Disney’s “Genesis”

Tuesday, November 9th, 1999

Published 18 years ago -

Voice of God………………James Earl Jones
Voice of Adam……………John Cusack
Voice of Eve………………Cameron Diaz
Voice of The Serpent…….Jim Carey
Voice of Noah……………Morgan Freeman

Disney’s Genesis, much like the book, is a fascinating hodge-podge of stories centering upon the theme of fatherhood.

The Creation of the world is done with fantastic bursts of yellow light, and the authoritative voice of James Earl Jones commanding “Let There Be Light!” The vegetation bursts forth in lush greenery as in time-lapse photography nature shots, and the beasts of the air and of the field populate the earth in a global menagerie of giant animals that makes The Lion King look like some kind of joke.

All of the mammals sing to God in a wonderful rendition of the Patti Boone soft rock classic “You Light Me Up My Life”. God Himself appears in the form of the Sun King, beaming at the adoration of his creatures. In fact the only glaring weakness of this adorable picture is the producers’ attempt to inject all their favorite 1970s rock classics into the soundtrack.

Adam and Eve

Adam (John Cusack) and Eve (Cameron Diaz) are created, and they frolic in paradise for far longer than in the book. They are also shown wearing fig leaves from the beginning, not just after they eat the forbidden fruit. They hold hands, and kiss like naughty children, and walk in an open meadow, singing a variation of MeatLoaf’s “Paradise by the Dashboard Light,”—”Paradise by the Lord’s Good Light”.

The serpent (Jim Carey) soon steals the show, by morphing himself into bizarre contortions, and his ability to stick his tongue clear across a meadow to speak to the people. Soon he is slithering up to Eve and promising her that the forbidden fruit gives life everlasting. After Eve and Adam both have eaten the fruit, God emerges immediately from the clouds to punish them, even as they wipe the fruit’s juice off their lips. (This avoids the theological problems suggested by the book’s version, where Adam and Eve spend time running away, covering themselves with fig leaves and trying to conceal themselves from the all-seeing creator of the universe.) Instead, Adam and Eve are simply banned from Eden—but the pristine fields East of Eden where they are exiled to seem just as green and lush to us.

The Adam and Eve sequence is one of the longest in a movie whose producers must have quickly discovered that the Bible is so much more unsuitable for children compared to other works of literature. Thus, psychologically disturbing stories such as Cain’s murder of Abel, are omitted so that we can cut straight to the story of Noah and the Ark, which plays more to Disney’s obvious strengths.

Noah’s Ark

The utter depravity of the human race is communicated during a three minute montage of turpitude, while a new song “We Sin, We Sin, Let’s Sin Again and Again” plays in the background. Semitic-complexioned town dwellers are shown bowing down and worshipping amorphous piles of wood and rocks, men glance at each other with vague designs, and an appalling amount of red meat and wine is consumed.

When God (James Earl Jones) relates his plans to Noah (Morgan Freeman) to destroy the world by flood, at first we feel He is overreacting. But the intercutting of flashbacks to the scenes of sick depravity help convince even the children that God is justified in exterminating every sentient being on the earth—except those aboard Noah’s ark.

The Great Flood sequences are spellbinding, as water gushes into the dens of sin with pinpoint accuracy, carrying off the wicked to water-soaked deaths. The only animals shown drowning are a few scurrilous donkeys and one very disgusting-looking pig . The ark, however, is chock-full of adorable animals, who glance at each other with a knowing glee that they have escaped the fate of the rest of their species. But logistical problems such as waste product removal for thousands of animals are not explained.

As the tide recedes, Noah and his family stand on deck the ark, as they get their first glance of earth while the soundtrack plays the Johnny Nash soft rock classic, “I Can See Clearly Now (The Rain is Gone)”.

Abraham and Sarah

Then we are shown the story of Abraham and Sarah. Both appear much younger than their 100 years of age as described in the book. Abraham’s concubines are omitted, as is the disturbing and absurd (in Kierkegaard’s sense) story of Abraham’s near-sacrifice of Isaac, at God’s bidding. Jacob stealing the Lord’s Blessing from his from older brother Esau of the Lord’s blessing by feeding the starving man a bowl of porridge is also not depicted. Nor when Jacob steals the Blessing again on Isaac’s deathbed, by putting on a fur to convince the blind Isaac that he is his older brother, the rightful heir, Esau.

We do see the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, and Abraham and Lot’s wife fleeing, and the latter being turned into a pillar of salt, but we are not told why God destroyed the cities. In quick succession we are shown the lives of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, but most of their lines seem left on the cutting room floor. We are left with little sense that these are the patriarchs of all mankind.

This is a very entertaining film, but a curious one for Disney to have commissioned. Even with some of the most compromising scenes from the text left out of the film, God emerges as the most erratic character in the film, appearing only to heap scathing physical punishment on people for seemingly trifling offenses. The film also suffers from a lack of a central character (other than God) to unify the various stories. But the animation and music is spectacular, and the soundtrack, featuring the single “God Bless America” is selling well in the stores.

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