Culture Magazine

Movie Review – Noah (2014)

By Manofyesterday

Director: Darren Aronofsky

Stars: Russell Crowe, Jennifer Connelly, Emma Watson, Logan Lerman, Ray Winstone, Anthony Hopkins, Douglas Booth, Leo McHugh Carroll

Noah is the epic retelling of the Bible story in which Noah is commanded by God to build an ark in which he will shepherd the animals of the world to safety while a great flood cleanses the Earth of all the sin and wickedness. Noah struggles with his task and is threatened by other humans as they try to save themselves from the impending doom. 

This was always going to be a controversial movie but I’m glad it was made because there aren’t really any Biblical epics made anymore. In Hollywood’s Golden Age there were lavish spectacles brought to life, not all of them were good but they had a grandeur and scope about them that is perhaps only matched by The Lord of the Rings. The film tries to deepen the story of Noah by showing how much of a burden it was for him to allow the rest of humanity to be condemned while he and his family were able to survive. There was a lot of conflict as he tried to interpret The Creator’s will but I’m sad to say that it’s incredibly boring and has little to no redeeming features. 

Just to lay my cards out on the table – I used to be a Christian but now I’m an athiest. I have read the Bible along with a lot of other ancient myths so I’m not tied to the idea of Noah being a factual story and I don’t mind a bit of reinterpretation and adaptation. But I don’t think religious people would be happy with the portrayal of Noah and I don’t think non-religious people would be happy either, at least, I wasn’t. 

The main conflict was between Noah (Crowe) and Tubal-Cain (Winstone). The humans were shown to be depraved and lecherous and entirely sinful, and it was Noah’s task to lead his family and the animals away from them. However, I found myself sympathizing more and more with Tubal-Cain, although the film made it clear that he was the antagonist and as such they had him do some deplorable things, but I think the film could have been written in a way to make him a tragic figure. When Tubal-Cain learns of the flood he pleas with The Creator, asking why He won’t speak to him and begging him for an explanation, they were made in His image after all, and it’s actually quite a heartbreaking scene as we see this man trying to engage in a dialog with his creator in an effort to learn why they are being punished. This just serves to show how ruthless and vengeful The Creator is. These people were made in His image and He chose to give them free will. If he’s going to offer them temptation and test their faith what right has he to be angry when they fail? My friend made a good point when he said that if his daughter did something that he disapproved of he would be disappointed, but he would also try and help her learn from her mistakes, not simply cast her aside and start again. 

But the way the film worked it was difficult to sympathize with him fully because he did do bad things. At the same time I couldn’t sympathize with Noah because he was hard-headed and displayed some horrible attitudes. And this left me feeling a bit aimless, like there was no-one for me to root for. This wouldn’t have been a bad thing if the rest of the film had been absorbing but there just wasn’t enough to grab my interest. 

One of the early warning signs was that they basically said if you aren’t a vegetarian then you’re a monster, and I get that they tried to put forward an environmental message. Yet then later on they chop a load of wood to make the ark. So I guess having respect for the environment is okay unless you really really need to exploit the resources? It just didn’t mesh well and I think the problem comes from the fact that The Creator gives out mixed signals. I also don’t get that if He created the world and the animals then why would he even need Noah to keep them safe? Why not just create them again after the flood? The other big question is that Noah and his family have to repopulate the Earth. This is all fine and hopeful…but they don’t have enough people to do it. Eventually they’re going to have to screw each other but even then there isn’t going to be enough genetic diversity, and that just felt like a gaping hole in the climax.

I thought the casting was okay but the film had such a dull and droning tone that even the dramatic, action-packed moments felt listless. There were a few things I liked thought. Parts of the film were visually stunning, the cinematography was astounding at some points and I loved the shots when they showed how the universe was created. I liked the concept of the Watchers as well – fall angels who were punished by God to live on Earth, their bodies of light encased in jagged, heavy rock. I thought there was a better story to be told in one scene that depicted Methuselah protecting the Watchers from the angry humans with a sword that flashed with blazing fire. But in a film that’s two hours and twenty minutes long it’s not enough.

Noah commits one of my cardinal sins of movemaking. I’ve mentioned it in other reviews but I don’t mind if a film is bad as long as it’s entertaining. It’s when a film is boring that I can’t find any value in it. While it deals with an epic tale I don’t feel that it raises enough philosophical questions and it never settles on whether blind faith is a good or a bad thing.  It’s long, it’s boring and it’s not the triumphant return of Biblical epics that I was hoping for. 

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