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New Release Review - Noah

Adaptation of the famous Bible tale.

Directed by: Darren Aronofsky
Starring: Russell Crowe, Jennifer Connelly, Anthony Hopkins, Emma Watson, Ray Winstone, Logan Lerman, Nick Nolte




In an undetermined time and place, Noah (Crowe) receives a series of indications from what he believes to be his "creator", warning of an impending flood that will destroy the world as he knows it. Fallen angels, who have taken the form of giant rock monsters, known as "Watchers", come to Noah's aid in building an ark after witnessing the miraculous effects of a seed, taken from the garden of Eden, presented to Noah by his grandfather Methuselah (Hopkins). Noah tells his family they must build the ark and fill it with two of every creature on Earth in order to save life on the planet. Determined to stop him, however, is Tubal-Cain (Winstone) a cannibal warlord who wants the ark for himself.
The initial announcement of Darren Aronofsky's plans to bring the popular Bible tale to the screen was roundly greeted with a cry of "WTF?". Though Bible adaptations had proven lucrative back in the Cinemascope era of the fifties, in the decades since, Hollywood has done its best to remain secular and avoid religious themes for fear of alienating potential audiences. In recent years, however, the niche audience has become one that Hollywood execs are keen to exploit. Mel Gibson's Passion of the Christ became a hit due to Church groups heading out en masse to see it, while Tyler Perry's movies have a loyal following among the African-American community. Thus, Aronofsky was presented with a reported budget of $160 million and largely allowed to do his own thing in the assumption that the Christian dollar alone would be enough to turn a profit.
And that's exactly what Aronofsky has done. While the execs may now regret their decision, with religious groups condemning the film as blasphemous, it's resulted in one of the most interesting and enjoyable big budget movies to come out of Hollywood in recent years. Production seemed to last an age, and was ironically delayed due to flooding, leading most to expect an old school "cast of thousands" biblical epic in the Cecil B de Mille mold. The resulting film certainly doesn't resemble one with such a large budget and despite the trailer's focus on the movie's one large set-piece, Aronofsky has given us a rather low-key drama, albeit a low-key drama with giant rock monsters.
These creatures appear early on, and how you react to them will largely decide whether or not you're willing to accept Aronofsky's take on the fable. Christians and Muslims will likely balk, as the director draws on his Jewish heritage and the folklore of the Golem, mythical stone creatures who defended Jews from anti-semitic attacks. These creatures have notably been left out of the promotional material, presumably so as not to alienate those who like their nonsensical Bible tales a little less nonsensical, but their old school stop-motion movements immediately brought me a warm glow.
Much of the movie feels like something Ray Harryhausen might have worked on 50 years ago, with stop motion and time lapse effects creating some thrilling visual moments, but it's the cult Australian filmmaker Peter Weir whose influence is most felt in Aronofsky's film. The impending sense of the landscape turning against humanity recalls Picnic at Hanging Rock, Noah's survivor guilt reminds us of Jeff Bridges' plane crash survivor from Fearless, while his loss of faith in humanity echoes Harrison Ford's contempt of western civilization in The Mosquito Coast. But it's Weir's 1977 film, The Last Wave, that Aronofsky, as Jeff Nicholls did with Take Shelter, most explicitly draws on. As with Noah, hat movie's protagonist was plagued by visions of an impending flood.
As you would expect from a Bible tale, Noah is often ridiculous and not one for nitpickers. It's at times unintentionally hilarious, like when Winstone is told not to eat the Ark's animals, as "we've only got two of each", and Aronofsky isn't subtle when it comes to pushing his environmental message down our throats. But it's never dull, and how many recent big budget Hollywood movies can you say that about?
7/10


Eric Hillis

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