Darren Aronofsky’s Noah combines the work of a truly talented filmmaker with one of the more well-known tales in Biblical history. It’s an audacious undertaking by both the director and the studio who were willing to budget it at a reported $125 million. For fans of Aronofsky, it is impossible to imagine him going the safe route with this story and he doesn’t. From Pi to Requiem for a Dream to The Fountain to The Wrestler to Black Swan, the auteur has given us challenging and rewarding pictures consistently. Those same adjectives apply in this case, even if the film ultimately drowns under the weight of its aspirations and own flat-out weirdness.
Russell Crowe gives a sturdy performance as the title character, who receives a message from The Creator to take his wife and children on an ark along with duos of the Earth’s creatures. He believes that God has sent word to punish all other humans for their sins. Noah soon becomes convinced that all mankind, including himself and his family and even his unborn grandchildren, must perish too. This creates eventual dissention with his loved ones, especially his son Ham (Logan Lerman) and adopted daughter Ila (Emma Watson). Even his wife Naameh (Jennifer Connelly, once again playing spouse to a strong-willed Crowe character) comes to doubt him.
Further complicating matters is tubal-Cain (Ray Winstone), who leads his followers on a revolt to take the ark themselves. They certainly do not share Noah’s vision of the future and do all they can to disrupt it. Noah receives protection from The Watchers, who are a strange-looking monstrous group of stone creatures. More assistance is provided by Noah’s grandfather played by Anthony Hopkins in some serious old age makeup.
Noah the movie is primarily focused on the inner conflict that Noah the man feels with his God-given vision. Yet along with it comes some battle scenes that could have fit with a Lord of the Rings pic and lots of digital animals that look – well, extremely digital. The effect on the viewer is a bit discombobulating. Biblical purists looking for a straightforward retelling from the Book of Genesis best look elsewhere – like the source material. Moviegoers wishing for something like a Tolkien-esque experience only get it in glimpses.
The picture is undoubtedly the work of a true artist whose very idea to make this is pretty bold. Not as bold, however, as what he’s pulled off before with more satisfactory and deeper results. Noah will surely hold your interest with its often bizarre mix of fight scenes, family drama, sometimes mediocre CGI, dream sequences, creation montages, and supreme British acting. For this gifted director, though, a massive budget and familiar story don’t equal anything close to his finest work.
**1/2 (out of four)