September 26, 2016

Big and Bleak ‘Noah’ Draws Strong Reviews

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The reviews are trickling in on “Noah,” director Darron Aronofsky’s Biblical epic adventure starring Russell Crowe in the title role, and the critics, so far, are suitably impressed.

“Aronofky Goes Big and Bleak,” reads the headline on the Film School Rejects website.

“A lot of Noah is so dark that you wonder how a big studio let a director get away with making it, and it’s not just specific moments I’m talking about here,” writes reviewer Nathan Adams. “There’s a tension that runs through the whole film about who you should be rooting for, or it it’s even possible to root for anyone in this situation. Noah goes to such dark places over the course of the movie that it’s impossible to keep relating to him as a protagonist (sometimes to the point of comedy, intentional or otherwise) ,and it becomes necessary for the narrative to switch its viewpoint from character to character. There are moments of mass death so casually presented that they almost feel mindless, and then they get followed up by character beats so focused that they almost chastise you for getting caught up in the spectacle and forgetting to remain compassionate.”

He goes on to write: “Noah is the sort of movie that takes multiple viewings and a little bit of time to fully digest.”

Variety’s Scott Foundas writes: “Aronofsky’s uneven but undeniably bold, personal, visually extravagant take on the Old Testament tale will surely polarize critics and audiences while riding a high sea of curiosity to strong initial worldwide B.O.”

Foundas describes the depiction of the character Noah in the film as “neither the Marvel-sized savior suggested by the poster nor the ‘environmentalist wacko’ prophesied by some test-screening Cassandras, but rather a humble servant driven to the edge of madness in his effort to do the Lord’s bidding.”

Steven D. Greydanus, whose review appears in the National Catholic Register, writes: “For a lifelong Bible geek and lover of movie-making and storytelling like me, Noah is a rare gift: a blend of epic spectacle, startling character drama and creative reworking of Scripture and other ancient Jewish and rabbinic writings. It’s a movie with much to look at, much to think about and much to feel; a movie to argue about and argue with.”

He adds: “It’s certainly not the picture-book story that most of us grow up with, all cheerful ark-building, adorable animals and a gravely pious, white-bearded protagonist.”

Todd McCarthy, reviewing the film for the Hollywood Reporter, writes that “conservative and literal-minded elements of all faiths who make it their business to be offended by untraditional renditions of holy tests will find plenty to fulminate about here.”

That said, he adds, Aronofsky pushes “some aggressive environmentalist” in the film and that the director “has been daring, digging deep to develop a bold interpretation of a tale which, in the original, offers a lot of room for speculation and invention.”
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For weeks, controversy has raged around the movie, with distributor Paramount Pictures blasting a survey by an evangelical Christian group called Faith Driven Consumer claiming that 98 percent of some 5,000 religious moviegoers who attended test screenings were not satisfied with the film.

Paramount issued a statement saying, “The survey question that had the 98% response rate did not contain any reference to the film ‘Noah’” and that “research from industry leading firms about the upcoming epic paints a very different picture.”

On Wednesday, Crowe, who had lobbied hard on Twitter to get a private audience with Pope Francis, showed up at the Vatican but was denied a special photo-op with the pontiff. Crowe was just one of about 80,000 who ventured into St. Peter’s Square for the Pope’s general audience.

Crowe, along with Aronofsky and some studio officials, were in the invitation-only section of St. Peter’s Square, where they reportedly met the pope briefly and received a blessing,” according to Religion News Service. But a Vatican spokesman said Pope Francis would not see the film.

“Noah” will be released in the U.S. next Friday.

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