Noah Review

Posted: April 9, 2014 by Daniel Simpson (PG Cooper) in PG Cooper's Movie Reviews

noah-posterWritten by Daniel “PG Cooper” Simpson

Darren Aronofsky is one of the best and most important filmmakers of the modern era. I’m a huge fan of several of his films and generally look forward to anything he puts out. That said, I’m also fairly skeptical when I hear him associated with various projects. Aronofsky has sort of built a reputation for being linked to projects and eventually backing out, including Batman, Wolverine, RoboCop, and a few concepts which haven’t seen the light of day sense. He’s still no Guillermo del Toro, but he’s backed out of enough projects that when I heard he was developing a movie based on the biblical story of Noah, I didn’t think it would ever come to fruition, or if it did someone else would direct. However as the months went by, it became clear that Aronofsky would follow through on this. Now that film, simply titled Noah, has arrived to controversy and divisive reviews.

The film begins with a brief prologue explaining the history of Adam and Eve, as well as their sons Abel, Cain, and Seth. We then cut to many years later to a young Noah, the most recent in Seth’s lineage. Noah watches his father murdered by Cain’s descendant Tubal for his land, however Noah escapes. The film cuts yet again to Noah as an adult (Russell Crowe), who is now married to Naameh (Jennifer Connelly), and the two have three kids. The family lives in harmony with nature, however their lives are interrupted when Noah receives visions of a great flood. After consulting his grandfather Methuselah (Anthony Hopkins), Noah decides to build an arc where he can save one of every animal for the future of the species. However he’ll find himself plagued by both internal doubt, as well as enemies such as Tubal (Ray Winstone).

For non-religious filmgoers, Noah may seem a bit daunting, and the fact that the film opens with a summary of key events from the Bible makes this likely seem less appealing. However the film quickly gets into a groove of following Noah’s story, which is pretty interesting and contains some really amazing visuals. Not only do I think the film works for non-religious crowds, but it might even play better to them. Most of the controversy the film has conjured stems from differences with the Bible including changing the amount of human characters on the ark. The most jarring change though comes in the inclusion of The Watchers, who take the form of giant rock monsters. Many have been able to get behind this idea and I can see why. Personally, they were one of my favourite aspects of the film and I love the effects used to bring them to life.

On that note, the visuals here are very impressive. While not every CGI shot is 100% convincing, there’s a certain ambition to rendering organic beings in mass herds and more often than not they look very good. There’s also a lot of imagination in the visuals. In addition to the rock monsters, there are other original creatures with interesting designs. The production value is also very high, with the costumes and sets looking not only top-notch, but unique. Aronofsky adds a lot of his own flourishes, and he does so without distracting from the story. There are two really strong montages which use a combination of striking imagery and intense editing that work really well, and remind me of some of Aronofsky’s earlier work. However the film’s highlight is the scene where the flood begins and Tubal’s men attempt to storm the ark. Half battle and half disaster, it’s an exhilarating moment which sees both The Watchers engage in battle as well as Noah himself. It’s intense, well-choreographed, and awe-inspiring. The cherry on top of all this is the great score from Clint Mansell.

Much as I’m praising several elements of this film, it’s really as a spectacle that Noah succeeds. While Darren Aronofsky does an excellent job handling the technical elements, creating an intense tone, and crafting some stellar scenes, but the long term storytelling has some serious problems. Mainly, the film has a bad tendency to make large leaps in the narrative. It’s hard to become invested in the story and the characters when the film jumps ahead in time so frequently. Consequently, I felt at a distance from the work and while I appreciate some of the drama the film was trying to convey, it never really worked for me. It’s a shame too because the cast here does a very good job. Russell Crowe is well-cast as Noah, but really starts to shine after the flood and he becomes pushed to frightening extremes. Jennifer Connelly and Emma Watson also deliver really emotionally charged performances.

Taken as a whole work, Noah does not strike me as great. The story is too fractured for me to be really invested and at the end of the day, in spite of the flourishes added by Aronofsky, this is still just another telling of the story. The mileage you get out of that will depend entirely on your own interest in the story. But the film has too many great elements to be dismissed. Visually, Noah is very impressive, featuring great effects and unique designs. The film can also be quite exhilarating, has a handful of really memorable scenes, and some strong performances. It may not be among Aronofsky’s best, it is interesting to see him apply his craft to a biblical epic/blockbuster. It’s a strong epic too, and a type of blockbuster we don’t usually get to see.

B+

Comments
  1. CMrok93 says:

    Good review Dan. I expected something as strange as this from Aronofsky. And to be honest, I wish it was even weirder. Probably wouldn’t have felt so uneven by the end when it tried to be play itself a bit too safe.

  2. Good review, the film is very strange but it is interesting :D

  3. Andrea Simpson Myllymaki says:

    I agree, Daniel. I enjoyed Noah, well enough, but it definitely wasn’t my favourite. lol, Les slept, through most of it. Jean is so excited to see it, and will most likely love it, but I thought it was rather slow, and just o.k.

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