Movie review: A leaky “Noah”

Russell Crowe is "Noah."

Russell Crowe is “Noah.”

By Jim Tortolano E Pluribus Unum

The new Biblical epic “Noah,” starring Russell Crowe as a sword-swinging, hard-faced patriarch who built the famous ark in Genesis, is difficult to categorize.

That’s probably as it should be, because director and writer Darren Aronofsky and co-writer Ari Handel had to tread a difficult path. They took the story of the great flood – which some people to be mythical and some historical – and had to make that familiar narrative into something contemporary audiences could relate to.

And, indeed, there is something for everyone here. Moderns will appreciate how the idea of evolution stretching over many epochs is given its place, as are the basics of the Garden of Eden tale. God – referred to only as The Creator – speaks to Noah in dreams and instructs him to build a gigantic vessel because the world will soon be deluged by flood.

The references to Noah and the flood are pretty sparse in Genesis, giving the writers some room to fill in the blanks. The wickedness of man is a harsh, technological society, giving environmentalists their reason to approve.

Some of the inventions, however, verge on the giggle-worthy. How did one guy and his skinny sons build something the size of the Queen Mary? In this version, they were aided by The Watchers, fallen angels who lent a hand in the construction. OK … sure … But what makes you smile is that these down-on-their-luck seraphs look like Flintstones-era Transformers.

The biggest deviation comes from the way Noah (Crowe) emerges as a kind of proto-superhero. When folks try to stop (or eventually hijack) the ark project, he wades into them with staff and stick and beats the heck out of them. Think Liam Neesom in homespun tatters.

Anthony Hopkins plays Noah’s saner grandfather Methuselah, and Emma Watson (most famous as Hermoine in the “Harry Potter” films) is a young girl who falls into Noah’s camp and becomes pregnant by one of his sons.

Crowe’s version of Noah is pretty one-dimensional; he’s really really angry all the time, and it bubbles just beneath the surface. You can understand why; he’s been asked to be complicit in genocide on a global scale.  220px-Noah2014Poster

Competing for best frowner is wife Naameh (Jennifer Connelly), who seems – again, not without good reason – to be perpertually depressed.

You know the rest of the story. The rains come. Noah saves his family and a whole bunch of animals. The waters finally recede, and mankind is given a second chance under a rainbow.

This film is neither fish nor fowl (or two of each). Credit is deserved for trying to bridge many viewpoints; points are deducted because of the fragility of the connections. If this movie were an ark, it would slowly sink because of the many small holes built into it.

“Noah” is rated PG-13 for violence.

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