dir Darren Aronofsky
scr Darren Aronofsky, Ari Handel
prd Darren Aronofsky, Scott Franklin, Arnon Milchan, Mary Parent
with Russell Crowe, Jennifer Connelly, Ray Winstone, Emma Watson, Logan Lerman, Douglas Booth, Leo McHugh Carroll, Anthony Hopkins, Marton Csokas, Nick Nolte, Mark Margolis, Kevin Durand
release US 28.Mar.14, UK 4.Apr.14
14/US Paramount 2h18
Family crisis: Lerman, Crowe, McHugh Carroll and Connelly

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Noah Aronofsky continues to surprise audiences by turning to the big blockbuster genre, adapting a biblical legend into behemoth of a movie that mixes complex artistry with boneheaded screenwriting. Bloated beyond recognition, the film is still well enough made to stimulate thought as it explores what makes each of us both good and evil.

After the original sin devastates the world, the children of Adam and Eve's righteous son Seth carry on tending to the earth while brother Cain's children go marauding with the help of the Watchers, fallen angels encrusted in stone. A few generations later, Seth's last descendant Noah (Crowe) has a vision that God will cleanse mankind with a flood, so he consults his grandfather Methuselah (Hopkins) and builds an ark with his wife (Connelly), sons (Lerman, Booth and McHugh Carroll), an adopted daughter (Watson) and the now-friendly Watchers. Which makes Cain's descendant Tubal (Winstone) furious.

Intriguingly, Aronofsky sets the scene in a post-apocalyptic world where the fall of man has left a previously booming civilisation in ruins. And Noah is the last true believer standing up for what's right, namely taking care of the plants and animals (we're never quite sure what they eat). Relationships are intriguing as well, as Noah's family bristles against his tyrannical rule, creating conflicts that will extend to the months they spend floating in the ark.

The problem is that all of this is so over-written that it wears us out early on. And the casting is a disaster. Crowe is a far too blustery Noah, unable to convey the subtlety of the character's internal journey. Connelly and Watson are merely called upon to be hysterical and panicky. Lerman and Booth are brooding and angry. Winstone is implausibly villainous. And Hopkins never registers as anything more than a cliche. None of these actors is bad: it's the roles that are ill-fitting.

So in the end, aside from an occasional moment of ambiguity as characters consider the right and wrong decisions they have made, the film feels over-stuffed and yet empty. The effects work is impressive, especially the Watchers, as are the Icelandic locations. But the melodramatic dialog undermines any interesting themes the story raises. And the dark, raw simplicity of the biblical story is lost at sea.

cert 15 themes, strong violence 28.Mar.14

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