Darren Aronofsky's Noah
Man, fuck Darren Aronofsky.
Fuck his weak, hacky, hammy, pretentious, melodramatic, student-filmmaking-with-a-budget shit. I’ve always been mystified as to how it is he gets people to buy his overdone soap opera crap as serious film, but I’m confident ‘Noah’–a retelling of the renowned Biblical yarn with all the animals on the boat, shot largely in Iceland–will finally be his undoing; it will expose his shoddily constructed ‘films’ for what they are: overwrought and overrated pandering to fad-driven art-house wannabes who are too impatient for genuine counterculture film, but too proud to admit they’d rather be watching a Michael Bay movie.
Not that ‘Noah’ makes any kind of serious attempt to disguise itself as an art-house film. Occasional bouts of faux time-lapse notwithstanding, Noah is a through-and-through fantasy/adventure film, complete with an epic battle between teeming hordes of sword-wielding soldiers and CGI monsters, a glowering Russell Crowe yelling at people for no reason, Emma Watson running around a forest while being distraught and a Shakespearian actor playing an old wizard.
…or at least the first act is. Confusingly enough, once ‘Noah’ has dispensed with the Tolkienesque antics in its set-up (although it comes across more `Battlefield: Earth’ than Battle of Helm’s Deep), it scrambles desperately to squeeze some human drama out of its vague environmentalist parable/Biblical tale, conjuring up some of Aronofsky’s typically trite melodrama and leaving Jennifer Connelly, champ that she is, to act her ass off to try to establish some pathos. She receives no help from the woefully underequipped Watson, the perennially miscast Ray Winstone, the near-invisible Logan Lerman, the laughably handsome Douglas Booth and least of all from her stone-faced co-star, with whom she has exactly zero chemistry, and as a consequence her efforts fall sadly short. The flimsy drama reaches its ‘climax’ when Aronofsky reaches into his big bag of button-pushing shockers to prove how edgy he is and retrieves: infanticide! Oh, no he didn’t!
The film’s conclusion then provides closure in a weirdly obligatory fashion, like it was a necessity rather than a part of the story anybody felt any real interest in telling. The cast all mumbles very automatically through some equally automatic dialogue, and it all ends with a Bible quote and some impossibly cheesy nature shots. One is left wondering why anyone considering himself a serious director would choose to tackle such incredibly familiar and polarizing subject matter and then barely break the surface of it; it’s like finally getting your hands on a book you’ve always wanted to read, and then just skimming it or reading the CliffsNotes.
As I mentioned earlier, Aronofsky seems somewhat intrigued by the idea of Noah’s fable as an environmentalist tale, with Cain’s evil descendants being seen strip-mining the Earth, possibly causing God to initiate the great deluge and thereby making Noah the first climate change activist. If the intention here is to advocate militant environmentalism to the Christian right, then I wish the movie the best of luck; Noah is certainly simplistic enough to be understood by fundamentalists, fraught as it is by one-dimensional characters, predictable story arcs and everyone getting pretty much what they deserve.
Was the point here maybe some sort of genre exercise? Did Aronofsky simply feel like spending $125 million to make a purposely shallow and insipid biblical movie? Is he just the Liam Lynch of filmmakers, parodying genres by ridiculing their conventions, like some sort of artsy heir to Abrahams, Zucker and Zucker? Or is he showing us, with his computerised rock monsters, prehistoric industrial society and healing magic how ridiculous it is that 2.2 billion people believe such an impossible tale has literal truth?
However, the point is somewhat moot, for despite all its multiple smaller shortcomings, the film’s chief sin is that it’s boring. No, seriously: it’s fucking boring as shit. Aronofsky simply doesn’t have the energy or the sense of fun to direct a blockbuster adventure film, and the choppy, uneven editing destroys any pacing or gravitas the movie might otherwise have had. It also fails as a morality tale because of its pitiable lack of depth or characters, and it even fails as a purely aesthetic object d’art: as George Lucas learned (or would have learned, if he had listened to anyone other than the massive, talking dollar signs he sees when he closes his eyes), all the special effects in the world don’t mean shit if they don’t have context or atmosphere to contain them. There is some admittedly cool mise-en-scéne on the ark itself as it creaks aimlessly through the deluge, but it’s hardly enough to save this sorry mess of a film.
In short, Aronofsky has wronged us, himself and the whole world once again by delivering a thumping wad of ego-tastic hyperbole that possesses all the subtlety and intricacy of a facial stabbing. It is yet another two-hours-plus of an overpaid film student with nothing interesting to say masturbating teeny-bopper imaginings vigorously enough to impress only the shallowest and most gullible viewers. It’s so pointless it’s hard even to hate it, and yet, I find I hate it almost as much as I hate all his other movies.