This ark sparks controversy
Director Darren Aronofsky’s “Noah” is certainly epic. As in, epically weird.
That being the case, the film is not devoid of artistic merit. Surely that is what the filmmakers were hoping for when they asked the director of such dark, graphic, and emotionally complex films like “The Black Swan,” “The Wrestler,” and “The Fountain” to take on a beloved Bible story. And devout Christians shouldn’t scream blasphemy since much of the story here is indeed taken from the very limited passages of the sacred text, and because Aronofsky (a self-described atheist) chooses to emphasize Noah’s survivor’s guilt as a believable consequence of his heroic obedience.
But rock monsters? That’s pretty out there, even for the non-believers. And Noah’s determination to slay his own kin to satisfy God? Holy shades of Abraham!
Russell Crowe is Noah, a devout man, leading his small family through the barren landscape, cognizant that he witnessed his father Lamech’s death when he was a boy at the hand of the evil Tubal-cain (Ray Winstone), who will one day become Noah’s nemesis. Early scenes mixing animated recaps of Adam and Eve’s fall, creation montages and live action sequences (shot in Iceland) are both bizarre and compelling.
Methuselah, Noah’s grandfather (Anthony Hopkins) is a bumbling but kind old man, living in the hills as a recluse seeming to serve no other purpose than provide the film’s very modest comic relief.
Much better are Jennifer Connelly as wife Naameh, sons Shem (Douglas Booth), Ham (Logan Lerman) and Japeth (Leo McHugh Carroll), and especially Emma Watson (of “Harry Potter” fame) as adopted daughter Ila, the girl left barren as the result of a tribal attack that destroyed her family.
If you can get over the giant rock creatures – fallen angels called “Watchers”—that protect Noah and his family and help him build the ark, there are some goosebump-inducing shots of the massive barge under construction and fascinating scenes as the animals are gathered according to “The Creator’s” command. (God is never mentioned.) But that’s a lot to ask of a film that strives for serious, artistic acceptance as an interpretation of a beloved, scripture-based story.
Crowe’s Noah is a credible, sympathetic character that nearly goes into crazed madness in order to fulfill what he sees as the ultimate decimation of all mankind. This Noah is a tough guy, trying to deal with the reality of an iconoclastic destruction, not an unreasonable conflict for the film to examine.
So it makes sense that many critics find this odd treatise something to praise, while audiences are polarized. Is there an undertone of mocking going on here? Clearly this is a film not designed for the previously converted, and not meant to convert anyone. And while Aronofsky’s craft can be beautiful to behold, controversy seems to be the gospel he preaches loudest. Understand that before you buy your ticket.
Rated PG-13 for violence, disturbing images and brief suggestive content.