Darren Aronofsky is one of those directors that has a very unique style to their films and I’ve always loved it. Requiem for a Dream and The Fountain are both among my top movies of all time. Black Swan was terrifying to me but I thought it was a beautifully made film. When he was picked up to direct Noah, I knew it wasn’t going to be a direct biblical story and it’s definitely not.
So take that as a warning… If you’re going to see Noah, expect that it doesn’t necessarily follow the biblical story. It’s more like “inspired by” that tale. My theater was full of old people who shook their heads the whole time or left before the movie finished.
Russell Crowe plays our lead Noah, who receives a vision from the Creator (never called God in the movie) that the world is going to be destroyed. His family (including wife Jennifer Connelly and sons Logan Lerman and Douglas Booth) help him to begin construction on an ark that will protect all the innocent creatures of the planet. Anthony Hopkins has a few scenes as Methuselah, Noah’s grandfather, and Emma Watson gets a substantial role as a young girl who is rescued by Noah’s family when she is young. This ark gains the attention of nearby “king” Tubal-cain (Ray Winstone) who wants to take it for himself to survive the flood.
Interestingly, this is a reunion for many of these actors. Crowe and Connelly were opposite each other in A Beautiful Mind, Winstone and Hopkins in Beowulf, and Lerman and Watson in The Perks of Being a Wallflower. Connelly also worked with director Aronofsky in Requiem for a Dream.
Imagine that this is a fantasy movie, as that’s very much what it feels like. Imagine this was happening on some other Earth. In that lens, this movie is super cool. Aronofsky has a very unique visual way of telling stories and to see that come to fruition in a fantasy movie is very cool (the closest thing he’s done so far was likely The Fountain). There are even fantastical creatures that appear in massive battle scenes, which is something I didn’t expect. And it all works.
In terms of our characters, Crowe is clearly the highlight but he doesn’t always show Noah as the hero that we’d expect. I feel like Aronofsky took this movie because he wanted to show the deterioration of a man who was told by the Creator to do horrible things. Would he always listen? When he kills every other person on the planet, how does he cope with that? Crowe handles it perfectly.
Second to that, I was impressed by Logan Lerman (The Perks of Being a Wallflower and the Percy Jackson films), who plays the middle child Ham. There’s some intense stuff happening with that character and Lerman nails it (which isn’t surprising).
What doesn’t work?
While Crowe and Lerman do a fine job, it doesn’t feel like the others are given as much to do. They mostly just react to the mad ramblings of Crowe’s Noah. There were a few moments of crying and screaming from Connelly and Watson but it didn’t feel like they had earned that moment.
The movie is also really long, at about 2 and a half hours. Or maybe it just felt long, as there were plenty of quiet and slow moments that could’ve been cut or shortened. I had the urge to check the time at multiple points in the film.
I think the biggest weakness here is that I didn’t really feel much. The movie ended and I was kind of whatever about it. With a big fantasy action movie, you usually get a big rousing celebration and the credits roll and you feel good. With a typical Aronofsky movie, you feel like you were hit in the gut. I didn’t get either of those experiences as it maybe walked the line too finely between the two.
I wouldn’t recommend seeing in theaters. If you’re going for a biblical tale, see Son of God instead as this will likely upset you. If you want fantasy action, you won’t get the payoff you want. Likewise, if you want an emotional character-driven story, you’ll find that lacking as well. I appreciate Aronofsky’s vision, as some of this movie is breathtaking, but the parts are greater than the sum in this case.