To hear Darren Aronofsky tell it in interviews, there was no way in hell he'd let his special-effects extravaganza Noah, years in the planning, be your run-of-the-mill, candy-ass Biblical epic. The ark built by Russell Crowe's Noah couldn't be some SS Minnow–style thing with a cute little peaked-roof house at the top: It had to be a majestically ugly barge, the better to fit thousands of CGI two-by-two beasties.
Instead of trying to wring some drama out of that hoary old contretemps between Noah and God, Aronofsky took a minor Old Testament figure, Tubal-cain, and hired Ray Winstone to play him. This re-imagined Tubal-cain is a tough who murdered Noah's father long ago; now he wants to elbow his way onto the ark, and possibly -- shudder -- eat some of the animals. Also, Aronofsky has introduced a group of fallen angels known as the Watchers, a race of crabby rock people who have become disgusted with the mess mankind has made and who never got over being defeated by Flash Gordon. OK, Flash Gordon isn't in Genesis, but that was probably just an oversight. Noah is here not to set the record straight, but to set it on its head.
This isn't a lavish work of mad genius, it's designed to be a lavish work of mad genius, and there's a difference. Aronofsky is an uncompromising director: He wants everything just so, and he knows what he's doing, to the extent that audiences always do, too -- you can feel the gears behind it all noisily grinding. If Noah, his costliest and splashiest film, has any splendor at all, it's the business-as-usual CGI spectacle kind.