By Sam Adams | Criticwire March 21, 2014 at 9:48AM
Although Paramount has been showing Darren Aronofksy's "Noah" to religious influencers for weeks, critics in many American cities are being told they won't get to see it at all before it opens -- a divide that indicates just how conflicted the studio is about how best to launch its atypical Biblical epic. The first reviews from mainstream critics are up now, and they're a mixed but fascinating bunch; none is entirely positive, but they all agree there are elements that make it a must-watch. For most critics, that will apparently mean buying tickets on March 28 along with everyone else.
Tim Grierson, Screen Daily
Aronofsky has clearly poured his soul into this big-budget undertaking, using the clout of his commercial and critical hit "Black Swan" to make a movie that’s far more introspective and despairing than the usual popcorn epic. And yet, "Noah" mostly proves frustratingly ponderous, an anomaly in Aronofsky's career that has been marked by films full of bravura flourishes and imaginative storytelling.
Eric Kohn, Indiewire
The director's murky, ill-conceived take on the world's oldest disaster story contains some of the most pristine visuals produced on a mass studio scale in some time. But it's also constantly tethered to a dull, melodramatic series of events out of whack with any traditional interpretation of the material.
Todd McCarthy, Hollywood Reporter
"Noah" will rile some for the complete omission of the name "God" from the dialogue, others for its numerous dramatic fabrications and still more for its heavy-handed ecological doomsday messages, which unmistakably mark it as a product of its time. But whether you buy these elements or not, this is still an arresting piece of filmmaking that has a shot at capturing a large international audience both for its fantasy-style spectacle and its fresh look at an elemental Bible story most often presented as a kiddie yarn.
Steven D. Greydanus, National Catholic Register
It is not a "Bible movie" in the usual sense, with all the story beats predetermined by the text, and actors in ancient Near Eastern couture hitting their marks and saying all the expected things. It is something more vital, surprising and confounding: a work of art and imagination that makes this most familiar of tales strange and new: at times illuminating the text, at times stretching it to the breaking point, at times inviting cross-examination and critique. 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.
Scott Foundas, Variety
If Aronofsky's $130 million, 137-minute movie ultimately feels compromised at all, it's less by studio interference than by its director's own desire to make a metaphysical head movie that is also an accessible action blockbuster (where "The Fountain" tilted heavily toward the former). "Noah" does not always sit easily astride those competing impulses, but it is never less than fascinating -- and sometimes dazzling -- in its ambitions
Alonso Duralde, the Wrap
"Noah" has snakes and bears and herbalist anesthesia and rock-angels and rampaging armies and panicky sinners, so why is it such a drag? Clearly Aronofsky isn't out to make yet another stodgy Bible movie, but it often feels as though he's reining in his showier artistic impulses lest he offend the faithful. As a result, he's wound up with a movie that will please neither the "Son of God" crowd nor the people excited about a reunion between the director and leading lady of "Requiem for a Dream."
Nathan Adams, Film School Rejects
This isn’t just a religious drama with some "Lord of the Rings" visuals thrown on top. There are a ton of disparate elements working simultaneously in "Noah," and audiences who aren't used to seeing outside of the box movies might find themselves initially put off by that, but if you stick with the film, eventually you find that Aronofsky is able to bring everything together as a coherent whole. It's something of a magic trick.
Matt Joseph, We Got This Covered
The film asks many tough questions like this and, as a story about how far man can be driven by faith, and as a commentary on religious fanaticism, "Noah" is an extremely interesting piece of work. It will leave you with so much food for thought that you’ll find yourself digesting the deep, philosophical questions it poses for days afterward.
Peter T. Chattaway, Patheos
there are complexities on all sides, and rather than flatter us that we happen to be on the right side, it really compels us to ask just where true righteousness is ultimately to be found. And that is a very good question to be left with when the lights come on.