* (out of four)
If you collect a massive variety of species into a confined space for a long period of time, the animals will need to go to the bathroom. They’ll need to eat. They probably will not all hang together like mellow, long-lost pals.
Of course, belief and logic are mutually exclusive, and it’s tough to visually depict a story that relies on the former without making it look like pure fantasy. So in director/co-writer Darren Aronofsky’s misguided, superficial “Noah,” the title character (Russell Crowe) and his ancient backpacker family (including Jennifer Connelly as his wife and Emma Watson as his adopted daughter) hardly question it or take inventory when creatures show up to board Noah’s ark while a watery rapture arrives to allegedly wipe out evil. Noah’s more concerned with defending the innocents he feels he’s been tasked with saving from both “The Creator” and an angry army of generic baddies.
It should be noted that “Noah,” which begins with a rushed, unintentionally funny Creationist info-dump and looks kinda like Ridley Scott’s (“Prometheus,” “Robin Hood”) take on “Waterworld,” doesn’t claim to be based on a true story. The way it unfolds almost suggests it’s based on a video game, or at least created in hopes of leading to one.
Attempting to answer the age-old question, “How could one man, who wouldn’t necessarily have even known what an ark is, build a giant wooden boat?” Aronofsky replies, “Enormous, English-speaking rock monsters. That’s how.” Really. These beings, called The Watchers and, I just learned, are tweaked from actual biblical beings, have glowing embers for eyes and voices from folks like Nick Nolte and Frank Langella. In one of the film’s only attempts at lightness, a Watcher plays with one of Noah’s sons in a gag almost directly lifted from, yes, “Real Steel.”
What follows turns a relatively short fable into a far-fetched epic with Noah as its burly action hero. Any examination of the dangers of firmly abiding by extreme interpretations of unexplainable behavior is murky at best. The Creator, meanwhile, receives credit for successes and little blame for failures. Speaking of failures: Aronofsky (“Black Swan,” “The Fountain”) is hardly the person you’d expect to make humanity’s first disaster movie, and including the pedigree of Anthony Hopkins (as Noah’s berries-obsessed grandfather) is no excuse.
Who is expected to like this ridiculous, semi-secular effort? Those who believe the film’s origin story probably will take issue with that whole walking, talking stones thing (unless now we have an explanation for the pyramids and Stonehenge?), and those who don’t will have problems with the near-total absence of sense and disturbingly inconsistent attitude toward incest. As if that were ever open to debate.
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