RATING: ★★★ (3/4)
Trying to encapsulate a biblical tale as epic as the story of Noah into a feature-length film is undoubtedly a tall order for any director. However, Darren Aronofsky, who has directed critical successes including Black Swan and The Wrestler, once again manages to exhibit his cinematic acumen in the film Noah. While the movie is definitely a little choppy and unnecessarily sporadic at times, Russell Crowe’s strong performance acts as a worthy adhesive, allowing the audience to overlook the film’s shortcomings.
Noah will likely be a film that you either hate or love with a passion. The reason for this is the liberties and creative license that Aronofsky takes in order to make the story of Noah, a relatively short tale in the Bible, a functional Hollywood production. This reality is visible in the fact that the film currently has a 49% audience rating on Rotten Tomatoes, which means that the verdict among moviegoers is basically split down the middle.
Despite this mixed reception from audiences, the critical consensus has been mostly positive, with the film currently holding a 76% critic rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Regardless of your religious affiliation, almost everyone knows the story of Noah. As a result, I feel that the movie would have been rather lacking and timid in its scope had it simply chronicled what is explicitly mentioned in the Bible.
Instead, Aronofsky conveys Noah as a deeply conflicted character who grapples with his deeply-held, divine beliefs as well as his innate, humanistic love for his family. While Ray Winstone portrays a ruthless barbarian who seeks to overtake Noah’s ark, in many ways Noah himself can be viewed as the film’s antagonist, or at a minimum a fluid character who evolves from protagonist to antagonist, only to return as the protagonist at the termination of the movie. The humanization of Noah throughout the film is very reminiscent of John Milton’s literary work Paradise Lost, which portrays Satan as a fallible, human-like protagonist.
As a result of Aronofsky’s alternate take on the story of Noah, the film’s climax comes well after the flood itself, when Noah ultimately chooses the goodness of man over the perceived wishes of God. This powerful message is unfortunately diluted by a vast series of subplots, most of which are left unresolved. For example, one theme that is developed throughout the movie is the innate, reproductive desire of humans, which I dare say can be taken by some as a subtle affirmation of traditional marriage. Moreover, the movie addresses the age-old conundrum of fate versus free will, a subplot that comes across as forced and uncoordinated with the overall message of the film.
Having been raised in the states of Alabama and Texas, I definitely consider myself a Christian and a believer in God. However, my beliefs are not so blindly grounded in explicit biblical scripture that I am offended by this film’s alternate interpretation of the story of Noah. In fact, I find it quite refreshing that a biblical figure as universally revered as Noah is conveyed to the audience in a very human-like manner, allowing for a very powerful ending.
Check out the trailer here!