Review: Noah confounds audiences

JAMES CROOT
Last updated 09:14 28/03/2014
 Russell Crowe

NOAH: Russell Crowe

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Noah (M)

A tale of biblical proportions for the Game of Thrones generation. An ancient allegory for these climate-change chastened times. Noah - Evangelising Eco Warrior.

But what's most surprising about Darren Aronofsky's Book of Genesis-inspired big budget actioner is how intimate and insular an epic it is.

For while all the animals come in two-by-two (hurrah, hurrah for some truly impressive CGI) and the planet floods, the focus is very firmly fixed on old Noah (a bellicose and bedraggled Russell Crowe, borrowing Zach Galifianakis's look from The Hangover 3) and his whanau.

That's not to say that all the budget isn't up on the screen though, this is an Aronofsky film after all so as in Black Swan and The Fountain there are plenty of visual delights and surreal segues from blood-soaked nightmares to a tremendous time-lapse, point-of-view recreation of, well, creation.  

And that's where Noah will end up somewhat confounding audiences.

It's neither fish nor fowl, Neither action flick nor full-on arthouse experiment.

Cinematic vegemite that people will either love, hate or simply be bemused by. This year's Prometheus.

Given its religious overtones it's naturally enough going to be compared to 2004's The Passion of the Christ but with a palette set to grim and a Kronos Quartet-performed score tuned to dissonant it feels more (Terrence) Malick (think The Tree of Life) than Mad Mel (Gibson), and certainly closer to his Passion follow-up Apocalypto, especially with its pervading atmosphere of dread.

Aronofsky and Fountain co-writer Ari Handel certainly know how to keep the action moving along, but amongst its mix of portentous and perfunctory dialogue nothing really stands out.

Instead you get the impression they've cribbed bits from Hollywood's rather than the King James Bible as elements of Titanic, Braveheart, Waterworld, the Transformers trilogy (with talking rock angels standing in for Autobots), Peter Jackson's Rings cycle and Prometheus are hurled at the screen.

At the centre of it all is a powerful performance by Crowe. Although hardly a stretch for an actor who has most recently essayed a Terminator-esque policemen in Les Mis (and be warned the former Russ le Roq sings here too) and Superman's Dad in Man of Steel, he does a solid job of taking Noah from benevolent but hunted vegetarian to vengeful zealot.

An amalgam of Field of Dreams' Ray Kinsella (knowing that if he builds it they will come) and The Mosquito Coast's Allie Fox, Noah certainly allows Rusty to dominate the screen as attempts to carry out "the creator's plan" while battling the elements, cheesed off middle son Ham (Percy Jackson's Logan Lerman) and wide-boy "King of Men" Tubal Cain (The Sweeney's Ray Winstone).

Others to feature amongst the solid if unspectacular cast include Jennifer Connolly (Requiem for a Dream), Emma Watson (The Bling Ring), a criminally under-utilised Marton Csokas (Alice in Wonderland) and an addled Anthony Hopkins, who simply reprises his Thor and Legends of the Fall patriarch, but now with added berry obsession.

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