“Fire consumes all. Water cleanses. It separates the foul from the pure. The wicked from the innocent. And that which sinks from that which rises. He destroys all, but only to start again.”
With movies like The Wrestler, Requiem for a Dream and Black Swan, Darren Aronofsky deals in a certain form of grand pomposity. Even if the movie is small and gritty, it feels like he’s always trying to make some big statement about the human condition. I tend to like a movie less when I can see that grand statement right there on the surface. I don’t want a movie to blatantly tell me what to think, I want it to subconsciously sneak its message into my brain. Russell Crowe is a man who seems to live his entire life with an attitude of grand pomposity. And if you’re looking for a story of grand pomposity, you could do a lot worse than to go to the Bible. Which is why I was a little worried going into an Aronofsky/Crowe collaboration of Noah.
With a quick bible lesson, a prologue gives us the story of Adam and Eve’s sons, Cane and Able. Cane killed Able, his people became the baddies, and the descendants of others (Able, I guess) became the way outnumbered goodies. When a young Noah sees his father killed and a sacred snakeskin stolen, he becomes seemingly the last of the good men. Until a few decades later when he’s now played by Crowe and has built a family with wife Naameh (Jennifer Connelly) and a few kids. After some sort of fever dream, Noah decides God is sending a flood to cleanse the Earth. Now he must travel to see his grandfather (Anthony Hopkins as Methuselah) and build an arc to save the animals of the world.
This is where the rock giants come in. Fallen angels depicted by terrible CGI, the rock giants have stayed out of the way of humans for centuries after the descendants of Cane turned on them last time. Noah convinces them to help, and together, over the span of a decade, they get the arc built. Just in time for Noah’s kids to be old enough for their characters to have love interests and romantic story arcs. There are his two oldest sons, Ham (Logan Lerman) and Shem (Douglas Booth). Ham’s biggest concern is having no girls to bone down with once they world ends, Shem’s biggest concern is the fact that is girlfriend (and adopted sister), Emma Watson as Ila, can’t have kids.
Once the flood is imminent, the leader of the Canaanites, Tubal-Cain (Ray Winstone) decides he wants in on the arc and shit gets real. Once we see he’s also wearing the sacred snakeskin taken from Noah’s dad, we have another reason shoved down our throat to not like him.
Up until this point, the thing that impressed me most with Noah was the way Aronofsky had found a great balance between staying faithful to the bible story to keep those people happy, and finding ways to make it more cinematic and exciting by 2104 standards to keep the average movie goer happy. Rock giants aside, it seemed pretty similar to the story I heard way too many times during 12 years of catholic school. But once the flood comes and they set sail, Noah goes off the rails in all sorts of bat shit crazy ways that may not have made me like it much, but I sure did respect the balls of it.
Noah is a pompously grand as I expected from Russell Crowe starring in a bible story directed by Darren Aronofsky. But for all that, I didn’t hate it. I think it will go down in movie history as a “how did that get made?” curiosity. And there are worse legacies for a move to have.