By Witney Seibold on March 28, 2014
Ambitious, daring, and visually awesome (in the old sense of the word), Noah is an amazing and off-the-wall experience that I can’t not recommend.
Darren Aronofsky’s Noah – easily one of the most creative, ambitious, and outright daring Hollywood blockbusters seen in many a year – is a clever, endlessly appealing, and totally bizarre mixture of Biblical sacrament, ballsy historical revisionism, action-packed Lord of the Rings-style fantasy epic, and some further unidentifiable ingredients of Aronofsky’s own psychotropic imagination. This is a Biblical epic that spreads its many muscular arms as far as they can go in every possible direction, and somehow manages to cohere as a solidly entertaining, morally poignant, and largely bonkers fever dream, sprung fully formed from the mind of a hugely talented and perhaps slightly mad auteur.
What other filmmakers in Hollywood would think to make a film like Noah? The Wachowskis, maybe? We have here a visualization of the Noah’s Ark story that incorporates the well-known story beats from Genesis (pairs of animals, etc.), but soups them up into a visually striking and narratively enormous special effects epic that seeks to incorporate, well, the whole of Creation. This is a Biblical epic that eschews the gentle, often dull, dreamily beatific traps the genre usually falls into (see 2014’s Son of God for an example of that), opting for a larger, way more colorful, infinitely more arty, and most certainly more rollicking adventure-cum-morality-play. I have never seen a film like this, and it’s impossible not to admire.
There’s a lot going on in Noah. In Act I, the title character (Russell Crowe) is directly descended from Adam, and lives with his modest family on the outskirts of a gigantic ancient city entirely peopled by the murderous descendants of Cain. Noah’s family (Jennifer Connelly, Douglas Booth, Logan Lerman, and the adopted Emma Watson) doesn’t eat meat and has no thoughts of war. The city dwellers (represented largely by their king, Ray Winstone), however, have tainted the planet with their talk of ambition and pretty-constant murdering. Noah receives a series of dark visions from God (Himself), instructing him to build a great ark. Noah will have the help of a team of fallen angels called Watchers, who took on some earthen mass when they fell to Earth. The Watchers look like terrifying, spindly puppets, and are truly awesome to behold. They move with a heavy limping gait, and stare at Noah through glowing, molten eye holes.
So, yeah, rock monsters in the Noah’s Ark story. We’re in some pretty great territory.
In Act II, Noah builds the ark for a full decade while fighting off the angered advances from Ray Winstone and his clan. The animals enter the ark (under their own instinct), are handily put into stasis with alchemical incense (you read that right), all just before the rain starts. The ark manages to close off amid a gigantic, violent battle wherein men throw axes, angels get their chests ripped open (!), and Logan Lerman desperately tries to find himself a wife before all the women are wiped out. In Act III, all of the meat begins to ripen. The ark is now adrift at sea. Noah begins to succumb to weird bouts of cabin fever, becoming convinced that humans were not intended to survive this ordeal. There are questions as to what the Creator really intended with all this, whether or not people should survive, what the mysterious stowaway wants (!), and whether or not Noah will, in a fit of madness, start murdering.
Noah is a film that deals with large, vast, meaty topics, using visual excess and daring liberties to make a point about justice and good Old Testament wrath. This is a film of magnitude. Aronofsky, through all the crazy rock monsters and swirling space-bound CGI kaleidoscopes, is tapping into breadth and depth. Damn the torpedoes, he’s reaching out into the very cosmos, easily replete with all the accoutrements that implies; included is an extended Creation montage that is nothing short of breathtaking. And what the heck, why not end the film with a glorious Godly rainbow? All of this magnitude may oddly tempered with an artist’s ineffable madness, but the scope and size and sheer audacity of Noah cannot be ignored. I can’t not recommend a movie like this.