You're gonna need a bigger boat ~ Methuselah
Never one to be tied into a particular genre, Darren Aronofsky has always managed to maintain a certain level of thought provoking intrigue to his body of work, from the time warping spectacle of The Fountain to the low budget grit of Pi. So when the next project he would be working on was announced as a new take on a Biblical epic I wasn't too concerned despite it appearing to be on the surface a fantasy blockbuster in the vein of so many The Lord of the Rings imitators. The likes of The Ten Commandments are hardly going to make a come back in the modern era, so a fresh approach would be interesting to see with a little intelligence applied to the oldschool mythology the makers clearly have a passion for. Even with the rumblings about CGI creatures I kept an open mind, after all good writing would be something to support any number of deviations from the traditional ideas suggested by this story. But ultimately whether they managed to create a balance between interesting character depth and big budget set pieces is up for discussion.
Noah is an impressive looking movie. Utilising the primordial landscapes of Iceland means that they avoid any of the distracting green screen back drops which made The Hobbit films seem so phoney. It's almost post apocalyptic at times. The volcanic blacks and barren open spaces manage to evoke a very interesting idea of how the world might have looked in it's earlier days. Whether this is a typical idea of the Earth created in the Old Testament is up to interpretation, and indeed the most impressive sequences offered here are those which blend ideas about fallen angels, Eden and the descendants of Cain with beautiful images suggesting the evolution of both the galaxy along with primitive life growing from fish to reptiles. The time lapse style effects are used a number of times during the story for both exposition and to further the plot, and are easily the best moments. There are hints of magical elements in the earth and even a look at animals which will soon be extinct, and these small hints are fantasy in the established lore are nice. Whether the real meat of the story and the characters portrayed are as strong as this, is another question.
In a surprisingly dark turn of events, the reality of a world destroying flood and the mental toll it has on the protagonist and his family are not shied away from. Screaming survivors are crushed by waves and the idea of whether the last humans deserve a similar fate once they have done the task at hand is questioned. These elements offer several tense scenes during the third act as the situation sinks in, it allows for a good amount of character depth as emotions run amok. There are somber hints that despite the events taking place even the chosen few are capable of depravity. The build up to the Ark's voyage on the other hand has a number of weak links, particularly when rock monsters and Ray Winstone are involved - and some big moments use both. I appreciate that the sins of man are something which needs to be shown before they are washed from the face of the planet, but at times they feel like something from another film particularly when battle speeches get churned out and the less subtle effects work arrives. I actually like the idea that banished creatures from Heaven have been cursed to become bound to the Earth itself but the Golem type designs here also seem out of place.
Despite the cast all being good with some interesting moments from Methuselah (Anthony Hopkins), Naameh (Jennifer Connelly) and Crowe as Noah himself there still feels like a clash at times as intrigue and subtlety meet dumb blockbuster action beats. It succeeds in many respects and taking it as a genre picture it certainly outshines the bigger, louder films Peter Jackson has released in the past few years, but I feel like they could have pushed further with the philosophical ideas rather than going with scenes of evil being equated to mining, hunting animals or picking flowers. It all feels a little conflicted as silly meets the sublime, though for the latter it's worth seeing.