By Ryan Maddux, Andy Stuckey
---- — Darren Aronofsky’s latest feature is Noah (PG-13).
The movie is based on — inspired by— the Biblical story in Genesis of a great flood and Noah’s Ark. Russell Crowe stars as Noah and is joined in the cast by Jennifer Connelly, Ray Winstone, Emma Watson and Anthony Hopkins.
Ryan: Whether it’s a comic book superhero movie, a movie based on an adaptation of a best-selling book or a film based on sacred religious text, I never think it’s a good plan to make a film that specifically caters to a predetermined fan base or demographic of people. One of the goals of any art form —including cinema— is to not just reinforce our values but to challenge our beliefs and attitudes. Aronofsy’s Noah is that type of film. Certainly the fantasy-based tone of the movie combined with some of Aronofsky’s creative decisions will alienate some moviegoers. There’s no getting around that. But whether those creative licenses are just red-flags, deal-breakers, or nothing at all will ultimately be up to each individual moviegoer to ascertain for themselves.
Andy: Interpreting the meaning behind the stories in the Bible is obviously something that is done on a daily basis by millions of people, but such interpretations are not often set to film with a major studio budget behind it. Because of the inherent choices someone has to make in interpreting a story that is at once so familiar and so vague, Noah is likely going to upset some of the audience. While taking such a “Hollywood” approach to a traditional story may cause problems for some people, my biggest concern with the movie is that it is a bit of a mess. If the plot and themes were a little more tightly wound, the movie would be more successful.
Ryan: Even if you like some of Aronofsky’s films (and I do), he’s a divisive type of filmmaker. He’s a very passionate director and his vision doesn’t always mesh with a general audience (and I include myself in that). But to suggest that his film Noah is nothing more than a complete provocation of the Noah story is (arguably) erroneous. In fact, I believe that he takes large parts of the text very seriously. And his presentation of much of that is earnest. But no matter who was producing a film about Noah’s Ark, the fact remains that some liberties have to be taken to flesh out a story that’s less than 2,500 words. It was clear that the story – to be adapted into a feature-film – needed some sort of internal conflict (let’s be honest: the account in Genesis is very matter-of-fact) and what is presented in the film is a more brooding Noah burdened by the weight of his responsibility. This emotional toil causes the existential crisis that drives much of the second act.
Andy: I find Aronofsky’s films to be hit and miss, and Noah falls a little more into the miss category. The last time Aronofsky had a budget this big, he made 2006’s disastrous “The Fountain.” While Noah is clearly a more straight-forward film, it suffers from the same narrative sloppiness that plagued The Fountain. Fortunately, the combination of Aronofsky’s maturation as a filmmaker and a surprisingly strong performance by Russel Crowe allows Noah to hold up reasonably well in spite of some of these shortcomings.
Ryan: All-in-all I found the film Noah to be a flawed epic. Whether I’m agreeing or disagreeing with Aronosky’s creative decisions, I can nevertheless process his point-of-view. My biggest issue with the movie is that it drags in the second act and that there’s a needless plot thread — and character – that distracts from the climax of the movie. But ultimately, while the film will surely have its detractors (and that is what it is), it’s a skillfully shot movie that does engage the essence of Noah’s odyssey — that of sin, judgment, mercy and rebirth.
While Noah has many problems, it is still effective enough to garner a B-.