Is director Darren Aronofskys sprawling saga of Noah and the Great Flood a profane violation of a sacred story? Or is it a mind-blowing cinematic exploration of a character wrestling with faith, doubt, dreams, guilt, miracles and the fate of mankind itself, set in one of the most epic tales of all time?
Youll have to see it to decide for yourself, but theres ammunition for both camps.
Russell Crowe plays Noah as the last good manliterallyin a bleak, barren world thats gone downhill after the good ol Adam & Eve days of yore in the Garden of Eden. He gets a message from the creator that mankind isnt worth keeping around, and its time to wipeor washthe slate clean and start over. (God isnt mentioned by name, which has apparently rankled some by-the-Book viewers.)
So Noah builds a big boat, with a plan to take along only his wife (Jennifer Connelly), their three hunky sons, an orphaned girl wholl grow up to become his daughter-in-law (Emma Watson)and the only creatures on the planet that havent defiled and depleted it, the animals.
Men are going to be punished for what theyve done to this world, Noah says. The creator has chosen us to save the innocent.
You probably know the rest of the story. But you probably dont know the parts about Noah and his lineage being plant-loving, peaceful vegetarians, while the rest of mankind are bloodthirsty, meat-craving barbarians. (Take that, Earth-killing carnivores.) Or that Noah was pretty handy snapping necks or dispatching his enemies with an axe, or a knife, or whatever weapon was handy. Or that he had a pretty sizeable assist in putting the ark together by a group of stone giants, one of them voiced by Nick Nolte.
There are also subplots about teenage rebellion and young lovethis is a big-budget, big-studio movie, after alland a cool, artsy film-within-the-film when Noah explains the seven days of creation. (Cue even more controversy.) The flood itself is something awesomeand awfulto behold. And there are explosions.
Anthony Hopkins plays Noahs father, Methuselah, and Ray Winstone is Tubal-Cain, a minor character barely noted in the Old Testament who gets elevated to his own subplot as a conniving thug of a king who threatens to derail Noahs entire mission.
The setsespecially the locations filmed in Icelandlook spectacular. Some of the special effects have an over-the-top, sci-fi, Lord of the Rings feel that may be a bit jarring to some viewers, but hey, consider the magnitude of what the story is about, after alla cataclysmic mega-event bigger than anything hobbit Bilbo Baggins ever faced in Middle Earth.
Its long, a lot to digest, and it certainly deviates from what you might have covered in Sunday School. But boy, is it ever interestingand well worth seeing, especially if youre open to a bold, trippy new interpretation of an old, old story, about miracles of varying size and shape, in which you still today might find some new inspiration.
-NEIL POND, AMERICAN PROFILE MAGAZINE