There are some classic stories that we identify as being epics, which deserve a grand treatment on the big silver screen. However, very few of them are on as big of a scale as Noah, which is a biblical tale that will continue to pass from one generation to the next. These films are usually given to the same small pool of directors, but there are exceptions every now and then. Writer/director Darren Aronofsky is a name that hasn't been associated with a film since the spectacular Black Swan, but now he's been signed on to the task of bringing the story of Noah and the ark to the big screen. Not only is this the biggest scale that he has operated on thus far in his career, but it calls for a completely different style of filmmaking than what we generally see from Aronofsky. Is this a picture worth saving, or should you let it sink to the bottom of the bargain bin?
In a brutally malevolent world, Noah (Russell Crowe) has been chosen by God to undertake one of the largest missions of all time. The Creator communicates with this man through dreams, as He plans to cleanse the world of all the evil within. However, the main task is to rescue the innocent animals of the Earth before an apocalyptic flood consumes the world. This is a momentous task that will lead a man to his breaking point. The question is: how far is he willing to go to help create the Earth's new beginning?
Darren Aronofsky and Ari Handel's screenplay for Noah begins by providing some background information on the "good" and the "evil" of man. We're shown the deep bond between a father and his sons, as they try to survive apart from the civilization of man. Noah and his family continue to run away in the attempt of staying away from the barbaric society that continues to get closer to them. Fortunately, there is no voice of God, nor is there a definitive answer to any of the visions. These are all shown in a series of dreams and visions, which are displayed via a series of quick flashing images. There isn't very much character development for anybody on the screen, but we're kept aware of the idea that all of humanity is sinful in one way or another. Fortunately, Noah is displayed differently than he generally is. There is a lot of moral ambiguity that takes place throughout the running time, which allows him to become a much more interesting character. It's more about the man, rather than his image. However, the same cannot be said about the remainder of the characters.
Even though Noah becomes more interesting as the story progresses, the same cannot be said about his family. Other than a few moral decisions made by his wife, Naameh (Jennifer Connelly), there isn't any reason for us to connect with her. However, the children are primarily only recognized for their desires, rather than having real character elements that make us want them to survive this biblical apocalypse. There are a lot of necessary time jumps that occur throughout, which aid in making a more smooth line of pacing through the first and second acts. Aronofsky and Handel focus on constantly moving the story forward and avoiding unnecessary detours. Noah remains quite engaging as the family continues to build the ark and wait for the rains to begin pouring from the sky. The dialogue is quite fitting as the story continues to build upon itself. Unfortunately, this doesn't last for the entire running time.
The majority of my gripes take place within the end of the second act through to when the credits begin rolling. The pacing slows down to a quick halt and it seems as if Aronofsky and Handel weren't sure where to take the story next. Once the ark is built and the floods come, the feature completely changes direction. It becomes more about the turmoil occurring within the walls of the ark, rather than about the floods, or even the characters themselves. Noah becomes overly-dramatc and never seems to be able to dig itself out of the hole that it created. This is when you'll really begin feeling the running time, as the sighs will begin to echo through the cinema. A lot of this third act feels unnecessary and it doesn't go anywhere. There are a lot of tones clashing, as it tries to force so many elements from different genres into one picture. A biblical epic such as this should have a grand ending that sticks with us as we leave the cinemas, but this simply left me disappointed.
Even with the troublesome screenplay, the film is promoting its impressive use of casting. Russell Crowe is incredibly fitting in the role of Noah. He portrays this family man very well, yet still manages to utilize the character's moral ambiguity in such a magnificent way. Jennifer Connelly gets her chance to shine in the role of his wife, Naameh. She delivers a powerful amount of emotion when it is called upon. Emma Watson, Logan Lerman, and Douglas Booth don't come into the film until towards the end, but they're all excellent as Ila, Ham, and Shem, respectively. They aid in creating a more impressive atmosphere that helps carry the film to the end. Anthony Hopkins is an extraordinary touch as Methuselah, as he provides some light humor and a convincing performance. Every actor pulls their weight here, but it's a shame that the material couldn't have been stronger.
Writer/director Darren Aronofsky has a very specific tone in every one of his motion pictures. He always provides a claustrophobic atmosphere that makes the audience feel locked into the picture. Noah is on such a large scale, I was puzzled as to how he would portray the story. Aronofsky knows exactly when it's appropriate to expand the scale, but he remains locked on Noah and his family throughout, as he still provides his technique. He utilizes an interesting color palette that makes this film a joy to look at. As expected, there's a lot of CG work involved, most of which looks pretty good. For some odd reason, the decision was made to use digital babies as opposed to real ones. Do you remember the bad CG face used on baby Renesmee in Twilight? It looks like that. With some questionable choices put aside, Clint Mansell's score is absolutely superb. The audio track itself is just as marvelous. Every sound is clear as could be, and the the flooding is an audio assault on the ears that begs for the sound to be cranked up.
While ambitious, writer/director Darren Aronofsky's biblical epic isn't as impactful as I was hoping it would be. The first two acts are relatively strong and engaging in nature, but the third act wrecks nearly everything that has been built thus far. This motion picture has a clash of uneven tones and a sense of pacing that slows everything down to a halt. Once you hit this point of the film, it has completely lost its identity. It doesn't seem to realize where it wants to go, nor which direction it wants to be proceed in. The casting may be strong, but that isn't able to save an entire film. The majority of the visuals are stunning, but some of the smaller effects are underwhelming. Noah is only okay, when it should have been grand. Unfortunately, it lacks Aronofsky's magical touch. Rent it.