Action | Adventure | Drama
Director: Darren Aronofsky
Cast: Russell Crowe, Jennifer Connelly, Anthony Hopkins
PG-13 | 138 min
Critics were touting the film, Noah, as a biblical epic. I could not wait to see it. I was expecting something special and inspiring, filled with miracles—a truly beautiful film that would uplift the spirit and flesh out the telling of an ancient story.
Instead, major disappointment. Noah was nothing more than another action blockbuster with ridiculous transformer-like creatures, obligatory battle and debauchery scenes, and a botched biblical plot.
Artistic license is one thing . . . this is something else.
The film showed promise. Stunning scenery with a keen sense of desolation pulls you right into the story. I loved the one scene with the drop of water falling to the ground and a flower growing in the exact spot. It was a nice touch and miraculous. More of that would have been welcome. The dream sequences, however, which could have been mystical and miraculous, were too sketchy. It didn’t make sense that any human being who had such dreams would think it was God telling him to build an ark.
Russell Crowe as Noah was a good choice. He’s talented and grizzly enough to play an aged patriarch well, and there’s roguish charm behind his smiling eyes that hints at goodness. Crowe gives a strong performance. You can believe he’s a devoted husband and father, and I wanted to like him.
Crowe’s Noah, however, evolves from a kind, gentle, good man—one who is careful not to pick so much as a flower from the earth—into this mean, angry, raving lunatic who wants to kill everyone who stands in the way of God’s plan, including his own two newborn granddaughters. How sickening. Crowe is excellent and has a field day with the range of emotions needed to play a tortured soul, wanting to obey God, but drowning (pun intended) in guilt, sadness, grief, and horror. But I couldn’t muster any empathy for him. His dreams and/or visions and/or whatever you want to call them are never developed to the point where you can understand why he’s doing what he’s doing—you just have to accept that he’s some sort of holy man picked by God and not the fruit loop he appears to be. I didn’t like him at all.
Not liking the title character is not a good thing. Successful films, even those with shady main characters—Dallas Buyers Club comes to mind—manage to elicit sympathy and compassion. You might not agree with a character’s lifestyle or behavior, but you understand their motives and humanity. You feel for them and what they’re going through.
I didn’t feel a thing for Noah, except growing annoyance because he was so nasty . . . and irritation, too, with the filmmakers who allowed the character and storyline to morph into poor imitations of the original.
The true biblical story about Noah and the ark is fascinating. Did you know Noah was about 600 years old when he built the arc? The townspeople ridiculed him, but he couldn’t say a word in his defense because he was sworn by God to secrecy not to reveal anything about the flood. He had three sons who each had a wife and children and were on the ark when the flood happened. A fourth son, who refused to go, climbed a mountain instead and drowned on it. Imagine the pain and grief Noah and his wife must have suffered. There was also an incident on the ark involving Ham’s wife where an unwilling Noah was ordered by God to kill her. Noah’s emotional struggle would have been utterly compelling to watch without the contrived suspense and horror that came in the film when Noah was about to kill two innocent babes. And the true story behind the Curse of Ham and why Ham leaves at the end of the film would have made the audience gasp.
There was plenty of drama to be had if they had stuck to the facts and used artistic license to built an interesting plot around them. Instead, the story spun out of control, relying on theatrics to sell tickets.
I prefer honesty in my movies. If a film is sci fi, I can suspend belief and accept the improbable and impossible. In this case, I would have accepted magic and miracles. But when you take an iconic biblical tale and turn it into a CGI spectacle with giant talking rock monsters and sloppy battle scenes, then inject inexplicable madness into the hero, and add a feudal warlord—the can’t-be-killed-until-the-final-fight villain you see in every action film—and have the dude steal away on the ark for that last-minute blood and gore fest with his arch-rival Noah, it’s just too silly to be good.
By film’s end, I was baffled why Noah’s wife would forgive him. But then again, other than her three sons, he was the only man on earth still alive . . . of course, she would forgive him. Which brings up a troubling point. Was anyone else creeped out by the fact that, in order to re-populate the world, those two baby girls would have to procreate with either their grandfather or uncles?
Walking out of the theater, I told Tom the only thing that would have made the film more ridiculous would have been a cameo by Bruce Willis or, better yet, Arnold Schwarzenegger spewing that line from Conan the Barbarian on what’s best in life: “To crush your enemies, see them driven before you, and to hear de lamentations of de women.”
This woman lamented all the way home.
Painting: “Noah’s Ark” by Edward Hicks, 1846. Philadelphia Museum of Art.