Now, I’m a Theology graduate, so I like to think that I have a fair appreciation of, y’know, God and the Bible. If you believe nothing else about Christianity, accept that the Bible is one of the most seminal, enduring and influential works of literature in existence. What Darren Aronovsky’s film taught us is that surprisingly, it does not always make for solid screenplay.
I walked into the cinema open-minded, I really did. Despite the bad reviews, the laughable casting (I don’t think tenth generation mankind looked like Emma Watson and Douglas Booth, if I’m honest) and the generally confusing timeframe, I was curious to see Noah brought to the big screen. I liked the gargantuan special effects, and I really liked the dark undertones to the story. Russell Crowe mentioned on Graham Norton that his Noah is not the bearded, benevolent, animals-came-in-two-by-two guardian of childhood stories, oh no. He wasn’t kidding – Crowe’s Noah is an obsessive, relentlessly pessimistic, crazed orphan with a major axe to grind – which is cool in a Game of Thrones-y kinda way, blood, guts and all.
Equally I enjoy the biblical narrative, handily explaining away the Creation story in a serious of stop motion pictures, and the expansion on the Old Testament theology (Old Testament stories have always lent themselves more easily to epic adaptations, as essentially they’re just disaster movies, except with God at the end, instead of Morgan Freeman or Dennis Quaid). The first two-thirds of the movie are genuinely entertaining – entertaining enough to keep you from noticing the chronologically-challenged technology or the hilarity of Ray Winstone’s turn as the embodiment of mankind’s sin.
But here comes the kicker. Like so many halfway-decent films before it, Noah falls at the last with a disarmingly hateful finale in which (spoilers aplenty coming right up) it all goes a bit Lord of the Flies, a dread-locked Emma Watson does her very best One Born Every Minute impression and then Noah gets divorced. It’s like a pre-historic Jeremy Kyle. By this point, I wished I was one of the thousands who’d been outside of the Ark when the rains came down, because its hardly a bundle of laughs on board.
The film then merrily skips over the bit we all wonder about Noah’s Ark (‘but wait…repopulate the Earth…but there’s only one family alive…oh.’). And in this sense, I wish Aronovsky had taken his vision a bit further and been that step more symbolic. The whole Noah story is symbolic one way or another, and it would’ve been nice to see a more plausible adaptation that interpreted the story less literally. You’re left wondering if this saving humanity lark is really worthwhile, if all we’re left with is a ferocious Russell Crowe, a lonely Jennifer Connelly, an airhead Douglas Booth and an oddly randy Emma Watson. Oh, and a completely farcical Anthony Hopkins on the perpetual hunt for berries too, for good measure.
Oh, Noah. It tried so hard, and for that I applaud it. But this lumbering ship of a film never really makes it beyond the harbour.