A man builds a massive boat to survive the coming flood.
That summary is quite purposefully bland and that’s because Darren Aronofsy’s Noah is a film that works to sideline the openly religious aspects of its inspiration in favour of a simple story with potentially deep resonance for secular and faithful alike.
But the film itself is far from a bland experience. As you might expect from the filmmaker behind Requiem for a Dream, Black Swan and The Fountain there’s visual style to spare here. And it also has another thing going for it – totally unabashed nuttiness.
Noah is a crazy flick, from the opening animation depicting the fall of man to the lead to the lead characters alcohol quaffing final moments with plenty in between including rock giants, ridiculous animals, Ray Winstone gobbling scenery, crazy visions and Tony Hopkins really, really wanting some berries.
Equally insane is the fact that all of this stuff exists in a $125 million movie from a major studio, with proper stars attached and a marketing campaign which worked its ass off to appeal to faith based groups. And that strategy seems to have worked, at least in the short term, with box office receipts already in excess of $100 million.
And it truly does seem like there are elements for those on both sides of the religious divide to enjoy. While the story may be somewhat fanciful, the basic tenets of a man severely tested by faith remain and you feel the weight of each decision in the features of star Russell Crowe.
For everyone else, you can still engage with the drama or wait for more crazy shit. Like the creation story told in an utterly stunning time lapse sequence that puts Terrence Malick’s wanky Tree of Life to Shame. Or rock giant Watchers – sad and crippled beings tossed down to earth with frowny faces and grizzled voices by the likes of Nick Nolte. I would have watched an entire film about them.
So there’s fun to be had, sometimes in spades and sometimes while watching rock monsters thrash humans in massive battle scenes. But Aronofsky’s latest is also only a couple of steps removed from a total disaster, with only the director’s visual verve and Crowe’s commitment really pulling it back from the brink.
By all rights, this is a film which really shouldn’t exist. It’s too long, frequently too esoteric and prone to moments of what-the-fuckery which reach a cacophonous level by the third hour, sadly showcasing one of Clint Mansell’s weakest scores to date. And yet, it’s this zany tone which remains its greatest asset, with the film essentially just a series of images and ideas strung together by Aronofsky, illustrated by ILM and thrust out into the world.
On a big screen, with the volume up to 11 the heavens lashing the ground with rain as titans battle humans for the sake of the future of the race, it’s bloody brilliant stuff. And potentially even better if you consider the entire thing to be a post-apocalyptic tale of survival. But ultimately it’s more of a curio piece than an accessible entertainment, and all the more baffling and fleetingly impressive for it.