Darren Aronofsky may have sadly skipped on making The Wolverine some years ago but he is back, this time with a blockbuster Bible movie of all things and after the success of Black Swan, this could have either backfired wildly or made a huge impact.
Noah, though, rests somewhere in between.
On the one hand, here is one of the best Bible-themed movies of the past 20 years with Russell Crowe proving to be the perfect choice for Noah and Aronofsky bringing an otherworldly feel to the whole thing. On the other hand, the film runs out of steam somewhat once the much talked-about flood actually happens. Story-telling wise, this movie really finds the right tone, going for a swords and sorcery-style fantasy approach rather than a this-all-really-happened type of preachiness and earnestness. You've got angel rock monsters, Anthony Hopkins as Methuselah showing off the odd wizard-like powers and... um, did I mention the rock monsters? The film's first half is batshit insane and, because of that, it's completely enjoyable. Then the flood occurs and Noah takes a darker but slightly more sluggish and predictable route. We're stuck in the ark for what feels like months with a pregnant Emma Watson, a teary Jennifer Connelly and a murderous Crowe so there's definitely tension there but the pace of the film also stagnates, unfortunately. A subplot involving Ray Winstone's Tubal-cain feels a bit tacked-on and only adds to the already hefty running time. There are still good moments here and there post-flood such as the distressing image of hundreds of people desperately trying to climb a single piece of land poking out of the water but they come in few and far between.
By the end of the film, you somehow still feel like you just sat through some kind of Sunday school session. Which is weird seeing as the first half of the film was so not that at all. Still, there is something to be said about a Bible movie which takes this many strange creative turns and which somehow bears a PG-13 rating despite showing animal guts, corpses, a woman being trampled to death and suggesting the brutal murder of small children. The Passion Of The Christ at least straight-up showed-off its R rating but where that film only really had one point to make, one bloody gimmick, if you will, Noah actually tries to tell a full story with characters you can understand and feel for. Unlike with Black Swan or The Fountain, Aronofsky isn't trying too hard to be arty and edgy this time, instead focusing on telling the story at hand and doing it in an interesting way. Much like he did with The Wrestler, in fact. While it's hard to imagine that Noah will really resonate for too long as a film, for what it is, it's a well made, if uneven, blockbuster with a lot going for it.
After seeing the lacklustre previews for this one, I for one expected Noah to be something of a disaster. As it stands, it's actually a nice surprise: an atmospheric, occasionally out-of-its-mind Bible flick with a difference.