Remember Fantasia 2000? In one of the film’s more cartoonish segments (Pomp and Circumstance), Donald Duck plays first mate to the Bible’s Noah, a bearded old man who carries a walking stick. It seems the fate of all Biblical men to become bearded old cripples, but not in director Darren Aronofsky‘s world. Where his live-action vision differs is that Noah, played by Russell Crowe, is a muscular, axe-wielding environmentalist. This is truly a Noah for modern audiences.
Noah reunites Russell Crowe with his co-star and on-screen love from A Beautiful Mind, Jennifer Connelly. Thirteen years later, their roles haven’t changed much. Connelly still plays the emotionally supportive wife, here named Naameh, to Crowe’s mentally troubled husband, except in Noah’s case, his hallucinations are visions communicated by God.
With writer Ari Handel, Aronofsky takes great care to consider events and images that might elude those who are experienced with clichéd readings of the original Bible story. For example, the ark was never intended to travel to any particular destination, but simply to float, weather the storm, and house its animal residents, so the result is a practical structure of brutalist architecture, without any need for a keel, bow, stern, or sails. The filmmakers also recognized that the animals two-by-two would not look as they do today. With the exception of the doves, all the animals, rendered in CG, look appropriately prehistoric. Finally, and most hauntingly, distant screaming of humans trapped drowning outside the ark.
Crowe’s Noah is a righteous and pious man. He is also something of an environmentalist, teaching his children to respect what the earth, or the Creator (God is never mentioned by name) has provided for them. The introduction of the Watchers is where Aronofsky started to lose me. Having pitied mankind after their expulsion from Paradise, God cursed these fallen Angels, though they come in handy when Noah needs help constructing the ark or defending it from an evil army.
Logan Lerman plays Noah’s second son, Ham, whose only purpose in the film is to complain he doesn’t have a female companion of his own. Oh those teenagers! Even in Biblical times, they only had one thing on their minds.
Despite its shortage of source material, the film expands on the original flood in ways that are consistent with some of the Bible’s major themes, including progeny, the lingering presence of evil in the world, self-sacrifice as a method to exorcise sin from the Earth, and that ultimate question: what does God want me to do and why does he want me to do it?
Like so many films you can’t wait to learn more about on DVD, Noah is skimpy on bonus features. (The general trend and tragic reversal among home releases is that bad films are abundant with specials while the good ones are bare bones.) In the three features, Iceland: Extreme Beauty, The Ark Exterior: A Battle for 300 Cubits, and The Ark Interior: Animals Two by Two, behind-the-scenes footage is plentiful, but not very informative. Despite having as much urgency as a fictional feature and fly-on-the-wall footage as a documentary, the segments number too few and lack too much in interviews to compensate.
Other films available for home release today include: The Other Woman, Trailer Park Boys: Don’t Legalize It, Under the Skin, The Angriest Man in Brooklyn, Lullaby, Cuban Fury and Turning Tide. ~Daniel Horowitz