‘Noah’ Reviews: Is Darren Aronofsky's Biblical Vision Divine or Dumb?

'Noah' Reviews: Is Darren Aronofsky's Biblical Vision Divine or Dumb?

Russell Crowe stars as the man behind that ark

“Noah,” Darren Aronofsky‘s reimagining of that Old Testament chestnut about the great flood, is being alternately hailed as a bold and visually arresting epic and dinged as preposterous.

The Paramount release has been dogged by reports of clashes between the “Black Swan” director and his studio overlords, but whatever issues may have transpired apparently didn't hurt the film in the eyes of many critics. “Noah,” which stars Russell Crowe as the great ark builder and Jennifer Connelly as Mrs. Noah, scored a 78 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

TheWrap's Alonso Duralde believed the film ran aground, however. It's ambitious, but undercooked, he griped. It also suffers from being overly devout and its reticence to stray from Genesis hurts the drama.

See video: ‘Noah’ Review: Darren Aronofsky's Biblical ‘Waterworld’ Mostly Runs Aground

“‘Noah’ has snakes and bears and herbalist anesthesia and rock-angels and rampaging armies and panicky sinners, so why is it such a drag?” Duralde wrote. “Clearly Aronofsky isn't out to make yet another stodgy Bible movie, but it often feels as though he's reining in his showier artistic impulses lest he offend the faithful.”

While Duralde found the film to be a slog to sit through, the New York Times’ A.O. Scott was galvanized by Aronofsky's biblical portrait, although he did allude to a few narrative hiccups.

“The riskiest thing about this movie is its sincerity: Mr. Aronofsky, while not exactly pious, takes the narrative and its implications seriously,” Scott wrote. “He tries not only to explore what the story of the flood might mean in the present age of environmental anxiety and apocalyptic religion, but also, more radically, to imagine what it might have felt like to live in a newly created, already-ruined world, and to scan the skies for clues about what its creator might be thinking.”

See video: Russell Crowe and Jimmy Fallon Jam Out to ‘Folsom Prison Blues’

It's visionary, but slightly preposterous, Kenneth Turan argued. However, the Los Angeles Times sage seemed willing to endure the bombast given that it gave Aronofsky license to work on a larger scale than ever before.

“As ‘Noah's’ hectic plot wends its biblical way, you have to respect this film's colossal nerve even if you can rarely take its situations as seriously as creator Aronofsky does,” Turan wrote. “With its determination to tell this traditional story in its own way, it begins to oddly echo the very different but equally individualistic Old Testament epics put out by the old master himself, Cecil B. DeMille. The creator really does work in mysterious ways.”

Credit for the film's success should go to Crowe's performance as a tortured prophet, claims the Associated Press’ Jocelyn Noveck.

“Noah's near-descent into madness would not be nearly as effective had Crowe not already convinced us of his essential decency,” Noveck wrote. “At the same time, the actor is believable when pondering the most heinous crime imaginable. It's one of Crowe's more effective performances.”

Also read: 'Noah’ Scores Solid $1.6 Million at Thursday Box Office

Like Noah's quest to rescue the world's animals, Aronofsky's film is the work of a mad genius, wrote the Boston Globe's Ty Burr. That kind of artistic lunacy has benefits and demerits.

“Most religious movies feel as if they're made by a church committee, but every now and then a wild-eyed prophet wanders in and rattles the theater with brimstone,” Burr wrote. “Regardless of your feelings about either movie, Mel Gibson's ‘The Passion of the Christ’ qualifies and so does Martin Scorsese‘s ‘The Last Temptation of Christ.’ Now director Darren Aronofsky (‘Black Swan,’ ‘The Wrestler') has ascended to the mountaintop and returned with the strangest, most visionary cinematic parable yet.”

Not everyone felt the pull of Aronofsky's biblical epic. Stephanie Zacharek of the Village Voice likened it to a drab blockbuster spectacle.

“Aronofsky doesn't want to instill wonder; he's more interested in drab yet expensive-looking wrath,” she wrote. “He's made a movie about judgment that itself feels judgmental.”

Love it or hate it, “Noah” at least has succeeded in inspiring debate.


  • Tom Kidd

    Darren Aronofsky could do the film version of “Keeping Up with the Kardashians” and I would STILL want to see it!

  • bobafett0406

    One of the better pieces I've read about this movie… as it weighed all of the elements surrounding and involving the film, and also gave it some context within broader cinema. And it didn't lambaste one group or praise another. However, not sure I walked away with a sense of endorsement for the film or not. Does the author care to share or let the reader go find out?

  • hakeem

    It was unbibical and distorts the story just as others have done in the past that's how false doctrines started in the past with that whole hell fire and trinity crap people like to believe this is how it starts. The fact and my point is that people want the truth were in need of it not this fairy tale how does God feel about this and does it take away from his teachings because this throws questions in the little minds of our young ones Satan is misleading the whole inhabited earth

    • I love the Lord

      People should read the bible before making remarks about it

  • Jord Z

    sorry I find Crowe a total turn off. Is he doing his cod British accent again? Not sure why all mythical characters are supposed to have a British accent but I guess its more credible than a “G'day Sheila” accent.

  • msocrealtor

    The ONLY thing true to the story was the ark itself. It was very defaming to God, and made it sound as if there was no redemptive quality in mankind. Gave no credibility to the Bible, instead just a slick Hollywood special effects monstracity. Couldn't even sit through it to the end.

    • Jeffrey Dawson

      I agree. I forced myself to stay just because i wanted to see if God would be mentioned at all and if he would include the rainbow. He made a joke of it all.I can sum the movie up in one word EVIL.

      • Gods child

        Amen, sad to say but someone will believe that is the true story.

  • Guest

    I just returned from the theater after watching this movie. To be honest, I found the real story in the Bible more interesting than this. The cinematography was beautiful, I am o.k. with an emphasis on protecting the Earth, but the artsy twist on the standard Biblical plot was just plain “weird”, and I usually like artsy movies. It was just too dark. Noah seemed to “in-congruent” to put it in psychological terms. Not a character you could relate to, like most in the actual Bible are. While I realize there is often artistic license, even the flashy special effects couldn't make up for a plot that seemed somewhat disjointed. I would wait for the video on this one.

  • haime52

    I was a bit confused by Duralde's comment about the director's not wanting to stray from the Genesis account. how far afield did he need to go to satisfy this critic? I guess, those who can do and those who cannot, critique.

  • Craig Moreland

    It's about Salvation! And, what happens to those who refuse it. They are destroyed…eternally! It's Funny how GOD used an atheist to demonstrate The awesome power of who HE is.

  • colsnake

    Iron Man for the Christian Set.

  • dianne

    Just saw the movie and was disappointed and bored. Way off from any story of Noah I read. What's with the weird stone characters ? and fighting with chains? A lot of stuff added that did nothing for the movie or the story. I think thousands will be disappointed. Waist of time.

  • el

    Awful movie, the story was basically made up, only a few key elements were included. Sad, they really could have made this into something beautiful

  • Manny

    I love the complaint regarding this movie not being historical accurate. Even if it was possible for a flood to cover the earth in 30 days, which isn't possible, It would leave huge geological evidence everywhere! Of which there is no evidence. How about a 400 foot boat holding upwards of 60 million species? How did virus and bacteria survive? How can people read a childish story like that and actually think it happened just a few thousand years ago? There are tress that are thousands of years older.