With Darren Aronofsky at the helm, Noah was always going to be a Biblically ambitious sight to behold, and a vividly strange one at that. Creative liberties are one thing, but did anyone expect the man behind Requiem For A Dream and The Fountain to adhere strictly to the Bible’s cut and dry storytelling? Aronofsky’s retelling of “Noah’s Ark” blends elements of Lord Of The Rings with God’s bleaker trials and tribulations, getting a wee bit darker than I remember Noah’s adventure, but stunning camerawork and artistic attention make use of massive color palates much like Andy Warhol might – but a Catholic school special, this is not. Either I zoned out when my Catholicism teacher detailed how gargantuan rock monsters helped Noah fight off an invading army of dissidents, or Aronofsky decided that religion needed a jolt of Hollywood magic.
Russell Crowe plays Noah, the man tasked with building an arc and saving two of every animal while “The Creator” cleanses a now dirty, human infected world. Guided by the wise Methuselah (Anthony Hopkins), Noah accepts his fate and carries out the daunting task, aided by a group of living rock formations know as The Watchers. Obsessing over man’s wrongdoing, Noah is convinced that God wants to end humanity, which creates a difficult dynamic for his family to deal with, but together they attempt to weather the storm of the century and carry out an almighty plan – unless Tubal-cain (Ray Winstone) can prevent Noah from leaving the rest of civilization behind.
Aronofsky’s visual prowess is that of a free-spirited, abstract soul only content with pushing boundaries, mindful of artwork much like Nicolas Winding Refn, Lars Von Trier and Tarsem Singh. Whereas directors such as Terry Gilliam and Tim Burton favor kookiness over smooth tapestries, Aronofsky blends gracefully rendered colors and whimsically enchanting visual treats that favor fantastical beauty over an overload of detail-oriented clutter.
Much of Noah traverses barren, rocky lands, yet Aronofsky still manages mood-setting feats by turning characters into dark shadow puppets laying over a warming dusk of blue merging with orange – a snapshot I’d proudly mount above any fireplace. I also can’t recall a more dazzling depiction of Earth’s creation, as Aronofsky orchestrates a moving-image collage metaphorically and psychically highlighting man’s evolutionary surge forward, from being the simplest organism to swinging primates. When Aronofsky’s visions are on point, he’s one of the most flamboyantly pleasing creators in Hollywood.
With that said, the story of Noah becomes a bit convoluted while trying to bring even more epic elements to an already miraculous story, attempting supporting side-stories that never quite live up to God’s devastating flood. Crowe’s Noah runs a bit of a mean streak because of his blind devotion to The Creator’s will, turning his family against him while simultaneously saving their lives. Aronofsky broaches a darker side of religion where God appears spiteful, callous, and merciless, and Noah becomes a vessel for darker, more survivalist methodologies devoid of any compassion, but Noah’s actions border a line between anti-hero and heartless bastard. Crowe ends up embodying this tortured, committed version of Noah, but his unflinching demeanor in the face of humanity may scare away viewers expecting more of a cheerful hero.
Noah is at least nice enough to bring his family along for the end of the world, including Logan Lerman and Douglas Booth as his sons, Jennifer Connelly as his wife, and then Emma Watson as Booth’s barren lover. Am I forgetting anyone? Oh, right! Leo McHugh Carroll plays another little bugger running about the boat, but his memory highlights just how forgettable everyone becomes in comparison to Noah. Passages in time feel rushed, as Shemp (Booth) sprouts into a studly post-teen in the blink of an eye, and it’s hard to keep track of characters throughout a healthy amount of chaos. Ham (Lerman), another forgettable character, seems only necessary for aided dramatics, giving Noah one more opportunity to assert his bleak beliefs while slighting yet another family member. Connelly and Watson represent what little hope civilization has left, and provide strong female supporting roles, but even they are overshadowed by a larger task at hand. Crowe’s character becomes too consumed by pain and suffering to permit anyone from stealing his angsty spotlight.
We’re talking about Darren Aronofsky here though, and the man knows how to keep us both amazed and mystified given any material he chooses. His interpretation wanders down a dimly lit path, but there’s an ample amount of ambition that translates into water-soaked success. Finding a way to inject both action and marvel into Noah, you can’t help but be overtaken as rushing waves crash against such a magnificent arc, capturing the natural terror in a flurry of despair. Aronofsky reminds us of our sins, transports us to a religious reality filled with folklore creatures and washes the dust off an iconic tale, but is it enough? I can’t see the most conservative of believers letting themselves enjoy this “blasphemous” twisting of events, but for the movie lovers out there, “Noah’s Ark” has never been captured with such excitement.
Relying heavily on visual artistry, Noah obviously comes packaged with a 1080p Blu-Ray cut and a streamable UltraViolet code. Those still approving of DVD quality will have their average quality disc to choose from, but the higher definition Blu-Ray obviously comes recommended. While some of the film becomes clogged with dirty, Earthy tones such as gravel, soot, and mud, all those other more illuminating visions energetically pop when shown in contrast. The higher quality you can catch these moments in the better, and paired with English: DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1, symphonies blare trumpets and drums beat as the intensity only heightens. Stick that in your surround sound and tell me you don’t get chills!
As for the Special Features, here’s what drops from the heavens:
- Iceland: Extreme Beauty (20:40) – Listen to all the perks about filming in Iceland! Discussing the beautiful scenery and eclectic weather, this behind-the-scenes look shows us glimpses of production while filming in the foreign land. Those Iceland buffs out there will really appreciate this bite, but even for us simpler fans, the bit can be revealing at times.
- The Ark Exterior: A Battle For 300 Cubits (19:46) – Learn how the ark was created, why remaining realistic was important and how rainmakers created a constant flow of water during certain scenes.
- The Ark Interior: Animals Two By Two (19:55) – This featurette goes inside the ark itself, diving into the wealth of themes that exist in Noah. You’ll hear about shooting difficulties concerning such a small set, a more biblical explanation of Noah and the film’s drama – among other extensive discussions.
Noah isn’t exactly the divine pleasure one would expect from Darren Aronofsky, but it’s a departure from his more character based work, and his interpretation still manages to rediscover creationism in a new light – at times. Stunning beauty is undeniable, but lavish brush strokes aside, a darker story feels forced and exploitative, and certain characters fall to the wayside as Noah emerges as the only character with sufficient building. Noah is rebuilt for mainstream audiences, attempting to recreate more epic adventures that call upon big-budget fantasy epics of late, but his ark is sturdy, safe, and serviceable – able to protect audiences from the choppy, unbalance ride.
Noah isn't exactly the epic that bible-thumpers wished for, but Aronofsky's vision is masterful enough to create truly mesmerizing moments without being swept away by the murky waters of blockbuster boredom.