28 July 2014 | bob the moo
Fragments of a better film put as a whole but none of them able to sustain or lift the final product
I was very much on the sidelines but even I noticed some back and forwards over the film Noah. Some seemed furious that it was not in line with Biblical teaching while others seemed to take glee in the religious objections to the film; for me I don't really have a dog in that fight so the fuss did not interest me and the film didn't seem like something I wanted to pay £10 a seat to go and see. That said, I was curious to watch it because I found it hard to believe that Darren Aronofsky would churn out a blockbuster without something of interest in it.
The film wastes no time with adding flesh to the basic bones of the story and, if you're looking to get upset by the presence of fallen angel rock monsters, then the film serves them up to you right at the front. I guess if you came to see a bible story then this may upset you since the bible does not mention these creatures, but for me coming to a film, I really don't care what characters it creates or devices it uses as long as they work. From here we find Noah living with his family separate from men, tending to a nature that the others exploit – again an environmental message of stewardship that (oddly) upset those that proclaim the bible as the truth. As per the story, the message comes of the destruction of man and Noah along with his family and rock monsters, get to building an ark for the animals which will be saved to repopulate the world. It is quite the story and, if you are honest, were it not for the fact that it is lifted from the bible, it is a story that would pretty much get laughed out of any pitch meeting.
So it is to the film's credit that, although it is inherently senseless, it makes a decent fist of telling it. Given the resources available, it does this primarily by throwing effects and scale at the viewer. This works to a point and it is a pretty good looking film with some particularly memorable scenes. The main thing for me that offered interest was that the central character of Noah is essentially a religious extremist who is dooming a world of men to death because of something god told him. The film disappoint though because it doesn't do enough with this. It plays it straight and sets it up and there are points where you are not sure who is the "good guy" here since Tubal-cain is really just trying to survive death, likewise the obsession of Noah of ending man's time on Earth and only leaving animals. It doesn't work though because it doesn't go harder on this and instead of drawing us into the madness of his obsession and the terrible things he therefore stands by and watches, the film actually feels plodding and not entirely sure of itself throughout these aspects. On the other side of this, the film never throws itself into the "epic effects blockbuster" camp either and, while noisy and large, the action sequences don't really work either.
It doesn't feel like an Aronofsky film; it doesn't feel like there was much here to challenge or to be explored – or rather it does feel like there is, but the film doesn't go for it. The cast play it straight and professionally but not always to the film's benefit. Crowe in particular is a straight bat and even when he is acting in extreme ways, you feel like he maybe doesn't "get it" since earnestness is his consistent approach throughout. Connelly and Watson are both more expressive and I guess the idea was that their performances would be our way to experience the darker side of Noah's steadfastness. Winstone gives out a good series of gowls when called upon but again his weaknesses are more to do with the film not exploring his character and Noah better (to be fair though, I am so sick of his floating head on the TV encouraging me to gamble with mockney geezerisms that I wasn't keen to be stuck with him again here).
Noah is not an awful film mainly because it is basically lots of fragments of better films put together. So the spectacle is good at times but never goes for it, while the character piece is hinted at but not given over to in a way that really works. Everyone plays it down the middle of these and there is not too much of interest beyond the moment – which is a shame for a film so long and filled with such talent.