While it rained cash – and bad puns – on the Russell Crowe biblical epic “Noah” over the weekend with $44 million, Darren Aronofsky’s box office winner boldly went where a lot of famous movies had been before. From Star Wars to Harry Potter, the references rose like the waters of an angry God.
1. “Star Wars:” Yoda, is that you? As Noah’s Grandpa Methuselah, Anthony Hopkins has a Yoda wizened wise man look with wispy hairs blowing over his age-spotted pate. Between his puckish glances and deep-thought pronouncements, Hopkins clearly watched Yoda’s appearance on James Lipton’s “Inside the Actors Studio.” Wasn’t Yoda as old as Methuselah, too?
2. “Harry Potter:” Oh, Hermione, how far you’ve come! “Harry Potter” heartthrob Emily Watson plays Ila, the squeeze of Noah’s eldest, Shem. Ila makes the scene as the damaged little orphan who grows up to mother a new generation of humanity. But with Watson’s toodle-pip English accent still in play, and the stylish way she wears those fiber arty rags, she’s still casting spells and telling grown men (like Noah) what to do and distinguishing right from wrong. She’s so Hermione!
[RELATED: 'Noah" rises on top of box office with $44M Debut"]
3. “Percy Jackson:” Logan Lerman, can you play another character shafted by the Gods? As the title character in the money-minting children’s mythology series “Percy Jackson,” the swoony actor was constantly forced to be heroic in the face of fickle gods. Here Lerman plays Ham, Noah’s second and shafted son, who becomes tempted by the dark side thanks to his OCD’s father’s obsession with pairing off animals – but not his sons.
4. “LOTR”: Wait – that green mountain, doesn’t it look like Bilbo Baggins could be coming around the bend at any moment, walking in the big footprints of uber wizard Gandalf? Yes, both movies were shot on location in scenic (and empty) New Zealand. Over at “The New Zealand Herald,” a clever boots wrote: “Even damning it with faint praise would have been fun – something about ‘Noah’ appealing to New Zealand audiences because it’s the best movie about boatbuilding and livestock export you are likely to see this year.”
5. “The Tree of Life:” Director Aronofsky has answered one of the mysteries of contemporary filmmaking: how does an art film make millions at the box office when even Brad Pitt doesn’t draw audiences? One answer is embedding your Terrence Malick moments – long, arty sequences of time-lapse photography depicting creation from the moment of the Big Bang – in a popcorn biblical epic that is so conventional in its storytelling it would make a Neanderthal nod off.
[RELATED: "Russell Crowe calls 'Noah' criticism 'irrational'"]
6. “The Chronicles of Narnia:” Remember that big First Battle of Beruna scene when the animals (including mythical beasts like centaurs, minotaurs and unicorns) just keep coming, and coming and, well, coming? It’s just as jaw-dropping here on the way to the Ark to get out of Dodge before the big flood as first the birds come calling two-by-two, and then the reptiles, and then a large assortment of mammals and meat on the hoof. And it’s just as obviously CGI. No animals were harmed in the making of this film because they were all corralled in a virtual plane.
7. Ray Harryhausen: Like Noah gave birth to Shem, Ray Harryhausen gave birth to The Watchers. While they are biblically fallen angels, with a nod to the Old Testament, Aronofsky’s rock monsters are dead ringers for the stop-motion, model Dynamation style of FX godfather Ray Harryhausen. These galumphing giants recall the skeletal swordsman, battling Tyrannosaurus Rex, and Cyclops of the Harryhausen classics.
8. Charlton Heston Bible Movies: And then there’s Crowe, brutish and brooding, channeling Heston as Moses and Ben Hur, the angry child of an angry God. Through hairstyles thick and thin, Crowe’s Noah scowls his way from prolog to coda, with one big bender in between, as he shoulders the burden of listening to his Creator on a radio frequency no one else seems to get. Oh, let my people go, already!