Hollywood has a bad history of Biblical epics, replacing subtlety, religious introspection and depth with spectacle, special effects, action sequences and superficial 'romance'. On the other hand, this is Aronofsky (and I am a fan of all his movies) so I was hoping for something more.
Right from the start it felt wrong: An attempt to convert the complex story of Noah into a biblical Lord of the Rings. I then thought that instead of expecting it to be the story of Noah, that I could try to just enjoy it as a pure fantasy flick and as a story unrelated to the Bible. But this proved impossible to do, given what I know and how much they used from the original story combined with so many endless annoying distortions and missed opportunities. And even taken as its own story, it suffers from inconsistencies and poor writing.
Indeed, many of my criticisms come from comparing this to the Bible story. But even if you don't believe in it, this is the equivalent of taking a great book that everyone knows and loves, removing all the interesting stuff, replacing it with your own invented modern dramatic elements and thrills, and stuffing it with Hollywood spectacle just to keep people entertained.
Which means they thought the original story wasn't good enough. So why start with the story of Noah in the first place? Obviously, just to exploit its popularity.
Let's start with the 'Watchers': There are Nefilim in the Bible, but traditional sources give them a completely different form and story. In the movie they are Transformer-like ex-angel creatures of stone that are confused and emotional, behaving like humans, that 'fell' in order to help humans, and who have lost their way after humans disappointed them. The actual story is about angels seduced by humans and fallen from grace thanks to the corruption of the earth, trying to turn themselves into humans and interacting with the human world and causing distortions and evil. In other words, they were a symptom of the general corruption of creation where even angels fell. Which is scary and interesting in itself and can even easily lend itself to a Hollywood spectacle, so why change it? Plus the change makes no sense: Why would angels 'fall' in order to help humans? In order to fall, first something has to go wrong. Also, they can help from wherever they are! All of which shows what I said earlier: Not only did they change things unnecessarily, they also made illogical changes.
Another case in point: Noah was instructed to build the Ark, a job that would take 120 years. God could have made it spring up by some miracle or save Noah some other much easier way, but there was a point to make by having Noah build it in front of everyone for so long through hard work and dedication (to provoke them and give them a chance to think and see the work and correct their ways). So what does this movie do? It springs up a whole forest instantly through a huge miracle, then has the Watchers build the ark for Noah as quickly as possible, protected and hidden away from civilization, as well as has them protect Noah in a grand battle-massacre spectacle. Kinda missing the whole point aren't we?
Noah here is an action-figure who does battle with evil men, killing them without remorse. Once again, Hollywood action over introspection. It's not a question over whether he had to kill due to self-defense in a land without morals, it's about on what the movie chooses to focus.
And yes, once again, there is Hollywood romance and lust by the saviors of the world... In a Biblical movie about the moral deterioration of the world for crying out loud. In fact, they all do various bad things just in order to make them more human for us. And yet the Bible says they were righteous. So I guess righteous means that they were merely ahead of the rest in terms of brownie points? Except (spoiler) Noah turns out to be worse than the rest of the world...
(spoilers) Noah turns out to be a misanthrope Vegan who would like to see all of humanity destroyed just so that 'nature' can be left untouched. This is really beyond offensive. For starters, besides the obvious change from the original story, this means that whereas the rest of the world were murderers, Noah would rather see animals live than a single human. Which makes him worse than the rest of the world. The immediate question is, according to this movie's warped (non)logic, why would he be saved? True, in the end he found his way to show mercy to human babies but this hardly makes him better than the rest - they didn't kill babies either (obviously, otherwise they wouldn't exist).
Modern stories are often afraid of making their heroes inspiring and good people since that isn't 'realistic' and artistic, but this is taking it a bit too far don't you think? This movie actually turns Noah into a despicable evil man.
Also, religiously, the world was created for man. Why on earth would Noah, a religious man, think that a world without humans made sense as long as animals get to live?! Evidently nobody put any thought into this screenplay.
The care for the land by Noah and avoidance from eating animals is correct, except this is no vegetarian paradise: In the bible, right after the flood, in the new world that was created, Noah was given permission to eat animals. The movie conveniently ignores this part of the story just to create some kind of fantasy Vegan/environmentalist character.
God speaks to Noah through dreams or he has to take a drug to see a vision like some Native American. Really? Way to undermine that interesting conversation with God.
Traditionally, Noah was a complex mysterious character whose primary issue was over having the ability to save the rest of the world along with him and not going as far as he could. So what does this movie do? Throws all of this interesting stuff out and turns him into a Vegan fanatic. Talk about a missed opportunity.
Noah fed the animals according to tradition, and had trouble with it, he didn't put them to sleep with some herb magic. Once again, a missed opportunity.
Once in the ark, instead of introspection, we get a thriller subplot invented for the movie while Noah suddenly gets all misanthropic. The empty-headed changes to the story keep increasing by the dozens just to generate more cheap thrills. Imagine that: There is an apocalypse, and survivors have weeks to think about what just happened, but according to this movie, that's not enough.
And so on and on... I am deeply disappointed in you, Darren Aronofsky. You had a chance to change the way Hollywood approaches Biblical movies with a rich complex story about people and humanity, and you chose a superficial, badly-written, fantasy action epic instead.