Early reviews are trickling in for Darren Aronofsky's controversial "Noah," and they're all over the map. Starring Russell Crowe, the $130 million Biblical epic floods US theaters on March 28, with an international rollout kicking off this weekend.
Indiewire's Eric Kohn calls it "the 'Tree of Life' on Adderall," with praise for the dark visuals but skepticism for the narrative around them:
Aronofsky has gone on the record as taking full responsibility for the theatrical cut of "Noah," but he deserves more credit for pulling it through the commercial system than for the actual quality that came out the other end. The very existence of this abnormal big budget venture was mandated by the unexpected worldwide success of "Black Swan"... "Noah" struggles to meet those standards while showing evidence of better pathways left unexplored. It's something of a cautionary tale about the dangers of supposed autonomy promised by commercial success. Aronofsky's worst movie is an epic misfire that, like the source material, offers plenty of lessons even if you don't buy the whole package.
Variety calls the film "one of the riskiest director-driven passion projects to be gambled on by today’s ever more cautious major studios":
But if the interpersonal dramas don’t quite fully engage, as spectacle “Noah” rarely disappoints, commencing with the building of the ark itself. Designed by production designer Mark Friedberg (and built, to the actual dimensions specified by the Bible, on a New York soundstage), it is an awesome thing -- not the traditional sailing vessel of many an artist’s interpretation, but rather an enormous wooden warehouse that makes the Maersk Alabama look like a lifeboat.
The Hollywood Reporter's Todd McCarthy appreciate's "Noah"'s gusto:
Darren Aronofsky wrestles one of scripture's most primal stories to the ground and extracts something vital and audacious, while also pushing some aggressive environmentalism, in "Noah." Whereas for a century most Hollywood filmmakers have tread carefully and respectfully when tackling biblical topics in big-budget epics aimed at a mass audience, Aronofsky 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.
Screen Daily, however, is not a fan:
The movie wants to be a love story, a family drama, a war movie and a disaster film, but the different tones and genres aren’t properly integrated. The last time Aronofsky tried to make a major studio film, it was the commercial failure "The Fountain," but at least there his distinctive eye was resolute, capable of delivering a bold sci-fi film that touched on love, destiny and grief. With Noah, Aronofsky seems overwhelmed by the demands of executing such an ambitious undertaking, resulting in an unfocused, slightly anonymous effort.
The Wrap isn't loving "Noah" either:
"Noah" has its share of interesting ideas, from rock-covered fallen angels to Noah's idea that he and his family should be the last human beings on earth, per his interpretation of what "the creator" tells him, but the film winds up feeling like a bit of a soggy slog, both overblown and underwritten.