Like hell itself, religiously themed movies are often paved with good intentions. Writer/director Darren Aronofsky reportedly labored for more than a decade to write and finance this earnest, (& expensive) telling of Genesis, chapters 6 to 9. Brimming with violent images and burdened with a script intent on being studiously reverential, Noah’s 2 hour and 20 minute running time tells you more about this bizarre Biblical tale than you really want to know - - and it tells it to you over and over again. Despite a compelling performance from Russell Crowe and often imaginative visual effects, Noah isn’t worth the time and money you’d have to invest in seeing it.
Aronofsky’s two previous films, (The Wrestler & Black Swan) with their character-driven storylines, serve the director well; his emphasis on Noah’s fierce determination to do God’s will allows Crowe to convey his character’s stoicism and physical bravery to excellent effect. But in attempting to flesh out the bones of this all-too-brief storyline, Aronofsky and co-screenwriter Ari Handel have taken a straight-forward tale and turned it into an extended theological/psychological examination of Noah’s actions which wears thin long before the flood waters arrive.
And giving Noah a completely irrelevant opponent (in the form of the fine British actor Ray Winstone) whose lines challenge the assumptions behind Noah’s actions simply pulls the audience away from the film’s basic apocalyptical premise. The storyline should focus on two questions; (1) can Noah actually do what God asks and (2) if he does, what will happen? Go beyond that and you get lots of new-age musings about the relationship between the divine and his creation - - and little else.
It doesn’t help that the actors who comprise Noah’s family deliver lines worthy of a Hallmark Channel movie; the usually competent Jennifer Connelly simply disappears as Noah’s wife Naameh, as do his inter-changeable sons; (their wives don’t exist in the movie, the better to construct Noah’s pretentious ruminations about God’s plans for mankind). His curiously lavish beard muffles the wonderful timbre of Winstone’s voice and when he stows away in the final reel, the movie is drained of whatever relevance it might otherwise have had.
In the end, this supposedly contemporary biblical epic winds up being just as loopy and those cranked out by Cecil B. DeMille more than half a century ago. Which probably means this one will make a fortune at the box-office too.
The Verdict? High tech in visuals and lofty in intent…but as the saying goes, a dud is a dud is a dud.
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