“Just sit right back and you’ll hear a tale, a tale of a fateful trip…” Academy Award winners Russell Crowe, Jennifer Connelly and Anthony Hopkins star in the tale of the greatest God-fearing, alcoholic, sea-navigating zookeeper ever born, Noah.

NoahCast of Characters:
Noah – Russell Crowe
Naameh – Jennifer Connelly
Tubal-Cain – Ray Winstone
Ila – Emma Watson
Ham – Logan Lerman
Shem – Douglas Booth
Methuselah – Anthony HopkinsDirector – Darren Aronofsky
Screenplay – Darren Aronofsky & Ari Handel
Producer – Scott Franklin, Darren Aronofsky, Mary Parent & Arnon Milchan
Rated PG-13 for violence, disturbing images and brief suggestive content

Based on the Biblical account in Genesis that, unless you’ve been hiding under a rock your entire life, most everyone knows about, Noah (Russell Crowe) and his family – wife Naameh (Jennifer Connelly) and three sons Shem (Douglas Booth), Ham (Logan Lerman) and Japheth (Leo McHugh Carroll) – are fighting to survive in a barren, post-apocalyptic world where pretty much everything them has gone to hell in a handbasket. When Noah begins to suffer from disturbing visions, he realizes, with some sage help from his very, very, very elderly grandfather Methuselah (Anthony Hopkins), that the Creator will destroy the earth for all of mankind’s wickedness. To survive the inevitable aquatic apocalypse, Noah and his family must build an ark to shelter themselves and the animals.

While building the ark, Noah is met with some opposition from the fierce tribal leader Tubal-Cain (Ray Winstone) – a man Noah has some history with as a child – who wants to seize the ark from Noah before the great deluge can wipe him off the face of the earth.

Obviously, this film has generated a ton of controversy, even months before it was actually released. Anytime any movie based off the Bible’s gonna stir up controversy, with the anti-God crowd bemoaning, “Ugh… Why is Aronofsky wasting his time with crap like this?” (mostly just internet noobs looking for a reason to troll), and then the pro-God crowd ranting that the film better follow every single word and punctuation mark in the Bible. Don’t add or take away anything ’cause it’s damnation to hell if you do. Well, to those that follow the good Lord like I do, you know that Noah’s gonna be a difficult film for anyone to pull off a feature-film length narrative since it’s only about four chapters in Genesis. I’m all for remaining faithful to the source, but unlike other more extensive Biblical tales like Jacob, Joseph, Moses or David where their narrative is mostly cradle to grave, creative liberties are gonna have to be made with a story like Noah.

Or, here’s a thought to those complaining on both sides of the aisle. Don’t see the movie. End of story.

That out of the way, after all the hoopla and hype, I can say that while Noah’s not a perfect film, certainly not the best out of Aronofsky’s canon, it is still quite an enjoyable experience. I mean, after witnessing something like God’s Not Dead last week, you can really do no worse.

If there is anything co-writer/director Darren Aronofsky has proven he excels at, it’s creating lead characters filled with obsession like we’ve seen him do in Pi, Requiem for a Dream, The Wrestler, The Fountain (which I’ll admit I liked), and Black Swan. Out of all the characters in the Bible, it’s no wonder he’d go with Noah. Despite the limited character arc to the man, if you really sit back and think about it, there is an obsessive nature to Noah that’s perfect for Aronofsky’s vision. As you see the film unfold, scene by scene, you can immediately tell his unique and beautiful visual style right away.

Front and center of it all is Russell Crowe as the titular character. Crowe brings a darker and tormented edge to the man that I definitely never got in my childhood Sunday school classes. One of the most powerful scenes is a single shot of an isolated Noah, quietly sitting within the ark, hearing only the screams of those outside being wiped away by the flood. Depression, madness and rock bottom drunkenness ensue. I think it tends to escape most Christians’ minds, as they tend to think of a happier Noah and his family surrounded by smiling animals, that Noah was probably a lot more haunted of a man than we think of him to be. All those days cooped up in a wooden box and you don’t think they’d get a little touch of Cabin Fever? Crowe brings those aspects to light in a strong performance.

Although this is mostly Crowe’s movie, we also get Anthony Hopkins in a few scenes as the berries obsessed Methuselah. Hopkins provides the extremely aged patriarch of Noah’s clan with the panache he does so great. Plus, who knew Methuselah left this world like a boss? The always entertaining Ray Winstone gets to chew the scenery with much flare as the antagonist Tubal-Cain. The lovely Jennifer Connelly doesn’t get much to work with, she does get one good scene in confronting Noah where she hits it out of the park, and Logan Lerman shares a few nice dramatic moments with Crowe as the embittered middle-child Ham.

As I said up above, this film isn’t without flaws, most of them coming from Emma Watson (whose character’s an adoptive not biological daughter to Noah, so there won’t be any future babies with arms growing out their foreheads). It’s not a bad performance, but there’s a subplot involving her being barren that came off as unnecessary, and then her magically becoming pregnant by way of a blessing from Methuselah was a bit contrived. It’s like she apparently can’t have any kids, so much for humanity continuing on. Oh, hey, look at that. Voila! She can have them now. Also, I felt the Watchers (fallen angels transformed into deformed stone creature) came off as kinda – like they’d say in Fargo – “You know – eh – kinder funny looking.” It’s a visionary step that I’d expect from Aronofsky and he’s smart enough to keep it from derailing the film, but at the same time the creatures almost take you out of the film when they appear.

Flaws aside, I still found myself engaged in Aronofsky’s visually mesmerizing interpretation of the small yet epic Biblical tale. Some on both sides will be turned off by the film. I understand that. Whether you are a believer or not though, as a film, this does exactly what a film should do: entertain. I’m not looking for a sermon here. Between the wonderfully talented cast and crew, they’ve taken limited source material and created a gorgeously shot (a combination of CGI and shot locations in Iceland), darker, bleaker tale of a righteous yet still deeply flawed man with themes of mercy, faith and redemption – both personal and spiritual – echoing through it. The movie may be flawed like the man it’s portraying, but it’s still an adventure to witness.

I give Noah an A- (★★★½).

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