"My father said that one day, if man continued in his ways, the Creator would annihilate this world."
The trailers and the first half of Noah made me believe this was going to be a very different Darren Aronofsky film. Mostly known for his independent work as an art house director he centers his films on characters with strong obsessions that tend to lead them towards some form of self destruction. The first half of this film however has an epic tone with fantastic visual effects and a big scale production unlike what we've seem in his past films. That firs half reminded me a lot of other epic fantasy films like The Lord of the Rings. However midway through the film Aronofsky switches gears on us and returns to the themes he is known for. He centers the story around the psychological struggles Noah is going through and how his obsessive behavior begins leading him to self destruction. Kind of like what he did with the main characters in Black Swan and The Wrestler, Aronofsky tries to delve deep into the psyches of Noah and the delusions he might have been tormented by for the task he was given. This is Aronofsky's film and it is very loosely based on the Bible (Noah's story only has four short chapters in Genesis). Christians will be disappointed if they go into this expecting a film based on a biblical perspective, because Aronofsky takes many artistic liberties and creates a tormented and flawed character similar to the ones he's made in his past films. What he does different with Noah is that he begins telling the film on an epic scale and then he reduces it to a personal story centering on Noah and the struggles he faces with his family. The visuals are great and the performances are strong, but the film feels too long and it oversimplifies environmentalism to make the story relatable to modern audiences. One could even argue that Aronfosky wasn't telling a story of the past, but presenting a futuristic apocalyptic tale.
Having read the story of Noah in Genesis I must say that this film isn't really an adaptation but more of an original screenplay written by Aronofsky and Ari Handel (who also wrote The Fountain and has produced three other Aronofsky films). The story introduces us to Noah (Russell Crowe) and his wife Naameh (Jennifer Connelly) who live with their three sons: Shem (Douglas Booth), Ham (Logan Lerman), and Japheth (Leo McHugh Carroll). They are the only descendants of Seth that remain, the rest of the world has become wicked and disrespectful towards nature and the Creator. In a dream Noah sees water covering the Earth, and in order to understand this strange message from the Creator he visits his grandfather, Methuselah (Anthony Hopkins), who is still alive. Along the way he discovers several dead humans who have been attacked, but their is a young girl named Ila (Emma Watson) who has survived and he decides to help her and take her with him. After meeting with his grandfather, Noah understands his calling and begins building a giant ark to make space for his family and a pair of animals of every species in order to preserve creation. He encounters difficulties along the way as a group of men led by Tubal-Cain (Ray Winstone) defy him, but Noah has the protection of Watchers (fallen angels who've taken the form of giant stone-like creatures). The flood is coming and Noah will stop at nothing to execute the Creator's plan.
Noah has some breathtaking scenes that work really well for an epic film like this. My favorites were the montage where Noah explains how the world has been created and the scene where he plants a seed and a spring of water comes out from Earth extending into an entire forest in a matter of seconds. The scenes involving the flood were also pretty well made. The scenery and cinematography is captured gorgeously. I also enjoyed the performances from Crowe, Watson, and Winstone. However, Noah is the only character that has depth as the rest of the cast play stereotypical characters that don't offer much to the story. The film centers on Noah's inner struggle and how he deals with the task given to him as he becomes obsessed and self destructive after seeing the wickedness of mankind. The film does become a bit heavy handed with the ecological message although it certainly simplifies it at times because what Aronofsky is really interested in exploring is the character of Noah. This might be his most ambitious film to date, but I still prefer his smaller films. The Wrestler continues to be my favorite film of his, although I still haven't seen Pi or The Fountain.