Movie Review: In ‘Noah,’ a hard rain

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Most religious movies feel as if they’re made by a church committee, but every now and then a wild-eyed prophet wanders in and rattles the theater with brimstone. Regardless of your feelings about either movie, Mel Gibson’s “The Passion of the Christ” qualifies and so does Martin Scorsese’s “The Last Temptation of Christ.” Now director Darren Aronofsky (“Black Swan,” “The Wrestler”) has ascended to the mountaintop and returned with the strangest, most visionary cinematic parable yet.

“Noah” is equal parts ridiculous and magnificent, a showman’s folly and a madman’s epic. It elaborates on the Book of Genesis’s slender story of Noah and the Ark with subplots and additional characters and computer-generated effects that would have Cecil B. DeMille drooling. If that stands to put off the faithful, many of them, and many others besides, may be won back by the film’s ambitious seriousness of purpose. Aronofsky and co-writer Ari Handel are working on a vast, primeval scale here, as if they were carving their story out of rock. 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. The parts of “Noah” that don’t work really, truly don’t. But the parts that do almost sweep you away in the flood.

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