Movie Review - Noah

Russell Crowe and Jennifer Connelly reunite after co-starring in the Oscar-winning A Beautiful Mind (2001). Here, they play Noah and his wife, the Biblical characters who preceded and followed the famous flood story, which re-started the human race on Earth. The brief Bible story tells of how Noah was instructed by God to build an Ark, or a huge boat to house all the animals, but no humans, except for Noah and his family, as God wipes out humanity in a massive and 40-day straight deluge.

Director and co-writer Darren Aronofsky justifies the big-budget with huge, rock monsters called Watchers that are pure, CGI, fallen angels. They exist mainly to craft the kind of wonder and action that would only be interesting to juvenile minds and help return the studio's investment. The Watchers also help to explain how Noah built this huge Ark, which is essentially a hibernation zoo. The dedication of one man who apparently lived for hundreds of years, which Aronofsky makes no verbal mention, wasn't enough.

Aronofsky does craft some compelling drama that turns this film from a faith-based, survival story into an out-and-out, slasher flick, terrorizing in a way that most Hollywood horror films aren't. Noah convinces or rather orders his family, his wife, three sons and eldest son's girlfriend onto the Ark with the intention that after the flood, they would re-populate the Earth, but Noah has a vision and changes his mind. Noah decides his family must die too.

When Noah's eldest son Shem learns his girlfriend is pregnant, Noah decides her baby must also die and in fact he's the one who is going to commit infanticide upon the baby's immediate birth. The second half is then all about this family being trapped in a confined space with a murderous mad man.

Aronofsky succeeds in turning this seemingly heroic Biblical character into a villain and having the audience and everyone on screen be very afraid of him. However, Aronofsky reverses this sentiment by film's end, and I'm not sure if the value of that makes everything that preceded it worth the bother. Aronofsky spends the majority of the movie, even up to the final minute, denouncing humanity and then in that final moment he wants us to love humanity. This is a rug pull that isn't slick or smooth but crashing.

This is perhaps Aronofsky's biggest film, one with global consequences not only within but without the movie itself. Sadly, there is little to no sense of the globe. We accept the initial bifurcation, the descendants of Cain take over the Earth, while the descendants of Seth are seemingly wiped out with the exception of Noah, which occurs when Noah is a teen.

Aronofsky jumps from teenage Noah to adult Noah, played by Crowe, and it is so abrupt and there is no indication of how he got there. How did he meet his wife? Where did she come from? Where did he get his clothes? The time period is unclear but in a story that Noah tells, the visuals suggest men and uniforms that are Anno Domini, or after Jesus Christ. Yet, Noah is before Christ. I don't get a proper sense of time or space.

This movie is also a reunion between Logan Lerman who plays Noah's second son, Ham, and Emma Watson who plays Shem's pregnant girlfriend Ila. Lerman and Watson co-starred in The Perks of Being a Wallflower (2012). They played love interests then. Here, Lerman's Ham doesn't have a love interest. Ham tries to fall in love, but Noah in effect takes it away from him.

The struggle that Ham undergoes is probably the most interesting, but the infanticide story sucks up all the oxygen. Then, once it's over, everything is virtually dropped. What becomes of Ham is left for Biblical scholars because I'm not sure what Aronofsky thinks happened to him.

I'm also not sure what Aronofsky thinks of God. A sequence where Noah tells the story of Genesis is depicted with imagery that affirms the Big Bang Theory and subsequently the Theory of Evolution. Is Aronofsky trying to bridge the gap between atheists and those who subscribe to the Abrahamic religions? Or, is Aronofsky secretly trying to subvert believers or plant subliminal messages to the faith-based? Who knows?

The final scene between Noah and Ila would seem to suggest the latter. It's almost a call to religious zealots who would go to Noah's extreme of killing innocent people, even those of their own family, to choose love and mercy instead. It doesn't have to be the extreme of killing but doing anything against another person in the name of religion, such as homophobia. Aronofsky's film is subtly telling religious fundamentalists not to be so strict and severe and choose love.

I just wish Aronofsky would have done more world-building and dropped the rock monsters, as well as delved into the characters, particularly Noah's sons more.

Three Stars out of Five.
Rated PG-13 for violence, disturbing images and brief suggestive content.
Running Time: 2 hrs. and 18 mins.


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