Skip to comments.Transcendence and Noah: Bogus Bytes -- Hollywood plays God and loses big time.
Posted on 04/19/2014 10:29:51 AM PDT by SeekAndFind
Transcendence is to the sci-fi genre what Noah is to the Bible. Both are poorly conceived reboots of a literary form into pseudo-visionary garbage. Each film also exemplifies the current trend of agnostic filmmakers playing God.
In Transcendence, Johnny Depp, as the obviously named Will Caster, unleashes his berserk world-dominating ambitions after he dies and is resurrected as an artificially intelligent computer program with the power to overcome the limits of biology. In Noah, filmmaker Darren Aronofsky reconceives the Biblical story of the Flood and Gods covenant with man through His servant (played by Russell Crowe) as a smart-ass thrill ride replete with politically correct ecological lessons and, above all, religious skepticism.
These films also exhibit pronounced paranoia. Transcendence distrusts the digital age and mans dependence on the grid with frightful blather about the soul and creating your own god; Noah toys with religious skepticism (depicting Noahs mission as ancient realism yet with fantasy F/X).Theres no faith or disillusionment undergirding these pictures, just superficial anti-religious attitudes in Aronofskys confusion regarding Noahs inspiration or madness and the de riguer dystopia of Transcendences post-apocalypse frame. Between one films malign deity and the others unpredictable terrorists, the common belief is in a world inevitably gone bad. Theologian David Bentley Hart recently identified a trend of cogitatively indolent secularism, and a movie reviewer can just dismiss both these films as half-baked hubris.
Aronofsky continues his paranoid fear of independent thinking (shown in the hysteria of Requiem for a Dream, The Wrestler and Black Swan), this time returning to the ethnic quandary of his Orthodox Jewish debut feature Pi. In Noah he has his first coherent storyline yet again attempts to replace ethnic heritage with unthought-out cynicism and, when convenient, tradition: Russell Crowe plays Noah as a dogmatic, kick-ass patriarch subject to hallucinations about the Garden of Eden, who castigates both his family members and barbaric enemies, and who wraps an unexplained snakeskin tefillin around his arm.
Depps Will Caster is a Steve Jobssstyle whiz embodying digital-age arrogance. Instead of building an ark to save mankind, he creates a Physically Independent Neural Network (PINN) that works like both Hal 9000 and that transference thingamagig in Avatar that endows him with omniscience, gives sight to the blind, and grants super strength and speed to his followers. (He builds his City on the Hill from a dusty ghost town in the Sierra Nevada Mountains.) Depp performs mostly as an avatar on a computer screen; his clenched, affected voice might have made him a better Noah than Russell Crowes bald, bearded Charlton Heston by way of Williamsburg. (So might pop-messianic Patti Smith who sings the films agnostic theme song Mercy.)
The quasi religiosity in both Noah and Transcendence not only represents Hollywoods current catering to secularism (Noah gainsays evolution and Transcendence prattles about Evolution of the Future) while following routine, unimaginative commercial formula. Reliance on comic-book fantasy explains Aronofskys jettisoning the emotional pull of Biblical recall (the respect old-fashioned Hollywood movies like The Ten Commandments and The Big Fisherman used to pay to devout moviegoers) in favor of p.c. ecological lessons and set pieces imitating such CGI blockbusters as The Lord of the Rings an early example of the faith-debased epic. And Transcendence merely rips off the superhero mortifications of Christopher Nolans nihilistic The Dark Knight Batman series.
Wally Pfister, who won an Oscar photographing Nolans trilogy, directs Transcendence in the same obvious, depressive manner, though without Nolans knack for unconscionable violence. Pfisters darkness is softer, loftier, playing with mystic potential (sentimentality between Caster and his faithful wife) but falling into similar disinterested, chaotic spectacle. The dim shadows and pallid vistas dont look like a movie directed by a cinematographer but lack sparkle and depth. Big-action moments when techno-terrorists and the U.S. government join forces to fight Casters takeover resemble that terrible football-field apocalypse in The Dark Knight Returns that was exciting only for its couple of seconds before evaporating without impact. For his part, the best Aronofsky can do is herd Noahs menagerie, two by two, looking like a pseudo-intellectuals version of Jumanji.
Aronofsky plays with CGI in order to prove, as critic John Demetry suggested, that mankinds technology is greater than The Creators; meanwhile Pfister plays Nolan as if Transcendences nihilism had been handed down from on high, rewriting the Y2K menace to exploit our lingering post-9/11 dread. These movies combine paranoia and cynicism. Their sketchy, stick-figure non-characters are what we get when two Hollywood approaches to playing God get no deeper than childs play.
Italys Marco Bellocchio is not a paranoid but hes a great filmmaker. (New Yorks Museum of Modern Arts complete Bellocchio retrospective runs April 16 to May 7). His ambivalence about Communism in the 1960s films that first made his name (Fists in the Pocket, China is Near) has grown into an even richer ambivalence about the effect religious tradition has on modern Italys political imagination. My Mothers Smile dealt with Italys matriarchal complex, Good Morning Night explored the Red Brigade moral contradictions that led to the assassination of Aldo Moro, and Bellocchios recent masterpiece Vincere (2010), locating the mass hysteria attending Mussolinis rise in the true story of his abandoned first wife, should have been recognized as the great political allegory for our own recent era of presidential hysteria.
Bellocchio doesnt believe in playing God, and thats the subject of his new film Dormant Beauty, an epic view of Italian responses to a euthanasia case (similar to our own Terry Schiavo controversy) that avoids preaching in favor of an ever-expanding, deepening acknowledgement of personal motivations among politicians, artists, intellectuals, and different citizens across Italys social spectrum. Dormant Beauty recalls the kind of film the great Robert Altman might be making if he were still alive. Therell be more to say about Dormant Beauty, the best political film of the era, when it opens commercially in June. After the junk of Noah and Transcendence, Bellocchio proves that cinema is still alive.
Film critic Armond White is author of The Resistance: Ten Years of Pop Culture That Shook the World and the forthcoming What We Dont Talk About When We Talk About the Movies.
You know you’ve lost it with Hollywood Californicatia when you find yourself rooting for the villains in all their stupid movies.
Watching Noah I kept thinking God’s voice would come out of the sky and say:
“Noah you big dope. You and your family are supposed to live and carry on the human race. Why do you think I put you on an ark?”
I predicted 60 threads on Noah sometime back. There actually seems to be quite a few MORE than 60 now!
The article is a little mistaken, in that those who do these movies are not agnostics, but full blown atheists. Technically, they do believe in *a* god, which is “mankind as god”. Something on the order of Thomas Hobbes’ Leviathan, a gigantic being composed of all people.
Captain America fights for freedom over security. Ben Franklin would be proud. Robert Redford plays the villain and I don’t think he really understands the irony of it.
Box office returns on both “Noah” and “Transcendence” are dismal.
Don’t be fooled by the so-called “religious” movies put out by hollywood....instead, boycott them relentlessly.