Noah

Noah Movie ReviewParamount Pictures
Rated PG-13 for violence, disturbing images and brief suggestive content.
Running time: 139 minutes
Two and a half stars out of four.

“Noah,” Darren Aronofsky’s take on the biblical tale of Noah’s Ark, is a fascinating and frustrating amalgamation of a couple different cinematic impulses that wouldn’t necessarily seem to go together.

Aesthetically, it’s straight-up art-house: beautiful and strange, dark and often nightmarish. Working with his usual cinematographer, the great Matthew Libatique, Aronofsky offers us an ancient land filled with both endless, colorful skies and rugged, unforgiving terrian. The technical effects are spectacular — this is a rare blockbuster for Aronofsky, even as it visually recalls the magical realism of his ambitious, meandering “The Fountain” from 2007. If you’re going to see it, make sure you do so on the largest screen possible.

But “Noah” is also the rare, big-budget studio movie with a pure, faith-affirming message. As the title character, Russell Crowe makes some seriously questionable decisions — ones that could be considered selfish and cruel and cost countless lives — and his determination to carry out what he believes is his mission from God leads him to the brink of committing some horrific acts. But you know what? He was right. Despite the protests of doubters all around him — namely, his family — his vision was clear, his faith rewarded. We know where we stand here when the embodiment of pure evil — Ray Winstone’s character, the marauding weapon maker Tubal-Cain — tells one of Noah’s sons: “A man is not ruled by the heavens. A man is ruled by free will.”

It’s a rather canny decision to release a mainstream film full of Oscar winners which surely will appeal to Christian audiences, who are both eager and underserved by a few paltry indie offerings. In some ways, “Noah” resembles one of those Kirk Cameron movies about the apocalypse, only with a better cast and more dazzling special effects.

At its core, though, this is pure Aronofsky — very much of a piece with the rest of his filmography. As both writer and director, Aronofsky makes movies about people whose obsessions drive them to madness: the mathematician of “Pi,” the drug addicts of “Requiem for a Dream,” the romantic dreamer of “The Fountain,” the wrestler of, well, “The Wrestler” and the ballerina of “Black Swan.” These are people who are willing to hurt themselves and those around them of pursuit of their elusive, destructive passions.

Crowe’s Noah, descendant of the peaceful Seth, believe the destruction of all mankind is coming, and he’s all too happy to be a part of it. Lapsed Catholic that I am, I don’t remember everything about the story of Noah’s Ark, but I don’t believe it played out in such elaborately batshit-crazy fashion. Aronofsky and co-writer Ari Handel (who also co-wrote “The Fountain,” fittingly) have made tweaks here and there, even while doing tireless research to ensure that certain elements remained authentic. The production, which took place in eclectic and unspoiled regions of Iceland, features an ark that was “hand-built to biblically detailed specifications,” according to the press notes. Cubits, people — they count.

But before he begins building, Noah has a dream. While the details are vague, the message from God is clear: A fire is coming, followed by a flood that will purge and cleanse the Earth. Build an ark, load up the animals and start over. Noah’s wife, Naameh (Jennifer Connelly, Crowe’s “A Beautiful Mind” co-star), is understandably a little skeptical. But not only is Noah certain of his duty, he takes it a step further. He interprets that God wants all of humanity wiped away — including his family. And he’s ready for that.

He devotes the next several years to construction, with the help of his sons Shem (Douglas Booth), Ham (Logan Lerman) and Japeth (Leo Carroll). Along the way, the family adopts a severely injured girl named Ila (Emma Watson, Lerman’s co-star in “The Perks of Being a Wallflower”), who eventually will become Shem’s love. They also enjoy the protection of creatures known as The Watchers — fallen angels whom a vengeful God has turned into lumbering rock monsters. They are massive and spectacular to behold — tactile and intimidating, but with unexpectedly kind hearts. (Appropriately, they are voiced by the gravelly Nick Nolte and Frank Langella, among others.)

Then they wait for the first drop of rain to fall. And here’s where things get a bit soggy. As the overlong “Noah” becomes a waiting game, its tension sags when it should be at its most gripping. Once the flood comes — and it is a doozy — there are some truly terrifying moments at first as Noah strands dozens of innocents, their bodies pounded against rocks by ferocious waves, their screams so loud they pierce the walls of the vessel. (Similarly pounding is the score from Aronofsky’s regular composer, Clint Mansell — but at least it makes sense given the bombastic context.) But then there’s a lot of down time within the ship, rendering too much of “Noah” a dour, dull affair.

While the script allows Crowe some range — bravery, intensity, remorse, redemption — the same can’t be said for the rest of the impressive cast. Connelly, who went to brave lengths in Aronofsky’s “Requiem for a Dream,” gets little more to do here than be the supportive wife. The sons are essentially interchangeable. But Anthony Hopkins provides the few rare moments of levity as Noah’s grandfather, a Yoda-like Methuselah.

Ultimately, Aronofsky — known for being an uncompromising filmmaker — pulls his punches with a finale of colorful, joyful uplift. While it’s lovely to look at, it’s not exactly the best fit for him.

24 Comments on “Noah

  1.  by  Christian

    It’s not his best (my favorite is Black Swan), but as an Aronofsky enthusiast I have to say that I was impressed. I don’t disagree with you, but I liked it more than you did. It’s the most ambitious movie he’s made, so I give him credit for that.

    •  by  KHand

      Impressed?

      Just got back from watching “Noah”. Wow!! Maybe the most bizarre butchery of a story I’ve ever seen!

      But then again, maybe I expected too much or too little from this movie.

      Did I expect to see Giant Rock People? Nope. Did I expect Noah to view the Ark as a suicide mission for him and his family? Nope. I thought God liked Noah and his family and wanted to save them…isn’t that why God told him to build the Ark??! Did I expect Noah to be a wanna be Psychotic Baby Killer? Nope, didn’t see that coming.

      There were a lot of things in “Noah” I didn’t expect…that I got. The one thing I didn’t get, that I expected, was a good movie.

      I give it two thumbs, two pinkies, two pointers, two ring fingers, two middle fingers…and two iggly, wiggly, pigglies DOWN!!!

      •  by  Ernesto

        That was a very short and very good, review. Thank you..I laughed my ass off!

        Aronofsky is an egotistical and delusional idiot. He let his atheism and view that the Christian market would be lenient with this farce get in the way of a Billion dollar movie. If he would have just held true to the word of God he would have made a fortune. The story is already perfect. Spend your 200 million on the already perfectly written script. That’s all Mel Gibson did….and he was able to turn 25 million into a Billion.

  2.  by  Chameleojack

    “[…] and his determination to carry out what he believes is his mission from God leads him to the brink of committing some horrific acts. But you know what? He was right. Despite the protests of doubters all around him — namely, his family — his vision was clear, his faith rewarded.”

    What?! Did you really see this movie? Noah’s vision wasn’t clear at all, he thought he’d failed because he couldn’t [redacted–go see it]! He conveniently decided at the end of it all that it wasn’t necessary after all and that god forgave his family (for…?) This was a great movie, I loved it, and I’m a born again atheist.

    Message to Christians: Stop faking reviews saying you saw the movie when you didn’t, then seeing it and parroting *outrage* over comparably realistic characterization details.

    •  by  Joseph D. Carpenter

      My wife and I saw the first 15 and walked out for a refund. Bottom line if you are looking for a fantasy story about the Biblical story of Noah then your in luck. If you are looking for a biblical truth then look elsewhere.

      •  by  Aaron

        Joe… what truths were you looking for in the frst 15 minutes?Was Russel Crowes hair to dark and not light enough like the stories want you to belive? Or was it not set in the right year?If you are going to write a review watch the WHOLE movie before you review it it.Maybe stick with the veggie tales version

      •  by  Nanci Wadsworth

        “…then your in luck.” should be: “…then you’re in luck.” fyi
        Also, you missed a very good movie!

      •  by  Stephanie

        Yeah, I staarted to walk out after 1o min but decided to wait it out and give it time to mature. Then I was hit with rock figures, i.e. watchers. Really! well that’s Hollywood for ya. I’ve seen plenty of Hollywood takes on biblical stories and was more that ready to be entertained by this one, good casting. But the fallen angles depicted as Rock creatures reminded me of The Lord of the Rings. I though I was in the land of enchantment or the forest of Mordor.

        Then there was the mad Noah aspects. Some like to say that people who speak to God and are given direction to carry out a mission of god’s wrath on humanity are schizophrenic and I could buy into that theory too seeing that Noah wanted to kill his entire family and then the twins I had had enough at that point. Couldn’t stay to see the last 5 min’s of this movie. But hey,people really liked the movie. It just made me laugh and put me to sleep. The special effects didn’t even grab my attention. Way to much CGI.

    •  by  DB

      Shut up – your IQ is not as high as your ‘diminishing in numbers’ community have convinced you it is. Points your high powered self-indulgent perception (yes… They exist in great numbers in the ‘Christian camp’ as well missed…

      Type: Flood (a picture of ‘law’ that delivers God’s rejected unto death and His chosen unto life – physical).
      Anti-type: Christ’s blood (a picture of ‘grace’ that delivers God’s rejected unto death and His chosen unto life – spiritual).

      Type: The Ark (a physical representation of Christ himself – the lives of those spared by grace were safe within from the judgment without).
      Anti-type: Christ Himself (as the scriptures tell us – our lives are hidden in Him) – within Him we are safe, and without Him is judgment.

      I saw the movie – visually stunning, deftly inaccurate (we all knew it would be), powerfully acted (Connelly pleading with Noah to spare the babys), and if nothing else, motivated me to re-thing the gravity of God’s demand for holiness fom his creation… since we cannot comply, He hadvtp provide (Christ’s finished work atoning for our sins).

      Lot’s of unqualified opinions – nothing more… seeing a movie will not quicken our understanding.

    •  by  DanB

      I am a Christian and I saw the movie last night. I am disappointed that a movhttp://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bart_D._Ehrmanie called Noah did not resemble much of the story in the Bible. I would think that Hollywood would want to capitalize on a very willing audience longing for well made biblically accurate movies. I am surprised that it wasn’t that entertaining with all the special effects and one of my favorite actors.   I do think most of the people that will see this movie saw it on opening weekend. Hollywood may get it someday, if there is any intelligence there.

    •  by  Kerri

      Thank you for your review. I appreciate the atheist perspective because, as a Catholic, that is exactly how I have to view all of these movies based on some Biblical story. The details always seem to be made up and the story just wrong theologically, wrong historically and wrong culturally. I try to view them in the same light as “300” or “Robin Hood”- a re imagined, fantasy based on some scrap of an event that may have happened long ago.

  3.  by  Andrew

    “But “Noah” is also the rare, big-budget studio movie with a pure, faith-affirming message.”

    Rubbish. The movie didn’t affirm faith in anyway, unless you mean faith that God is horrendously cruel and humankind is better than God because they’re unwilling to carry out his genocidal schemes. It was a horrible, dehumanizing movie that didn’t have a shred of faithfulness to the moral and spiritual themes of the original Noah text.

  4.  by  C138

    With all due respect, I think this movie offers some more challenging and complex questions about the Biblical story and the whole concept of faith to its audience than any of Kirk Cameron’s simplistic and ham-handed sermons.

    •  by  Nanci Wadsworth

      I agree, C138. I can’t believe Christians would prefer Kirk Cameron’s pablum to a cinema experience that is thought- provoking.

  5.  by  Derek

    I thought the acting was great. Methuselah was kind of confusing… some sort of wizard?? As many have stated, the last third of the movie started straying too far from the original themes making Noah to seem like a baby killing zealot and Gods plan to save the animals but kill all humans who He originally stated mankind would have dominion over. I understand the need for filler but it strayed too far to make the movie as enjoyable as it could have been.

  6.  by  Christy Lemire

    Thank you guys so much for reading this and sharing your thoughtful perspectives. It was so nice to wake up to all these new comments this morning!

  7.  by  Rick

    Jesus, could you get the name right? It’s “James” Cameron, not “Kirk” Cameron.
    This is a professional movie critic?

    BTW, you notice movie critics all have unpleasant deaths? (Ebert, Siskel, etc|
    When you make your living criticizing other folks hard work you get karma bitch!

    •  by  markzamora

      I love how people with little intelligence try to win an argument by name calling with an expletive. Have YOUR facts straight before name calling. Dumbass! You probably didnt understand the irony of me calling you a dumbass.

  8.  by  Christy Lemire

    Hi, Rick — actually I did mean Kirk Cameron. He’s a born-again Christian who’s made several movies about the Rapture. But thanks very much for taking the time to read my review and share your thoughts, especially on the one-year anniversary of Roger’s death.

  9.  by  chance

    i must’ve seen the alternate/international ending. it was much muuuuch darker than the ending you reference and the ending you see on wikipedia. it basically goes into Noah being an alcoholic and the curse of Ham. i think that that ending fit Aronofsky’s style very well.

  10.  by  Jenny Farmer

    We went into this movie knowing that it was not biblically correct that it was just loosely based. So with that being said I was neither surprised nor offended by the inaccuracies. The retelling of this story was a lot darker than what I was expecting and so was Noah played by Russell Crowe. Jennifer Connelly as Noah’s wife Naameh was just alright in this movie no Oscar performance there. I did like Ray Winstone as the evil Ruler Tubal Cain he was a pretty convincing bad guy. I liked the special effects especially the animals migrating to the arc and was glad to have seen it on the big screen as opposed to at home on a small screen. I really didn’t care for the guardian rock monsters they seemed a little far fetched and were a little weird personally. I was expecting Noah to be more of a hero not so dark and scary. The story seemed to drag out at the end it could have been at least 30 minutes shorter in my opinion.

  11.  by  Christy Lemire

    Thank you for your thoughtful comments, Jenny!

  12.  by  Errolv

    I did not expect Noah to be a cinematic quotation of Genesis 6-9. The Bible story simply describes Noah’s calling and building the ark. The animals board, Noah’s family (including wives for all the men) get on, the rest of mankind is destroyed. The ark is grounded, Noah worships God, and later gets drunk. Well, “The Last Temptation of Christ” is not biblical, either. But watching “Temptation” for the story, you find a fine excursion into the human doubt and desires of a religious leader.
    Yes, within the first ten minutes “Noah” is off with non-biblical adventures of rock Watchers and Cain’s descendants. Let’s just drop the Bible story, and go for the movie story line. Then it gets stupid. For my part, I call the story framework in Noah a “manufactured plot”. Living with and among Cain’s people, I can handle. But when Tubal-Cain stows away, more interested revenge more than preserving his life, or when Noah is convinced his family is to be the Last of Man, I realized we the audience were being subjected to Aronofsky’s desire to make a long movie.
    These manufactured plot points can easily be found n many modern movies. “Oz The Great and Powerful” had characters you thought were “good” but were actually “bad”. Michael Bay’s “Pearl Harbor” had a bizarre triangle of love, involving an American pilot lost in France, but showing up in Hawaii just before December 7. Maybe some people think these manufactured plots make for great movies. To me, they border on the edge of the believability you are supposed to suspend.
    My thumb is down for “Noah”: Manufactured Plot and too much CGI.

  13.  by  Martin Eigenmann

    I am neither a faithful Christian, nor a Muslim or anything else, I just watched the film to get entertained. Well, that is the one thing I didn’t get by watching it.

    The film, in my eyes, is basically just one thing: a waist. Most of all a waist of time, because most of the time there is nothing happening appart from people and creatures mumbling hard to understand and incoherent phrases and the occasional overdramatic scenes with Lord of the Rings typ battles and special FX. The story lags and there is no emotion in the figures, despite the top cast. How can one mess up such a great story combined with such a fantastic cast.

    Secondly the film is a waist of money: I am not worried about the $ 7.50 for the rental, more so about the costs to produce such a boring movie. I don’t even want to know the costs, but they must be insane.

    Thirdly the waist of material: not to mention the film rolls (or computer power since it is probably produced “in the box”) what worries me more is all that wood chopped down to recreate the arc and all the water waisted in the rain machines, creating the one scene most waited for and in the end equally disappointing, the kick in of the flooding rain.

    For me this film has not one single star out of four. It is in any regard just a waist!

    Second