The Christopher Nolan that made Following and Memento is not really the same Christopher Nolan that made the Dark Knight trilogy and Inception. He's got more money, more trust, more opportunities. Yet, there's a clear connection running through his body of work, the identifiable Nolan-ism that makes us realise that Following and The Dark Knight Rises are made by the same person, instead of feeling like a rote blockbuster made by the same guy that's made 20 blockbusters before that.
And this is the case with Darren Aronofsky and his biblical epic/passion project, Noah. I must admit, had this been made by another person, I wouldn't have been at all interested in it. But because this is a film made by the guy who has given us films like Black Swan, Requiem for a Dream and The Wrestler, I was excited to see how he'd fare when he was given a few more dollars in his back pocket and the opportunity to tell a tale that would get the tongues wagging - perhaps more so than ever before.
Noah is indelibly a Darren Aronofsky film. It doesn't feel like it's cut from the same cloth as Aronofsky's other films, but it makes a nice addition to a nice enough patchwork quilt. Aronofsky is the kind of director that we could trust with anything - even The Wolverine, had he chosen to make this film - but Noah seems like the biggest thing we've trusted him with yet. Or is it the biggest film that we've trusted anyone with yet?
Hmmm, one has to ponder.
Noah very much seems like another blockbuster that takes on a familiar story - think Alice in Wonderland, Nolan's Dark Knight trilogy etc - and gives it a dark spin for the 'new age'. And in a way, it kind of is. This isn't the colourfully illustrated story filled with animals from near and far that we were taught when we were starting out in school. Also, it's not just the story that we were taught. Aronofsky and his frequent collaborator Ari Handel have filled in some gaps, and then added another plot line. And that plot line is the thing that could either make or break the film.
I don't want to give too much away, but let's just say, it's a storyline designed to make you feel like a terrible person (hey, Darren, didn't Requiem for a Dream do that anyway?). And it gets really melodramatic, really fast. All of a sudden we have Russell Crowe, who was pulling in some really solid work beforehand, revert back into angry, telephone-throwing Russell Crowe mode. We have Jennifer Connelly only serving the purpose to yell at Russell. We have Emma Watson crying constantly. I don't really have an issue with the direction that Aronofsky was going with this (because it did give me a lot to ponder over), but I do have an issue with the way it was executed.
One word: melodrama.
Not only is there anger, crying, yelling, there's also a sharp turn in the way that Clint Mansell scores the film, going from a thing of beauty to all of a sudden going "BAD THINGS ARE HAPPENING." The film that was so indelibly a Darren Aronofsky film dangerously dips into the kind of rote blockbuster that this film looked like it was going to be, and I felt, for a moment, that Darren was letting us down. Not only that, but the character that Logan Lerman plays, Ham (who is Noah's son), is rather annoying because all he wants is a wife. I can totally see where he's coming from, because it does kind of suck if everyone is hooking up around you and you have no one, but he felt like a character that needed to be in another film. To put it frankly: he built an ark, and he should have gotten over it.
However, all is forgiven when you see what a spectacle this film is. Particularly in the evolution scenes, which were, hands down, the most beautifully done montages I had ever seen. It was just one of those moments where I wanted to stand up and clap and bow down to Aronofsky's vision. We've seen the evolution of the Earth so many times in film, but the two scenes in which Aronofsky time lapses through thousands of years is just achingly beautiful, particularly in the last one. His vision, though it is definitely roughened and toughened for the cynical new world, is something of beauty and a sad kind of relevance.
Yet, would I have Aronofsky continue on the blockbuster path? No way. The Aronofsky I like best is the one that made Black Swan and Requiem for a Dream. But it's good to see what he can do with a larger canvas - here's hoping he gets a few more opportunities to wield a bigger paint brush.
If you wanna here me actually speak about my experience with Noah, along with Vigil and Ben-Hur and various other tidbits about myself, make sure you head along to The Matinee to listen to this week's episode of The Matineecast. Ryan had to get up at 5am for it, so we deserve a heckload of listeners!