"Aronofsky fumbles his way through the film's more action heavy moments but when his visual style is allowed to dominate it makes for interesting viewing"
We all know the drill: bearded man, forty days of rain, colossal ark, animals going in two by two, devastating flood sent to wash away the sins of man. The story of Noah is ingrained on the minds of young Christians the world over but many aspects of director Darren Aronofsky's latest epic, the giant rock monsters, Noah's desire to kill newborn babies, Ray Winstone, might have been left out of most Sunday school classes. Embellishment is inevitable when your source material is so thin on detail but Aronofsky has added a number of elements that will serve only to alienate the faithful and non-faithful alike, leaving audiences wondering the point of it all.
Noah opens with the line "In the beginning, there was nothing", and then presents three images that crop up a number of times throughout the film: a CGI snake slithering towards the screen, an apple beating like a heart before being plucked from a tree, a man bashing another man's skull in with a rock. They are very quickly cut together, reminiscent of Requiem for a Dream, reminding us that we are watching an Aronofsky film and not just some bible story. These images turn out to be visions that our hero, Noah (Russell Crowe), is seeing courtesy of "the creator" - God is never explicitly mentioned - telling him of the plan to wipe out humanity's sins and start afresh.
Noah gets to work on his ark with the aid of his eternally ancient grandfather Methuselah (Anthony Hopkins), his wife Naameh (Jennifer Connelly), his sons, and his eldest son's love interest Ila (Emma Watson). Watson's character has been created for the film and seems to exist solely to present Noah with a bizarre baby-killing moral dilemma that drives the film's final act. Noah's family are helped by a group of six-armed rock monsters (absent from all the film's trailers) who are supposed to be a race of fallen angels. Crowe and the cast all give suitably hammy performances but none are more scene-chewingly over the top than that of Ray Winstone playing Tubal-cain, the leader of a local hoard who eventually ends up on Noah's ark as a stowaway.
Aronofsky fumbles his way through the film's more action heavy moments but when his visual style is allowed to dominate it makes for interesting viewing. Characters are silhouetted against red skies, thousands of stars dot the atmosphere even in broad daylight, the film even stops at one point to briefly tell the story of creation. There are interesting ideas in there that hint at something special but none of them are strong enough to raise Noah above being just another big dumb blockbuster.
By the end of Noah, we are no closer to understanding exactly why it was made. If it was to tell the bible story, why does it contain giant rock monsters? If it was supposed to be high fantasy why base it on the bible story at all? Is it a Christian film or an atheist film? Both camps seem to have disowned it. Aronofsky has made a film that is ridiculous and very, very stupid. A narrative mess that, given its subject matter dealing with sin and the end of humanity, struggles to have anything meaningful to say.