Darren Aronofsky is a film maker who has made some of my all time favourite films, Requiem for a Dream and The Fountain being two of them. His films are not always pleasant to watch but always leave a lasting impression. He’s able to craft a story and a message in such a way that resonate, and characters who are at once larger than life and relatable. Noah is a good example of these skills, though maybe not the best he’s done.
I am just going to say this above the fold though: you should see this movie if you get a chance. I’m about to tell you that it’s good but not great but here’s the thing: we don’t see films like this much. This is a weird movie that takes a story held sacred by many (literally sacred, not Trekkies and Star Trek sacred) and re-imagines parts of it, changes others, and plays with the motivations and struggles of the lead character. It’s a big effects movie with creatures and animals and battle scenes but it’s not a tent pole action movie. TL;DR version, this movie represents a unique film maker taking a lot of chances and a studio taking a chance on him, this is the type of behaviour we need to support. Good? Good.
Now on to the review.
The plot of Noah plays out mostly as it did when you were in Sunday School as a kid. Noah receives a vision from the creator of an impending deluge and to save the beasts in act one, constructs the ark to save the beasts and defends them in act 2, and then in act 3 lives on the ark and has to deal with the implications of the messages he received (with an epilogue to hammer home the point). It’s not terribly complicated and more importantly the plot is the one area where I feel slightly let down by the film. Not that the plot is bad, but rather than it employs a few too many clichés to get where it’s going.
Within Noah’s family for example if you can’t tell the arcs each of his sons are going to take after their first scene then maybe we weren’t watching the same movie. If you can’t tell pretty much exactly the fate of many of the other characters, well, same thing. The last few minutes of the movie, in which the moral of the story is explicitly laid out, also irked me. I am not entirely sure the film would have worked without it but it was a little too on the nose for my tastes.
Where the movie did excel were in the few instances when stories of things like how man came to be were told it managed to walk the line right down the middle of “religious vs. secular”, and the big final point even if it was hammered home a little too hard is interesting in that it asks you to think about where you place your faith and why.
Russell Crowe is great as Noah as well. Noah in this case isn’t the confident and unwavering leader he was in the stories I remember from childhood, but rather one who wrestles with the realities of the task at hand and how he must execute the task. Ray Winstone plays the antagonist descendant of Cain and it’s fun to watch him chew the scenery with some pretty ridiculous dialogue and he clearly gives the part his all. Emma Watson is also some kinda wonderful even if her character arc is one of the more predictable ones.
Jennifer Connelly and Logan Lerman are the weak links in that chain for me, Connelly just being uneven and Lerman mainly because he can’t seem to decide on an accent; he wanders back and forth from flat american to received British throughout the film.
I know you’re wondering about the effects and yes, they are kind of amazing. There are a few moments where you will definitely notice a lot of CGI. You can’t have that many CGI animals on screen at a time and not notice. There are however some entirely CGI characters who look amazing and the ark itself, once floating in a storm, is pretty incredible to behold.
All in all Noah is a good film just, as I said above, not a great one. It only falls slightly short of the mark though, the film is maybe best described as “ambitious” and in taking on as much as it does it maybe can’t help but not live up to the expectations. Predictable character arcs and a few cliches hold the film back a bit but, as I said above, it’s completely worth seeing and seeing on the biggest screen you can find it on.