So, I saw Noah last week…
And I dug the HELL out of it.
There. That’s my review. Now, let’s move on to a more important discussion.
When I first learned that Darren Aronofsky was doing a take on the ol’ Noah’s ark tale, my first impression was, “Meh.” Anytime the director put on his “epic” pants, the results were mixed. (The less spoken about The Fountain, the better.) Noah looked serviceable enough, but the trailer didn’t grab me.
That said, being the ever-hermitic netizen, I took to the Almighty Wiki to read up on it more. And my type-ready fingers stopped dead on their keys when I saw this:
Ray Winstone as Tubal-Cain.
My interest in the movie went from “Meh” to “Must-See” in one sentence. I’ll explain…
Back in my high school “daze”, I went through a big mythology phase. This interest also included apocryphal stories tied to the Bible, particularly those pertaining to the Antediluvian period. Read: Pre-Flood.
Why? Because that oft-glossed-over period was like Conan’s Hyborian Age. There were angels, demons, monsters, wizards, gluttonous civilizations, and legends. And yet this lost age only took up one chapter in the Bible - Genesis 6, “The Wickedness of Man”.
Parallel to that were the two lineages that were chronicled prior to that chapter - the family trees that sprung from Adam and Eve. Those being, the line of Seth (their last son)…and the line of Cain. The latter genealogy ends with Tubal-Cain.
So fascinated was I with Tubal-Cain, that I even fashioned a novel series idea around him dubbed “Cainsign“. Of course, me being - well - me, nothing ever came of the idea. Then I read the synopsis on Noah, and my two-decades-old fascination with the Antediluvians was rejuvenated.
The cinematic results were fantastically batshit crazy…but I had one nagging gripe. A nitpick, if you will. Aronofsky didn’t go far enough. Allow me to elaborate, starting with the character that drew me to the film.
The missed opportunity here wasn’t the portrayal of Tubal-Cain as an antagonist, but rather in his motivations. For the most part, while the performance was good, the character was rather one-note. He was a despotic warrior-king of the last vestiges of human civilization. Great, well done. But what else was there to him?
Turns out, there was a lot.
First off, Tubal-Cain’s own father was also named Lamech - just like Noah’s. No, they weren’t the same person, only the same name. However, that could’ve been a point of contention between the two. One among many.
Then there’s Tubal-Cain’s sister. Yes, he had a sister. In Genesis, during the bit where Cain’s descendants are outlined, the list stops dead at Tubal-Cain…and one other - Naamah, his sister. This is the only time where a female relative is mentioned, either in the lines of Seth or Cain. Both lists are strictly patrilineal, save for the mention of wives.
There are four prominent women in Judeo-Christian writings with the name Naamah. The first is Tubal-Cain’s sister, the second is a demon, the third is Solomon’s wife…and the fourth?
Is Noah’s wife.
Some sources claim that Tubal-Cain’s sister and Noah’s wife are one in the same. If Darren Aronofsky had incorporated this little tidbit, not only would it have been Biblically sound, but it would’ve added further (and more personal) conflict between the characters.
And if he made her a demon, also? Well, that would’ve been triple-sweet.
(Sidenote: Okay, yes. In the film, Noah’s wife is named Naameh - not Naamah. But seriously, it’s Naamah everywhere else I’ve looked.)
(2.) The Antediluvian Age
While this take on the Noah tale did explore the pre-Flood period more effectively than attempts past, a lot of things were left out. I did like that there were hints of what human civilization was like back then, but that’s all they were - hints. Call me greedy, but I wanted more.
At one point in the film, Noah and family come within eyeshot of a human city, but decide to circle around it. It was like the director said, “Nope, not in the budget. Just do a matte painting.”
It was said in the Bible that after Cain was cursed, he (and by proxy, his descendants) founded a great city in the east dubbed Enoch - after his first son. I always imagined that Enoch and Atlantis were one in the same. And the parallels are striking. One city was swallowed by the Flood; the other continent sank.
I was expecting a little more of that in the movie. Or at the very least, a walk-through of one such dilapidated city.
A second sticking point that wasn’t explored was the Antediluvian lifespan. Humans - prior to the Flood - lived an average of 800 years. Noah himself didn’t have children until he was well over a century old. Methuselah - referenced often for his old age - was well over 900, and that would’ve fit rather well with his Yoda-esque portrayal in the movie.
One time in my early-twenties, when I was bored at work, I took the time to do the math surrounding the different lifespans of Adam’s descendants. I figured that Adam died a mere 120-something years before Noah was born. A bit more of that would’ve fit with the movie’s Lord of the Rings-ish tone.
(3.) The Giants
A major gripe some people had about Noah was with the rock monsters. Yes, there were rock monsters. And they were awesome, but they weren’t perfect.
In the movie, the rock giants were fallen angels - specifically, the Grigori (or Watchers) - under the command of Samyaza. They were cursed by “The Creator” for descending from Heaven to assist humankind with its development. That’s the part Darren Aronofsky got wrong. The Biblical origin of those giants is much, much more bizarre.
“The Nephilim were on the earth in those days–and also afterward–when the sons of God went to the daughters of humans and had children by them. They were the heroes of old, men of renown.” (Genesis 6:4)
Depending on which version of the Bible one looks at, “Nephilim” and “giants” are used interchangeably. “Sons of God” refers to angels, and “daughters of humans” specifically refers to women from the line of Cain. In short, the giants were angel-human hybrids. They were not the fallen angels themselves. Nor were they interested in helping mankind.
Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed the golem-like depiction of the giants in the movie. I just wish their origin story hadn’t been tampered with. If you’re going to go with a representation of Biblical giants in a Noah story, go big or go home.
I went and saw this with a Christian-leaning group. Two of them were my brother and sister. Both liked the movie, but had reservations with some of the storytelling decisions that were made. I didn’t have quite as many, save for the ones I listed above. My brother summed up my misgivings best.
“It was like Darren Aronofsky was saying, ‘Let’s see if you can do better’,” he mentioned.
No one else has dared a portrayal of the Antediluvian Age like this. It’s a minor miracle that such a project was even greenlit. I almost got the impression that some of Darren Aronofsky’s loftier ambitions for the project were trimmed against his will. Hopefully, this will open storytellers and moviemakers up to further, more adventurous retellings of ancient stories - Biblical or otherwise.
In the meantime, I think I’ll dust off my old Cainsign treatment. Tubal-Cain may require some tweaking. And that Naamah…hoo-boy, she’s a feisty one.
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