There has been just as much buzz surrounding Darren Aronofsky’s Noah than there was hoving over the animals in Noah’s ark – some good, some bad, but most leery. Even though I’m a huge fan of Aronofsky’s films, even I was somewhat skeptical regarding Noah. I cannot say if it was the trailers or the all the up-in-the-air media coverage that made me doubt his ability to pull it off, but I became worried that Noah would be too big, that it would bite off more than it could chew – which is surprising considering my favorite of Aronofsky’s films, The Fountain, is easily his most ambitious – but he’s done it. He’s taken a story that’s known by most, exercised creative freedom, and turned it into something grand, unique, riveting, entertaining and unforgettable.
One of my favorite aspects of Aronofsky’s films is his unrestrained style. He’s all in. He takes them beyond the safety of mainstream. Requiem for a Dream paints a picture of drug use that so intimate that it’s terrifying. I’ve never used heroine, but by pushing past the norm, past the convenience and past the conventional, he made me feel like I’d used. And I didn’t like it. The Fountain was a love story unlike any other, conveying a literal definition of eternal love through a symbolic tale that’s a blast to pull apart. With Black Swan, he made me understand the dangers of obsession, what it’s like to desire something so strongly that the result is madness. And with Noah, he has created a B.C. world that’s terrifying, treacherous, unpredictable and uncontrollable. Once again, he’s pushed the mainstream limits and created his own version of the Bible story that uniquely fills in the blanks and places us physically and emotionally in the middle of the world’s end. Had any other director tackled this tale, it would have resulted in a mild and conventional movie, something slightly better Clash of the Titans. Instead of making a movie based on Noah’s story, Aronofsky has made a film.
Russell Crowe plays Noah, a man of a noble and righteous birthright, the descendent of Adam and Eve’s honorable line of children. Over the several generations, the wicked children of their lineage (the offspring of Cain) have spread corruption and evil over the face of the Earth. They seek to do harm to those of the noble birthright, so Noah must protect his wife (Jennifer Connelly) and children (Douglas Booth, Logan Lerman, Emma Watson) by living in the wilderness. It’s when Noah is given a vision of the impending end-of-the-world via flood that he begins following The Creator’s promptings. He and his family travel across the scarred lands to a mountain where a hiding prophetic relative (Anthony Hopkins) helps Noah decipher the meaning of the visions and the way to bring about The Creator’s plan.
Up to this point, almost everything that we’re shown is a unique interpretation of Noah’s story. Much like a Tolkien tale, a huge lore is established, this one explaining The Fall of Adam and Eve, the lineage of Cain and Abel, the wicked world in which they live, the reason why The Creator must cleanse it, and fallen angels. Once we get to the creation of the ark, the following 30 to 40 minutes are pretty much what you might expect. There’s lot of lumber, sweat, oily tar, animals and a few family feuds. Once the rain starts falling, Aronofsky takes us out there, way out there, beyond the limits of mainstream cinema. It gets wild. Craziness comes about. And following the amazing organized madness, we realize that we’re emotionally invested in this world, in Noah and his family. The final third of the film, although not as visually wild as the events of The Flood, are absolutely insane in a thematic way. The character-based tension is just as strong as The Flood – only even more emotionally charged and powerful.
Is Noah Biblically accurate? Not even close – but don’t mistake that as a reason to not see Noah. Just like the Bible epics of old, Noah takes liberties to expand the story beyond the few verses that explain the actual story. His story is taken to a grand cinematic scale. No, it’s not Biblically accurate, but it’s an entertaining tale won’t soon be forgetten.
(Photo credit: Paramount Pictures)