Noah Movie Review
An Atheist's Movie Review of 'Noah'
Noah's a f**king badass. He might also be crazy. But he's a crazy badass, that's for sure. And more importantly, the Biblical fantasy epic Noah isn't the disaster it so easily could have been; Darren Aronofsky's latest is ambitious, gripping, strange and undeniably controversial. Whether that is a good thing or a bad thing is up to you.
I'm an atheist, so I watched Noah through the eyes of an atheist, which may be easier than watching it as a Christian. Set in a barren world of death, violence and mysticism, Noah could easily share a story with Conan the Barbarian, as even the good characters rely on what can best be described as pagan witchcraft to survive. As Noah (Russell Crowe) sets out to build his ark, creatures called The Watchers--fallen angels who have become encased in stone and move like Transformers in need of oil, or Ents--aid him, and it's a good thing because they are a lot bigger and stronger than men. This comes in handy when an evil army of Cain's descendants attacks the Ark, seeking refuge.
Your Bible's story of Noah, this is not.
Based on what I do know of Noah, the movie obviously fleshes out the many vague passages from Genesis to account for its two-hour-plus runtime. Even then, it plays loose with its Biblical "facts:"
- Noah is not, thankfully, 500 years old in the movie.
- God doesn't talk to Noah directly, but rather delivers to him his mission in a series of dream sequences.
- God is never referred to as God, but as the Creator.
- Noah's wife (Jennifer Connelly) actually has a name and some power in their relationship.
- Only one of his three sons has a "wife," though really she's just his girlfriend---which doesn't stop them from grinding uglies. It must be rough when you've ever only seen one single woman ever, and she looks like Emma Watson.
- And then there are those rock monsters.
Aronofsky's Noah is, truly, a fantasy epic, one that hits on the key points raised in the Bible but tries to tell the story in a way that is also accessible to non-believers, i.e. painting the story as a fantasy epic rather than something "historically accurate" (which would be impossible, because this never happened).
Aronofsky does a terrific job with the material. The movie is ambitious, beautiful and downright enthralling at times, though it still doesn't compare to his best movies. He takes risks few filmmakers would dare to do, and they work more often than not. And the movie operates best when he plays with the fantastical; the sequence where the God--er, the Creator--sends water out into the world to call animals to the Ark is fascinating and gorgeous. Another beautiful sequence, perhaps the film's most controversial, has Noah telling the story of the seven days of creation while essentially supporting the Big Bang and evolution at the same time.
Unfortunately, all good things come to an end. As good as Noah is for much of its running time, the movie loses its edge once the flood hits. I thought the flood and the battle leading up to it was the climax, but in reality it is only the beginning of Aronofsky's morality tale.
SPOILER ALERT. Suddenly, Biblical hero Noah transforms from a devout and righteous man to a fundamentalist whacko who sounds like a cult leader intent on handing out poisonous Kool-Aid to his family. Aronofsky's intentions here are clear, and yet at this point the movie begins to drag like a heavy anchor. For the next half hour we are subjected to a plot about Noah's family trying to talk him out of murdering babies in the name of his faith; it quickly becomes tedious, because the whole time you know exactly what his ultimate decision will be. While Russell Crowe does a terrific job as Noah, his character's sudden turn to quasi-villain is disconcerting and hard to accept. More importantly, it's just boring.
Darren Aronofsky's Noah is a risky and sometimes enthralling piece of filmmaking, marred by a dull third act that doesn't accomplish what the director intended. Nonetheless, the movie is worth seeing for its ambition and controversial adaptation of the subject matter.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.