Controversy gets people talking. I mean, would Noah be the film on everyone’s lips if the studio and the director (Darren Aronofsky) hadn't each fought so fiercely for the final cut, or if they hadn't gone in search of that all-important papal blessing? Probably not, but fortunately we can finally focus on the movie now.
In a way, Noah’s a film that says ‘you know the story, but what of the man?’ However, that’s the least interesting part of the film. Russell Crowe's Noah is fiercely passionate, but stuck in his ways. He’s a perfectly normal, and totally flawed, individual caught up in ‘The Creator’s’ master plan.
And what a plan . . . from the glorious forests springing up out of the barren wasteland to the mesmerising fast-track evolution sequence, the film really hits its stride when the humans are left out of the equation. The visuals are often stunning and they speak louder than any of the drama. Throughout the course of the narrative, we come to learn that humans are the weak link on Earth . . . just as they are in the movie.
That isn't always the case, though, and many of early scenes do a good job of balancing the epic with the personal. At first, Noah tries to avoid drinking from the poisoned cup of modern society, with all its depressingly damning, vice-ridden filth and Tubal-Cain and his people are kept at arm’s length. It’s during these early scenes that the antagonists seem at their most threatening. However, when Ray Winstone's Cain finally makes an appearance, the threat is somewhat diminished, and the film starts losing track.
Pretty much the entirety of the second half is set on the ark and, while the haunting cries for help seem promising at first, Cain’s influence is unwelcome. The whole dramatic ark (no pun intend) crashes down to Earth. Gone are the tragic, and effectively animated, ‘Watchers’ and the terrifying dream sequences, and in their place we’re given a misjudged procreation parable. The film finally tips over into overly preachy territory and a great deal of the magic is lost. Sweeping cameras and rousing scores are replaced with mundane family bickering and many of the performances lose their focus, as a result. It’s telling that, in the end, the most well-rounded performance comes from Anthony Hopkins as Noah’s grandfather, Methuselah, who’s pretty much forgotten about in the second half.
The morality tale is also often uncomfortably harsh and what starts out as a delicately handled environmental message soon runs dangerously close to alienating brutality. And guess when this pessimism kicks in? Yep, the second half . . . got it in one.
It’s a shame that a film with a first half as bold, brave and beautiful as Noah’s confines itself, both physically and philosophically, to such a muted final hour.