Northampton Press

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Movie Review: 'Noah': Loose script sinks film

Wednesday, April 9, 2014 by PAUL WILLISTEIN pwillistein@tnonline.com in Focus

You've probably heard the Borscht Belt joke with the punchline "So how do you start a flood?"

With an eye toward "Game of Thrones," "Lord of the Rings," "Thor" and the action-fantasy movie genre, you wonder if director Darren Aronofsky ("Black Swan," 2010; The Wrestler," 2008) had that question in mind when he pitched "Noah" to studio executives with "What's the most famous ship in the world other than the Titanic?" and "Did you know that there's never been a feature movie made about the Biblical story of Noah?"

Having seen Aronofsky's "Noah," I can say that there still hasn't been a feature movie made about the Biblical story of Noah.

The poster for "Noah" states the movie is "inspired by the epic story of hope, courage and survival."

You could interpret that hype as a disclaimer, or a warning. Apparently, there already wasn't enough drama in the Biblical story.

Now, the last time I looked at the Book of Genesis, I don't recall giant troglodytes being mentioned. In "Noah," they're called the Watchers, according to the movie's on-screen prologue that rewrites the Bible.

"Noah" the movie tells us that Noah didn't build the ark alone. He had his minions: the Watchers. And afterward, when storm clouds gathered, the Watchers bashed and smashed the hoards trying to board the ark. Titanic in reverse.

The huge dozen or so 20-foot-tall, gray, rock-like Watchers with burning yellow eyes of cinder move with a lumbering gait, resembling prehistoric Transformers.

Noah (a convincing Russell Crowe) has a protagonist, Tubal-cain (Ray Winstone), the King of the evil people that God will leave behind.

Noah's sons, Shem (Douglas Booth), Ham (Logan Lerman) and Japheth (Leo McHugh Carroll) have their own set of issues.

Noah has a not always understanding wife, Naameh (radiant Jennifer Connelly of "A Beautiful Mind," 2001, and "Winter's Tale," 2014, reteamed with Crowe).

To complicate matters, Noah's adoptive daughter, Ila (a fine Emma Watson), is a temptation around the ark for at least two of Noah's sons.

There are some good scenes in "Noah" that are emotionally-moving. The cast, including Anthony Hopkins as Methuselah, is excellent.

Russell Crowe, as a stout, morose, action-hero Noah, is very believable.

Jennifer Connelly, in contrast, as a lithe and clear-eyed Naameh, is wonderful.

Emma Watson, as a determined young woman, is maturing into a fine actor.

It's a shame that superb performances and excellent production values (the animals of the ark are computer-generated animation) are drowned out by the muddy, confused and simplistic screenplay by Aronofsky and Ari Handel (story, "The Fountain," 2006).

"Noah" is a water-logged mess. The boat floats. The movie sinks. With all those animals on board, the boat stinks. So, does the movie.

"Noah," you might say, is a "no-no."

"Noah," MPAA rated PG-13 (Parents Strongly Cautioned. Some Material May Be Inappropriate For Children Under 13.) for violence, disturbing images and brief suggestive content; Genre: Action, Adventure, Drama; Run time: 2 hrs., 18 min.; Distributed by Paramount Pictures.

Credit Readers Anonymous: "Noah" was filmed in Iceland, Mexico and Mississippi.

Box Office, April 4: "Captain America" ruled, opening with an April opening weekend record $96.2 million, washing "Noah" to No. 2, $17 million, $72.3 million, two weeks;

3. "Divergent," $13 million, $114 million, three weeks; 4. "God's Not Dead," $7.7 million, $32.5 million, three weeks; 5. "The Grand Budapest Hotel," $6.3 million, $33.3 million, five weeks; 6. "Muppets Most Wanted," $6.2 million, $42.1 million, three weeks; 7. "Mr. Peabody & Sherman," $5.3 million, $102.2 million, five weeks; 8. "Sabotage," $1.9 million, $8.7 million, two weeks; 9. "Need For Speed," $1.8 million, $40.8 million, four weeks; 10. "Non-Stop," $1.8 million, $88.1 million, six weeks;

Unreel, April 11:

"Rio 2," G: Jesse Eisenberg and Anne Hathaway are among the voice talents in the animated comedy sequel.

"Draft Day," PG-13: Kevin Coster stars as an NFL general manager. Also starring in the sports drama are Chadwick Boseman, Jennifer Garner and Frank Langella.

Read Paul Willistein's movie reviews at the Lehigh Valley Press web site, thelehighvalley-press.com; the Times-News web site, tnonline.com; and hear them on "Lehigh Valley Art Salon," 6 - 6:30 p.m. Mondays, WDIY 88.1 FM, and wdiy.org, where they're archived. Email Paul Willistein: pwillistein@ tnonline.com. You can follow Paul Willistein on Twitter and friend Paul Willistein on facebook.