How does one start to summarize Darren Aronofsky's interpretation of the Biblical story of Noah?
Noah (Russell Crowe) and his family are trudging through the pre-flood world that sure looks a lot like a volcanic wasteland (I half expected to see Viggo Mortensen and his shopping cart off in the distance). Mankind has really screwed up--turning the world into a sort of hell on earth--and God is mad. Noah starts to get visions (coming in dreams) of the world flooded, and all living things drowning. He takes this a sign that it is his job to build a giant, rectangle box in which he will save two-by-twos of all living things. (I mean, except for humans... he gets to take his wife, his three sons, that girl they picked up... [counting on fingers... moving to next hand...]).
All the blame can be placed on Cain's descendants, who are a big tribe of bad people led by classic bad guy Tubal-Cain, played by Ray Winstone. Winstone is practically cracking his knuckles (or cracking heads on rocks) with glee. Who knew that there was such a juicy villain role in the story of Noah and his ark? Tubal-Cain is there to try to lure Noah's son Ham (Logan Lerman) to the dark side (Ham is pissed that he didn't get a wife for the end of the world), plus lead battles and have brawling fist fights! And it is not (really) giving anything away since it happens about midway through the movie, but did you know that there was a human stowaway on the ark to add dramatic tension? Evil hitched a ride!
Funny enough, all the critters are really secondary to the story, despite being the centerpiece of all Noah's Ark felt dioramas in Sunday school. See, Noah has these magic crystals that can not only start a fire for cooking, but the crystal-smoke can also put all the animals softly to sleep in big snoozy piles for the months and months that the ark is afloat. PLUS (this is the best part), the same magic crystals can be dropped in a tube to shoot flames, like a roman candle weapon! Who knew?
Before the ark has even gotten a hint that any land is on the horizon, Noah has turned into tyrant bastard, terrorizing all the other humans on the ark. Any toothy animal in its right mind should have woken up and consumed him as a snack. This Noah is not the gentle shepherd of our childhood (though, interestingly, Noah and his family seem to be making an argument for vegetarianism).
I have no idea what was going on with this movie. I actually went home and read the Bible afterwards, just to see where Aronofsky got some of his... embellishments. Personally, I was just glad that he kept the literal bit in the Bible where Noah gets drunk and naked and embarrasses the whole family (yay for Biblical literalism!). Don't even get me started on the giant rock/Orc-like fallen angels, or the dogs with scales (that apparently didn't hear the two-by-two call to get on the boat)... Aronofsky's bizarre version of the Bible is kind of Lord-of-the-Rings awesome!