By Robert Horton Herald Movie Critic
There has always been something a little Old Testament about Darren Aronofsky’s films, so maybe it makes sense that he’s going back to the source for his new movie. The director of “Black Swan” and “The Wrestler” is on board with the original disaster epic: Noah and the flood.
Armed with the latest in computer-generated effects, Aronofsky is quite serious about this telling of the biblical tale — even grim, you might say. Noah, played by a glowering Russell Crowe, is a man convinced that his Creator plans to drown the world.
Curiously, Aronofsky shrugs off a couple of staples of the Sunday-school rendition of the story: Noah’s social ostracizing for believing in the flood (and the resulting gotcha when all the nonbelievers get soaked), and the majesty of the animals heading two-by-two into the ark.
This “Noah” focuses on a moral fable. It would be unfair to spell out Aronofsky’s twist on the story, as the movie itself doesn’t reveal it until we’re halfway through and the ark is rising on the water. But it’s an interesting idea, and it gives Aronofsky a chance to indulge in his customary scolding of humanity.
That ark itself is an imaginative vessel, a squared-off behemoth that looks as though it might actually float. Before the rain starts to fall, Noah must deal with a local chieftain (Ray Winstone) who causes trouble, and with giant rock monsters that are described as “fallen angels.”
Jennifer Connelly, Crowe’s co-star from “A Beautiful Mind,” plays his wife here; Logan Lerman and Douglas Booth are their oldest sons. Emma Watson, getting out from under the “Harry Potter” umbrella, is taken into the family as a wounded child.
Everybody overacts, although Crowe maintains his dignity. The feverish pitch indicates just how seriously “Noah” takes itself, and it comes as no surprise that at some point Noah pauses to recount the early verses of the book of Genesis, complete with “Tree of Life”-style psychedelic birth-of-life imagery.
For sheer spectacle, the movie certainly uses a big paintbrush, which is sometimes fun to gaze at. But it frankly takes too long to get to Aronofsky’s truly original variation on the tale, as well as introducing the hint (if I’m not mistaken) of a theme from “The Searchers” running beneath the parable.
The liberties taken with the brief biblical tale of Noah have caused the usual Hollywood vs. religion “controversy,” which in this case is pretty silly (especially given the tortured sincerity with which Aronofsky approaches his storytelling). The movie’s not against religion. It just isn’t very good.
“Noah” (two stars)
A return to the biblical tale of the flood, as Noah (Russell Crowe) builds his ark with the help of giant rock monsters. Director Darren Aronofsky adds a couple of interesting twists to the story, turning it into a grim moral tale that takes itself very, very seriously. With Jennifer Connelly.
Rating: PG-13, for violence
Opening: Friday at Alderwood Mall, Edmonds Theater, Everett Stadium, Galaxy Monroe, Marysville, Stanwood Cinemas, Sundance Cinemas Seattle, Thorton Place Stadium, Woodinville, Cascade Mall, Oak Harbor Plaza.