An indisepensable biblical wink to Tolkien? Nuh-uh

Veering between Judeo-Christian visions of epic, painterly scope and grand ill-advised folly, with an aesthetic better compared to Lord of the Rings than the Ten Commandments, Darren Aronofsky’s (Requiem For A Dream, The Fountain, Black Swan) Noah is a strange fruit indeed. 

From Adam to Darwin
As a hand reaches out to pluck the most iconic apple in all of literature, we are treated to an embellished re-introduction to the book of Genesis.

Here we learn that, Cain, Abel and Seth, the three sons of Adam and Eve, went on to populate the earth, with Cain killing Abel and later raising a mighty industrial civilisation, while Seth disappeared off into the wilderness to be more at one with creation.

For those who might tune out at the thought of big budget creationism, there is a jaunty evolution sequence to sooth any fears of Darwin’s under-representation (no dinosaurs though).

The sons of Cain are depicted as corrupt meat-eaters while the descendants of Seth, such as Noah and his brood, survive on a strict diet of vegetation, plucking nothing so much as a daisy from the earth, lest it be deemed necessary. 

Invisible Creator
Did I mention the rock monsters? Here they’re called ‘the Watchers’ and we later learn that they represent corporeal entities, cast out of heaven for taking pity on Adam and Eve following their exile from Eden. In other words, angels. 

Despite the rather neat justification for their presence on Earth, they present a problem as the only objective evidence of something otherworldly. Were it not for them, this might all be the fictitious imaginings of an overblown ego. 

A shame, because that possibility would have been rather more interesting. 

God, who is referred to only as ‘The Creator’, remains unseen throughout. Noah’s communication with Him is restricted to the cryptic imagery of wordless dreams and visions.

Hard-nut villain is an old hat
What threatens to sink this vessel is not, surprisingly, Aronofsky’s forays into CGI realms of Tolkien-esque fantasy, but Crowe’s mannered monologues about the ‘wickedness of men’ in that now-familiar faux-English diction and Ray Winstone phoning in his standard ‘hard nut’ villain as King Tubal-Cain.

Couple these short-comings with Jennifer Connelly’s poorly judged histrionics (one particular scene is a shameless bid for an Oscar) and weak support from all but Emma Watson and you’re left with what might generously be described as the most surreal blockbuster in recent memory.

Seat-filling, compelling mess
Aronofsky is an important filmmaker and we can be happy that he’s filling our multiplexes with his unique brand of intelligent, seat-filler cinema, but for all his virtuosity and vision, it seems he fares better with less rope by which to hang himself – or, in this case, water by which to drown. 

If, like me, you can appreciate finding a sliver of genuine insanity in your cine-soup (however misguided), then you have your best reason for enduring this messy, yet car-crash compelling, Old Testament dreamscape.

Dir: Darren Aronofsky; US, action drama, 2014, 138 mins; Russell Crowe, Anthony Hopkins, Jennifer Connelly, Ray Winstone, Emma Watson, Nick Nolte

Premiered April 3
Playing Nationwide