|Russell Crowe being Russell Crowe|
Darren Aronofsky is one of the few directors these days that not only I respect (despite not liking the genres that he is working on) but one of those that keeps me intrigued with each film. After the massive success of "Black Swan", he was (finally) able to do his passion project - Noah's arc. While it may sound boring and uninspiring choice for his next movie, "Noah" actually is more than just an updated version of the classic tale. This is Noah for the 21st century, filled with such modern ideas like evolution and environmental conservation that makes me wonder about the bravery that Aronofsky and co are showcasing here.
Yes it has been told a billion times but not this way. The script incorporates all the important issues that we as a race face today: environmental destruction, the decline of ideals and the fall of civilization justified by our choices to survive. There are a handful of meaningful lines to provoke religious or not thoughts regarding the decisions that man has taken (represented here by Ray Winstone's king) while Noah is shown as an extremist of god's vision that may start losing the bigger picture of His plan. Surely those who follow closely religion might object to the (a bit controversial) liberties for both the characters and their surrounding environment. These are some heavy stuff due to their nature, the pg-13 rating seems like a bad joke as quite a few scenes are horrific, and violent.
|Wish this scene was more than a minute..|
However, due to its big ambition and incorporation of various themes, "Noah" does not feel focused and although it is justifiable (this is the first truly big film of Aronofsky), this has a rather significant impact at the story. Sure we all know what happens and pretty much how the story ends. Despite solid work from (the relatively small cast), we never get to see any crucial character development besides well...Noah. The less screentime the cast has, the less important scenes it is in it, which they are passed relatively fast. And this is a fundamental problem with "Noah". The movie pretty much reaches its climax middle way through and what we get afterwards feels like an extended edition that tries to infuse and showcase the consequences of the great flood while describing the lives in the arc. Although it does not fail, it does no reach any cinematic awesomeness either. The confusion of Noah regarding the message of the Creator, the emotional conflict of his younger son, the family fear towards him are all there but are not given the appropriate sentimental gravitas. In addition, the watchers are more used as a deux-ex machina plot device twice and reveal not a single drop of character.
Like expectation, Russell Crowe is just Russell Crowe which is enough but he never gets any more expressive that he was in "Gladiator". Jennifer Connely has only one pivotal scene to shine but it feels a bit short. Ray Winstone is particularly wasted as the human king who gruffs and screams his (limited) way through the screen and it is a shame that he does not have a proper acting face off with Crowe. Despite some interesting jabs regarding his character - he is fighting for the survival of the now doomed human race! - he does not go beyond the one dimensional bad guy, especially towards the end. Noah's second son (portrayed by Logan Lerman) is just a cliche teenage rebellion boy that feels totally misplaced and mishandled with a partial role that comes into play when the plot requires to. Finally, an exceptional Antony Hopkins as Methusala has a mere 5 minute presence - as if the film was lacking crucial scenes. Much to my surprise though Emma Watson - by far the most interesting career out of the wizard trio - cannot only definitely act but elevates her (mostly dramatic) scenes, and it is great to see her playing roles that are not necessarily cute or related with magic anyways.
|More of Antony Hopkins please!|
Despites all its aforementioned flaws, this is visually an impressive film that deserves the price of admission just for that. Aronofsky, no stranger in almost surreal visuals ("Requiem for a dream", "The fountain") and subtle yet disturbing imagery ("Black Swan") delivers some truly iconic sequences - a rendering of the creation of the universe by god is infused with the theory of evolution and Darwinism in a truly astonishing scene that utilizes animation in fast forward with multiple cuts and exchanges of the environment and has almost a visually poetic hand painted quality - or the travelling of a pigeon pair towards the arc through vast almost apocalyptic and deserted landscapes reveal a rare talent behind the camera. It is like if Tarsem had a huge budge to work on and it is great to see an uncompromising filmmaker making the most out of the money that he has at his disposal to adapt such an old-school tale.
Credit has to be given to the astonishing cinematography and I already predict glorious awards in the next season. The sweeping landscapes are breathtaking with more than one screenshots resembling a live cart-postal. Strictly from visual perspective, "Noah" is a 10 out of 10, a rarity among blockbusters and expensive Hollywood pictures that puts thought and (less) spectactle in equal proportions. The special effects truly compliment Aronofsky's vision with fallen angels showcased as stone monsters, thousands of animals arriving at the arc and when the foreshadowed flood happens, you truly sense the wonder of destruction that occurs.
“Noah” certainly feels long, and sometimes the emotional scenes do not hold ell enough for us to care. There are interesting dynamics and liberties in order to bring this tale to the 21st century and keep it fresh through Aronofsky's passion, but the loss of focus and the relatively empty characters drop the levels of intrigue. Nevertheless, the visuals make up for everything with stunning landscapes and poetic almost surrealastic sequences that simply annihilate any competion that this year might reveal.
+ breathtaking visuals
+ incredible cinematography
+ auteur direction from Aronofsky
+ solid cast
+ great work from Emma Watson
+ interesting ideas and ...
- but not enough scenes that fully fleshed the characters and their thoughts
- feels rushed and studio cut
- ...with an early climax
- followed by an extended edition running time
- Antony Hopkins in an extended, glorified cameo
- wasted opportunity for Ray Winstone