Nobody named "God" ever appears in Noah. Darren Aronofsky's massive drama is obviously inspired by the Bible story, but he handles it as sort of a non-denominational, philosophical disaster movie.
Noah and his family retain their familiar names, and there are passing references to Eden, but no specific geography or time frame is ever suggested, while the mostly ravaged and desolate landscape could be either pre- or post-industrial, the ancient past or the distant future.
This is the Bible as dystopian sci-fi epic.
And most of the time it works pretty well on those terms, especially in the first hour or so, as Aronofsky sets up his eco-parable about human folly and violence vs. the wonders of nature. It isn't until much later that the narrative drive springs a leak and the movie starts to flounder.
Russell Crowe delivers his usual, reliable mix of dynamic screen presence and robust physicality as Noah. He and his family are reclusive stewards of the last green area in a world beset by warrior tribes who rape, murder, slaughter animals for food, and despoil the landscape mining for precious metals.
When his grandfather, Methuselah (a twinkly Anthony Hopkins, having a hell of a good time), gives him a seed preserved from Eden, Noah plants it in barren ground, and up springs a forest, from which he understands he's supposed to build an ark to preserve a breeding pair of each species of animal during the coming flood.
There are many exhilarating scenes of clouds of birds, rivers of snakes, and herds of animals coming to the ark. All of the fauna are CGI, and look just a bit off-kilter (like the armadillo-plated goat in an early scene), suggesting prehistoric or otherworldly creatures.
Also very cool in a sci-fi way are gigantic, but soulful rock creatures called Watchers, who turn out to be fallen angels punished for meddling in human affairs. ("Marooned on Earth in these stony shells," one says mournfully.)
But, sadly, Noah loses its shape and its grip on our imagination in its final third. (Read more)
|Noah's Ark: not quite watertight|