It's not only biblical prophets who have visions, movie directors have them too. And when a filmmaker like
Grandiose, improbable, outlandish and overwrought,
Aronofsky's previous films, including commercial successes
On the expected side of the ledger are impressive computer-generated marvels like the world's creatures showing up in the inevitable two by two (no animals were harmed because none were used) and a 5,000 gallons per minute rain scene to end all rain scenes. (This was The Flood, after all.) And production designer Mark Friedberg got to build a big chunk of an imposing 75-foot-high, 45-foot-wide, 450-foot-long ark described in the press notes as "hewing to the most authentic measurements."
This is what moviegoers thought they'd be getting, but there is more going on here, a whole lot more. Aronofsky's "Noah" includes not-so-covert messages about despoiling the planet, a bemused
And then there is the nature of Noah himself. Always a fiercely masculine presence,
Working with co-screenwriter and frequent collaborator Ari Handel, Aronofsky has delved deeply into the bottomless world of biblical legend, apocrypha like the Book of Enoch and midrashic commentary to fill in the blanks in the flooded one's spare story. If you don't remember dialogue like "What are you doing, Noah?" or environmentalist sentiments on the order of "we broke the world, we deserved this" from your Sunday school class, you are not alone.
Yet "Noah," perhaps mindful of the box office power of religious believers, couldn't be more respectful, even reverential to the traditional idea of what Noah calls "the creator" who brought the world into being and very much continues to call all the shots.
It is not, however, a world where people are very happy. A blight of wickedness has fallen on this blighted land (the film was shot in bleakest Iceland) and roving hordes of marauders — more reminiscent of Cormac McCarthy's
After a brief prologue, we are introduced to the adult Noah, a vegetarian descendant of Seth presented as perhaps the world's first locavore, advising his two young sons that "we take only what we need, what we can use," and cherishing his wife, Naameh (
Noah, however, is troubled by recurring dreams involving, yes, water. After consulting with Methuselah, he has to face facts: The creator is going to destroy the world, blotting out all human life. After another dream, he knows his task is to build an ark, which, assisted by those Watchers (voices include
Cut to 10 years later (hey, building an ark takes time). Noah has a new son named Japheth (Leo McHugh Carroll) and that young girl has grown into the comely Ila (
Noah, however, has more pressing problems. Villainous local ruler Tubal-cain (Winstone) has heard about the ark (news travels slowly but it travels) and shows up with his pagan hordes demanding to be taken on board when the time comes. Noah puts the kibosh on that idea, but you don't have to be as wise as Methuselah to predict that this question will be revisited, and violently, once the rains begin.
As "Noah's" hectic plot wends its biblical way, you have to respect this film's colossal nerve even if you can rarely take its situations as seriously as creator Aronofsky does. With its determination to tell this traditional story in its own way, it begins to oddly echo the very different but equally individualistic Old Testament epics put out by the old master himself, Cecil B. DeMille. The creator really does work in mysterious ways.
MPAA rating: PG-13 for violence, disturbing images and brief suggestive content
Running time: 2 hours, 17 minutes
Playing: In general release