Grade: C+

Directed by Darren Aronofsky
Starring: Russell Crowe, Jennifer Connelly, Logan Lerman, Anthony Hopkins, Emma Watson, Douglas Booth, Ray Winstone

Darren Aronofsky's Noah is one part epic and the other part strange, but doesn't quite do justice to the story in full. It's impressive that a major budget could be out behind a biblical tale, but couldn't Aronofsky and co. have done a better job at focusing on the drama at hand and not trying to appeal to the summer crowd? That's the movie I would have rather seen.

When it was released last weekend, Noah opened in the midst of controversy. It was annoying how most of those blowing their horns were people who had yet to even see the movie. Then the word-of-mouth spread that the movie was actually quite entertaining, as a movie, but laughable if looking for any type of biblical similarities. Other than names, the ark, and the animals, the latter part is mostly true.

As the protagonist, Russell Crowe plays our titular man who leads his family in a crazy attempt at following their calling. His recurring dreams lead him to find his grandfather, Methuselah (Anthony Hopkins), who imparts wisdom to the fearless Noah about an impending doom that will befall the world. The Canaanites of the land find Noah and his family revolting and offensive. As Noah continues to work on his ark, the people of the world continue to get filthier. Men kill animals. Men sell women. It's pretty gross stuff all around. Then the rain falls.

The story of Noah that you hear in Sunday School is minimally gruesome and mostly filled with cute, furry animals and a beautiful rainbow at the end. This story of Noah takes that story and colors it gray. This is a good thing. It's good to see a story of survival and redemption in a "real" light. The tragedy here is that Aronofsky's attempt sacrifices the overall good. The true biblical story of Noah is slim and doesn't offer too many extras when it comes to storytelling. Aronofsky and Ari Handel have crafted a story of a man searching for his purpose and dealing with intense internal struggles. Noah has never seemed so strong and so weak. It seems like the writers were trying too hard to keep the backstory and "message" intact while also crafting a Hollywood actioner of epic proportions. Unfortunately, the action overtakes the true drama. This is never truer than when we meet the fallen angels at the beginning. Interpret the Bible how you will, the fallen angels aspect is there. The problem isn't mentioning them, it's in how Aronofsky chose to depict them, as stone monsters straight out of The Hobbit. I was never able to fully take them seriously.

When moving beyond just focusing on the similarities between the film and the Bible, the movie holds pretty well. The performances are great, especially when dealing with a twisted storyline and plot that doesn't always hold enough water (pun intended). Crowe is decent as Noah. It's the supporting cast who really shine. Emma Watson surprises as Ila, the girl adopted into the family as a child. Douglas Booth continues to build a steady career with his turn as Shem. Jennifer Connelly is perfect as Noah's wife, Naameh. Ray Winstone is disgusting as Tubal-cain. It's Logan Lerman, though, who really shines here, stealing the story and every scene as the emotional Ham.

Beyond story and performances, the real draw for many people are the visuals. You can't make a movie about Noah's Ark without providing some epic scenes of water and animals. The water works incredibly. There's one scene where the camera pans out and you see a mass of people clinging to rocks as the water splashes around them. It's terrifying. The budget must have been spent on the water scenes, however, because the animals fell flat. As each type of animal makes its way to the ship they look very CGI. This always irks me. After seeing something like last year's Gravity, there's no excuse for not having real-looking effects. The decision to put the animals to sleep felt like cheating.

Overall, Noah is an epic film that might be worth seeing on the big screen. It all depends in what you're looking for. This movie will only work for certain moviegoers, which, again, is a shame. It'd be great to see a story like this being told in a more real way, as outrageous as the story may seem. There were a lot of possibilities where the movie took a quick turn to action that ruined any meaning that could've been there. Aronofsky has turned in some great films before, from Black Swan to Pi, but the big studio machine may have taken advantage.

Rated: PG-13
Runtime: 138 minutes

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