Darren Aronofsky is not the sort of filmmaker who punts.
He makes dizzyingly complex movies that charter a course through the interior minds of his characters, who often descend into madness or despair. He broke onto the scene with “Pi,” and more recent efforts include “The Wrestler” and “Black Swan,” both of which got the attention of Oscar voters.
For his latest effort Aronofsky literally reached back to his childhood and a poem he wrote about Noah, the Biblical savior who builds an ark to save his family and two of every creature on Earth from God’s destructive flood. Religious literalists may be offended by the modernist reimagining of scripture by Aronosfsky, who also co-wrote the script with Ari Handel.
In this version of the tale, Noah (Russell Crowe) is a temperamental eco-warrior, a vegetarian who carefully harvests the bounty of the land, as opposed to the meat-eating descendants of Cain, who mine for precious metals, wage constant wars, and worse.
He receives dream-visions from the Creator (the word “God” is never used) indicating He plans to destroy the world, and Noah is charged with saving all his creatures. In Noah’s interpretation, he, his wife Naameh (Jennifer Connelly), their three sons and adopted daughter (Emma Watson) are merely caretakers for the animals, and are expected to die out afterward.
His enemy is Tucal-Cain (a snarly Ray Winstone), who thinks his right of free will includes displacing Noah and his clan from the ark. Lending a hand are the Watchers, golem-like giants made of stone who are actually the souls of fallen angels, trapped for helping the descendants of Adam and Eve.
Also hanging around is Noah’s grandfather Methuselah (Anthony Hopkins), the last of the great Biblical patriarchs endowed with magical powers. A major subplot involves a rivalry between Noah and his middle son Ham (Logan Lerman), who resents that his father refuses to let them choose wives to take along on the ark.
“Noah” represents a bold vision, unintentionally goofy at times, but one still engaging and illuminating.
Extra features are a tad disappointing, especially if you buy the DVD version, which contains exactly nothing. Upgrade to the Blu-ray, and you add three making-of featurettes: “Iceland: Extreme Beauty,” “The Ark Exterior: A Battle for 300 Cubits” and “The Ark Interior: Animals Two by Two.”