The entire world knows the story of Noah. The ark. The animals arriving two by two. Rain for forty days and forty nights to wash away the wickedness of man. We all know the sequence of events, but not Noah. Darren Aronofsky’s “Noah” has been labeled a Biblical epic because of its source material, and while it is grand in scope, at its heart it is a character study. That is where the movie excels; its grander and broader parts have trouble keeping up as a result.
This is Aronofsky’s biggest studio-budgeted movie to date. Reports surrounding the movie prior to its release claimed that the director and the studio argued about how the story should be brought to the screen. In the end they said Aronofsky’s version is the one that made it. That’s hard to argue, as “Noah” has the DNA of an Aronofsky film, but you can also tell he restrained himself a bit. It’s a catch-22, however, Aronofsky couldn’t have made “Noah” without the studio, but the studio probably kept the film from being completely Aronofsky’s vision.
The film in itself feels like a compromise. Until the storm hits and Noah and his family are all on the boat, the feel of the film seems to be uneven and doesn’t flow as smoothly. However, once on the boat, that is when everything truly comes together. The story is stripped down and it becomes about Noah and his family, and his belief that mankind’s existence ends with them. You get the feeling that this is the reason Aronofsky wanted to make the film, and all that came before it was a prologue.
It’s a good thing that he filled his cast with extremely capable actors for that as well, because without the likes of Russell Crowe, Jennifer Connelly, Emma Watson and Logan Lerman the boat scenes would have fallen flat on their face. Crowe carries the weight of Noah tremendously, able to display the character’s intensity and compassion while making neither a caricature. Watson and Lerman continue to prove why they are rising stars and Connelly reignites the chemistry she had with Crowe on “A Beautiful Mind.” Ray Winstone and Anthony Hopkins are also quite good.
Visually stunning, keeps the heart of the source while also successfully expanding on it, “Noah” is a solid film that will entertain and make you think. However, you won’t need to think all that deeply. Aronofsky teetered on the edge of his past credits and had to make “Noah” a bit more universally friendly. Who knows what we would have gotten had he brought more of his bag of tricks to his latest. Still a well-done film, it just can’t break through to be a truly great and unique one.