August 11, 2014


Darren Aronofsky, 2014
Loosely based on the classic Biblical tale, Aronofsky's Noah tells the story of Noah (Russell Crowe) - a loyal father and husband suddenly served with visions of impending destruction. The earth's creator has grown disheartened with the current state of the human race which has become destructive and violent. Noah realizes that there is an intention to cleanse the Earth of the toxic human race that has spread through the lands. He realizes that it's his duty to salvage Earth's animal creatures and re-establish the human population after the storms have settled.

There are a lot of expectations going into an Aronofsky film. You know that there is going to be a real built-in dim disposition to any of his pictures. Examinations of human morality. Self-serving impulses. Self doubt, regret, weakness. Inner conflict. Interpersonal conflicts. Orchestral scores to assist in manipulating the dramatic tones. There's clearly a lot of these elements in his take on the story of Noah's Ark. But Aronofsky has one leg out of the door from his usual pure-twisted murk and in a more Guillermo Del Toro-imaginary mindset. It's curious as to why filmmakers want to touch religious material to begin with. The amount of scrutiny and inherent controversy raise the expectations so high that it's nearly impossible for the picture to please the masses. This is especially the case when you take on a story like this, a story that's already quite limited in depth in it's original form. Because of this the whole artistic licensing must be used. Aronofsky does this by attempting to make a thorough examination of Noah the character while also employing a considerable amount of CGI and a large cast of familiar faces. A story about a man carrying the weight of the world on his shoulders. Noah is certainly a flawed character, forced to watch the majority of the world quickly die off so he can save his own family and some indifferent beings. He ventures through the crowds of people during the final stages of construction of the Ark. They are greedy, self-serving, malevolent. Willing to kill one another off for a quick meal. They have cheapened the value of human life. But he also sees himself in them, which ultimately causes him to suffer with a sense of survivor's guilt as they all drown in the flooding. Their pleas for refuge are heard through the wooden walls that he has spent so much time building. He struggles with questions of why was he chosen? What is he supposed to do next? Are his convictions correct? The film certainly does a good job of examining Noah the character, with much help from the always-good Crowe. The two standout features of the picture are certainly Crowe's performance and the rather impressive CGI. Quite surprising to discover that not one real-life animal was used in the production, and the digitally-manufactured creations are really as good as Richard Parker in the Life of Pi. The rock-monster-like Watchers may be THE most memorable visual element of the entire picture, assisting Noah in his construction of the sanctuary so that they themselves may be redeemed and return to Heaven.

But where Aronofsky succeeds in creating a character study he fails at creating a thoroughly engaging story. There is some captivating build-up as Noah works to construct the clock as not only the clock is ticking when it comes to Mother Nature's impending doom but also Tubal-cain's people are knocking at the door. As the clock ticks and the pressure is on Noah, you're right there with the story and engaged. But as soon as the Ark begins to float away the story basically gets lost at sea. It begins to meander, to falter, soon becoming a predictable bore. Aronofsky has to take the blame. Perhaps it was the PG-13 rating, creating too much of a confinement for him. Perhaps it was the studio breathing down his neck, putting too much pressure on the production. It seems quite clear that Aronofsky is better equipped to handle smaller films with more unsettling elements like the unforgettable Requiem for a Dream or the very-compelling The Wrestler

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