Twitter Plot Summary: Noah builds an ark to save all life on Earth, except for humans. Because we’re a nasty bunch.
Five Point Summary:
1. Mankind: you’ve been very naughty.
2. All that slithers, all that crawls… in CGI.
3. Avarice of man.
4. Ark attack! Sadly not Art Attack.
5. Noah the Drunk.
Adaptations of Biblical tales are always a tricky proposition. More often than not, if you’re too faithful to the source material you run the risk of alienating the general audience, veer too far away from it and the more extreme elements of said religion will boycott the film at best, or put out a jihad on you at worst. Darren Aronofsky hasn’t remained overly faithful to the original story in Noah, but hasn’t done enough to make it stand out to either crowd.
It is without doubt an entirely bonkers setup. It is an era shortly after the creation of all things, and just a few generations after Adam and Eve were cast out of Eden for eating the forbidden fruit. In that short space of time, humanity has already caused a bit of imbalance and has caused the Creator (note that he/she/it is never called God) to have serious reservations about the longterm benefits of keeping us on the planet. And so he speaks to Noah and makes him build a massive Ark within which to contain a least two of each creature living on the planet.
Ignoring the mostly woeful CGI, the performances are generally strong and the characters, whilst broadly depicted, have enough to them to appear unique. Russell Crowe is in full-on Maximus mode, and as the story progresses it becomes more a character study of him and how he chooses to interpret the Creator’s message – emphasised by the state of his hair and beard. Doing a sterling job in the near background is Jennifer Connolly, bringing a lot to Naameh, Noah’s wife, despite having very little material to work with. Ray Winstone is dependable as Tubal-cain, king of the humans the Creator wants to wipe out, although he does lapse into generic bad guy territory more often than not. Also: eating meat is apparently a bad thing, especially if you eat live animals. Who knew?
I’m not happy with the amount of screen time the avarice of man receives – I think it needed expanded upon to really hammer home the point over how bad things had become even by that early stage of creation. The narrative also loses a lot of pace once the flood happens, which doesn’t help the second half of the story. Some light amusement is provided by the giant rock Watchers who aid Noah in constructing the Ark. There are a lot of story themes at large, resulting in a massive mixed bag of a movie that doesn’t seem to know what it wants to be. Overblown epic? Science fiction/fantasy adventure? Deep character study? It is all of these and more.
For me as an atheist, the Noah story is an effective parable about the importance of looking after the world on which we live, and to avoid becoming like the mass of humanity that live for debauchery and violence. Whilst I appreciate the religious angle, I don’t subscribe to it. Aronofsky himself has stated that the story is a common fable across a number of faiths and belief systems and subsequently isn’t strictly speaking a religious film, nor one tied to a specific ideology. Whilst it does respect the origins of the story, it’s more a bombastic science fiction fantasy epic rather than a “this is how it happened!” overly faithful religious allegory. Understandably it will alienate and/or annoy the faithful who were expecting some sort of adherence to the religious origins, but it also will likely alienate/annoy the general audience who were possibly expecting something a little less staid. Sometimes the best approach with this type of story is to perhaps not bother in the first place – but then that would obviously be too easy.