Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBB. USA, 2014. Paramount Pictures, Regency Enterprises, Protozoa Pictures, Disruption Entertainment, FortyFour Studios. Screenplay by Darren Aronofsky, Ari Handel. Cinematography by Matthew Libatique. Produced by Darren Aronofsky, Scott Franklin, Arnon Milchan, Mary Parent. Music by Clint Mansell. Production Design by Mark Friedberg. Costume Design by Michael Wilkinson. Film Editing by Andrew Weisblum. Golden Globe Awards 2014.
The Bible gets the Dark Knight treatment as Darren Aronofsky investigates the legendary story of Noah, who assembled the animals two by two into a great ark to survive the flood that was God’s punishment upon a planet populated by wicked humans. Here the patriarchal hero (played by Russell Crowe) struggles to keep family together (including wife Jennifer Connelly, three sons and adopted daughter Emma Watson) while struggling with the moral conundrum of a harsh and vengeful deity. Humanity truly is corrupt, which we know because Noah and his family are the only vegetarians and they actually bathe, but is it the purpose of the creator to wipe the human species out and have Noah begin a new race, or merely to keep the flora and fauna alive for the planet while allowing his own line to make the end of humanity? The line Noah takes is made complicated for the clan when Watson and Noah’s son Shem (played by Douglas Booth, who looks like a cologne-ad model) start making eyes at each other in a world without condoms. What Aronofsky should be commended for here is the genuine attempt at dazzling the imagination with the most complicated uncovering of a familiar Biblical narrative since Martin Scorsese got the Christians into a tizzy in 1988: we know that the flood is followed by a strange story of Noah’s sons finding him drunk and naked and ashamed, so why not find the emotional throughline that leads us there. What results is the psychological toll that moral responsibility has on a man who strives to be righteous in a corrupt world; what results is a film with good intentions and hopelessly muddled results. The intelligence of a special-effects epic that explores a man’s soul is a welcome thing, but Aronofsky tries to have it both ways and doesn’t succeed. It begins with an opening act that emphasizes the visual dazzle of a disaster movie but all imaginative explorations (including the strange addition of fallen angels who take the form of giant rock creatures) soon fall by the wayside as soon as the family is locked away in the protection of the ark, focusing instead on character drama that unwisely includes a bland villain in the form of a sneering Ray Winstone. The entire cast is fantastic when the script calls for them to dig deep and turn the adventure from Cecil B. DeMille to Euripedes, but it’s also distracting that a film hinting at evoking some level of cultural accuracy is being led by white Hollywood movie stars who, especially in Connelly’s case, have ready access to shampoo and concealer. For all its strangeness and choppy pacing that keeps the film running about fifteen minutes longer than it needs to, however, it does have its moments and is worth checking out at least once.