While not the Arkin’ masterpiece Russell Crowe or his divorce lawyer needed it to be (especially after that “WTF moment” of his from earlier this year, “Winter’s Tale”), there’s enough splendor, ambition, intrigue and NutraSweet-for-the-eye to keep Darren Aronofsky’s reboot of ”Evan Almighty” afloat.
As impressive as it is perplexing, rebel filmmaker Aronofsky (“The Fountain”, “The Wrestler”) moulds a number of different tones, ideas and shooting-styles to tell the story of a shaggy man who had his way with animals. Though based on a story – albeit, one that was about 3 pages long – found in religious scripture, atheist Aronofsky doesn’t spin his remix on the same turntable as ‘The Passion of the Christ’, in fact he seems more determined to serve our lord in Middle Earth, Peter Jackson, as opposed to our heavenly father (‘God’ is not mentioned once in the film).
The short story – found in the Book of Genesis -is fleshed out, considerably, in an epic-sized production that combines drama, adventures, thrills and Lamas. Crowe is Noah, the man chosen by ‘the creator’ to undertake a momentous mission of rescue before the great flood hits – wiping man out for good. The creator, you see, is pissed off that man has turned into a sinful screw-up, so he’s starting again – planning to only keep the animals, since they are, and have always been, innocent.
With family in tow (Jennifer Connelly, Logan Lerman, Douglas Booth, and Emma Watson making up the clan; Anthony Hopkins as the wise, magical grandfather that lives in the mountains), Noah begins to build an Ark -someone for the animals to seek shelter until ‘the new beginning’. When the neighbourhood nasties (led by a menacing Ray Winstone) get wind of what he’s up to – and why – they of course want the life-saving boat for themselves.
Seemingly under pressure to craft a film that’ll appeal to all ages, demographics, religions, and voting committees (both the Oscars AND the MTV Movie Awards), Aronofsky plays darts with a mix of different things here – in the hopes a couple of elements stick to the fuzzy board. There’s Malick-esque why-we-are-here ideology and visuals (a’a “Tree of Life”), there’s epically-staged “Lord of the Rings”-style battle sequences, there’s a few minutes of Peter Weir’s “The Mosquito Coast” in here, and even, um, a couple of the rock creatures from a discarded “NeverEnding Story” sequel.
The idea here might also have been to tell a Sunday school tale a little differently, and while some of it works, a lot of it is also head-scratching – so radical and off-the-wall you almost expect ‘Hollywood’ from “Mannequin” to make a cameo in the film’s third half.
Wonky mix aside, another of the film’s problems is its weight. It’s too stout a movie. Noah remembered to pack his vessel with two of each animal, but he didn’t – unfortunately – pack a pair of scissors. The length of the movie, bordering on two-and-a-half-hours, definitely doesn’t do the product justice. Sluggish, as opposed to tight and exciting, the editing – or lack thereof – works against the emotional attachment and capitation the film hopes to snare with its audience. If it moved faster, and didn’t snail-it out so much, one might’ve even forgotten they were wearing a watch.
Yes, there’s some beautiful visuals filling the screen during those languid bits, but film is supposed to entertain.. No? Buy a pretty sound-encompassing valentine’s day card if you want a postcard without punch, I say!
Where “Noah” works best is as a tense psychological drama about a man’s battle from within, and also – no surprise – in its third half, when it’s on water, where those crashing waves and the tense unpredictability of what’s to come, results in some good white-knuckle thrills. And despite its issues, Russell Crowe, as good as ever, manages to hold the audience’s attention with his complex, commanding turn as the grey-shaded hero of the piece. Steve Carell didn’t quite manage that in “Evan”.
The question remains then, did I like it or not? Well, that’s hard to answer.. it’s not as simple as saying just yes or.. Noah.