by Justin MadoreBack in my junior year of high school, I reviewed Noah for the student newspaper. My friends and I often went as a group to see the latest blockbusters. For some reason, they were a bit hesitant to see Noah with me. Still, I was persistent, so we went to see it on the Saturday of its opening weekend. We all filed into the theater with our dollar store contraband, sat down and waited to be wowed. The experience was one of those surreal things where about 15 minutes in, you could feel the apprehension floating over our theater row. After an interesting opening sequence, the film’s quality took a nosedive and soon there was a general consensus among us that this movie was going to be terrible.
Here’s the thing about Noah: despite obviously being a religiously influenced film, it struggled to satisfy any of its demographics; Christians, Jews, or secular audiences (targeted by its marketing as a spectacle). It simultaneously antagonizes each of these groups with ridiculous logic, hamfisted ideas, and a script that doesn’t know what to do with some truly great actors. While certain people were offended from a religious standpoint, I was just offended as a filmgoer. The character of Noah (played by Russell Crowe) was confounding. For reasons the script struggles to explain in any way, he’s characterized as a villainous oaf who can’t think for himself. Much of the plot revolves around him seriously considering murdering his infant grandchild because it’s “God’s plan.” Then, in the last act, he abandons his previous characterization, does a complete 180, and tells his children (not to mention his grandchild) to “be fruitful and multiply.” What the fuck?! What an inspiring prophet; a pro-infanticide and pro-incest zealot.
Noah is chock-full of charmless imagery. Taking place in a near-apocalypse timeframe, the world of the film is running out of resources. Cinematographer Matthew Libatique repeatedly hits us with the same uninspired shots of a cold, rocky wasteland drained of color. The attempt to drive home an environmentalist message through the muddy, lifeless visuals is so heavy-handed and pointless that it’s annoying as well as actively stale.
The rest of the movie isn’t quite so oppressively terrible, but, holy shit, it’s drab! I’ve never felt time drag on so much while in a theater before. The manner of the conflict is samey and dull. There’s no humor, fun, or any interesting spins on the clash between good and evil. This sameness permeates the whole film, as it refuses to switch things up and keep the audience engaged. For goodness sakes, this movie actually makes Anthony Hopkins and Emma Watson boring! I must’ve checked my phone 20 times in its last half hour, praying it would go quicker so I could get out of that hell hole.
As soon as the credits rolled, my friends and I all turned to each other with appalled, tired faces. We all knew that this would probably be the worst movie we would ever see together. Since that day, I’ve never experienced that kind of universal agreement about a film. Noah was an unappealing, contradictory, and delusional piece of filmmaking by talented people who’ve all proven that they’re better than this. Director Darren Aronofsky gave us Requiem for a Dream, Black Swan, and The Wrestler, while Russell Crowe delivered in Gladiator and A Beautiful Mind, and this is what their collaboration yields.
I don’t understand how people like this film.