Darren Aronofsky harboured dreams of making Noah for over a decade and he was finally able to achieve his goal by using the critical and commercial success of The Wrestler and Black Swan as leverage so that Paramount Pictures would stump up the cash. The end product is a mixed bag, filled with Aronofsky’s trademark artistic flourishes, however you can’t but help feeling that he had to placate the money men by delivering something that feels like a generic CGI disaster movie/biblical epic.
Aronofsky dives deep into Noah, giving us a world that feels more like a dystopian future than an earthy past. It’s a world that exists in the ashes of industrialisation, where the inhabitants live in the shadows of vast civilisations. Russell Crowe is Noah, who cares for the earth, surviving of the land and only taking enough so that he and his family can live. Noah begins to get visions from ‘The Creator’ (never called ‘God’) telling him that he is going to wipe the earth clean with a mighty flood. Noah begins to build an ark so that the earth’s pure (the animals) can start anew. All is going to plan until Tubal-cain (Ray Winstone, playing Ray Winstone) arrives and decides that he wants Noah’s ark. Then it starts to rain…
The big problem with Noah is the running time. Everything feels truncated to fit a running time that is a little over two hours. There must surely be a version that lets the story breathe. Jennifer Connolly’s Naameh gets the short-shrift in the character stakes, while Douglas Booth’s Shem (Noah’s eldest son) is a non-entity who stands around looking all metrosexual, with a well-groomed beard, as the end of civilisation reins down (literally rains) upon him. Meanwhile Logan Lerman’s Ham is a grumpy teenager who falls out with Noah because he won’t get him a wife (presumably the biblical equivalent of a PlayStation). Ham befriends Tubal-cain after he gives him a hammer, becoming surrogate father to the boy even though they have only scared about three minutes of screen time. Then we have Emma Watson as Ila, Noah’s adoptive daughter and Shem’s wife. The less said about Watson’s acting ability the better, but let’s just hope she has invested her Harry Potter earnings well. Anthony Hopkins appears as Noah’s grandfather, a kooky but sage old man who lives in a mountain, under which Noah builds his ark (even though he only visits him once in ten years – when he wants advice). Thrown into the mix are The Watchers, fallen angels who look like giant rock Transformers and a literal menagerie of CGI animals.
Noah works best when Aronofsky feels like he’s being let off the leash. The film features some impressive montages of creation that feel fresh in a biblical epic, while the destruction of mankind is well realised when he hear the cries of the dying echo through the hold of Noah’s giant vessel. The last act sails into interesting territory as Noah risks losing his family due to his faith in The Creator’s plans, however this is ruined by a ridiculous subplot that sees Ray Winstone stowed away amongst the animals.
Noah isn’t a bad film, its just a film that feels like a compromise from Darren Aronofsky. It’s generic when it should have been bold and ridiculous when it should have been mystical. Russell Crowe anchors the movie with a strong performance but there’s ‘Noah way’ that this is the film Aronofsky originally set-sail to make.