NOAH ISN'T FOR EVERYONE, but it's a perfect movie for those of us who believe obsession is a certain kind of genius. Our modern conception of Noah, from whom all mankind is allegorically descended, is as this old man who God told to build a boat, who everyone said was crazy, but for whom it all worked out because he wisely listened to God. It's a simple enough story if you leave out the details, which I imagine many true believers would suggest that you do. Plot holes? Story doesn't track? Ta-da, that's where faith comes in! (I do remember some bits of church from childhood.)
Director Darren Aronofsky seems to want to believe the Noah story—but as a storyteller himself, he can't let go of the details. Exactly how did God speak to Noah, and how often? What did it do to Noah mentally to have to be the one to separate all of mankind into the righteous and the wicked? If mankind had separated into a bunch of sinful, meat-eating rapists on one side and Noah's small band of gentle vegetarians on the other, what of the rapees? Were they just cursed by association, and how did Noah feel about having to make all these judgment calls? How often did God talk when Noah was having to make all these decisions, and did Noah resent the silence? And what did it do to Noah's sons to see God about to lay waste to all of their potential lays, just as they were sprouting their first pubes and boners?
To watch Noah is to see Aronofsky earnestly trying to flesh out a Bible story that, in the original version, doesn't necessarily make a ton of sense. To make it work in a way that's true for him. To understand an Old Testament God who, as written, seems like kind of an asshole. (Note: I learned this mostly from an old Lewis Black bit.) It's a completely sincere attempt to articulate the age-old question of what the creator wants from mankind—told through special effects-heavy studio schlock. Noah is a movie that posits the profound hypothesis that maybe mankind is forever cursed to defy God and nature because of our irrational love of our own progeny. That's a pretty heavy thought, and to see it come from a movie full of prehistoric hoodies, pregnancy tests performed with a leaf, a protagonist who growls "I want justice!", and CGI rock people voiced by Nick Nolte (who, let's be honest, was born to voice a rock person), is completely, righteously, gloriously fucking insane.
When they hired Aronofsky, I think Paramount Pictures thought they would be getting a film about the word of God, but instead they got one about the mind of a man—a big, manic episode that, only after almost three hours, manages to find a messy sort of closure. There's something beautiful about that.