Darren Aronofsky's 'Noah': The Reviews Are In

The 'Black Swan' filmmaker explores Genesis through a 'Lord of the Rings' lens.

The story of Noah is a familiar one on paper — floods ravage Earth, Noah and his ark filled with animals survive to start a new world — but Darren Aronofsky's vision of the biblical legend appears to be anything but straightforward.

Critics have praised the "Black Swan" and "Requiem for a Dream" filmmaker's newest movie, "Noah," for its philosophical and visual ideas, comparing Aronofsky's ambitious new world to the scale of the "Lord of the Rings" series. Russell Crowe stars as the title character, described by some as the Oscar-winning actor's best performance in years. Of course, "Noah" didn't stay afloat for all reviewers, but even detractors appreciate Aronofsky's ambition.

Read on for more on what critics are saying about "Noah":

The Vision

"Darren Aronofsky's 'Noah' is not just one of the most ambitious films I've seen this year, it's one of the most ambitious films I've ever seen. It's a movie that is spilling over with ideas and images and emotional explorations of the metaphysical. It's a movie in which shamanic culture is part of the same tradition as fallen seraphim and blatant miracles.

It tells a story that is so familiar at this point that it has no impact whatsoever and tells it in a way that is constantly pushing and challenging the viewer. Whatever your idea of the story of 'Noah' is, Aronofsky, along with his co-writer Ari Handel, has found a distinct and different way into it, and what he's made is going to be worth conversation all year long." — Drew McWeeny, HitFix

The World

"There are two main premises into which you must buy for 'Noah' to work. One is that the events of the Bible are true. The other is that the world before the Flood was extraordinarily different. Even the sky has an alien tinge in these early days of Genesis, a time when magic was real and angels clad in armor of stone killed all who trespassed on their land.

The antediluvian Earth even looks different from space; the familiar continents have not yet formed and the face of the world is dominated by Pangea. This is Darren Aronofsky's Middle Earth — an almost familiar place that is about to pass out of memory. But unlike the bittersweet loss evoked in JRR Tolkien's writing, the loss of the antediluvian world (and its armor and swords and spells) is a cleansing." — Devin Faraci, Badass Digest

The Star

"The good news is that this is the best Russell Crowe performance we've gotten in quite a while. Wipe the camp of his turn in 'The Man With the Iron Fists,' the uncomfortable memories of listening to him sing in 'Les Misérables,' and the horror of whatever he was doing in 'Winter's Tale' out of your mind, because his portrayal of Noah has much more in common with the intensity he brought to 'L.A. Confidential' and the restraint he showed in 'The Insider.' Actually, 'Noah' feels quite a lot like the good work he did in the first act of 'Man of Steel,' before Superman got introduced and the rest of that movie went downhill." — Nathan Adams, Film School Rejects

The Downside

"Unlike the thousands of CGI beasts of the land and air who hitch a ride on 'Noah,' Darren Aronofsky's highly-anticipated epic is neither fish nor fowl; in no way is it a straightforward Bible tale (and given the brevity of Genesis' account of the flood, such a thing would be next to impossible) nor is it the sort of unfettered freak-out that fans of 'Black Swan,' 'Pi' or 'The Fountain' would expect from its director and co-writer (with Ari Handel).

'Noah' has its share of interesting ideas, from rock-covered fallen angels to Noah's idea that he and his family should be the last human beings on earth, per his interpretation of what 'the creator' tells him, but the film winds up feeling like a bit of a soggy slog, both overblown and underwritten." — Alonso Duralde, The Wrap

The Final Word

"The combination of Darren Aronofsky and the story of Noah is certainly an evocative one. Aronofsky's films, including 'Requiem for a Dream' and 'Black Swan,' often feel like vivid fever dreams, and it's an intriguing choice for him to tackle this huge biblical tale. The resulting film, 'Noah,' has its flaws but ultimately is a fascinating achievement — a continually ambitious undertaking that swings for the fences and then some. It doesn't all work, but you have to admire Aronofsky's moxie, and acknowledge all that he does pull off here." — Eric Goldman, IGN Movies

Tell us what you think of "Noah" in the comments below.