'Noah' gives Old Testament the Hollywood treatment

MCCLATCHY-TRIBUNE NEWS SERVICEMarch 28, 2014 

Film Review Noah

Just look at him. At 49, Russell Crowe is still definitely a gladiator.

NIKO TAVERNISE — AP

  • NOAH •••

    Rated: PG-13 for violence, disturbing images and brief suggestive content. Starring: Russell Crowe, Jennifer Connelly, Anthony Hopkins, Ray Winstone, Emma Watson. Director: Darren Aronofsky. Running time: 138 minutes. Theaters: Edwards 22 and Edwards 9, Edwards 14 and Edwards 12 in Nampa, Majestic 18 and Village Cinema in Meridian.

Big, beatific and (more or less) biblical, Darren Aronofsky's "Noah" is a mad vision of a movie, an action/adventure take on The Flood.

Aronofsky ("Black Swan") envisions this epic through the lens of Hollywood, interpreting the Bible as myth and telling one of its most fantastical tales as a grand and dark cinematic fantasy - a "Lord of the Rains."

And with Russell Crowe as his "Master and Commander" and shipbuilder, Aronofsky has concocted an accessible, modern and mythic version of this oral history that will make purists blanch even as it entertains the rest of us.

A prologue tells of the spawn of Cain, who spilled blood, left the Garden of Eden, populated the world and made a mess of things. Ten generations later, Noah (Crowe) and his small family (Jennifer Connelly, Logan Lerman, Douglas Booth) wander the wastelands, waiting for … a sign.

Noah's dreams tell him The End is nigh. By fire, his grandfather, Methuselah (Anthony Hopkins), wants to know?

"Fire consumes all," Noah prophesies. "Water cleanses."

The wicked world "which men have broken" will be flooded, the pure will rise and float above it. The rest? Drowned.

Noah starts building an ark, first by planting the forest that will be hewn into that ark.

But out there, in the world begat by Cain, his descendant Tubal-cain (Ray Winstone) is offering up an alternative theology: "A man isn't ruled by the heavens. A man is ruled by his will."

Tubal-cain's violence, meat eating (Noah's people are vegetarians) and weapons are attractive to Noah's son Ham (Lerman, aka Percy Jackson), who has no female companionship in their tiny circle. Shem (Booth) has the foundling they raised, Ila (Emma Watson). Ham is tempted to change sides.

Still, animals gather and are sedated, the ark nears completion, and then the skies darken and empty.

It took guts to change Noah from the pious original naval architect into a two-fisted man of action, and then to cast Crowe in the part. But it works.

The gutsiest move on Aronofsky's part is in the film's interpretation of this tale through modern eyes. Here is a myth that allows Creation and Evolution to live in the same film. Maybe it's a little too sci-fi, but "Noah" makes Biblical myth grand in scope and intimate in appeal.

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