First came light, then came earth, some vegetation, a few birds, and then man showed up and ruined everything. At least, that’s the way Noah tells the story. The world man lives in looks like a gravel dump, with Adam’s descendants divided into two clans: the sons of Seth (Noah and family), who rummage for vegetarian edibles among the dusty ash; and the sons of Cain who build mines, cities, BBQs, and flare guns. Cain’s descendants may think the future is in their hands, but the Creator has other ideas. He’s disappointed in their greed, gluttony, and scaffolding, and thus plans to unleash a mighty flood to cleanse the earth of all mankind. Noah (Russell Crowe), being deemed worthy, is ordered to build an arc big enough to hold two of every animal, and ride out the flood while all the sinners drown. Aside from defending family and property from hungry, desperate humans, Noah’s greatest battle (and really the heart of the film) is choosing between his own desires and the goals of the Creator. Noah is a struggle of biblical proportions from start to finish.
Every animal fits on that arc – even the snakes (fish caught a lucky break when the Creator chose death-by-water). But I’m sure I’m not the only one thinking about the unicorns every time an animal meets their end. There must have been plenty of tricky ground to navigate in planning this film, including which animals to kill off. Every time they lost a passenger I found myself looking closely to see if I could recognize the newly extinct species. Would this film finally explain why I don’t ride a dragon to work? Most of the animal-slaughtering comes at the hands of Tubal-cain (Ray Winstone), the greed-driven “king” of men. Frankly, he looks like Captain Barbosa with a mob of barbarians. He is one crafty manipulator, though, so I give him and the writers a way-to-go for that.
The camera-work, however, was a little shaky. Prepare for lots of chaotic, hand-held running-cams, and spinning 360° shots. The full-circle pans are far too quick to grasp a solid image, so instead of enjoying the scenery I found myself praying for solid ground. Maybe that’s the point? Simulated sea-sickness? As for the graphics, they were… unique. Almost like watching animated paper fold in and out. Maybe it’s an attempt at a storybook/pop-up look? Something like The Nightmare Before Christmas (in the literal sense)? Either way, it made the cinematography feel very green-screened.
Nowhere did this papery-effect have more prominence than with Noah’s handymen, the Watchers. These angelic boulders do most of the heavy lifting and hammering to build the arc, but their moment of glory comes in battle. While defending the arc, they use their three stony arms to swat people into the air and smash them into the mud. This excitement may sound like the climax of the film, but it happens only about halfway through. After the frantic battle there’s still the rain, the waiting, an argument, dry land, and the tricky calculations of how long it will take for the carnivores to eat all the herbivores on their little landing port.
Emma Watson is fierce and strong, Russell Crowe is conflicted and brave, and the boy named Ham is ironically the only meat-eater in the family. Noah is a mix of action, wizardry, and wavering belief. Auditorily it sounds like the bible but visually it looks like evolution. If you’re eager to see the biblical story of Noah re-enacted on the big screen and you will be insulted if it differs from the bible’s version, then avoid avoid avoid. If you’re craving another movie where Russell Crowe plays the strong hero, battling against external forces and internal strife to bring about a better world, then enjoy the show. As for me, I found it a little lacking in plot, variety, and momentum. I give it 4.5 extinct griffins out of 10.