Posted by: da_nibbler | April 9, 2014

Review: ‘Noah’

The story of Noah’s Ark. We all know it, but let me give you a quick refresher just in case. Man has turned wicked after the whole Adam and Eve meet the snake and apple thing. The world is pillaged and the creator is not pleased. He wants a do-over and decides a worldwide cleanse with torrents of water from the heavens and the earth is the best way. Some of his creation he considers worth saving so he instructs ‘Noah’ to build an ark to safeguard a male and a female of each species for a new beginning before flooding his playground. Advantage to the sea folk. Should have been a fish.

This is where the commonground between film and book ends. Aronofsky gives this well known tale an ecological message presenting us with a post apocalyptic world, barren and toxic. Nature versus man and his industrialism is a big theme througout the film. He made changes to the story to fit his vision and add some conflict for entertainment puposes. One of the most important and story-impacting changes was having Noah’s sons be without wives, one of the three sons but a child. The main drive of the character part of the story is Ham, the middle son, who is desperate to have a family of his own if he is to survive the creator’s wrath. This is where Watson’s character comes into play as the love interest for his older brother Sham, planting the seeds for much of the conflict later.

The acting is solid across the board. Russell Crowe does a remarkable job as ‘Noah’, being both the protagonist and antagonist in the film. He starts out as the saviour, working with fallen angels turned rock giants to build the ark, welcoming all creatures and putting them to sleep until the cleanse is over. But when his fanaticism with the wickedness of man takes hold of him he not only chooses to let people die – personified by the young girl his middle son takes a shine to – but also turns on his own family, terrorising them aboard the ark. The caring father and fanatical maniac, Crowe pulls off both sides of his character equally well. Jennifer Connelly doesn’t get much to do as Noah’s wife but has her moment to shine later on. So does Emma Watson. Ray Winstone gives a memorable performance as Tubal-cain, representative of the wicked line of man and Noah’s adversary throughout the film. Earl y on we are treated to Hopkins’s character, playing Noah’s grandfather Methuselah. Given the stature of the actor chosen for this role it is a shame that this character could as well be cut from the film. You wouldn’t notice any difference in the film at all if not for a pivotal interaction with Emma Watson’s character later on. By then we had all but forgotten he was even in this film.

The visual presentation is as impressive as one would expect from Aronofksy’s previous films. Dead landscapes drawing you in, fantastical creatures, animals of all variety and the monumentous ark itself make for memorable imagery. But what really stood out were the timelapse sequences used. One had a tiny spring turn into a river, snaking its way throughout the world, leading animals towards the ark. Another retold the creation story while the world was being flooded, elegantly juxtaposing creation and destruction. Billions of years magnificently told in mere minutes.

If only the story and characters would draw you in as much as the visuals do. ‘Noah’ wanting to have his line end as well makes it hard to get too attached to any of these characters. The entire story felt like a retelling of a historical account. Which might not have been a bad choice had Aronofsky stuck with this approach. Instead he introduces us to rock angels that end up building the ark, speak and are at the centre of the film’s battle sequence, reminiscent of the Ents marching to battle in ‘The Lord of the Rings’. This turns the film towards the fantastical, which doesn’t mesh well with what has come before. Historical account or fairytale? Unfortunatley Aronofsky chose to not side with either or wanted it to be both. The result is an interesting view on an old story presented in a film that doesn’t know what it wants to be.

While there is wonder and spectacle present overall this film is about the extinction of a species so expect intense and gruesome scenes. Especially when Aronofsky depicts the wickedness of man the scenes are very violent and unsettling. Cries of people dying during the flood do not have any less impact. So be warned. This is not a film for your Sunday school bible studies. It does end in a rainbow though.

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