Paramount Pictures via Everett Collection
Here's a feat: taking what is likely the oldest, most well-known story in the world, and making a retelling feel inventive. Over the course of its two-and-a-half-hour runtime, Darren Aronofsky's Noah takes many forms — Tolkien-esque fantasy, trippy psychological thriller, merciless dissection of the dark points of abject faith — never feeling too rigidly confined to the parameters of the familiar tale that we've all experienced in the form of bedtime stories, religious education lessons, and vegetable-laden cartoons. As many forms as the parable has taken over the past few thousand years, Aronofsky manages to find a few new takes.
The director's thumbprint is branded boldly on Russell Crowe's Noah, a man who begins his journey as a simple pawn of God and evolves into a dimensional human as tortured as Natalie Portman's ballerina or Jared Leto's smack head. Noah's obsession and crisis: his faith. The peak of the righteous descendant of Seth (that's Adam and Eve's third son — the one who didn't die or bash his brother's head in with a rock), Noah is determined to carry out the heavenly mission imparted upon him via ambiguous, psychedelic visions. God wants him to do something — spoilers: build an ark — and he will do it. No matter what.
No matter what it means to his family, to his lineage, to his fellow man, to the world. He's going to do it. No matter what. The depths to which Aronofsky explores this simple concept — the nature of unmitigated devotion — makes what we all knew as a simplistic A-to-B children's story so gripping. While the throughline is not a far cry from the themes explored in his previous works, the application of his Requiem for a Dream, The Wrestler, and Black Swan ideas in this movie does not feel like a rehashing. Experiencing such modern, humane ideas in biblical epic is, in fact, a thrill-ride.
Paramount Pictures via Everett Collection
Although Aronofsky accesses some highly guttural stuff inside of his title character, he lets whimsy and imagination take hold of the world outside of him. Jumping headfirst into the fantastical, the director lines his magical realm with rock monsters — "Watcher" angels encased in Earth-anchored prisons as punishment for their betrayal of God — and a variety of fauna that range in innovation from your traditional white dove to some kind of horned, scaled dog bastardization.
But the most winning elements of Noah, and easily the most surprising, come when Aronofsky goes cosmic. He jumps beyond the literal to send us coursing through eons to watch the creation of God's universe, matter exploding from oblivion, a line of creatures evolving (in earnest) into one another as the planet progresses to the point at which we meet our tortured seafarer. Aronofsky's imagination, his aptitude as a cinematic magician, peak (not just in terms of the film, but in terms of his career) in these scenes.
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With all this propped against the stark humanity of his story — not just in terms of Crowe's existential spiral, but in character beats like grandfather Methuselah's relationship with the youngsters, in little Ham's playful teasing of his new rock monster pet — Aronofsky manages something we never could have anticipated from Noah. It's scientific, cathartic, humane. Impressively, this age-old tale, here, is new. And beyond that feat, it's a pretty winning spin.
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Top Story: Judge To Settle Dispute With Michael Jackson, Ex-Wife
According to court documents made public Tuesday, Michael Jackson and his ex-wife Debbie Rowe have agreed to let retired Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Stephen Lachs mediate an unspecified family dispute. The papers, published on the Smoking Gun Web site (www.thesmokinggun.com), do not specify the nature of the dispute but according to the syndicated show Celebrity Justice, Rowe, a medical assistant who was married to Jackson from 1996 to 1999, is seeking formal custody of their two children, Prince Michael I and Paris. Celebrity Justice reports that Rowe decided to seek custody of the children in part because members of the Nation of Islam, a Black Muslim group, were advising the 45-year-old singer. Jackson is charged with seven counts of lewd acts on a child under the age of 14 and two counts of giving the boy alcohol in order to seduce him. Lachs and attorneys for both Jackson and Rowe declined comment on the dispute or the documents, which were signed by Rowe and Jackson, Reuters reports.
Janet Jackson Won't Play Lena
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Justin Timberlake Out of Motown Special
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William "She Bangs" Hung To Make Idol Appearance
American Idol hasn't seen the last of William Hung, the most famous contestant who never made it to the stage. The Associated Press reports Hung, who attracted national attention with his "She Bangs" audition and has since landed several gigs, is slated to guest-appear on American Idol: Uncut, Uncensored & Untalented, a Fox special that will also feature yet more show outtakes, bad auditions and live appearances by contestants and wanna-bes. The one-hour special hosted by Ryan Seacrest airs Monday on Fox.
Jolie To Carry Olympic Torch
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Sex Finale Big for HBO
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Prince Returns to Pop Life
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Role Call: Downey, Kilmer in Kiss, Kiss; IFC Acquires Metallica Pic
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