Critical mass: Smooth sailing or angry seas for 'Noah'?

Noah.jpg

Image Credit: Niko Tavernise

Darren Aronofsky’s bold biblical epic Noah is sure to get different types of people talking for different reasons. The Black Swan director faithfully follows the message of the slim biblical text in the Book of Genesis, but he fills the gaps with spectacular CG effects, Tolkien-esque creatures, and a daring 21st-century point of view on evolution and environmentalism. Some parts of the world have already blanched at the film, presumably for the liberties Aronofsky and co-writer Ari Handel take with the sacred tale, but secular audiences and even some religious types might find themselves simply thinking… “Cool.”

In the film, Russell Crowe plays the last good man in a wicked world. When he begins having visions of a great flood, he prepares his family for God’s cleansing wrath by building a giant ark that will preserve God’s innocent animals. That much you probably already know. Once the rains come, everyone wants a ticket on the cruise, including the rapacious army led by Ray Winstone’s cruel warrior-king. Scholars might not recall him, nor will they recognize the giant half-Ent, half-Transformer Watchers that help Noah’s family build and defend the ark.

There are enough mesmerizing action sequences to please blockbuster-mad atheists, while it’s Crowe who delivers a centered and intense performance that preserves the integrity behind the ancient tale. “Crowe plays this virtuous ascetic with a fiery, half-mad intensity and moral weight he hasn’t shown in a very long time — maybe since Gladiator,” writes EW’s Chris Nashawaty.

Jennifer Connelly co-stars as Noah’s wife, Emma Watson plays an orphan who becomes part of Noah’s family, and Logan Lerman is the middle son, Ham, whose natural human flaws risk sinking the boat, metaphorically.

Click below to see a round-up of Noah reviews from some of the industry’s leading critics:

Chris Nashawaty (Entertainment Weekly)
“[Noah] ends up being a maddeningly schizophrenic experience. On one hand, it’s a remarkably earnest and heartfelt Bible parable, not unlike Martin Scorsese’s darkly existential The Last Temptation of Christ. … On the other, though, it’s an excessively flashy Tinseltown spectacle tarted up with all the razzle-dazzle eye candy that a nine-figure price tag can buy.”

Ty Burr (Boston Globe)
“The movie hacks away at big ideas, too: man’s stewardship of his planet, man’s relationship with his Creator, the line where righteousness becomes mania. The parts of Noah that don’t work really, truly don’t. But the parts that do almost sweep you away in the flood.”

Mick LaSalle (San Francisco Chronicle)
“In Aronofsky’s telling …the godless sons of Cain went off and created the industrial world, raping the Earth. … The virtuous sons of Seth lived off the land, in harmony with creation. They were vegetarians, proto-environmentalists and anti-industry. Of course, Noah is going to be controversial.”

Richard Corliss (TIME) ▲
“Aronofsky brings wild ambition and thrilling artistry to one of the Old Testament’s best-known, most dramatic, least plausible stories — Noah and the ark — with Russell Crowe infusing the role of God’s first seaman and zookeeper with all his surly majesty.”

Todd McCarthy (Hollywood Reporter) ▲
“Aronofsky wrestles one of scripture’s most primal stories to the ground and extracts something vital and audacious, while also pushing some aggressive environmentalism, in Noah. … Aronofsky has been daring, digging deep to develop a bold interpretation of a tale which, in the original, offers a lot of room for speculation and invention.”

Ann Hornaday (Washington Post)
“So much of Noah is so good … that when discordant notes are sounded, they do so with clanging dissonance. … Every action film nowadays seems to wind up being Transformers, and sadly, Noah is no different, especially when it comes time for a final, grandiose showdown between the Watchers and the oncoming forces of evil.”

Richard Roeper (Chicago Sun-Times) ▲
“Sidebar re: the giant rock creatures. They’re one of the reasons I’m giving Noah three and a half stars and not the full four. They’re just kind of… silly. Like something we’d expect to see in a middle passage in some Tolkienesque adventure. When they speak … Noah loses its gravitas.”

Kenneth Turan (Los Angeles Times) ▲
“As much a fantasia inspired by the Old Testament as a literal retelling of that tale, Noah manages to blend the expected with the unexpected and does it with so much gusto and cinematic energy you won’t want to divert your eyes from the screen.”

Scott Foundas (Variety)
“Though Winstone plays the part with sinister flair, the character never becomes much more than a stock bad guy, on hand to pop up like a jack-in-the-box at the least convenient moments, and to try wooing Noah’s petulant, Skywalker-ish son, Ham (Logan Lerman), over to the dark side.”

David Edelstein (New York — Vulture)
“Winstone’s snarling Tubal-cain is more fun than Russell Crowe’s priggish Noah, but the role is an excrescence. It’s there so Noah can build to an action climax along the lines of President Harrison Ford kicking terrorist Gary Oldman off Air Force One while snarling, ‘Get off my plane!!!’ This is, ‘Get off my Ark!’”

A.O. Scott (New York Times)
Noah is less an epic than a horror movie. There are some big, noisy battle scenes and some whiz-bang computer-generated images, but the dominant moods are claustrophobia and incipient panic. The most potent special effects are Mr. Crowe’s eyes and the swelling, discordant strains of Clint Mansell’s score.”

Noah
Overall Metacritic rating (1-100): 69
Rotten Tomatoes: 76 percent

Rated: PG-13
Length: 139 minutes
Director: Darren Aronofsky
Starring Russell Crowe, Ray Winstone, Jennifer Connelly, Emma Watson
Distributor: Paramount


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