’re attacked by Snatchers and taken to H. Bonham Carter’s jail where Dobby rescues them and he’s killed by Helena B.C.  Then R. Fiennes steals Michael Gambons’ wand, and we wait for Part 2.

Criticism

If you try to critcize H.P. you feel like a mosquito trying to topple a brick wall.  There are a few enjoyable scenes:  the tale of the three brothers is done like an Indonesian shadow puppet theatre, it reminds me of Regers’ 1950’s fairy tale silhouettes.  The scene in the forest is quite atmospheric, the Forest of Dean in the middle of winter.  The rest is underwhelming.  The three leads are charisma deficient, prolonged scenes with them are an ordeal.  I watched this with a couple of H.P. fans and they told me that new material has been interpolated, other scenes have been changed from the book.  This is curious, since J.K.R. is known as a control addict, one of the reasons she split Book 7 into two films is to get the details from the book.  It seems the romance between Hermione and Harry threatens to elbow aside any fidelity to the text, not that it’s any great loss.

I think I’ve alluded to this before, but the curious thing about a story dependant on magic is that it can undermine narrative development because it pre-empts conflict and its resolution.  When you know you can always escape a situation, then is there any reason for engagement in the first place?  The scenes are disjointed from an overall incoherence so that they do not achieve the cohesion of successive episodes.  They are more like set pieces embellishing the real interest in the story:  the sexual tension between the three adolescents.  After all, the childhood audience for H.P. has grown up with these three leads so that’s the central concern, isn’t it?  If (like me) you don’t read the books then this film does not stand on its own.  There’s cross referencing and reporting back from the other books but the viewer hasn’t got that luxury if he/she watches this on its own.

Another problem with this and other films is the comfortable familiarity of the scenes.  We either get modern British houses, public school Gothic in Hogwarts (but not in this film though) and a lonely ramshackle house in the middle of a bleak moor, a real forest and the Ministry of Magic entered by toilets.  We get jumps from place to place without any underlying continuum (which we get in the Alice books).  There is rationed visual novelty in each scene and what inventiveness there is, gets repeated in all the films:  the moving paintings and newspaper pictures, the Dr Who hi-tech wands, the oversized python.  There is plenty of gloominess which surrounds the eruption into hi-tech jinks which are merely frenetically extra contextual.  The Ministry of Magic looks like a mixture of a Victorian municipal palace and a posh toilet.  Dobby the elf looks like Vladimir Putin as a garden gnome

What. H.P. can offer is the chance for a well known actor to inject some of their own skill into the scene, and that can be a pleasure, although John Hurt only gets a few minutes.  There’s a real shrewdness and sharpness in some of the group dynamics but it gets spoiled by the three leads dumping their amateur acting across scene after scene.  Finally it’s all too much an expression of Britishness in the naughties, and those limitations will become starker as time goes by.  Arthur Mee with 21st century knowingness.

 
 

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