Movie Review: ‘Noah’ sinks under weight of plot changes

A lesser-known passage in the writings of Ezekiel suggests that Job, Daniel and Noah were among the most righteous figures in the Old Testament.

Somehow, I don’t think director Darren Aronofsky read that verse – or much other scripture either.

The folks who financed Aronofsky’s “Noah” must surely be aiming at the same evangelicals who spent so much on “Passion of the Christ”; but I can’t imagine what they thought Christians would like about this movie.

Among the many awkward changes to the Genesis flood account: a stowaway on the ark (Bible reprobate Tubal-Cain), a failed struggle to find wives for Noah’s younger sons, and a race of lurching, gravel-voiced rock monsters (former angels kicked out of heaven for helping mankind).

But even if we grant some artistic license to flesh out an admittedly terse historical narrative, the real problem is that this script rudely turns its source material upside down.

This Noah saves the beasts because they’re “innocents”: Though Genesis insists man is made in God’s image, that line is given negative overtones here by Tubal-Cain – as is the command about man’s dominion. The way “Noah” sees it, this planet would be much better off if only humans weren’t around to mistreat animals.

Noah goes so far as to insist that with the flood, God will “get what he wanted – a world without man.”

At which point, I came perilously close to shouting in a crowded theater, “Who wrote this crap!”

For all you can tell here, God decided to flood the earth because there weren’t enough vegetarians around.

As for the Old Testament shipwright himself – played with sufficient gravitas by Russell Crowe – he’s not a “preacher of righteousness” as the Bible insists, but a misguided visionary who plans to kill his unborn grandchild because he thinks God wants humans obliterated for all time.

When Noah advances this agenda by deliberately allowing a sympathetic character to die, I almost walked out.

Instead, being a responsible and long-suffering critic, I spent another hour in growing contempt for the protagonist – and for the headache-inducing movie that’s named for him.

Even folks not especially committed to scripture may find it tough to sit through 138 minutes with a man determined to murder his own granddaughter; and the question of whether he’ll actually go through with it is simply not enough to hang an epic movie on.

When Noah finally experiences some redemption at the end, it’s a case of too little too late.

I’ll grant that the film looks pretty good: The ark, which I understand was built to scale on Aronofsky’s set, is blazingly authentic.

And the acting is solid too, particularly Emma Watson as Noah’s daughter-in-law. At times, it feels like she’s carrying the movie on her slender but sturdy shoulders.

Aronofsky also gets serviceable work out of Jennifer Connelly as Noah’s wife and Anthony Hopkins as Methuselah.

But since the movie seems to ask it, can a few good elements can make something bad worth saving?

In this case: No.

1 star out of 4.

Rated PG-13 for violence, disturbing images and brief suggestive content.