THE REEL: “Noah” drowns, finds salvation in not-so-Biblical epic

THE REEL with Ben Conniff

By: Ben Conniff

2014 seems to be ushering in the age of the mediocre biblical epic.

February brought us the underwhelming “Son of God,” which was essentially a glorified made-for-TV movie.

Later this year, Christian Bale and Ridley Scott will look to enter the next Oscar race with “Exodus: Gods and Kings,” about Moses leading the Israelites out of Egypt.

Until then, “Black Swan” director Darren Aronofsky offers us a re-imagining of the tale of Noah’s Ark.  

In “Noah,” the titular character (Russell Crowe) is chosen by God to save creation before a massive deluge wipes the earth clean of human wickedness.

Apparently that wickedness doesn’t include the first half of this movie, which is one of the worst hours of fantasy cinema I’ve ever seen.

I know it is Aronofsky’s own vision of the story, but it’s just such a departure from the source material that it’s nearly impossible to buy into.

I could talk all day about the unforgivable differences, but I’ll spare you. Just know that there are giant rock monsters, magic gold stones, mines that look like something out of the 1950s, old men who can magically heal reproductive organs and massive armies who try to steal the ark away.

I must’ve missed those chapters in Genesis.

It’s not until everyone’s been on the ark for a while that things start to turn around for this film adaptation.

After months adrift, Noah becomes so blinded by his duty to God that he forgets his duty to his family. He believes that humanity is meant to die out with the last of his line.

Noah still has his three sons from the Bible – Shem (Douglas Booth), Ham (Logan Lerman), and Japheth (Leo McHugh Carroll) – but only Shem has a wife.

Emma Watson turns in her finest performance to date as Ila, Shem’s wife.

For fear of giving too much more away, I’ll just say that the dysfunctional family dynamic works like a charm here – especially between Watson, Crowe, and Jennifer Connolly who plays Noah’s wife Naameh. These are three players at the top of their respective games.

Watching Noah’s psychosis unfold in these moments is a treat because Crowe plays it so well. I can’t imagine anyone tasked with saving the last of God’s creation NOT getting a little stir-crazy after months at sea with the family.

Aronofsky’s script lends depth to the character that we don’t quite get from the writings in scripture.

I guess you could say “Noah” is the “Dark Knight” of biblical epics for about half of its run time.

That’s not such a bad thing because again, this is only a movie. I like movies that have layered characters, and I love watching the relationships between these kinds of characters unfold. If judged solely on that merit alone, then “Noah” succeeds wonderfully.

If judged solely on how close it sticks to scripture, especially in the first hour, then “Noah” deserves to be washed away in the flood.