21 May

‘Just because someone releases a few hit singles, it doesn’t mean that the whole album is going to be any good.’

noah-movie-posterIf at some point in your life you were a child, as I am sure you were, then there would have been a time when you came across the story of Noah. Whether it was at school, at your local library, or read to you as a bedtime story in a beautifully illustrated and colourful childrens edition of the Bible, you never forget. It is an epic story filled with animals, good and evil, hope, belief and a tonne of water. Religion didn’t even have to come in to it, the story was what you cared about. Andsometimes the song.

This is why, after falling in love with the story of Noah as a young boy, director Darren Aronofsky had made it a lifetime ambition to tell the tale using the big screen. Sadly, in doing so, he has tarnished all of those childhood memories with a tragically poor film.

Now I would like to take you back to my opening statement – ‘Just because someone releases a few hit singles, it doesn’t mean that the whole album is going to be any good.’ Said to me once by someone I know, it was all I could think about after viewing Noah at my local cinema. Aronofsky’s back catalogue is so strong (Pi, Requiem for a Dream, The Wrestler, Black Swan), as is Russel Crowe’s (Gladiator, A Beautiful Mind, Les Miserables) and Anthony Hopkins (do I even need to list them?), that I believed whole-heartedly that I would not be disappointed. But after two, five or even ten hits, all that was proven was that it is still possible to flop in the charts.

Russell Crowe as Noah in Darren Aranofsky's biblical epicThe film begins with a series of titles explaining the creation of the world, the first man created in Gods image, Adam, and the first lady Eve and the story of Cain and Able, accompanied by visual imagery and a calming voiceover. They all serve to not only patronise the audience through immense simplification, but to bombard us with every sensory telling of the stories. Why titles and images and voiceover? Pick one and lets move on. Unfortunately moving on is exactly what happens.

The story progresses in a sloppy and haphazard way, the editing being the largest failure of the film. Scenes and shots are drawn out for no discernible reason, some repeated presumably for dramatic effect (the coming of the animals to the ark happens I’d say around thirty times) but end up as no more than an annoyance rather than events that should take your breath away, and focus is given where focus isn’t needed. The acting is also an incredible let down. Crowe, Connelly, Hopkins, Watson and even shouty, raspy Ray Winstone are all capable of sincere, poetic and powerful performances, but here they are as wooden as the ark they are building. Connelly destroys one of the most pivotal and potentially heartbreaking scenes through forced tears and breathy screams, Emma Watson sounds as bored and as British as ever, Crowe’s bland and lifeless tone has stood him in good stead before, but here his apathetic nature breeds only hatred not sympathy for a man in torment, and Hopkins…I think he has simply just given up. Don’t worry Anthony, so have we.

Help can not be found anywhere. The score is at times beautiful and at others clumsy, particularly in a scene where Noah finally loses it and the music is almost humourous in its delivery, with large pounding drums and leisurly-paced chase music, creating an abysmal collaboration. The script feels uncared for, conviction and annunciation is lost, with conversations unable to flow and the characters passions and fears unable to thrive.

The film is laughable at times, which when you are watching a biblical epic is probably not the direction the makers would have intended it to go, but it happens. A lot. Aronofsky’s giant-fallen-stone-monster-angels, The Watchers, are utterly ridiculous. Their voices and dialogue come from a world where The Ent (The Lord of the Rings talking trees) and Optimus Prime have had a baby, and their sole purpose is to move the building of the ark quickly along, as you know, they are oh so big and strong. Noah’s solitary, drunken, naked, ‘the-world-is-saved’ cave party is badly placed and too short to create any positive impact on our emotions. There is also a scene in which trees and rivers burst forth from the earth so that Noah and his family may use the materials to build their ark, which is beautifully shot and has some astounding special effects, but is ruined by two doves drinking from the river hundreds of miles away and connecting to some sort of God-line whereby they understand something important is happening and fly to see what all the commotion is about. See, laughable.

noah birdsIn the Bible, the story of Noah is relatively short. According to an abundance of fan reviews, Aronofsky manages to maintain an element of realism by sticking to the written word and his portrayal of various events surrounding Noah, such as his personal struggle with the immense responsibility bestowed upon him by God and his whole getting drunk in a cave malarky. However,managing to include such events in order to please the masses, doesn’t mean that the finished product will actually be a good film. The lack of lengthy original material allows for a huge amount of interpretation and cinematic indulgence, and as you have read above, there are indulgences aplenty.

noahOf the films staggering 138 minutes, I’d say I enjoyed about 20 of them. The ark itself is an incredible creation, going against the preconceived boat idea that we may have had as a child, and under Aronofsky’s vision becomes more of a stronghold against the ensuing tides. Noah’s visions of the earth flooding are beautifully done, being almost unexplainable in their power and presence within the film. The Watchers falling to earth is a stunning scene in which the bright and shapeful figures are coated in the earths dust and dirt, surrendering them to a life of serving the humans they despise. And Ray Winstone kicks Noah’s ass.

But at the end of the day, when you are treated to a point-of-view shot, flying into the spectacular ark, accompanied by soulful music, amongst all of the worlds beautiful birds, and you find yourself staring at the backside of a pigeon, you just have to take a moment and think to yourself, ‘Really, what is this?’. Hopefully for everyone involved, it is simply one bad song on a great album.

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