Noah review: Underwhelming and frequently silly, Darren Aronofsky's biblical blockbuster won't turn the tide

(12A) Dir. Darren Aronofsky; Starring Russell Crowe, Jennifer Connelly, 138mins

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The Independent Culture

Beginning with the snake, the forbidden fruit and Cain's slaying of Abel, Darren Aronofsky sticks closely to the Book of Genesis... for about the first five seconds.

Then he introduces the giant rock monsters. And his vision of a world polluted by the descendants of Cain, all mining scars and rusting industrial equipment, looks more like Mad Max 2 than the 30th-century BC Middle East, while the CGI battle scenes could have come from Peter Jackson's Middle Earth.

Of course, every film-maker is entitled to play God with his own creation, and the story of Noah as it appears in Genesis is very short so Aronofsky was pretty much obliged to pad out his 140-minute epic. But his inventions are only partially successful. As a grand scale digital-effects spectacle, it is underwhelming and frequently silly.

And there just isn't the world-building that would be necessary to make one tremble at the prospect of that world being wiped out. In fact, the only people we meet who aren't in Noah's immediate family of peaceable berry-gathers are the warmongering tribal king Tubal-cain (Ray Winstone) and his faceless army. Which makes God's drastic plan to cleanse the Earth seem unexpectedly reasonable and low-stakes.

But the domestic melodrama and psychological realism which Aronofsky gives Noah to wrestle with are interesting enough, and Russell Crowe is the ideal actor to show Noah brooding upon his lot. When the ark is afloat and the film finally narrows its focus on to his obsessive and monomaniacal interpretation of God's word, there is at last some conflict we can care about. Perhaps Aronofsky should have adapted Three Men in a Boat instead.