"Noah" reviews: Critics mostly admire ambitious take on biblical epic

Following weeks of controversy, "Noah" has flooded into theaters.

The new big-budget action flick is based on the Genesis narrative and comes from director Darren Aronofsky, known for films like "Pi," "Requiem for a Dream," "The Wrestler" and "Black Swan."

Russell Crowe stars as the title character, who builds an ark and saves his wife (Crowe's "Beautiful Mind" and "Winter's Tale" co-star Jennifer Connelly), their children and a whole bunch of animals from an apocalyptic flood.

Anthony Hopkins, Nick Nolte, Emma Watson and Ray Winstone also star.

The film has been met with criticisms from some religious groups that take issue with Noah's environmentalist stance. He and his family are depicted as vegans. Noah also believes that God (controversially referred to here only as the "Creator") invoked the flood to punish humans for their mistreatment of Earth.

Film critics, meanwhile, are predominantly positive about the re-telling, praising Aronofsky's ability to explore topical issues through an ancient story.

While some feel that this isn't the director's best work, the reviews have been mostly complimentary:

Joe Morgenstern, The Wall Street Journal: "This is a daring venture in mainstream entertainment, and mostly an enthralling one, despite some problematic patches. The film is revisionist, to be sure; we've never seen a Noah like the hero played so fiercely by Russell Crowe."

A.O. Scott, The New York Times: "Darren Aronofsky, in his ambitious fusion of Old Testament awe with modern blockbuster spectacle, dwells on the dark and troubling implications of Noah's experience. 'Noah,' Mr. Aronofsky's earnest, uneven, intermittently powerful film, is both a psychological case study and a parable of hubris and humility."

Scott Foundas, Variety: "Noah's own age of anxiety seems to echo directly into our own. The movie leaves us with a crystalline image of a man who feels most adrift when he is finally standing on dry land -- and who, regardless of what faith one subscribes to, cannot relate to that?"

Andrew O'Hehir, Salon: "When it connects it's awesome, and when it doesn't it's awesomely silly. If it's a bad idea, at least it's a bad idea on a grand scale, and a better bad idea than 90 percent of the ones that reach the screen from Hollywood."

Kenneth Turan, Los Angeles Times: "As 'Noah's' hectic plot wends its biblical way, you have to respect this film's colossal nerve even if you can rarely take its situations as seriously as creator Aronofsky does. With its determination to tell this traditional story in its own way, it begins to oddly echo the very different but equally individualistic Old Testament epics put out by the old master himself, Cecil B. DeMille. The creator really does work in mysterious ways."

Joe Neumaier, N.Y. Daily News: "Aronofsky's film is most powerful when its title character rages and suffers through what seems to be a suicide mission. Those scenes keep this ambitious Old Testament epic from being a washout."

Todd McCarthy, The Hollywood Reporter: "['Noah' is] 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."

Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune: "Darren Aronofsky's strange and often rich new movie "Noah" has enough actual filmmaking to its name to deserve better handling than a plainly nervous Paramount Pictures has given it."

David Edelstein, New York Magazine: "['Noah'] grounds the biblical apocalypse in the here and now, tapping into the dystopian mood while retaining a sense of religious awe. Maybe that's why the fundamentalists hate it. It makes too much damn sense."

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    Ken Lombardi is an entertainment reporter for CBS News. He has interviewed over 300 celebrities, including Clint Eastwood, Oprah Winfrey and Tom Hanks.

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