Baby, the Rain Must Fall
by Glenn Lovell
Darren Aronofsky, who specializes in sweaty, pocket-sized dramas (see “Requiem for a Dream,” “The Wrestler”), is the last person who pops into mind when you think large-scale Biblical spectacles like “The 10 Commandments” and “Ben-Hur.” Still, I approached the director’s left-field “Noah” with more than a little curiosity. I mean, even if Old Testament Sturm und Drang aren’t Aronofsky’s bag, he’s an interesting enough director and deserves a fair hearing, no?
What I discovered in “Noah,” starring Russell Crowe as Noah and Jennifer Connelly as Mrs. Noah, was a blend of CG-laden fantasy and easy-to-swallow religiosity. Yes, it’s silly, especially when Anthony Hopkins’ berry-craving Methuselah stops by, but it’s also surprisingly nervy from a philosophical standpoint. Like Terrence Malick’s “The Tree of Life,” Aronofsky’s latest should raise hackles among conservative Christians for the liberties taken with the Good Book, as well as espousing a safe middle-ground in the debate over evolution. Noah’s bedtime recounting of Genesis clearly shows lizards morphing into Homo erectus. Oh, my!
What else do we take away from this dark cautionary fable, shot, appropriately, in the fjords of Iceland?
√ That the Ark was clearly no Love Boat. Though Noah goes to pains to save two of every species before the deluge, in this melodramatic retelling he forgets to invite along female companionship for son Ham (Logan Lerman), which creates no end of resentment, especially when Ham eyes the lovey-dovey Shem (Douglas Booth) and Ila (Emma Watson).
√ That long before George W., Noah fancied himself “The Great Decider.”
√ That, thanks to Ray Winstone’s ravenous stowaway, at least two species go extinct before the seas begin to abate.
√ That the Ark came with a mini-ark, an early version of Captain Phillips’ lifeboat. Who knew …
√ That the angels who took the fall for Adam and Eve were doomed to stalk Earth as goofy-looking lava monsters (aka “The Watchers”). These rock creatures were obviously the forebears of Hellboy and The Hulk.
√ That Noah was the planet’s first tree-hugger, often chiding his children, “Don’t pick the flowers!”
√ That the wonked-out Methuselah was an early flower child who dispensed hallucinogens and love potions.
√ That the flood was no big deal. Forget 40 days and 40 nights. This one passes in a wink, barely leaving a chill.
√ That Noah was a fan of John Ford. His transformation ‒ from knife-wielding loony to loving grandfather ‒ was obviously inspired by Ethan Edwards’ climactic change-of-heart in Ford’s “The Searchers.”
√ That when the Almighty said, “Be fruitful and multiply,” he probably wasn’t thinking of the Ark’s limited gene pool. Given the potential for inbreeding, it’s a miracle we’ve made it this far.
NOAH ✮✮ With Russell Crowe, Jennifer Connelly, Ray Winstone, Anthony Hopkins, Emma Watson. Directed by Darren Aronofsky; scripted by Aronofsky, Ari Handel. 138 min. Rated PG-13 (for intense moments, knife fights, battle carnage)