*** (out of 5)
March 28, 2014
Russell Crowe as NOAH
Jennifer Connelly as NAAMEH
Ray Winstone as TUBAL-CAIN
Anthony Hopkins as MEHTUSELAH
Emma Watson as ILA
Logan Lerman as HAM
Douglas Booth as SHEM
Directed by: Darren Aronofsky
BY KEVIN CARR
Listen to Kevin’s radio review…
I have no idea what Paramount was thinking when it was preparing to release “Noah” into theaters. It seems that, in typical overly-corporate fashion, the studio wanted something daring and different, but when maverick director Darren Aronofsky started to deliver on exactly what they wanted, they changed their minds.
Earlier this year, the History Channel retread “Son of God” released in theaters to great waves of faith-based audience love, making the film a modest hit. I get the feeling that Paramount wanted to glom onto that buzz and ride it with “Noah.” Sadly, this was probably a mistake, similar to how New Line Cinema seemed to rush through “The Nativity Story” in 2006 to capitalize on the success of “The Passion of the Christ.”
Just like Hollywood, imitation does not always yield the same results.
Paramount catering to the religious crowd was a bad idea in this sense, mainly because if you’re looking for a literal translation of the flood story from Genesis, you’re not going to get it in this movie. More over, you were never going to get this from Darren Aronofsky. This is a director who has always marched by the beat of his own drum, and he doesn’t care about crapping out a humdrum version of what everyone read in Sunday school years ago.
Of course, this should be expected. Where a film like “Son of God” has the entirety of four Gospels to draw from, the story of the Great Flood in Genesis only amounts to a handful of chapters. The story in the Bible is only two or three times as long as this very review you’re reading, and on top of it, it’s written in the typical pedantic style of the Old Testament.
In short, a literal interpretation of this story would be about 12 minutes long and have the most boring dialogue ever written. If you like that, keep your fingers crossed for “Numbers: The Movie.” Otherwise, acknowledge the fact that this is Hollywood, and you’re going to get some – or a lot of – artistic license.
From the opening credits, it’s clear that Aronofsky is telling an interpretation of the Biblical story. Noah isn’t 600 years old when he builds the ark. Methuselah is still kicking around. There’s actually more detail on the great wickedness of the world, embodied with a military leader named Tubal-Cain (Ray Winestone).
The story follows Noah and his family living in the desolation of a world that has been ruined by the descendants of Cain. After receiving visions from the Creator, Noah determines he must build an ark to survive a great flood. He gets help from the Nephilim, fallen angels in the form of giant rock monsters, which are alluded to in Genesis but never shown as Noah’s labor force. While Tubal-Cain’s army threatens attack when the flood waters come, Noah must save the animals of the land and learn to interpret the true meaning of his own visions.
There are some brilliant elements to “Noah,” mostly in the first half of the film. The use of the Nephilim is innovative and original, raising this movie to a superhero quality. Armed with beautiful production design and some impressive special effects, “Noah” is stunning to watch, a bonkers version of the book of Genesis, if you will. Ray Winestone provides a strong opponent to Noah and his family, and the young world quality of Earth shows some thinking outside of the box for Aronofsky.
Unfortunately, once the flood waters settle and the initial action comes crashing through, the movie completely unravels. The time spent on the ark is boring and tedious, featuring cringe-worthy melodrama and some ridiculous actions by the main characters. Time is compressed to an annoying degree on the ark, making the movie’s pace jittery and at times nonsensical. When the ark finally settles, the movie really doesn’t know where it wants to go.
Ultimately, “Noah” isn’t a waste of time because that opening hour or so is incredibly strong. It’s a chore to sit through to the very end, but the entire journey is worth it for the better parts of the film.