Posted by: ckckred | April 4, 2014

Noah

noah

Darren Aronofsky making an action movie is like if Michael Haneke did a children’s movie. Associating the director of Black Swan and The Wrestler with blockbuster material feels misplaced, not to mention that Noah, the filmmaker’s latest project, is also a biblical epic based on “Genesis.” For months we’ve been hearing about the notorious production and the fights between Aronofsky and Paramount executives. The troubling filming is certainly reflected on screen as two visions are presented: a modern-day action picture and an Aronosky movie. There two visions never mesh together and Noah results in a mess, but it’s an interesting mess, one that’s certainly braver and more ambitious than many studio tent-poles.

While I don’t think he’s in the same league as Paul Thomas Anderson, Aronofsky’s certainly among one of the top-tier directors working today. His surrealistic tone and perceptive eyes allows him to create razor-sharp nightmares. Noah has the same dreamy feel as Aronofsky’s other pictures but as a whole, is too large for the director to focus on certain characters and themes. It’s like David Lynch’s Dune, as both pictures share a filmmaker out of place with the material he’s working with. While Noah isn’t the debacle that was Dune, Aronofsky, like Lynch, works better in smaller, more personal visions.

Noah, played in the picture by Russell Crowe, lives in a hellish and empty landscape. One night he receives a dream from the Creator (what the characters call God) that the world will be flooded to destroy all evil and asks Noah to build an ark to carry the world’s animals to bring into the new Earth. With his wife Naameh (Jennifer Connelly), sons Shem (Douglas Booth), Ham (Logan Lerman), and Japheth (Leo McHugh Carroll), and adopted daughter Ila (Emma Watson), as well as a group of rock monsters (fallen angels known as the Watchers, one of which is appropriately voiced by Nick Nolte), Noah builds a massive ark to save the world while combating Tubal (Ray Winstone), a descendant of Cain who wants the ark to keep his army alive.

Like The Wrestler and Black Swan, Noah shares a dosage of nightmarish traits with its apocalyptic depiction of the flood. Featuring a fair amount of violence and graphic and sexual imagery, it’s amazing how Noah managed to obtain a PG-13 rating with just about no controversy (another reason to complain about the MPAA’s regulations). Yet Noah often feels too ridiculous to take serious. The Watchers’ designs evoke the unfortunate image of the monsterbots of Transformers and feel misplaced in this tale of deceit and destruction, not to mention Crowe has a buzz cut for much of the picture.

If I were to predict Aronofsky’s motive for Noah, it’s to take a contemporary and grave look on “Genesis.” Noah is no Sunday school fodder, featuring arguments on the survival of humanity, life and death, and morality. It’s commendable that Aronofsky has made a film that disobeys conventions, but he portrays his themes too obviously. Without spoiling anything, in the last thirty minutes Noah becomes so hung up on the purpose of mankind that he loses all likeability, making even Winstone’s villain seem logical.

Ultimately, Noah is a brave but failed experiment, one whose attempts to reach the stars ends at being at the bottom of the sea. Perhaps with a smaller budget, Noah could resolves its issues through less stress on special effects and more emphasis on character. Unfortunately, Noah too many times becomes big, loud, and sloppy and a major blip in Aronofsky’s filmography.

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Responses

  1. I liked your description that this has the same dreamy feel as Aronofsky’s previous films. And you can really feel him trying to get to a personal level with Noah and his…. inner demons I guess, once aboard the ark. I would definitely agree that Tubal-Cain came across as much more logical, particularly by the time we get aboard the ark. Nice review!

    • Thanks! It could tell Aronofsky was in a constant battle with Paramount as it merged form a characters study to a disaster flick. Unfortunately, it failed at both genres.

  2. Nice review. I thought this was an interesting project for Aronofsky to tackle (as was The Wolverine, when he was originally attached to it), since, as you said, it feels so far removed from his element. I didn’t feel it was nearly as messy as you did (okay, maybe a little ;) ), though there did still seem to be something a bit off here. It was interesting, if nothing else. :P

    • Thanks! There were a lot of good ideas in the picture such as Noah’s questioning of humanity’s survival. But ultimately very few parts of the movie fit together.

  3. Good review. It’s a very strange mix of what Aronofsky does so well with his movies, with a big-budget, biblical-epic. It doesn’t always work, but when it does, it’s a sight to see.

    • Thanks! Aronofsky works best in a smaller environment and I couldn’t help but feel everything was blown out of proportion, even for a biblical picture. Some parts work but ultimately the picture didn’t do much for myself.

  4. Solid review. I’m not as big of a fan of Aronofsky as most and this film did nothing to change that. It came across as a pretty big mess (as you said) but it also had numerous absurd and head-scratching moments. Didn’t work for me.

    • Thanks! I mentioned to you earlier I thought Crowe was wearing jeans, plus I was scratching my head how he had a buzz cut.

  5. Cal Thomas, ends his April 2 column “Much Ado About Noah” suggesting that some might want to visit the “original cast” in Genesis. So, let’s explore that option. Some complained that the movie would not, or did not stick to the original. But, the original Genesis epic alters script also. Just note the following: Genesis 9:20 says, “Noah was the first tiller of the soil.” But, Genesis cites two earlier tillers (Adam and Cain). Gen. 2:15 says, “The Lord took the man (Adam) and put him in the garden of Eden to till and keep it.” Then, in Genesis 3:17, after the fruit is eaten, God curses the ground saying to Adam, “In toil shall you eat of it.” Guess Adam tilled with no pain up until this ruling. The second tiller is Cain in Gen. 4:2 which says, “Abel was a keeper of sheep, and Cain a tiller of the ground.”

    If the biblical writers can make up script as they go, Hollywood has every right to tell the Noah story as they wish. Which animal count should they use in the movie? Should Noah follow the Genesis 6 script? If so, he’ll load “two of every sort (of every living thing of all flesh), they shall be male and female.” Or, should Noah follow the Genesis 7 script to load “seven pairs of all clean animals…and a pair of the animals that are not clean…and seven pairs of the birds of the air”?

    Should the movie have the scene where drunken Noah is found naked by his son, Ham? Then, show Ham, father of Canaan, and his people being cursed into slavery for nothing more than being the one to see Noah naked? That would be ironic the year after “Twelve Years a Slave” won an Oscar! How should Russell Crowe look as a 600 year old Noah at the time of the flood, then as he ages another 350 years after the flood? Somebody call Make-Up!

  6. This is one divisive movie. I found this a really interesting take; I’m so intrigued to see this now.

    • I’d be interested in hearing your thoughts. Some of Aronofsky’s ideas work but ultimately the picture doesn’t mold together. I think under a smaller budget the movie would be stronger.

  7. This was too bland to really enjoy. Aronofsky makes Noah so unrelatable it’s as if we’re watching an otherworldly being carry out the will of God. It would’ve been much more interesting if he were conflicted. He is at one point. Then the movie ends. Such a wasted opportunity.

    • I agree. For the second half, Noah’s pretty much completely unlikeable, even during his redemption. Aronofsky can make a good movie about Noah but this just isn’t it.

  8. Though I’m a Christian, I have little interest in seeing this. “… one whose attempts to reach the stars ends at being at the bottom of the sea” I guess perhaps the filmmaker ought to respect the subject matter instead of setting his own agenda for this film.


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