Noah and the Ark

Noah 2014This is definitely an action/adventure film. Noah is in the category with some of the old Hercules films (They’re making a new one of these too!) This film is not an epic, nor is it a sweeping apocalyptic vision. It may well have had aspirations to be this type of film, but the reality falls short.
License was taken. License was taken to “flesh out” the story of Noah. And the irony is this: if Anthony Hopkins had played Noah, and Russell Crowe had played his eldest son, there could have been a damn good film made of this ancient story. But the reality of the Darren Aronofsky version is that it’s not a great film, nor is it a memorable one, but instead a tolerably decent story of Noah and the Ark.
The problem may lie in the method of trying to be all things. Noah fights in this film because we expect Russell Crowe to fight. Anthony Hopkins is the wise sage, because he is seen as the elder statesman. There is an obligatory young love interest, but it’s not so interesting after all. And the animals, which are at the heart of the tale of the Ark, are really used as an afterthought.
In fact, the computer generated models look downright fake at times. This is disappointing in an age where visuals are everything in a film. That being said, the film does have some interesting parts. They have written in a “stowaway” on the Ark, which is completely out in left field, if you are a strict constructionist regarding the Bible.
The rock creatures, fallen angels that help Noah to build this Hollywood version of the Ark, are particularly problematic in my judgment. In much the same way that Jar Jar Binks irritated the faithful fans of Star Wars, this addition to the story of Noah doesn’t really ring true. Yet the makers of the film must have felt the story needed that extra “oomph” that only rock creatures could provide. Go figure.
The plot thickens with just enough overtones of Mad Max to make the landscape look like something right out of Mad Max beyond Thunderdome. Everything is thrown into the plot pot and stirred. Where another directors vision might have included more plot development on a less grandiose scale, this director needed to pull out the action/adventure stand-by’s to keep this film moving along.
Would Noah and his family finish the ark before the evil army destroys their boat? Will Noah decide to let his family line die out after the flood? We know Noah and his family make the cut, so therefore we must have some type of added flavor to the story. One would think building a boat that houses all of the species of animals on the planet would be enough. Yet that is glossed over in about 5 minutes of air time.
Russell Crowe is a brilliant actor. He is not exactly miscast in this role, still he would be better served as a passionate Patriarch overseeing the New Beginning that conveys his Covenant with God. And yet, Noah’s role is not at all clear. He interprets the signs from the Creator, yet he’s never sure. And we are never sure of him.
This darker Noah is angst-ridden, filled with doubts and guilt. He doesn’t seem to have a focus for his energy. Is it his Love of God, his duty to family, his role as Preserver of the Earth, or the Keeper of the Animals? We are never sure.
In “The Bounty” there were some great scenes with Anthony Hopkins and Mel Gibson sparring with each other as they vied for the control of the ship. In this voyage, Russell Crowe as Noah flounders to understand his place. In silence, we see him struggle but never feel connected. And even the frames are at times disappointingly disjointed as they look more like storyboard stills then a cohesive and flowing picture.
Too many times the hand of the filmmaker intrudes and you may even think, “This looks like a storyboard.” That’s not what you want the audience to muse upon in the middle of a motion picture. When we know the characters will make it through alive, there has to be a compelling sub-plot. The rock creatures and the stowaway just don’t cut it.
In the end, it’s an interesting effort that would earn a B- or C ….2/1/2 stars perhaps…if we were judging this film on some arbitrary rating scale. It could be recommended only if you are curious about the logistics and execution of Noah’s Ark, and not a satisfying storyline.

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MLJ

Author of "6 Degrees of Film: The Future of Film in the Global Village", Ms. Johnson continues to blog on film and publishes a newsletter plus the Flipboard magazine 6 Degrees of Film @ the Movies. Her book is currently available on Amazon at http://www.amazon.com/Degrees-Film-Future-Global-Village/

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