Wednesday, April 2, 2014

NOAH (2014)

Rated:  PG-13

STARS:  Russell Crowe,  Jennifer Connelly,  Emma Watson,  Ray Winstone, Anthony Hopkins,  Logan Lerman
 DIRECTOR: Darren Aronofsky
GENRE: Drama

I was initially put off by the idea of seeing Noah, because Bible stories, to me, are in the same category as Greek Mythology--great stories from writers who had some wild imaginations, to be taken with a liberal sprinkling of salt.  And since Easter is right around the corner--and with it the annual return of Charlton Heston as Moses and the rest of those similarly campy films from the fifties the television stations drag out for God knows what reason this time of year--I was so hoping that Noah might be a breath of fresh air. 

My prayers were answered.

As a film, Noah is a remarkable achievement.  Noah (Russell Crowe) is a kind of obsessed environmentalist who sees the value in preserving the innocent creatures of the world, of which wicked Man is notwithstanding. The images of beast and fowl winging and plodding their way toward the ark are awe-inspiring. Scripture mentions giants inhabiting the earth in those days, but director Darren Aronofsky takes it a step further with some hulking CGI rock monsters who would look more at home in a film like Transformers. A little something for the kids, perhaps.

Jennifer Connelly, as Noah's wife,  gives us some soul-stirring moments when she stands up to the monomaniacal man as he is about to go off the deep end and do some really mean and nasty stuff.

 Noah is a film full of beauty, grandeur and intensity, and rife with irony when you consider the idea of the Creator sending a big flood to wipe the slate clean and start anew, hopeful that this time things will be different. Especially in light of the condition our planet is in today.

Grade:  A  


[Tim didn't bother telling you that I had to drag him to this movie, bitching and moaning all the way. So it gives me no small measure of satisfaction to read his glowing review!]

As for me? I kind of like those old cinemascopic epics. Especially the villains—Peter Ustinov as Nero, Richard Boone as Pontius Pilate, Laurence Olivier as Crassus. But the biggest villain in Noah is Noah himself. Torn between doing God's bidding or following his own humanness, he's a larger-than-life character with an abundance of problems to overcome. Portrayed with deep-voiced veracity by Russell Crowe, the film is billed as an "epic story of courage and sacrifice from the Old Testament." Now I could be picky about some of the incongruities in this cautionary tale. Did they have buzz cuts back then? How come Noah aged and his wife didn't? Can fish really survive without water? But logic and Bible stories are not necessarily synonymous. And after I saw Noah, I actually went home and read chapters 5 through 9 in Genesis. Holy cow! There were certainly a lot of literary liberties taken. But in my view, they improved the story considerably. (Creative blasphemy to some, good film-making to others.) If Tim hadn't already made a comparison to Transformers, I would have. Those rock monsters aka "Watchers" could have just as easily been rebuilding a razed New York City in 2020 as helping Noah build his ark.

And kudos to Anthony Hopkins as an impishly ancient Methuselah. In a final scene, when he's enjoying some freshly picked berries, I could almost hear him adding 'some fava beans and a nice Chianti.'