Add Darren Aronofsky’s “Noah” to the list of Bible-themed film epics ranging from magnificent to stuffy to silly.
Russell Crowe stars as Noah, who does not hear the voice of God but has a vision that the world will be destroyed by water. He learns he has been chosen to build an ark and save all the animal species of the world.
His family includes wife Naameh (Jennifer Connelly) and three sons who seem to be played by male models with one expression apiece.
Fortunately, the family discovers a young wounded girl and saves her. She grows up to be Ila (Emma Watson), who helps carry some of the drama.
Having lasted millennia, the “Noah” story is a good one, but Aronofsky and co-writer Ari Handel add several weird new elements to it — the weirdest being a batch of giant rock monsters that help defend the ark.
In this version, the human rabble that God has decided to destroy does not go down without a fight, allowing the filmmakers to stage a grayish, noisy battle sequence, just as the rains begin, with much shouting and splashing about.
During the fight, the leader of the evil hordes, Tubal-cain (Ray Winstone), manages to stow away on the ark and is somehow not discovered for months. He sustains himself by grabbing the nearest small reptile and biting into its head.
Then the movie more or less turns into “The Shining,” with cooped-up characters slowly going homicidal on each other.
But never fear: The ultimate point of Aronofsky’s giant vision is that human beings are capable of choosing kindness and love.
Anthony Hopkins appears in a few scenes as Methuselah, Noah’s grandfather. He gets one great moment, savoring a berry just an instant before a wall of water blasts him into oblivion.
“Noah” definitely has many invigorating moments, for example, when the ship first surfaces from the flood waters, or views of the primitive, breathtaking interior design of the ark.
Crowe, Connelly and Watson are quite good as well, finding primal emotions for a primal time.
And Aronofsky adds a few brief lunatic moments that underline the hubris of a director willing to take on such a monumental tale.
Perhaps there is no way to make a totally straightforward movie of this type — magnificence, pomposity and a little cheerful insanity all go along for the big watery ride.
Starring Russell Crowe, Jennifer Connelly, Ray Winstone, Anthony Hopkins, Emma Watson
Written by Darren Aronofsky, Ari Handel
Directed by Darren Aronofsky
Running time 2 hours, 18 minutes