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Susan Granger's review of 'Noah'

Updated 4:16 pm, Friday, April 4, 2014
  • This image released by Paramount Pictures shows Russell Crowe in a scene from "Noah." (AP Photo/Paramount Pictures, Niko Tavernise) Photo: Niko Tavernise, Associated Press / Associated Press
    This image released by Paramount Pictures shows Russell Crowe in a scene from "Noah." (AP Photo/Paramount Pictures, Niko Tavernise) Photo: Niko Tavernise, Associated Press

 

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The biblical flood is the original apocalypse story, which filmmaker Darren Aronofsky ("Black Swan," "The Wrestler," "Pi") creatively reinterprets with a timely, resonant, ecological doomsday message.

Beginning with a revisionist line from Genesis: "In the beginning, there was nothing," it positions Noah (Russell Crowe) as a righteous vegetarian, the recipient of "visions" from the Creator. After conferring with his hermit-like grandfather Methuselah (Anthony Hopkins), he works with his wife, Naameh (Jennifer Connelly), and sons Shem (Douglas Booth), Ham (Logan Lerman) and Japheth (Leo McHugh Carroll), along with orphaned Ila (Emma Watson), to build an ark. They're assisted by the Watchers, or Fallen Angels (voiced by Nick Nolte, Frank Langella and Mark Margolis).

Evil is personified by Tubal-Cain (Ray Winstone), pagan descendant of the Bible's first fratricidal sinner, who killed Noah's father and continues to cause problems throughout the epic tale, as rains pour down for 40 days and 40 nights, drowning the rest of humanity -- while deeply conflicted Noah wrestles with inner demons in his desire to respect and obey what the Creator commands. (The word "God" is never mentioned.)

Crowe and Connelly worked together before in "A Beautiful Mind," and their emotional rapport is palpable, helping idiosyncratic writer/director Darren Aronofsky, co-scripting with Ari Handel, to boldly break away from old-fashioned, cliched perceptions from previous biblical epics and traditional religious art. Rich in charact-

ers and subplots, it is overwrought at times, as the uneven melodramatic floodwaters get choppy.

The highlight of production designer Mark Friedberg's fantastical concept is the rectangular-shaped ark, accurate down to the last cubit. This 75-foot-high, 45-foot-wide, 450-foot-long boxy barge was constructed on a 5-acre grassy field in a state park in Oyster Bay on Long Island. Amplified by time-lapse photography and montage editing, Matthew Libatique's cinematography adroitly blends live action with awesome computer-generated imagery, particularly when Earth's "innocent" birds and beasts, arrive two-by-two. But it's unfortunate that the giant CGI Watches resemble prehistoric, rock-encrusted Transformers.

On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, "Noah" sails in with an unconventional, yet totally accessible 8, an incredible spectacle.