'Noah': What the Critics Are Saying

Darren Aronofsky's Bible-based epic Noah, out on Friday, stars Russell Crowe, Jennifer Connelly, Douglas Booth, Anthony Hopkins, Emma Watson, Ray Winstone and Logan Lerman. Though already banned in Indonesia and several Middle Eastern countries, the film debuted to $1.1 million from 750 screens in South Korea -- the top opening-day gross of 2014 -- and is also off to a strong start in Mexico and Australia. Still, box office observers are praying that the $125 million-plus feature will cross $35 million in its North American launch in 3,400 theaters

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Read what top critics are saying about Noah below:

The Hollywood Reporter's chief film critic Todd McCarthy noted in his review that "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." With the fantastical visual elements at play -- "creatures rise up from the sea, a whole forest takes instantaneous shape at Noah's convenience and there is far more swordplay and fighting than one ever imagined in this story" -- and technical achievements, plus "Crowe's splendidly grounded work here [that] recalls some of his finest earlier performances," he reviews the film as "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," even "while also pushing some aggressive environmentalism."

The New York Times' A.O. Scott called Noah an "earnest, uneven, intermittently powerful film, [that] is both a psychological case study and a parable of hubris and humility. At its best, it shares some its namesake’s ferocious conviction, and not a little of his madness." Also praising Crowe's performance, the film is more horror than epic, and is "occasionally clumsy, ridiculous and unconvincing, but it is almost never dull, and very little of it has the careful, by-the-numbers quality that characterizes big-studio action-fantasy entertainment. The riskiest thing about this movie is its sincerity."

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Chicago Tribune's Michael Phillips gave the film two-and-a-half stars out of five, noting that it mostly works because "although the director has a habit of letting the internal momentum of his dialogue scenes putter and then stall, his penchant for tight hand-held close-ups maintains a crude, heightened realism." Also, "a roiling Cain/Abel dynamic between the older boys" is particularly affecting and, like McCarthy's review, that the animals themselves are rarely a factor of the "erratic" an "unpredictable" flood film.

The Boston Globe's Ty Burr said the feature "is equal parts ridiculous and magnificent, a showman’s folly and a madman’s epic." He notes that though the film is based on the biblical tale, "the movie hacks away at big ideas, too: man’s stewardship of his planet, man’s relationship with his Creator, the line where righteousness becomes mania." He also praises Connelly and Watson's performances: "They’re fine actresses, and they win you over."

Time's Richard Corliss highlighted the many liturgical and dramatic challenges with which Aronofsky grapples, but concluded, "Rarely has a film that flirts this solemnly with ambition bending toward madness been so masterly in carrying its spectators to its heights and through its depths. On both levels, Noah is a water thrill ride worth taking."

Email: Ashley.Lee@THR.com
Twitter: @cashleelee

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