Established May 2010.

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Film Critic for Twin Cities Live

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Monday, March 31, 2014

Movie Review: NOAH

Director: Darren Aronofsky
Starring: Russell Crowe, Jennifer Connelly, Ray Winstone, Anthony Hopkins, Emma Watson, Douglas Booth, Logan Lerman

Films like Requiem for a Dream and Black Swan are these artistic visionary tales that take your mind to a whole different dimension. I was a bit perplexed when I heard that writer/director Darren Aronofsky would make his follow-up to Black Swan be an adaptation of the biblical tale of Noah and his ark. All of his films are very different, and Noah was a passion project for him that he has been developing for years. Apparently he’s been working on the script since Pi came out.

As a young boy, Noah watches his father get killed by Tubal-cain. This is early proof for him that the people and descendants of Adam and Eve have turned against each other. As an adult, Noah (Crowe) believes he is receiving a message from The Creator/Him that He will flood the Earth in order to destroy the universe as man is turning against each other. Noah believes he has been chosen to save all of the animals as they are considered innocent with an ark to keep them shelter from the flood. He turns to his grandfather Methulselah (Hopkins) for guidance and is given a seed that has been passed on from the Garden of Eden. This seed turns the desolate and barren land into a rich saturated land full of trees in order for Noah to build his ark to save the animals. Noah, his wife Naameh (Connelly), and the rest of his family receive help from The Watchers, rock creatures that are considered to be the fallen angels that have been punished by God. Tubal-cain (Winstone) receives word that Noah is building an ark and sets his men off to destroy the ark.

You may already be thinking to yourself that this does not seem like the happy story you read in Sunday school about how Noah built this ark and had two of each animal march peacefully into the ark in preparation for the flood. You have to go into the film with a bit of an open mind knowing that this is just one interpretation of someone’s take on this biblical story. Aronfsky fleshes out quite a bit of the story that is probably taken for granted if you read the bible story at face value. There is violence and unrest, bloody killings, sacrifices, mythical creatures, and even some CGI rock creatures. I’m sure that idea will turn many people away from this film. Have you ever wondered why God would want to destroy the universe He created or what happened to all of the animals once the entered the ark? What happened to Noah’s family on the ark as it weathered out the flood? Aronofsky decides to tackle a variety of these questions and some of his answers make some plausible sense while others feel a bit stretched.

I am sure there will be Bible literalists that will scoff and spew anger toward the film as it won’t be faithful to the version of the story the way they have come to believe it. These moviegoers will be turned off by the fantasy style elements with the rock creatures and other animal creatures that Aronofsky and his team have designed that no longer exist in today’s world. There is even a battle sequence that feels like it has come straight out of a Lord of the Rings movie. It has been many many years since my days of religion classes in my Catholic grade school, so I went in with a pretty open mind. I was on board with Aronofsky’s take on this story throughout quite a bit of the movie. I decided not to get wrapped up in the idea that the fallen angels became rock creatures. I was fascinated in this idea that the people were turning on each other and watching Noah’s determination in a message he believes he is given. Aronofsky seemed to have a clear vision on how he was going to approach this story and what would lead up to the eventual flood. The big problem with Noah comes post-flood. It feels like Aronofsky felt stuck with how he was going to resolve the rest of his take on this story once the flood happens. He resorts to seem cheap and gimmicky ways to keep the conflict going to put tension between Noah and his family and Noah and Tubal-cain.

Russell Crowe brings a strong, guiding presence to the determined Noah. Truth be told, I can’t really picture another actor in this role. This is the third time he has starred with Jennifer Connelly following A Beautiful Mind, for which she won the Oscar, and this year’s Winter’s Tale. This is a silly criticism but she always looked far too pretty as Naameh. I understand that fact that she is beautiful in real life, but how come they didn’t roughen her up a bit here. The men are seen with scruffy facial hair and even Emma Watson, who plays their adopted daughter, has frizzy hair. Connelly has perfect skin complexion and her hair always looks pulled back as if it’s ready for a photo shoot. The rest of the production design around the ark and environment felt pretty realistic given the time. Again, it’s a different look to the ark than people are probably used to seeing in illustrated versions of the bible. I appreciate the effort they went into actually making an ark structure to film on instead of fully relying on a CGI ark. On the opposite end, all of the animals seen in the film are CGI.

I applaud Aronofsky for tackling this very ambitious and daring project. I don’t think a filmmaker would go into adapting this story if he wasn’t fully committed and had an interest in Noah. There is quite a bit of imagining and explaining that any screenwriter or director would have to do with bringing Noah’s story to the big screen in order for it to make sense. If the film had ended with the flood or even wrapped up shortly after the flood, I probably would have given the film a positive review. Instead, it keeps going and turns into a mess. Even before the flood, the film goes back and forth between having these really interesting and thought-provoking scenes mixed in with some tragic over-the-top dialogue and Anthony Hopkins hiding out in a cave. I guess all of that led me to start rolling me eyes even more when it came to the scenes aboard the ark.

Is it worth your trip to the movies? Unfortunately, no. With such a talented filmmaker and cast, you would have thought it would have worked. Instead of staying afloat in it's third act, it sinks pretty hard.

RATING: 2.5 out of 5 Ticket Stubs

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  1. Oh well :( I was hoping it would be great. I will just wait until it comes out on video to catch this one.

  2. Was it just me, or did Jennifer Connelly not age at all over the course of this film (making her the only character to do so)? :| Not that I'm complaining; she's been my longest-standing celebrity crush -- I instantly fell for her way back when I first saw "Labyrinth" at the age of 9 or 10. [blush]

    The watchers definitely take some getting used to, but once you do, they're fine. I disagree with the majority opinion that the film gets boring once the ark actually sets sail. There's just enough drama in Noah's "Mosquito Coast"-like obsession and dedication to his 'mission' increasingly driving a wedge between him and the rest of his family to keep things afloat (no pun intended :P ), IMO.

    Aronofsky will likely always be one of those filmmakers who provoke strong reactions out of people, and this film is no exception. Personally, I don't think that's a bad thing at all. This one's definitely not up there with "Requiem for a Dream," "The Fountain" or "Black Swan," but is still worth a look for anyone looking for something provocative.

    1. Andy-
      You are exactly right, Connelly never aged at all over the course of the film and her hair was always perfect. I always like a director that can provoke a strong reaction out of the audience, whether it is good or bad. It gets people thinking. We were chatting with someone this weekend that thought NOAH is Aronofsky's best work yet and then we were chatting with two other people that didn't like it at all.