Darren Aronofsky is a visionary amongst directors. While I am ashamed to say that I have not yet seen all of his features, the ones that I have seen, I have loved. Requiem for a Dream would convince me to see anything that Aronofsky does. This, I just don’t understand, though. Noah is a movie not without promise. It’s not a terrible movie. That being said, it’s not something I want to see again. The complexities I feel concerning Noah bother me greatly. I would compare it to a train wreck, but there were a number of decent things about this film. Still, it is far from perfect and for me, it’s far from likable.
I watched the controversy surrounding Noah from the beginning. Is it going to be Christian enough? Will it be Christian, at all? The religious folk seemed to want an actual retelling of whatever Bible they fancy. The non-religious folk didn’t care either way and would probably prefer it didn’t stick to Biblical canon, at all. I am one of the ones that knows of Noah, but not enough about the story to care whether or not it was 100% accurate to the Biblical retelling. I figured since I view The Bible as a work of fiction, it did not matter to me how Aronofsky chose to interpret an incredibly old fable. I’m all for artistic integrity and was looking forward to seeing what he could do with the source material that he was working with. Apparently, in the end he leaned towards the Jewish retelling of Noah and I’m told he stuck to the basics, while obviously adding in enough supplementary material to make a full movie.
It seems odd to explain the plot for a movie like Noah, but for those not overly familiar with the story, the gist of it is that Noah is a humble, religious man that receives a calling from God to build an ark. The idea is that God is going to wipe the world clean of the unholiness in a great flood and Noah and his family, along with two of every animal need to be on that ark. The animals need to be protected, as they will be able to have the land back, and Noah’s family needs to be on the ark to see to the safe transport of the animals. They will be the ones that end and restart civilization.
The problems I had with this film was not in the story itself, at least not completely. Many of the problems come with the acting. This is a film with some considerable acting talent, but I felt like everyone had fallen asleep on the job. Russell Crowe leads the film playing the titular character, Noah, and Jennifer Connelly plays Noah’s wife, Naameh. Crowe was all over the place. He was contemplative and he was insane. He was focused and he was deranged. It was maddening to watch his descent into inconsistency. Connelly on the other hand was unremarkable in the most plain of ways. Either her presence was easily ignored on screen or she was so emotionally over the top it was distracting. She was also so thin, I couldn’t help but wish that Noah would fire up one of the animals in storage because she needed to eat something. Not even Noah’s grandfather, Methuselah, played by the incomparable Anthony Hopkins, made any sense. He just comes across as a senile old man that babbles about berries. Whether or not any of this was in the original tale doesn’t matter, because Hopkins’ performance was nothing short of a man missing from an old folk’s home.
Noah’s children, Ham (Logan Lerman), Shem (Douglas Booth), and adopted daughter Ila (Emma Watson) are the stars of the show, though there are some issues here, as well. Lerman starts strong, but fizzles once he’s on the ark. Aronofsky would have been better served creating a movie about Shem and Ila because Booth and Watson were the most entertaining and well-acted part of this film. They truly saved this from being an unwatchable film. That being said, I kept asking myself how Watson ended up here. Luckily, she was though because her class act saved me from wanting to turn this off early.
The cinematography for Noah was gorgeous. Obviously there was a certain amount of CGI work done here, but it really did look lovely. Aronofsky worked with his frequently used DP, Matthew Libatique (Requiem, Iron Man) and the result was spot on. In order for Noah to work, at all, there had to be enough going on in the visual department to allow you to suspend disbelief; seeing the rushing waters, creating the water world, and making the ark float.
While the cinematography really helped the movie along, the choice of adding the watchers (fallen angels that watched over Noah’s ark) and designing them the way that they did was bothersome. I think the idea of the watchers makes sense. However, these watchers ended up looking sort of like massive rock Transformers. They were so odd that they perfectly fit into this movie and yet added to all of the things that make it so hard to watch.
I wanted to be able to say that this movie was worth watching, but I would be lying if I told you that. If you like Emma Watson you may be able to sit through this, but you’d be better off with a Harry Potter marathon, instead. While I love Hopkins, Watson, and Booth and generally tend to enjoy Connelly and Crowe, nothing in this movie makes enough sense to classify it as entertaining.