DM Haight

Aronofsky has been on the forefront of all American cinema when it comes to lending unease in the guts of audiences. Whether it be in the infected dope hole in druggies arms, or the ripping of cuticles on the fingers of ballerinas, he’s managed to drag out some of the more memorable teeth grinding moments we’ve seen outside of horror and smut. And with Noah he manages to do that again.

Never one to do what’s been done a hundred times before, Aronofsky lends his brilliant wings and carries audiences across a mythical land, an older version of the lost Eden. With monstrous stone angels, and rabid men willing to do anything to eat and conquer, it’s not hard to see the blatant ecocritical undertones the director has taken in a narrative that draws more than a few parallels to our modern conservation concerns. With Russell Crowe leading a stellar cast, which includes Emma Watson, Ray Winstone, and Jennifer Connolly, Aronofsky has lent us the tools by which he will mold our preconceptions of the story of the fabled Noah.

For starters, the reason why this movie will have a teeth grinding moment or two for many Americans, revolves around the pure, unadulterated fact that this Noah adaptation, is in fact fiction. Making no claims to being the end-all-be-all Noah picture, Aronofsky has taken the liberty to take some liberties with the age-old tale based on the story of Gilgamesh. What many Fundamentalists will despise about Noah will be exactly what everyone else loves about it. The Angels trapped in stone, the barren wastes, the mountain of lush vegetation, the snake, the armies fighting to board the Ark. And worst of all, the unceasing use of the word “Creator” in the stead of the word “God”. Those who recite psalms will wretch in ways that may drive them to the same unease most of us felt watching Black Swan.

The overt mysticism of Noah is engaging and colorful, delightful and fresh. The contrast between the remnants of Eden and the wasteland of men reminds us of a desert on the edge of an ocean. On one side there is life, on the other there is only death. It’s a fitting metaphor for the way the line of Cain exists when juxtaposed to that of Seth. One line is massive and destructive and doomed, the other is miniscule, humble and predestined to thrive. Russell and Winston duke it out in an epic, albeit lackluster war that ends in an even more lackluster and disappointing climax. The first act, magical and grand and interesting, falls into the unfortunate action-adventure third act far too easily. It feels like two different films, one that has the ability to capture and enrapture, the other performing the same action we’ve seen a hundred times in different universes and realities.

For all its pluses, Aronofsky should get that pat on the back for tackling and retelling the story of Noah in a light that we hadn’t imagined before. The third act results in making this venture the weakest film in the proficient director’s cache. But if Noah is your weakest film, then you had a lot to be proud of. Not only does Noah brighten the old narrative, it revives the idea that originality can still exist in Hollywood studios, it just needs a little push.

 

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