Overview: In Hollywood’s latest attempt at a Biblical blockbuster, God spares one family in his decision to destroy the evil of mankind with a flood. Paramount Pictures; 2014; Rated PG-13; 138 minutes.
A Tall Order: Darren Aronofsky was wildly ambitious in recreating this tale. The Old Testament story of Noah and his ark contains more faith-based and supernatural elements than most Bible parables, and to translate those to film requires a larger-than-life scale. We’re talking about a guy who builds a gigantic boat that houses two of every animal in existence and a flood sent by the Creator to smite and destroy the Earth. From the outset, the undertaking of Noah as a movie was one that felt destined to be laughable or majestic.
So, Which Is It: The result is, surprisingly, a mix of both, but I tend to lean toward majestic. There are moments throughout Noah where the use of special effects and CGI make the film seem disjointed. Some images are almost cartoon-like, which pulls us out of the story in which we had just been completely engrossed. The scenes with the serpent and the apple are absurd to the point of laughable. Also, Noah is being helped by these giant rock creatures, which are meant to represent fallen angels but appear to me as something straight out of Tolkien. I’m not sure how that happened, because at other times the use of CGI is precise and awe-inspiring. The flood scene is breathtaking. So are the scenes with swarms of animals approaching the ark. Basically when it matters the most, it works.
Is It Really About Religion?: Noah, more than anything, is about humanity and the struggle between mankind’s good intentions and flawed nature. The best moments in this film are the simplest. This movie works mainly due to the emotional honesty in the scenes driven by Noah’s family and their struggle. (If your eyes are dry when he kisses the babies’ foreheads instead of stabbing them, you might be heartless.) The entire cast shines, with the standouts being Russell Crowe, Jennifer Connelly, and Emma Watson. Crowe brings the character of Noah to life by portraying with conviction a man who struggles between loyalty to his family and loyalty to his Creator, with the hope that in the end he won’t have to choose. As the only women featured in the story, Connelly and Watson succeed in balancing the combination of fragility and strength it would take to be a woman during that era and within those circumstances. Everyone can relate to the human way each of the characters handles the increasing inevitability of God’s hitting the reset button on Earth: from Noah’s complete reliance on God, to his son Ham’s vulnerability to the desire to live for himself.
Overall: Although it has weak points, Noah ultimately succeeds in its portrayal of a Biblical tale by pursuing the emotional and the human rather than focusing solely on the ark and the action.