Was Noah a good movie or not?
That’s a question that was first asked way back in March. At the time, the answer depended on who you asked. For instance, Noah is one of Arleigh’s favorite films of the year. My reaction, however, was far more mixed. Noah was one of those movies that I thought I would review as soon as I watched it but that proved to be a lot more difficult than I expected. As I found myself wondering what I should say in my review, it became very apparent to me that I wasn’t sure whether I liked the film or not.
By the time that I finally decided that I was, overall, disappointed by Darren Aronofsky’s controversial and spiritual-but-not-quite-biblical version of the Deluge, over a month had passed and we had all moved on to different movies.
And so that review remained unwritten. And, at first, I thought it wouldn’t matter. As much as I try to review every single movie that I see, I know that the world is not going to end if I miss a film or two. After all, I’ve never specifically written down just how much I hated the latest Transformers movie and the world has yet to plunge into the sun…
And yet, for all of its flaws and the fact that it left me feeling underwhelmed, Noah has stuck in my mind in a way that many of the films that I saw this year have not. It would be a struggle for me to remember much of anything about Dracula Untold but Noah … Noah has stayed with me.
Thinking back, it’s easy for me to say what did not work about Noah.
As opposed to Aronofsky’s best films (Requiem for A Dream, The Wrestler, and my beloved Black Swan), Noah felt oddly paced with certain scenes ending too quickly while other scenes seemed to drag on forever.
The film’s environmental message was delivered with such a heavy hand that it ultimately did not make much of a difference whether you agreed or not. For a film that went out of its way to establish itself as not being a traditional biblical film, Noah was certainly preachy.
While the film deserves credit for not flinching in its portrait of a surly and self-righteous Noah, it still doesn’t change the fact that the movie was essentially 138 minutes spent with a very unlikable character.
Anthony Hopkins gave perhaps the worst performance of his career as Methuselah. In the role of Tubal-Cain, Ray Winstone was such a one-dimensional villain that I half expected him to invent trains just so he could tie Emma Watson to the tracks.
And, of course, there were the Watchers — fallen angels who had been turned into sentient piles of stone by a vengeful God. I know that some people loved the Watchers but to me, they looked ludicrous…
And yet, that’s the reason why we love Darren Aronofsky, isn’t it?
Obviously, it was a risk to portray the fallen angels as being a bunch of talking rocks. It was also a risk to take a character who is mentioned only once in the book of Genesis — in this case, Tubal-Cain — and then use that character as a representation of everything that’s wrong with the human race. It was a risk to make a “biblical” film that openly questioned both the existence and wisdom of God. We expect and demand that directors take risks but, at the same time, we also want to ridicule and judge when those risks don’t work out. That’s the issue that we, as film lovers, often face. Do we celebrate and perhaps excuse a director for his intentions or do we solely judge him based on the results?
And the thing with Noah is that, as much as the movie did not work for me, it also did work for me. For all of those flaws that I listed above, Noah is full of images that are so beautiful and so memorable that I can still visualize them as if I saw them yesterday:
Noah and his sons walk across a gray and blasted landscape, stopping just long enough to stare at a foreboding city in the distance.
Noah walks through a decadent settlement and briefly, this somber film is so full of bright colors and flamboyant characters that the viewer is almost as overwhelmed as Noah.
That Ark, looking small and isolated, floating across an endless blue ocean.
And finally, Noah talking about the horrors of humanity and briefly, we see that the shadows that he’s visualizing are dressed in modern clothing.
For all of my issues with Noah, it’s such a visually impressive film and takes so many risks that I can’t help but respect it. I don’t consider it to be a great film but, after all this time, I can say that it’s a film that only a true artist could make.
And, considering the current state of American film, that’s one of the best compliments that one can give.