There are several obvious angles I could take in writing about the new movie “Noah.”
I could write about how its story conforms or doesn’t conform to the one in the Bible. I could write about the very odd promotional campaign the studio ran before the release of the movie, announcing at every opportunity that the film was controversial because it added to the story from Genesis.
I could write about the movie’s belated ecological yearnings, its suggestion that pre-industrial man had already found a way to destroy nature before we had aerosol cans and internal combustion engines. I could write about the movie’s historical inaccuracies—the beautiful Jennifer Connelly wears machine knitted clothes in this near pre-historic drama.
I could write about the mediocre computer-generated animation of the movie’s Transformer characters—fallen angels made into rock giants. One amusing subject might be the problematic casting of Logan Lerman, who we usually see on the big screen when he is playing Percy Jackson, contemporary Greek mythic hero, as Noah’s troubled son Ham.
Or heck, I could spend the whole review considering what the movie-makers, led by iconoclastic writer and director Darren Aronofsky thought he was going to gain by replacing the word “God” with “Creator” all throughout the picture.
But it wouldn’t be much use to discuss any of these topics here. Because “Noah” is a bore. It isn’t interesting enough that anyone much is going to want to look for new ways to think about it. Heck, there will be people sleeping in the theater during the last hour of this 160 minute film. People who paid good money to get in, hoping to be entertained and enlightened by the show.
Aronofsky, who directed “The Black Swan” three or four years ago, has collaborated with Ari Handel in expanding the relatively brief story of the Biblical flood. The main things they have done to the story are to include the above-mentioned Stone-formers as laborers who hope to regain their places in Heaven by helping Noah (Russell Crowe).
He needs help building the giant lozenge of a log cabin which eventually contains mating pairs of all ground and air dwelling creatures for the period that “the Creator” covers the surface of the Earth with water. Incidentally, Mrs. Noah (Connelly) finds a kind of incense the smoke of which puts the creatures into a stage of suspended animation for the Flood’s forty days and nights. Humans are apparently unaffected.
Noah’s granddad Methuselah (Anthony Hopkins, wearing caked mud for make-up) also knows how to discover useful natural properties. He waves a metaphoric wand at an orphan girl the Noahs have taken in (Emma Watson), and poof she is capable of motherhood (and is immediately randy).
The lumbering story, with its evolving topical interests, eventually concentrates (for a time) on the threat that an army of vicious Cain progeny, led by poor Ray Winstone, will rush the arc and take control of it once the big rain starts. Noah’s second son, Ham, flirts with the idea of supporting his father’s enemies, in part because Dad doesn’t do enough to help him find a wife of his own.
You see, it eventually turns out that Noah blames man (the apple eating isn’t specifically Eve’s doing) for the destruction of the planet that “the Creator” is addressing with this flood. If there are no fertile or potentially fertile women saved from the rushing waters, humanity will die out. And Noah thinks that’s just. So no consort for Percy Jackson.
When it turns out that Grandpa’s meddling has goofed up Noah’s scheme to end mankind, that’s going to cause an on-board problem. Will it bother anyone else that the gestation of human twins usually takes longer than forty days? Never mind. Noah’s also going to have trouble with a stow-away.
But I can’t think many moviegoers will still be paying serious attention to the film by the time that stuff comes up. “Noah” does little to command continuing attention. Its images are not striking or new—in fact, the landscape looks as if it was taken from footage edited from the Lord of the Rings pictures.
There is no strong central story. The plot is slow to make itself known and then seems inundated by extraneous material. The characters are not particularly interesting, though Hopkins does have some magnetism.
The story does make references to a famous passage in the Bible. That’s about the only claim on our attention possessed by this movie, which won’t use the word “God.”.