Noah Sinks Beneath Aranofsky’s Action-Oriented Melodrama

Posted on May 23, 2014 by

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The biblical story of Noah and the ark has been passed down through history in cultures and countries all over the world, and the latest re-telling of the classic fable is Darren Aronofsky’s Noah, the first Hollywood production to tackle this particular tale. The film was met with a myriad of controversy from Christians who believe Aronofsky and Ari Handel, who co-wrote the screenplay with Aronofsky, took too many liberties with the story.

It is hard to imagine a big-budget, audience-pleasing film of this ilk that doesn’t take liberties with the story to appeal to the action-oriented market of today’s movie goers. For those who need a refresher, according to the Bible, Noah was tasked by God (who is never referred to as such in the film, only ‘the creator’) to build an ark that would house two of every creature on Earth in order to survive a coming apocalypse, via flood, that would rid the Earth of sinful humans.

It becomes a little more complicated than that, but those who aren’t well-versed in their Biblical timelines need not worry. This is an action-oriented film, and, before long, the familiar Hollywood clichés begin to appear. The biggest set piece involves giant golem-like creatures, called Watchers, fighting off hordes of attackers, attempting to get aboard Noah’s ark before the rains drown them all.

These giants are actually fallen angels who have taken it upon themselves to help Noah build his ark in hopes that God would let them back into heaven when the task is complete. If this sounds a bit ridiculous to you, then you’re not alone; this plot device has been widely criticized by both the religious right and sensible filmgoers in general who aren’t too excited to see this Biblical tale turned into an overblown spectacle.

Unfortunately, this isn’t the only liberty taken by the film. The third act turns into pure melodrama, as if Aronofsky and Handel knew their film needed broader, sensational plot developments to keep the interest of moviegoers.

Their distrust in the audience is disappointing, since Noah is an otherwise ambitious film that boasts several visually impressive sequences, including the building of the ark itself and Noah’s visions of impending doom. Russell Crowe is well-suited for the title role, with his unwavering, stern obedience to God’s will, which often seems like genocide, leaving some people to believe Noah was portrayed in a negative light.

This would make Noah sound like a dark character study, like some of Aronofsky’s earlier films, Black Swan or The Wrestler. Unfortunately, Noah’s internal struggle with his faith is pushed too hard in the final hour, almost to the point of unintentional humor. Add on top of that unnecessary subplots, too many fantasy elements, and dialogue that is about as subtle as a sledgehammer, and you get a mess of a film that pleases no one.

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