Having made a huge impact with his small film The Wrestler and the bigger Black Swan, Hollywood has now seen fit to give Darren Aronofsky $125 million to make a biblical epic that owes more to the Transformers franchise than it does to Cecil B DeMille's Ten Commandments. As one of Ben Hur's lifelong cheerleaders, this was disappointing, but at the same time not unexpected as the idiosyncratic Aronofsky had declared ahead of release that his Noah is the "least biblical" Bible film ever made. He obviously read the book, but as Noah's story is but a few pages long in Genesis, it was never going to make a 150-minute movie.
So the director and his co-writer Ari Handel have added to it and instead of fast-tracking to the visually spectacular flood and lots of animals, we get what feels like 40 days and 40 nights of environmentalist chest beating, a non-committal view of evolution and the Transformers, here rechristened as the Watchers. They are a band of CGI fallen angels who look like barbecue briquettes but do a nice line in carpentry, which is useful when constructing an Ark.
I never tire of the rugged Russell Crowe, though I'm sure even he must have had doubts about playing Noah as a strict vegetarian in Aronofsky's landscape with no plants. Small wonder his wife Naameh (Jennifer Connelly) and their sons Shem (Douglas Booth), Ham (Logan Lerman) and Japheth (Leo McHugh Carroll) look so miserable. That misery persists when the younger boys discover they are boarding the Ark without female companions. I'm sure they got to travel with their spouses in the original version.
Ray Winstone as covetous carnivore Tubal Cain and Sir Anthony Hopkins in a cameo as Methuselah looking like Harry Potter's servant Dobby may be reasons to see it. Or not. Only you can decide.
But if you do go along, look out for what appears to be Aronofsky's imaginative take on the origins of laying tefilin. This will surprise you, if not as much as the towering talking briquette carpenters.