Russell Crowe’s woeful heroism can’t save Noah

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Black Swan director Darren Aronofsky takes a violent approach to tell the epic story of Noah, starring Russell Crowe. Black Swan director Darren Aronofsky takes a violent approach to tell the epic story of Noah, starring Russell Crowe.

Forget all of the hype surrounding Noah. What really matters is whether the movie is any good.

It isn’t. To paraphrase Edward Burns, it is dull, dreary, dry and a bore. Noah—and by implication its director and co-screenwriter Darren Aronofsky—can’t decide whether it’s a big head trip (an Aronofsky specialty) or an action picture or some odd version of a Bible story. It ends up muddled, and instead of providing substance, we get lots of close-ups of Noah (Russell Crowe) looking constipated.

If you know your Noah (the Bible version), you’re going to find lots of familiar things, and many, many liberties taken. One of the nice surprises is the movie’s Icelandic environs; much of it was filmed on beautiful black volcanic ash, a welcome change from the desert setting of every other biblical epic ever made.

Of course, one of the things that irritates even while gazing upon the setting is Noah’s insistence that the land is barren when there’s an enormous green mountain behind him. But no matter, there’s a flood comin’.

Noah has a vision that the world will end in water and that God (here called “The Creator”—cue the outrage) means for them all to die, but first Noah is to save the innocents. That is, Noah and his family are to save the animals.

So Noah collects his wife Naameh (Jennifer Connolly, whose teeth are decidedly 21st century), his sons Ham (Logan Lerman), Shem (Douglas Booth) and Japheth (Leo McHugh Carroll), along with an orphan, Ila (Emma Watson), and they set about building an ark in a forest The Creator provides.

Neat computer-generated trick: The animals arrive two by two, first the birds, then the crawling factions, and then the big, big mammals. They’re put to sleep for the journey in a cute fashion that’s demonstrated for the audience on what appears to be a red-headed woodpecker.

But there are people who want to board the ark: Namely Tubal-cain (Ray Winstone) and his followers. And it’s at this point that Noah—with help from the Watchers, fallen angels made of ash—becomes an action hero, slaughtering more people than I care to count.

It sounds like there’s a lot happening, but there isn’t. Noah is thin on narrative. After figuring out the visions aren’t a form of insanity, Noah has to build the ark, survive the flood, and repopulate the planet. But much of the second half of Noah centers on Noah’s face as he wonders how he’s failed The Creator and how they should all die. It’s as much fun as it sounds.

It’s not a particularly pro-faith story—there are scenes that suggest it’s pro-evolution—and it gets pretty far from the Bible. And there’s a pro-environmentalism angle, too. Mostly, it just drags on as Noah acts righteously.

Word of warning: This is a PG-13 movie, and it is the single most violent PG-13 movie I’ve ever seen. People gets axes in the head, chest and neck, and there’s beaucoup spurting blood. Why couldn’t Aronofsky have adapted Bill Cosby’s version of the flood?

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