Review: Noah

Noah-2014-Movie-ImagesWhilst Noah’s story is well trodden ground and an irrefutable children’s literature classic, the choppy merging of Biblical truth and director Darren Aronofsky’s vision found here and most “American Biblically-inspired epics” calls for a brief synopsis.

There’s an imminent flood and Noah (Russell Crowe) is tasked by God to build an ark for his family and two of every animal. Only this time neighbouring King Tubal-cain (Ray Winstone) thinks he and his people should survive (the selfish bastard). So when Noah tells him he’s not on the guestlist, he starts gathering his people to wage war and steal the ark once it starts raining. Also tagging along for the ride are Noah’s wife Naameh (Jennifer Connely), sons Shem (Douglas Booth), Ham (Logan Lerman), Japheth, and rescued orphan/gene pool widener Ila (Emma Watson). So far, so good.

The film runs into its first spot of trouble however, when it’s message, or messages, start to emerge. In the opening we are told of two factions, one descended from Abel, infamous banished brother-muderer, who have become sinful, greedy and industrious Cockneys by mining a finite resource and one from Seth- the third and most forgettable of Adam and Eve’s children. Seth’s clan are industrious sorts who are respectful toward nature, only take what they need and vegetarian.

So here we go, we think. Environmentalists vs Ray Winstone. I can get on board with this. Except the finite resources stop being important once Noah’s dad get’s murdered on their behalf and the imperialist attitude of Ray Winstone and his people seems to be more about food. Still though, finite resources. There’s definitely a message here somewhere. Before it is allowed to sink in, the film bluntly pans to a jarring monologue about man’s evil nature, with Noah telling his whole family about how the world was great without us and will be once great when we’re all dead. This revelation is backed with explosive visuals of two men, killing each other with muskets and machine guns as they leap through time. So now it’s also a film about war and human nature. Let’s just chalk it up to a brighter future theme.

SPOILERS/ It’s important to draw attention to the facts that Emma Watson’s character is established as infertile early on and Noah isn’t keen on mankind existing. Important because, amidst all of the ethical remonstrations the subplots dumps on us, it is from here that the film really finds its feet. Noah’s eldest son and Emma Watson are an item from the beginning, which anti-natalist Noah is okay with because she can’t have children. So with the 3 boys and her, there’s no chance of human beings making it in the post flood world. Except when she eventually becomes pregnant things take a very interesting turn. It turns into ‘The Shining’ on an ark, with Noah promising to murder his unborn grandchild if it’s a girl. Although taboo, it is these infanticidal inclinations that offer a little edge to Noah’s interpretation of God’s will, his relationship with his family, including an excellent scene with his wife and the inevitable tensions that would come up on a 40 day cruise where it rained all the time, and allows Crowe’s character a little fleshing out. Unfortunately, this only begins two thirds of the way through the film and after an awful lot of arc building./SPOILERS

Visually this is an undeniably striking film. The flood is pretty spectacular and the golem-like creatures that help with ark building are great for setting a mythical feel. The casting however, is only okay. Russell Crowe’s portrayal of Noah is as quite an unsympathetic character, and except for some unprovoked murders, Ray Winstone isn’t all that evil; selfish and stupid, but not evil. Emma Watson is still trying to break the Hermione shackles, but this won’t be the role that does it.¬†Throughout, wandering accent syndrome abounds, so severe its apparent even within the intended mess of dialects. Noah and his wife have transatlantic accents, all their children are unfathomably English and Noah’s grandfather is Welsh (sometimes). It’s hard to know why. Whilst all of this is forgivable and fundamentally periphery in a Bible-based-ethical-action-thriller, what’s not is the miscast baddy. A flood is the ultimate enemy. The inevitable battle scene just feels out of place.

Not without it’s charms but far from perfect, visually impressive but lacking in substance. Although it’s mixed up message was slightly lost on me, I think I need to go punch a puddle while recycling.