Starring: Russell Crowe, Jennifer Connelly, Anthony Hopkins
Director: Darren Aronofsky
Running time: 138 minutes
Based on the story from the Old Testament of the Christian Bible, Noah tries too hard on too many fronts. Given that it was produced in a country where 72 per cent of the population confidently believe in, and worship, Noah’s God, it was going to be a big ask.
Many Americans actually consider this the making of a documentary rather than a piece of Hollywood A-Grade fluff. For the Christian audience, it can only be seen as ‘loosely based’ on the original story, but the whole tale of Noah in the Bible isn’t exactly big on detail so there’s plenty or wriggle room for the director, Darren Aronofsky.
There are extra characters, and plenty of timely mentions of the environment, making it a film for its time and the involvement of creatures that would probably better belong in a Peter Jackson Lord of the Rings sequel.
All the plot absurdities from the original story remain – the whole idea of finding two of every creature and herding them into a floating zoo around 130 metres long. And questions about the original story – such as explaining how the lions don’t eat that pair of tasty looking zebras – are nicely explained with magic sleeping smoke that renders the creatures unconscious for the forthcoming cruise.
Even the herding sequence is made easier with a gifted CGI department (in this case Industrial Light & Magic) – the animals seem to come two by two, in neat, orderly lines (crowd control ‘Old Testament’ style) so Noah doesn’t even have to go out and find them. There’s also a stowaway in this version; what’s a Hollywood flick without a baddie!
Kudos to casting though, as it’s hard to consider anyone else playing the part of the main character. Part tortured soul, part warrior, part serial killer of the rest of the human race, Russell Crowe frowns and mutters through the story with varying degrees of facial hair.
Jennifer Connelly, playing opposite Crowe again after their collaboration in A Beautiful Mind, is the sanest of the hapless family, and pulls together a performance fitting of a woman trying to keep a psychotic husband focused on preserving the future of the world.
Ray Winstone, Emma Watson and Logan Lerman give the film its emotional glue, whilst the ubiquitous Anthony Hopkins plays an old man because there’s clearly no other ageing male actors in the US. The other stars are rocks – you’ll have to go and see the film to figure that one out.
Interestingly, the name ‘God’ is never muttered during the entire movie, obviously taking advantage of a wider world audience – epic floods and vengeful gods form part of many religious texts. We also never get to hear from the Creator, the instigation to build the ark coming from vivid hallucinations instead. Whilst most of us would just take our medication, Noah instead decides to build a 130 metre timber ark and plot the demise of the rest of his family.
The look of the film moves the tale from its Middle Eastern roots to a more cinematic setting, the mountainous slopes and plains of an Icelandic landscape. The costume department have also taken a bit of creative licence, borrowing less from the sword and sandal epics of the past and going for more of a Mad Max genre. The actual ark is pretty much true to the original story, and looks like a bloated timber shipping container rather than the more stylised boats often depicted.
Probably the biggest downfall of Noah is that it tries to be too many things to too many people, attempting to keep the Christians happy and entertain the rest of us as well.
You’ve got to hand it to Russell, he does hold it all together and his raw star-power will propel this epic to box-office success. But if you live in Pakistan, Bahrain, Qatar, UAE, Malaysia, or Indonesia, you won’t be able to see this movie because it was banned, even before it was released.
In Titanic, we couldn’t wait for the damn boat to sink. In this tale we just wish they’d hit land so we can all have a toilet break. An epic, in just about every sense – just get an extra large popcorn.