While watching Darren Aronofsky’s latest film Noah two things really stick out. First is that this is the biggest film Aronofsky has made, which makes sense as this is the biggest budget he has been given to work with yet. Second is that despite the bigger production values and the larger scale, this distinctly remains a Darren Aronofsky film. With unique visuals and a main character on the edge of sanity this is unmistakably the work of Aronofsky. Like most of Aronofsky’s work (outside of the masterful Black Swan) Noah is a film with a lot of ambition but fails to fully take advantage of it.
Noah tells the biblical tale of Noah’s Ark. While most of the movie stays true to the somewhat vague tale (including a drunken escapade that Noah goes on that has some uninformed Christians in fits), some close-minded people will have a lot to pick at. Aronofsky tries to find a way to include something for everyone and that will make those who have such an exact vision of what this tale should be angry and disappointed. It also doesn’t help that Noah (who is portrayed by Russell Crowe in the film) is an anti-hero that the film doesn’t even try to bother making sympathetic at points in the film.
Yet these two factors might be the two biggest strengths of the film. There really is something for everyone in this film whether it is the fantastical elements, strong female characters (Jennifer Connelly and Emma Watson are the standouts of the film as Noah’s wife and Noah’s daughter-in-law respectively), and a good portrayal of God (who is only referred to as the Creator in this film but definitely has a large role). Also, the conflicted nature of Noah leaves room for an interesting internal struggle that carries the second half of the film as it transitions from a fantastical epic to a much smaller scale and intimate film.
All this being said Noah has some major pacing issues. The transition from the epic nature of the first half of the film to the intimate nature of the second half is quite jarring. Some sections of the first half go on for far too long without any sense of momentum while the second half doesn’t become worth it until you get to the conclusion of the film. Due to this Noah is definitely a film you should see twice to fully appreciate it as the seemingly directionless nature of the second half should become much more clear on repeat viewing. Still, I think Aronofsky tried to tackle a little more than he could handle and some of the messages of the film don’t completely hit the mark.
Hollywood has really struggled in recent decades with biblical films, and while Noah won’t have the cultural impact that The Passion of the Christ has it certainly is the most memorable since the glory days of sword and sandal epics.