By Susan JAMES
Director Darren Aronofsky’s “Noah” is not your parents’ Bible story. It’s a grim, hard-edged science fiction take on a merciless super-being bent on genocide called the Creator and his superhero henchman. The childlike vision of jolly giraffes rolling two-by-two into a wooden boat is far from Aronofsky’s own stylized vision of violence, vengeance, sin and punishment.
Filmed with striking visuals in the volcanic vortex of Iceland, this version of a Middle Eastern fable has a peculiarly Viking flavored tilt.
The movie begins with a voice over that runs through the early chapters of Genesis from Adam and Eve’s expulsion from Eden to the murder of Abel. It then shifts gears to show an industrialized world that thrives on war. In the process, a group of fallen angels who defied the Creator by helping mankind have been turned into malevolent lava stone giants with glowing eyes.
When we first see Noah, he is a young boy about to be initiated by his father into the manhood of his tribe. Strangely there appear to be no other members of his tribe around. The initiation, which consists of wrapping an illuminated snakeskin around the boy’s arm, is interrupted by that symbol of human evil Tubal-cain, who kills Noah’s father and steals the snakeskin. Is the skin a symbol of man’s triumph over temptation or of his surrender to it? We’re never sure.
Noah grows up to become Russell Crowe, a man on a mission with the growl of a lion. Aronofsky’s Noah is a zealot, so blinded by his special relationship with the Creator that he is willing to wipe out mankind and his own family when mankind’s number comes up. He’s married to Mrs. Noah, played by Jennifer Connelly, a Beverly Hills housewife lost on her first episode of “Survivor.” They live in pup tents on a lava flow with their three young sons. Noah reveres life so much that he’s angered when one of the boys picks a flower, but kills with surprising ease three starving hunters stalking a beast that is half dog, half pinecone.
Aronofsky, who co-wrote the script, is awed by the Creator’s power but turned off by that power’s unforgiving nature. Is mankind an ice cream swirl of chocolate and vanilla, dark and light? Sure, but the obsession that fixates on wiping out all human life, good and bad, seems to Mrs. Noah a bit of an overreach. She argues with her husband about the value of life. Noah is adamant. Mankind must go and that includes his own family who are forbidden to reproduce. This leads to an off-putting segment revolving around Noah’s threat to kill his son’s baby daughters. As the rain falls Aronofsky puts Noah way over on the dark side with only his connection to a psychotic super-being for comfort.
Noah sees the animal kingdom as the real innocents, pure and happy and living in peace. He’s obviously never studied animal behavior, and his tenderness toward the birds and beasts clashes violently with his casual brutality toward human beings.
As the cradle of the ark rocks on the dreary waves, much chest-beating about his own sinful nature ensues. Spoiler alert: the ark survives.
A narrowly cast movie dominated by British actors, Crowe and the few Americans along for the ride are all doing English accents. If God is an Englishman. this is the go-to film for Noah and his sons.
See you at the movies!