by Isaac Mathewson
Written and directed by Darren Aronofsky
Starring: Russell Crowe, Jennifer Connelly, Anthony Hopkins, Emma Watson
My rating: C
I have to admit, when I first heard that Darren Aronofsky of Requiem for a Dream and Black Swan fame was doing a Biblical epic based on Noah’s Ark, I had high expectations. It had a good selection of actors and it had a lot of potential to possibly become this generation’s The Ten Commandments. However, when I got to the actual film, I felt that much more could have been done with the story.
Perhaps everyone knows the story: God has had enough of humankind’s evil ways and decides to create a flood to destroy them. He instructs Noah (Crowe) to build an ark to shelter his family and two of every species on Earth in the hopes of repopulating a better world.
Aronofsky has had an interest in the story of Noah since he first became a director because of the amount of survivor’s guilt he goes through. Crowe really shows it with his performance. In this film, he is a man who has a great responsibility, but is also going through a lot of guilt as he and his family are the only people left in the world. There are moments when he loses his mind and even tries to kill his family as he believes that there is no hope left for humankind.
The supporting cast is first rate in this movie. Jennifer Connelly is well casted as Noah’s wife and his sons (the middle son, Ham, is played by Logan Lerman from the Percy Jackson movies) are also very good. There are also several new characters not featured in the Bible such as Noah’s adopted daughter Ila (Watson in one of her best performances to date) and Tubal-cain (played by Ray Winstone), who serves as the antagonist. There are also a group of fallen angels in the form of stone golems known as the Watchers that protect Noah, whose voice actors include Frank Langella and Nick Nolte.
The visuals look stunning in this film. The visuals on the Watchers reminded me of the Ents in “The Lord of the Rings,” and the scenes where the animals come into the ark almost look real. The cinematography is also great to look at, and the surrounding landscapes are breathtaking.
However, put all that aside and everything comes down to the story. While it does show a side to Noah rarely ever seen before, the plot structure is a mess in many areas. First of all, the film at one point takes a dark turn when Noah realizes that there is no hope for rebuilding humanity and that his family should might as well die. Although this shows how full of guilt he is, the end result, without giving too much away, is ridiculous and takes a great deal of depth to Noah’s character. Also, it bears little resemblance to the Biblical story. In the book, all of his sons have wives, but in this version Noah procrastinates in his search for wives for his sons, and in the end he is unable to find any who are good with the exception of one (played by Madison Davenport) and the film just pulls her out just as easily as she came in. If the first half of the film was partially about Noah’s search for wives for his sons, they should have given her a proper role.
Also, Winstone’s character does not have to be in this film. I know he was meant to add a villain into the story and to add tension, but I thought that Noah’s story of survival was more important than his struggle against his enemies.
This movie is not horrible. It has good actors and beautiful visuals, but I felt that there was so much about Noah and his family that could have been explored more. I can tell that Aronofsky put a lot of effort into this movie and I appreciate what he was trying to do. This may disappoint avid fans and scholars of the Bible, but I say that it is worth seeing just for the visuals.