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'Noah" rarely biblical in proportion

By Helen Fu
On April 7, 2014

Of all the bible stories that could have been turned into sweeping, gritty epics that contemplate the nature of God and man, the tale of Noah and the flood does not spring to mind as an automatic forerunner. Though the concept of a world-ending flood certainly has enough of an apocalyptic flavor to it, the source material lacks the proper details to construct any kind of compelling story.
To director Darren Aronofsky, these roadblocks-along with the source material itself-seem to be more petty annoyances than anything else. A typical retelling of Noah's story might have tried to emphasize the happy ending, where humanity is grounded, and saved, but not so with the auteur previously responsible for disturbing tales like "Requiem for a Dream" and "Black Swan." Instead, Aronofsky chooses to fill the world of Noah with gritty apocalyptic imagery, and focuses more on the relationships between people trying to survive an apocalypse instead of any divine being.
The movie begins simplistically enough, setting up the Russell Crowe-portrayed Noah as the undisputed protagonist and Tubal-Cain (portrayed by Ray Winstone) as his nemesis. This enmity of course goes back generations, for Noah is descended from the line of Seth-the third son of Adam and Eve-and Tubal-Cain, as his name suggests is descended from Cain, the first murderer. When the rain starts pouring, however, things get a little more complicated, and the exact ramifications of the flood hits home: God intends to destroy everything, and Noah-this ostensibly righteous man-is willing to condone this act.
What follows is a series of interlocking conflicts between Noah and just about everyone else as he attempts to carry out God's will. It begins as a struggle with Tubal-Cain and his ilk (all of whom look like extras from "Game of Thrones"), with everyone trying to get a place on the ark, but eventually strife seeps into Noah's own family as well. As he spends more and more time in the ark, Noah's morality only gets more and more dubious to the point where he is willing to sacrifice everything to satisfy the demands of his God.
Though all of this tension seems to be a recipe for a truly great psychological drama, but for some reason the movie never quite reaches the profundity that Aronofsky was trying for and instead meanders toward confusion. The story is ostensibly about a biblical character, but so many liberties are taken that it becomes barely recognizable, and circumstances are contorted for the purpose of highlighting the doom and gloom tone of the film. Morality becomes a blasted grey landscape where the bad guys rape and pillage the good guys are not good guys at all and the special effects that are supposed to evoke a sense of awe feel more like a pointless spectacle. It's not a bad film by any stretch, but in the end, the film Noah is every bit as aimlessly dogmatic as its title character.

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