A large budget, plenty of FX, and familiar biblical source material can’t make up for an awful script, and an overall twisted concept from helmer Darren Aronofsky. Ginned up by the controversy gained by its less than faithful adherence to the bible story, Paramount/Regency should see brisk business, at least at first.
The Noah saga comprises Genesis 5:28 through 9:29, and runs around 2300 words. There is little dialog, of course, and it is all spoken by God—inexplicably called the “Creator”—in this movie. Yes, Aronofsky is an atheist, but his Creator with supernatural powers sounds a lot like God to me. At any rate, fleshing out a 138 minute feature based on such limited material will necessitate some flexibility with the story line. And, therein lies this movie’s big problem.
The pic starts off with a crash course on the early people from Genesis. Given that Noah is only a few generations removed from Adam himself, writers Aronofsky and Ari Handel do provide a clever touch when young Noah is given a very special snakeskin (from Eden) by his father Lamech (Marton Csokas). Alas, this bliss is very short-lived as father and son are attacked by Tubal-Cain and his band of cutthroats. Noah escapes and Lamech is killed.
Tubal-cain is mentioned in Gn 4:22, and is another son of Lamech although this is not stated in the film. However, our movie’s Tubal-cain is the chief baddie, and seeks Lamech’s land to build a mine. Gn 4:22 does credit him with being the “ancestor of all who forge instruments of bronze and iron.”
Grown-up Noah (Russell Crowe) and his family are revealed to be vegans—just like Aronofsky. It is a great mystery how Noah, his three sons, adopted daughter Ila (Emma Watson) and wife Naameh (Jennifer Connelly) can survive as vegans in an environment that looks about as fertile as the moon, but I guess the Creator will provide. Yet more violence occurs as Noah must kill a group of hunters who threaten them.
Soon after, Noah gets visions in which the Creator intends to kill all of humanity because of its wickedness, and supreme among their sins is that they eat meat, and have destroyed the ecosystem. The visions suggest that Noah will play a part in rebuilding the world, and a large vessel will be utilized. Pretty heavy stuff, so Noah decides to consult with his grandfather Methuselah (Anthony Hopkins). Since the Bible says nothing about this character except that he lived to be 969 years old, we can cut Aronofsky some slack. His Methuselah is kind of a Yoda figure, complete with special powers. His mission here is to tell Noah to go for it.
As to building the ark, no sweat! The Watchers—fallen angel/giant rock creatures—formerly dedicated to serving man before wanting to destroy him, now get on-board with Noah and help him with the ark building.
Our heroes will face many perils though, including an absolutely ludicrous and lengthy sub-plot involving a major family dispute, before ending up on Ararat.
***SPOILERS AND OTHER COMMENTS***
The older Tubal-cain (Ray Winstone) leads an army against Noah, and is the lone survivor after their battle with The Watchers. Naturally, he becomes a stowaway on the ark for no reason other than to have a final fight with Noah, and be killed by his would-be protégé Ham.
It tells you plenty about the writers that they impose their own Green prejudices in a laughably anachronistic manner on the source material. But that’s just a warm-up.
The sub-plot referred to above is so mind-numbingly stupid that I had to remind myself that it really was unfolding on the screen. While the Bible states that Noah, his wife, and his sons and their wives are taken on the ark, Aronofsky and Handel put their own spin on the situation. And, as Nancy Pelosi might say, “Embrace the suck.”
In their version, only the eldest son Shem gets a wife, who just happens to be Ila. Noah creates an enemy in middle son Ham by not helping him bag a spouse from the nearby town, and in fact turns the other way when the girl is killed. The youngest son Japeth presumably doesn’t care about girls yet. The way Noah sees it, all mankind except those aboard are supposed to die off, and fortunately for Ila, she is barren, due to a childhood injury.
And now for your plot twist. Before the voyage, Methuselah blessed Ila, and cured her infertility. Sure enough, she gets pregnant on the ark. You’d think this new grandchild would be welcome, but no! Noah says that if it’s a girl, he must kill her. Even though he doesn’t in the end—heck, she has twin girls—this nonsense takes up an inordinate amount of running time.
As an added bonus, the Noah getting naked and drunk scene (Gn 9:21-27) is crammed in and botched, leaving audiences puzzled.
All in all, this Noah is about what you’d expect from an atheist vegan director with way too much money to spend.