Biblical journey is fascinating yet flawed
The story of Noah and his three sons unfolds across six chapters of the book of Genesis. Director Darren Aronofsky and co-writer Ari Handel expand this lesson into a sprawling narrative about one man's tireless quest to save innocent animals from the apocalypse.
This Noah is both a parable about self-sacrifice and a bombastic spectacle replete with computer-generated battle scenes that wouldn't look out of place in Peter Jackson's Middle Earth. Our Lord Of The Rings, if you will, although the script never directly references God.
The Nephilim, interpreted here as fallen angels, are re-imagined as gargantuan stone creatures not too far removed from the lovable Rock Biters in The Neverending Story, who aid Noah's epic construction.
'In the beginning there was nothing,' booms an opening voiceover, condensing the fall of Adam And Eve and blood spilt between Cain and Abel into a mosaic of haunting images. While the descendants of Cain spread greed and wickedness, the descendants of Seth - Cain's surviving brother - work the land, taking only what they need.
The last of this righteous bloodline, Noah (Russell Crowe), lives with his wife Naameh (Jennifer Connelly) and sons Shem (Douglas Booth), Ham (Logan Lerman) and Japheth (Leo McHugh Carroll). One night, Noah experiences a vision of a devastating flood.
A visit to the mountainous lair of Noah's grandfather Methuselah (Anthony Hopkins) confirms the dire prediction and Noah accepts his task to build an ark capable of temporarily housing one pair of 'all that creeps, all that crawls, all that slithers'. He is aided by the three boys, adopted daughter Ila (Emma Watson) and an army of rock-encrusted fallen angels. Tubal-cain (Ray Winstone), a bad apple from the other branch of the family tree, stumbles upon the ark and threatens to storm the vessel to escape the Creator's wrath.
Noah is fascinating yet flawed. Quieter, thoughtful sections of the film, when the titular character wrestles with his destiny, beg provocative questions about devotion to a higher power including an extraordinary scene of attempted infanticide.
Crowe delivers a compelling central performance as a humble man, who accepts his own frailties. 'We will work, complete the task - and then we will die, like everyone else,' he forlornly instructs his family.
Regrettably, Aronofsky also has to recoup a hefty budget so he punctuates his characters' emotional rollercoaster with bombastic action sequences that are as soulless as they are spectacular.
When the pivotal deluge finally comes, it's a tour-de-force of visual effects and swooping camerawork that is over in a matter of minutes.
Time and tide wait for no man, not even Russell Crowe.