Thursday, 3 April 2014

Noah

Batten down the hatches, there's a storm a-comin': a storm of absolute batshit mentalism from which even the sturdiest umbrella won't protect you. You may as well just pop your Speedos on now and prepare to drown in the boundless biblical bonkersness of Darren Aronofsky's Noah, a film which - while no more crackers than its source material - is simultaneously completely wonderful and utter dreck. It's brilliantly awful, and I cannot wait to see what the world makes of it.
"Fucksake, God. I JUST hung the washing out."

In the beginning, Darren creates an opening sequence showing mankind turning the shiny new Earth to shit, and the audience will see that it is good. Then he said, "Let there be a clich├ęd prologue where young Noah, wearing a hoodie for some reason, is given a backstory as old as time." This the audience will call 'a bit ropey for a biblical epic written and directed by one of modern cinema's most singular talents, but carry on.'

Having thereby diced dangerously with audience goodwill in its opening minutes, Noah soon reveals that it genuinely doesn't care for your expectations, and ploughs on with a story that consistently surprises in the most boggling ways while churning out a low-rent melodrama of baffling banality. On a mission from God - sorry, The Creator - to build a massive wooden box, stuff it with animals and wait for rain so furious that it erupts from the ground and the sky, Noah (Russell Crowe) is aided by Watchers, huge knobbly rock-beings that resemble giant angry Nik Naks. This is the kind of stuff that makes you glad to be alive while Darren Aronofsky is making films, but it's not long before attention is focussed instead on a soppy teenage infatuation between Noah's Burberry model son (Douglas Booth) and adopted Burberry model daughter (Emma Watson).
Seriously, let 'em drown.

And so it goes on: Ray Winstone, whose character may as well be called Ant Agonist, rocks up like a faded drunk panto star, chewing up both the scenery and precious endangered species while Russell Crowe grumps about po-facedly and talks in Historical Epicish to anyone who'll listen. It's a clash of styles which typifies the film and renders it senseless.

When the flood arrives, which it takes its sweet time doing, it's suitably biblically wrought and things start to look up. By this point we've got a lead character who hears voices telling him to ensure the destruction of the human race - including those nearest and dearest to him - being thrashed about on the waves while the planet's remaining souls clamber over each other to high ground, screaming in terror at their horrific fate. All this torment should make for an emotionally devastating piece of cinema, but Aronofsky ignores the plight of humanity, directs Russell Crowe as if he's troubled by nothing more than a stone in his sandal and bimbles on with the tedious teen soap opera that should be restricted to the status of minor subplot. It's hard to get involved in one man, burdened with a terrible purpose, when his wife is conducting pregnancy tests using half a coconut and some hemp.
As wildly entertaining as Noah is, it feels like a missed opportunity for a truly great biblical epic. It's maddening that a director with Aronofsky's vision would hire such a vacuous cast (Crowe and Winstone excepted) to tell a story with such huge themes, and utterly bewildering that he would allow it to so frequently sink into comically turgid mush, enlivened only by the occasional sub-Lord Of The Rings action sequence (and, let's be fair, a truly magnificent montage of the creation of all creation). But its unique spirit can't be denied, and so it is with no small amount of confused admiration that I celebrate it. It's a one-star film and a five-star film bundled together in an insane spin cycle, and the result is a three-star flawed masterpiece. God knows what you'll think of it.

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