Director: Darren Aronofsky
Writers: Darren Aronofsky, Ari Handel
Stars: Russell Crowe, Jennifer Connelly, Ray Winstone, Emma Watson
Release date: March 28th, 2014
Distributor: Paramount Pictures
Running time: 138 minutes
Best part: The immense scale.
Worst part: The bloated final third.
In spite of our insightful ideas and beliefs, there’s no denying we live in a complacent, opportunistic, and cynical world. Today, whether it be individuals or major companies, some view others’ creations and strive to make them their own. Alarmingly, Hollywood continuously carries out these profit-making actions. Nowadays, blockbusters are based on novels, comic books, and video games. So why do they adapt Bible stories into big-budget follies like Noah? Well, for starters, they don’t have to pay anyone for the rights.
However, most importantly, The Bible contains several awe-inspiring stories. As arguably history’s most involving and relevant text, The Bible’s seminal parables and messages touch millions in vastly different ways. Certainly, this is a sensitive and meaningful subject. Bible-based movies, and the reviews covering them, are prone to criticism. With major Christian groups boycotting this big-budget extravaganza, the movie might suffer significant box-office losses over its opening weekend. Graciously, I’ll take logical steps to describe the movie’s thematic relevance and heartbreaking narrative. Whether you’re Christian, atheist, or agnostic, everyone is aware of the tale of Noah’s Ark. However, this movie incoherently utilises ideas from the original material, preceding cinematic endeavours, and written interpretations. Here, we are exposed to an untamed, bland, and blunt examination of one of the Old Testament’s most seminal passages. An animated opening sequence introduces/reintroduces viewers to The Bible’s most valuable stories. Developing a specific timeline and guidelines, this sequence links Adam & Eve’s journey to Cain, Abel, and Seth’s story. Outlining certain passages, this prologue latches onto the movie’s expansive narrative. Noah, as a young boy, is forced to witness his father Lamech(Martin Csokas)’s murder. Years Later, adult Noah (Russell Crowe) must scour the sun-scorched Earth for food and shelter.
Inevitably, and ploddingly, Noah‘s narrative takes several colossal turns after the first act. With fallen angels turned rock monsters labelled The Watchers aiding this quest, Noah – along with his wife Naameh (Jennifer Connelly), sons Shem (Douglas Booth), Ham (Logan Lerman), and Japheth (Leo McHugh Caroll), and adopted daughter Ila (Emma Watson) – must build a gigantic ark before his apocalyptic visions become reality. Before I continue on, I’ll address the liberties taken with this version. Director Darren Aronofsky (Requiem for a Dream, Black Swan), a self-proclaimed atheist, spent 20 years pleading with studios and financiers for the chance to adapt this tale. Aronofsky, not one to abide by original material, has thrown in several peculiar and jaw-dropping concepts. Unfortunately, his version delivers a flood of inconsistencies and unconvincing turns. Don’t get me wrong, I love this iconic tale of hope, sacrifice, and bravery. It’s one of the most inspiring stories ever created. However, this version, when judged as a cinematic endeavour, doesn’t rise above its momentous issues. The first-two thirds, though sumptuous, refuse to stretch the original narrative’s boundaries. With plot-points and character motivations needlessly explained, Aronofsky’s version comes off like a simplistic and nonsensical retelling. Sadly, like with the doomed human populations, there’s no room for subtly on this ship. Noah, presented as a Lord of the Rings-style action-adventure flick, throws nuance and depth overboard whilst attracting vast audiences. The final third, depicting post-flood events on the fabled ark, is an anticlimactic and cloying slog. Melodramatic subplots and fantasy-epic cliches undermine the narrative’s transcendent aura. Before long, fistfights, meaningless subplots, Tubal-Cain(Ray Winstone)’s involvement, and obvious symbolism weight down this already lifeless journey.
“A great flood is coming. The waters of the havens will meet the waters of Earth. We build a vessel to survive a storm. We build an ark.” (Noah (Russell Crowe), Noah).
Funnily enough, like with other Hollywood trends, these modern biblical epics are arriving two-by-two. Later this year, we’ll have Ridley Scott’s Exodus to compare this to. Ironically, relying on blockbuster cliches, Noah comes off like one of Scott’s historical epics. Aronofsky, pressured by Paramount Pictures throughout its tumultuous production schedule, answers far too hastily to this ‘higher power’. Despite matching immense scale with CGI-fuelled battles and wondrous creations, this version lacks the original material’s emotional impact. Unfortunately, throughout this Ten Commandments-like epic, Aronofsky’s seminal visual, sensorial, and thematic styles are stripped bare in favour of monstrous creatures and violent set pieces. This immaculate filmmaker’s idiosyncrasies shine through only a handful of sequences. Thanks to the opening credits sequence, blending an earthy aesthetic and flash cuts, Aronofsky’s vision starts off promisingly. In addition, the time-lapse-fuelled vision sequences, displaying Noah’s imminent future and the theory of evolution, are refreshing moments in this otherwise hokey and underwhelming epic. However, despite the glorious premise, little separates this blockbuster from similar fare. Oddly, the characters are shallow vessels in charge of channelling the story’s revelations and viewpoints. Highlighting the plot’s more intriguing aspects, the story’s incestuous family dynamic becomes startlingly uninspired. Pushing its pro-environmentalism/anti-industry agenda, Noah’s quest is little more than selfish, psychotic, and overblown. Fortunately, enthusiastic performances save this meandering fantasy-epic. Crowe, fittingly seamlessly into period-piece settings, tares chunks off this all-important role. Thanks to his gruff tone and powerful physique, Crowe outshines his under-utilised co-stars.
Overlooking The Bible’s purposeful “thee” and “thou” aspects, Noah earns points for striving to reach out to a wider audience. Stretching beyond the mass religious crowds, Aronofsky’s effort falls apart long before its inevitable conclusion. Despite the movie’s glowing positives, the seminal filmmaker’s ambitiousness results in this didactic, stolid, and inconsistent fantasy-epic. Concerning Aronofsky’s style, less really is more. Like with Noah himself, Aronofsky’s willpower has blinded his gaze.