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Trailer: Noah

A man is chosen by God to undertake a momentous mission of rescue before an apocalyptic flood destroys the world.

PT2M24S http://www.canberratimes.com.au/action/externalEmbeddedPlayer?id=d-35k6m 620 349

Reviewer rating:

Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

Reader rating:

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars (34 votes)

Noah (M)
138 minutes
★★★☆

"There is a tide in the affairs of men, which, taken at the flood leads on to fortune; Omitted, all the voyage of their life is bound in shallows and in miseries.'' - Brutus, Julius Caesar, Act 4, Scene 3.

Russell Crowe stars in the Biblical epic <i>Noah</i>.

Russell Crowe stars in the Biblical epic Noah.

Some tide. Even by Hollywood standards, which grow more immodest every year, Noah is big - no less than the destruction of all mankind, save for one man and his family. Now that's a disaster movie, and from an impeccable source, the Book of Genesis, but, as Shakespeare warned, the timing must be perfect.

In Noah, Darren Aronofsky, the film's director and co-writer (with Ari Handel), enters the deep waters of the human condition, trying to make a meaningful film for a modern audience. However, he loses his way, perhaps because he does not trust us. The film's environmental message - that we must act now and face the damage bill of global warming or perish - is repeated so often that it loses power.

Like many before him, Aronofsky has had to compromise to open the studio treasury - reported cost, $US130 million ($142 million). The compromise is not in the final cut, despite the well-publicised stoush he had with Paramount, but in the suppositions he made at the outset.

Actors Jennifer Connelly and Russell Crowe attend the <i>Noah</i> New York premiere at Ziegfeld Theatre on March 26. Click for more photos

Noah premiere in New York

Actors Jennifer Connelly and Russell Crowe attend the Noah New York premiere at Ziegfeld Theatre on March 26. Photo: Getty Images

Aronofsky became fascinated with the story of Noah when he was 13, frightened by its implications. That may explain why the movie is pitched at a younger audience than his other works (Black Swan, The Fountain, The Wrestler).

There is nothing wrong with shaping a narrative for a younger audience. The problem is when you talk down to them.

In comparison with, say, the works of Michael Bay (Transformers, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles), Noah is a masterpiece of complexity, a far more thoughtful movie than most modern films relying on visual effects.

However, in comparison with his own work, the film feels more tentative. Adapting the Word of God is daunting, for sure. Creating a world that audiences can believe in is hard too, especially when you introduce Fallen Angels who look like Transformers made of rock (his version of the Bible's Nephilim).

There is neither a zebra nor giraffe to be seen in Noah. Aronofsky's desire to avoid the cliches drives him to invent new versions of our animals, probably because he could.

Computer-generated animals are easier to wrangle than real ones. Their arrival on his ark, a great, square monolith of wood and pitch, is the film's biggest missed opportunity. The animals arrive unbidden, then Noah's wife, Naameh (Jennifer Connelly), puts them all to sleep with a wave of her special narcotic incense. That is because Noah isn't about the critters. It's a film about human reproduction and human folly. The animals just get in the way.

The Bible is very specific about the humans who went on board: Noah and his wife, three sons and three wives. The movie changes that, to ensure the survival of sin. The eldest boy, Shem (Douglas Booth), is sweet on Ila (Emma Watson), an orphan they rescued 10 years earlier. The youngest, Japheth (Leo McHugh Carroll), is too young to care, but the middle boy, Ham (Logan Lerman), has no one.

With the sky clouding over and ''King'' Tubal-Cain (Ray Winstone) threatening to storm the ark with his hordes of meat-eating men (it's like the Titanic in reverse), Ham goes looking for a mate. More bad timing.

Aronofsky has great ambition and talent, and Noah is better than most of what is out there in the big end of movie production. It has big ideas and big melodrama, and it is gorgeous to the eye. The Icelandic landscapes alone are breathtaking. Russell Crowe gives his best, which is better than most, but it still feels like a film that loses its way. Aronofsky is trying to please everyone, given that Noah is legend to Jews, Christians and Muslims.

However, it is not about religion. It is about dominion, whether we have the right to destroy the planet. If there is a bigger modern theme, I can't think of it. Falling short of greatness, the film falls back on warfare, spectacle and sermon. It is big, wet and portentous, but the rebirth of mankind should be more than that.