Too many religious films expect audiences to be familiar with the Bible in order to properly enjoy the film. The main reason for this is that most filmmakers don’t take any risks with their adaptations; a justifiable stance considering how crazy various religious organizations were getting in regards to the liberties taken in “Noah.”
I’ve mentioned my frustrations with this approach to religious movies in my review of “Son of God.” The history of the box office, however, has proven that controversy can sometimes lead to a film’s overall success. Just ask Mel Gibson.
In “Noah,” Darren Aronofsky presents us with a more “mythic” take on the story of Noah’s Ark, as the film opens with an explanation of the aftermath of Cain killing Abel and how his descendants went on to strip the planet of most of its natural resources. Russell Crowe stars as Noah, a descendant of Adam and Eve’s third child, who receives a vision of the world ending via great flood.
Along with his wife Naameh, played by Jennifer Connelly, his three sons, played by Logan Lerman, Douglass Booth and Leo McHugh Carroll, and his adopted daughter Ila, played by Emma Watson, Noah sets about his task of constructing an ark in order to save the animals and other innocents from certain aquatic death. All the while, King Tubal-cain, played by Ray Winstone, has his army surround the ark, with hopes of taking it for himself.
Even though my familiarity with the Bible is fairly limited, it’s fairly obvious that an effort was made to make this film appeal to movie-goers outside of the usual demographic for a film based on the Bible.
While keeping to the core story, the film also provides a somewhat dark exploration of both the events of the story and characters, with Noah in particular being brought down to a place where most religious films wouldn’t ever dare to go. It’s that extra layer that allows us to really get invested in the story.
That said, there were a few subplots that could have had a better payoff, or at the very least, better execution. On top of that, there were some characters that were also underdeveloped, despite their role in the story.
This is also one of those films where the length may bother you, as it slows down significantly after the actual flood. Even with the time skips, I found myself looking at my watch a few times toward the end.
When it comes to the technical aspects, I couldn’t help but feel that Aronofsky was probably trying to keep his more artistic side reigned in this time around. Most of the film is shot in a style more akin to the usual Hollywood fare I’ve seen. While there are some artistic sequences, the fact that they are few and far between makes them feel a tad out of place.
On the visual effects front, the environments are very well-executed, as well as the effects for the flood. The only thing I had mixed reactions toward was the “rock angels” that help to build the ark.
I understand that they’re not meant to be very appealing aesthetically, but their animation reminded me of somewhere between the Ents from “The Two Towers” and the effects work of the late Ray Harryhausen. That is not intended as a compliment; the animation looked stilted in a few places, save for the flood scene at the start of the third act.
Overall, I’m still not sure how I really feel about this movie. From a purely technical standpoint, it’s very well executed. As a movie-goer on the other hand, I see this more as a curiosity. I applaud Aronofsky’s ambition with this project and his choice to create something a little more timeless, but at the same time, I concede that it may rub some movie-goers the wrong way, even when analyzing this as a stand-alone film and not an adaptation.
As for what kind of audience might enjoy “Noah,” my best guess is that it most likely appeals to fans of Aronofsky, as well as those of us who want a film that treats its audience like adults, something that most religious films aren’t very good at. That said, it’s probably best to hedge your bets and see this one in a dollar theater, should you wish to sate your curiosity.
“Noah” gets a 4/5.