For the first two thirds or so of Noah I was totally on board with Aronofsky and his vision of this story. Everyone knows Noah rounds up two of all of the animals to survive God’s great flood, but Aronofsky gives it his own bit of flavor that is interesting both visually and story wise. The reason that the first two thirds work as well as they do is because Aronofsky fills the story with more fantasy than the Bible is already delivering in the first place. He pairs these fantastic ideas with some beautiful visuals and the results are images you haven’t seen in any other film. The visuals are one of the film’s strongest assets and I think that is why the film suffers a bit when it gets stuck inside that ark.
The lack of interesting visuals isn’t the only trouble spot on the Ark, as the momentum of the film dissipates quickly after the incredible creation story told by Noah. The tension never really rises as we all know where this is heading, but the film also drags out all the drama as long as possible instead of building the stakes up as they go. Also, I would think that a man going crazy do to his messages from God could be more compelling, but there seems to not be enough conflict in Noah as he is far too complicit to be all that interesting.
Still, these complaints aside, the film is entirely worth your time. The visuals I’ve already mentioned deserve to be seen on the biggest screen possible, but the imagination and imagery on display are worth the price of admission alone. Everything with the Watchers is great and I love the stop-motion style of their animation. The aforementioned creation sequence and following the first birds to the ark are exhilarating to watch. Noah’s visions are all executed wonderfully and some of the imagery is downright disturbing to witness. The action set piece centered around the launching of the ark is also not to be missed as it is a battle that can stand up with many fantasy entries.
Aronofsky’s messages in the film about environmentalism are intriguing as well, but I can’t help but feel that they are slightly undercut by the image of Creation that he has in the film. Yes, it illustrates The Big Bang and the full evolution of human beings, but I am afraid it might be a focal point for some creationists out there. “See, there is evolution, but over one day.” I know Aronofsky doesn’t believe that, in fact, he may just be playing with creationists by showing how complex our evolution is and was, but I think I personally might have enjoyed a film that was a bit more combative with the ideas and religion surrounding God. This didn’t really hurt the film, but it was hard not to roll your eyes at some of the nonsense that you can’t buy into. The more fantastical elements Aronofsky adds are easy to buy into, I loved the Watchers, but the stuff that is supposed to be taken more seriously to the faithful didn’t play nearly as well.
The cast of the film are all fine in their parts, I just wish everyone had a little more depth to their characters. Aronofsky’s does give his women some complexity and depth compared to the Bible, but when women are barely mentioned in that text it is not a high bar to clear. Still, Emma Watson and Jennifer Connelly are two of the strongest elements of the film. Russell Crowe’s Noah is a strong screen presence, but like I said, the character gets a bit lost in his devotion to God; handcuffing Crowe a bit. Logan Lerman and Douglas Booth both feel like they could have had a bit more depth or something to do, but both are believable enough in their respective parts. Ray Winstone walks the fine line of being a bit too over the top as the film’s unnecessary villain, but comes out mostly unscathed on the other side. Anthony Hopkins is appropriately wise and brings some needed levity.
Aronofsky has always been one of my favorite directors and he shows why on a number of occasions with Noah. A weak back end keeps the film from greatness and that’s a shame because this could have been something really special.
That doesn’t mean there aren’t special sequences in the film to be found, and you should still certainly seek this one out if you are at all intrigued, just be prepared to feel like Aronofsky just missed here; something he hasn’t done in some time.
Noah is a B+