Darren Aronofsky’s Bloated Biblical Biopic Is as Overstuffed as Noah’s Ark

Blame it on the rain

Jennifer Connelly and Russell Crowe in Noah.
Jennifer Connelly and Russell Crowe in Noah.

Among the silly quotes they’re using in the movie ads to rescue the bloated biblical epic Noah, there’s a particularly idiotic one that claims, “If you loved Titanic, you’ll love Noah.” Nothing could be more misleading. Titanic has nothing whatsoever to do with Noah except for the fact that they both have a lot of water.

Noah ★★
(2/4 stars)

Written by: Darren Aronofsky and Ari Handel
Directed by: 
Darren Aronofsky
Starring: Russell Crowe, Jennifer Connelly and Anthony Hopkins
Running time: 138 min.

Noah was the man in the Old Testament cherry-picked by God (called the Creator in the overwrought screenplay co-written by director Darren Aronofsky and Ari Mandel) to save one pair of each of Earth’s living creatures for posterity before a titanic flood destroyed the world. Noah and the ark is not a fable made any more believable by the dynamics of a gimmick-laden, computer-generated action epic. The number of people who already consider the story relayed in the Book of Genesis tantamount to Greek mythology are uncountable. Once they see the movie, budgeted at a rumored $130 million, they’ll say it’s all Greek anyway.  

It’s hard to fact-check an apocalyptic story that allegedly happened several centuries before the birth of Christ, but according to the 21st-century gospel preached by Mr. Aronofsky, Noah (as played by the hulking, humorless Russell Crowe) is a brooding, monosyllabic clod who was the grandson of Methuselah and a descendant of Seth, the good son of Adam. Hundreds of years have passed since the sins in the Garden of Eden, but the Creator is fed up with the results of what happened there, so he decides to rid the world of evil and appoint honest, hardworking and devout Noah to save what’s left by building an ark to float off in the storm in search of a new beginning, signified by a dove of peace. In his attempt to make the bare bones of a tale only crudely sketched in the Bible come alive as more of a personal story about Noah’s heroism and redemption than a disaster epic about technology, Mr. Aronofsky includes the dove and obligatory rainbow, but he forgot to give Noah a personality. The director’s vision is so dark—and Mr. Crowe’s grumbling, sour-stomach persona so much like a Tums commercial—that you don’t care much what happens to him or his ark, which looks like a big barge with a stove pipe in the middle.

For more than an hour, Noah collects building supplies with the aid of his faithful wife (Jennifer Connelly), his two able-bodied sons, Ham (Logan Lerman) and Shem (Douglas Booth), and Shem’s girlfriend (a peculiarly lifeless Emma Watson)—all woefully underwritten roles, played by alarmingly wasted talents. Methuselah hobbles in and out as a loopy, old vegetarian searching for berries. Anthony Hopkins plays him like a cross between a cave man and Santa Claus. For tension, there is also a villain named Tubal-cain (Ray Winstone), who sneaks onto the ark and causes no end of trouble before facing Noah in hand-to-hand combat.  For special effects, there’s a group of angels turned into powerful piles of moving boulders and massive talking stones called the Watchers, who do most of the heavy lifting.

And of course, you get the miracles: whole forests that grow from a leaf in the bottom of a teacup, flowers that blossom from a drop of blood, water that springs from a hole in the rocks, and the animals—“all that creeps, crawls and slithers,” says Noah. I liked the computer-generated elephants, mounting the ark as gracefully as gazelles. Mr. Aronofsky, a loyal disciple of overkill, is not content to simply show the destruction of mankind but has to show the creation (“Let there be light!”) as well, from the plants, fish, fowl and beasts to the serpent, the forbidden apple, Cain vs. Abel, and man vs. creation. It’s a tedious journey not recommended for the sleep-deprived.  

Taking impossible liberties with the Bible, the movie will undoubtedly irritate religious groups as well as audiences eager for a little more action than this glum, lethargic waste of money provides. “Be fruitful and replenish the earth,” instructs the Creator. But how? All that’s left when the ark finally lands are Noah and his wife, who are too old to reproduce, one girl who is too barren (although she does have one baby Noah tries to kill because she’s a girl) and Noah’s sons. Eternal realist that I am, I was left with the uneasy feeling that the future of Noah’s world will be populated by people with birth defects.

Darren Aronofsky’s Bloated Biblical Biopic Is as Overstuffed as Noah’s Ark