Darren Aronofsky continues to ambitiously experiment with genres in this Old Testament blockbuster, but this is his first real misstep as a filmmaker, as the impressive parts simply don't add up. Still, there are flashes of genius as the epic struggle between good and evil is echoed both in the grand spectacle and within the characters themselves.
It starts with the original sin, which divides Adam and Eve's sons - brutal killer Cain and peaceful caretaker Seth - into warring factions. A few generations later, all that's left of Seth's righteous line is Noah (Russell Crowe), his wife (Jennifer Connelly) and three sons (Logan Lerman, Douglas Booth and Leo McHugh Carroll), plus an adopted daughter (Emma Watson). After he has a vision that God is planning to cleanse mankind with a flood, Noah consults his grandfather Methuselah (Anthony Hopkins) and builds an ark to save his family and all of earth's animals. He also gets help from the Watchers, rock-encrusted fallen angels who previously assisted Cain's descendant Tubal (Ray Winstone), who goes into battle mode to stop Noah.
All of this is inventively set in a post-apocalyptic landscape left in ruins after generations of fighting. And Noah is the last true believer tending to creation, refusing to eat meat (although he wears leather accessories) and ruling over his family like a tyrant. This of course creates various carefully scripted conflicts for his family over the months they're stuck in the ark. But the moralising is never as deep as it pretends to be.
That a simple biblical story is bloated beyond recognition isn't the problem. The script is badly overwritten, with simplistic characters (the women are only called upon to panic and shriek) and exaggerated dilemmas. And the casting is a mess. Despite decent performances, Crowe is far too blunt, Winstone too nasty, Lerman too pained, Booth too pretty, Hopkins just too much of a cliche.
That said, Aronofsky is incapable of making a boring movie. And the film is packed with wonders, including a riveting time-lapse creation account, impressively watery effects work and glorious Icelandic locations. But all of this is undermined by the melodramatic plotting, which neglects the dark, raw simplicity of a timeless legend about rebirth.
Run time: 138 mins
In Theaters: Friday 28th March 2014
Box Office USA: $101.2M
Box Office Worldwide: $359.2M
Distributed by: Paramount Pictures
Production compaines: Disruption Entertainment, Paramount Pictures, Regency Enterprises, Protozoa Pictures
Contactmusic.com: 2.5 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 77%
Fresh: 164 Rotten: 50
IMDB: 6.0 / 10
Director: Darren Aronofsky
Screenwriter: Darren Aronofsky, Ari Handel
Starring: Russell Crowe as Noah, Jennifer Connelly as Naameh, Emma Watson as Ila, Logan Lerman as Ham, Anthony Hopkins as Methuselah, Ray Winstone as Tubal Cain, Kevin Durand as Og, Ariane Rinehart as Eve, Douglas Booth as Shem, Marton Csokas as Lamech, Dakota Goyo as Young Noah, Barry Sloane as Poacher Leader, Sami Gayle as Sami, Mark Margolis as Magog (voice), Ray Winstone as Tubal Cain, Nick Nolte as Samyaza (voice)