Forget all you know about the biblical tale of Noah and the ark. Forget about his robe, the ark he builds by himself, and the rainbow, well, maybe not the rainbow. Darren Aronofsky, acclaimed director of Pi, The Wrestler, Requiem For A Dream, and Black Swan, brings us his version of the tale of Noah and the ark. While trying to encompass the foundation set forth in the bible, Noah tells its own unique tale involving a King, fallen angels, and lots and lots of water.
The set up for the film is simple: God created the heavens and the earth and created Adam and Eve. Adam and Eve are tempted by desire. They have children: Cain, Abel, and Seth; Cain kills Abel and brings forth a world of darkness that lasts for generations. This leads to the world of Noah. Noah (played by Russell Crowe) is a direct descendent of Abel whose father was murdered by Tubel-cain (played wonderfully by Ray Winstone), the direct descendant of Cain. Tubel-cain is the ‘king’ of the land and seeks to own and pillage everything in sight, sort of like Genghis Khan. Noah receives a premonition from The Creator about a cleansing of the earth and the building of an ark. This enrages Tubel-cain whom, along with his army, try to kill Noah and take over the ark for himself.
The film borrows from the bible a lot but doesn’t rely on it to tell a story of disobedience and, as director Aronofsky says, “survivor’s guilt.” It’s a great interpretation of the story but it does get boring a few times through. Matthew Libatique shot the film and it is beautiful; he also shot Requiem and Black Swan and the stylistic choices seen in both films play off very well here. At times the gorgeous skies would have me in awe and the landscapes, which were shot in Greenland, stunned me; this is a gorgeous looking film. Some sequences of the creation of earth looked like it came from Cosmos but made with a bigger budget.
Russell Crowe and Ray Winstone are magnificent in their roles. Winstone is commanding on-screen and is very intimidating as a man with nothing to lose. I even enjoyed watching Winstone on screen more than I did with Crowe. Connelly and Watson, for most of the film, are just cardboard cutouts of what Aronofsky needs for the film. By the time they are asked to show more range than just blank, confused stares, it was already too late for me; that’s not saying that their fifteen minutes of real acting wasn’t good, it was, but it was already too late in the film for me to even care.
The problem I had with the film was the pacing of the film and the shift in tone. First off, the film is two hours, fifteen minutes but felt like it was twice as long as that. The premonition and the building of the ark is about 70% of the film and it’s fantastic; it’s epic, raw, and exhilarating and it had me on the edge of my seat. The last 30% of the film was met with a dragged out subplot and a tonality shift that had me checking my watch. However, I still liked it a lot more than I disliked it.
The problem people are going to have with it is that it doesn’t rely on the bible to tell the tale of Noah. Some may say that’s blasphemy but I find it daring that Aronofsky and co-writer Ari Handel had the gall to pull it off. Without giving too much away, Noah is written as a really dark character that dances on the line between hero and anti-hero.
In the end, I enjoyed the film and the effort Aronofsky put forth. The film is beautifully shot and Winstone gives a fantastic performance. The problems with the film aren’t enough for me to dislike it. Those sensitive about their religion should skip this; if you’re complaining about it on Facebook before you’ve seen it, then you shouldn’t be developing an opinion about it. Ever.