Noah review

Review Ryan Lambie 31 Mar 2014 - 06:32

Russell Crowe builds a boat in Darren Aronofsky's biblical epic, Noah. Here's Ryan's review...

From the moment an army of angels crashes to Earth from heaven, only to emerge from the loam as stone-clad giants, it’s clear that Darren Aronofsky’s Noah is no ordinary Hollywood epic. This is a Biblical film for the Game Of Thrones generation, a myth for viewers more familiar with the books of Tolkien than the Book of Genesis.

Russell Crowe stars as a battle-ready Noah, who scratches out a grim existence in a pre-flood world that’s part Sunday school story, part Mad Max; the soil is barren, food is scarce, and humanity has descended into feral madness. The planet is overrun by the sons of Cain, the first murderer, and his descendants - led by a seething Ray Winstone as Tubal-Cain - have stripped the landscape of its resources.

Noah is all that remains of the family of Seth, a bloodline blessed by God. Having experienced a series of troubling visions - and visited his mountain-dwelling grandfather Methuselah (Anthony Hopkins, here rambling about berries in his Welsh accent) - Noah discovers his God-given mission: to build an Ark, put his family and two examples of every animal on Earth inside it, and wait for the flood that will cleanse the planet of evil.

With the assistance of the stone-clad angels-turned-giants mentioned above, Noah begins crafting his huge vessel. But as the Ark is built and the animals gather two by two, Tubal-Cain draws his army of heathens together, and plans to take the craft by force. Meanwhile, Noah’s family - his wife, Naameh (Jennifer Connelly), adopted daughter Ila (Emma Watson) and sons Shem (Douglas Booth), Ham (Logan Lerman) and Japheth (Leo McHugh Carroll) have worries of their own - not least an increasing fear of their father and his apocalyptic rants.

If director Darren Aronofsky’s films have one uniting theme, it’s that of the tortured protagonist. His debut feature, Pi, was about a mathematician driven mad by his discovery of a seemingly divine series of numbers. His second, Requiem For A Dream, concerned a group of interconnected people whose lives are torn apart by drugs. The Fountain was about a man willing to travel through time and space in search of transcendence. The Wrestler and Black Swan saw their characters suffer physically and psychologically in pursuit of their art.

Noah is another character in that tradition. He wrestles inwardly with the burden God has given him. He rages at the blackening clouds rolling overhead. He sits sullenly as the rising tide laps at his Ark. Crowe brings every milligram of his surly charisma to the part, his eyes darting and froth building at the corners of his bearded mouth, yet Aronofsky gives us few reasons to admire or particularly trust this man, whose grip on sanity seems even less certain than that of his nemesis, Tubal-Cain.

Then again, Aronofsky and co-writer Ari Handel don't give the rest of Noah’s family much light and shade, either. Emma Watson puts the work in as a woman grieving over her inability to bear children. Jennifer Connelly strains every sinew as a wife growing increasingly fearful of her husband and his righteous fervour. But Douglas Booth's Shem is little more than beautiful, doe-eyed window-dressing with little to do; Logan Lerman is the only male cast member who has the space to make an impression.

In the place of character development, Aronofsky goes for grandstanding speeches or fearsome confrontations; Noah the movie is high on melodrama yet low on empathy for the main players. Noah the hero is high on resolve yet low on depth. Who are these people when they’re not shouting at each other, or lugubriously hacking at the soil with hoes? Aronofsky never tells us.

Instead, he bombards the screen with furious displays of sound and vision almost as overwhelming as the deluge itself. Armies surge in a great grey mass as creatures straight out of Lord Of The Rings pound the earth or explode in blinding shafts of light. Clint Mansell’s orchestra parps and bellows to Aronofsky’s trudging march, as though the aim is to shock us into unthinking acceptance at all the chaos unfolding across the screen.

For all its spittle-flecked seriousness, Noah is a bewildering film. This is, after all, an Old Testament interpretation which happens to contain armadillo-dog hybrids, a glowing unobtanium-like fossil fuel, magical pregnancy test kits or the sight of Ray Winstone ranting while wearing a welding hat. Are we meant to giggle behind our hands at these moments? If we’re to believe the steely stare that Crowe gives us in scene after scene, the answer seems to be no.

Some sequences, on the other hand, are quite haunting. The moment of the flood and its resulting chaos is extremely effective. Others are simply kitsch, like a pair of doves that drink from divine waters, look at each other, then flap awkwardly away. The CGI animals, it has to be said, are a bit of a mixed bag in the final cut; they look good in long shots, but move less convincingly than in, say, Ang Lee’s simlarly effects-heavy Life Of Pi.

Aronofsky is seemingly more interested in exploring clashing ideologies than animals in any case. Noah and Tubal-Cain are as flawed as each other, with the former dangerously consumed by religious fervour while the latter is in thrall to his own selfishness and lust for power. Their common failing, Aronofsky seems to be telling us, is that they both lack compassion.

Noah is a wild, swooning film that is as likely to infuriate as many viewers as it enthrals. But for better or worse, Aronofsky’s made the movie he wanted to make, which is a rare thing in post-1980s Hollywood. Noah is a Biblical epic with little interest in Biblical accuracy; a cautionary environmental fable that is both extraordinarily serious and jaw-droppingly ridiculous. It's seemingly made without demographics, religious groups or any particular cinemagoer in mind. For sheer audacity alone, then, Aronofsky deserves to be applauded.

Noah is out on the 4th April in the UK.

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DoG in good review shocker!

"God said to Noah, There's going to be a floody floody". I would have preferred to see Flanders version on the big screen.

I've been fascinated by and following this film for a couple of years, reading just about every article and interview on it - quite a lot in the last few weeks especially - and had every intention to go see it once it opened in the UK, but that all changed once I started reading reliable reviews and reasonable, well-informed commentaries from across the pond... despite Paramount's assertion to the contrary, this film is NOT true to either the spirit or letter of it's source material.

I fully understand and acknowledge there has to be some artistic licence in adapting a four-chapter story into a two-and-a-quarter hour film, but what Aronofsky and co-writer Ari Handel have done - intentionally or otherwise - is to take that artistic licence so far as to corrupt, invert, and distort the meaning, themes, morality, and overall message of the original story. This film is most certainly NOT an ode to the Biblical source, to Noah himself, or to God, it is however a misrepresentation from beginning to end, and an insult to Noah the person, to the God he served, and to believing Jews and Christians alike. I am bewildered and perplexed by the Christians who have come out in support of this film because far from being a reverential or even remotely accurate retelling of the Noahic story, it is a deliberately and callously revisionist, environmentalist (in the pejorative sense), pro-vegan, anti-human tract that casts Noah as a homicidal zealot who hates humanity, God as a spiteful genocidal deity, and the demonic Nephilim as heroic defenders of the Ark who go to Heaven upon their demise... all of which is gross distortion of the truth.

I'm sure some/many here will attack what I've said but this isn't for you lot, this is for any discerning Christians or Jews who might read this; beware this film, go at your own discretion, but know what it is before you go, Darren Aronofsky stated it is "the least biblical Biblical film ever made"... and on that point alone, he was absolutley accurate, alas, the same cannot be said for his new film, sadly another wasted opportunity.

"All of which is gross distortion of the truth" - I'm not going to attack what you've said, believe what you want, but keep it on the religious sites/forums please. I think the movie looks pretty crappy, however if they had given a literal version of the biblical story I reckon it would have been much worse!

But on your own admission you haven't seen the film yet, so how can you feel so offended by it?

Do you get this over-zealous with cinematic adaptions of other works of literature?

I'm looking forward to this! It looks mad. Mad is good. I personally think there should be more films based on stories from the bible. I don't say this to wind anybody up, some of them are really good! I only really see the bible though as a work of fiction, A very popular one with some very devoted fans but fiction none the less. My uncle used to read the stories to me when I was a kid, he wasn't a priest or religious in anyway he just thought it was a good book! The Old Testament in particular has some real epics in there! Hollywood, bring it on?

regardless of your thoughts on the film, you need to see it and try to get your own understanding of the directors ideas rather than regurgitate others thoughts.
This is more a site for talking themes and ideas in film and how the film works itself rather than discussing religion.

This movie also has another purpose to it - yes, I understand that it's primary purposes are money and to tell a story, but surely there is some deeper purpose of inviting people to think more about the story, and yes, to think more about God.
So the one thing that i would love to see more of in reviews for this movie is more about how it made people feel and think about God.
So fellow commentors who have seen the movie, did this movie change your opinion of Christianity in any way? Did it bring a new light to the story of Noah? Do you have questions you want to ask about God? I am very curious on your opinions...

Standfortruth and daveygravy, here's a couple of major spoilers for you. God does NOT exist, and this is a movie review not a Christian debating forum. Off you both pop......

I think that's a bit unfair.
Standfortruth is clearly someone who has thrown their critical facilities in the bin, throwing an imbecilic hissy fit over a film he or she hasn't seen because it seemingly isn't the literal portrayal of a religious text that he wanted it to be.

But DaveyGravy asks a reasonable question I think. The Bible is full of stories and myths that may be more or less true or apocryphal or utter bilge. But they are interesting stories. And unlike, for instance, Greek mythology, these stories do still inform a great many peoples beliefs. I doubt many people believe in the Greek pantheon, but many people do believe in the biblical God.

Not me, I'm an atheist, and consider these things to just be stories, and from what I know of the Old Testament, very dodgy ones on which to base ones beliefs and morality. But given so many do base their beliefs on biblical stories, it is interesting to see what people's reactions are to this film in terms of their thoughts about God

I guess that I would accept the unfairness of it chinofjim if I sincerely believed that either comments were a genuine attempt at dialogue relating to the quality of the review or the film itself. I suspect that neither are true. I also suspect that, given the amount of other press coverage intimating that many Christians are being encouraged to discourage others to see this movie, that this is nothing but an orchestrated ploy aimed at their motivations to do just that. Which I can't be bothered with on a review/fan site. I personally think that the film looks totally naff and I'll wait for the DVD, but I guess I should really ask myself, WWJD?....

Surely three stars equates to an average rating as opposed to good?

The biggest issue I had with this film is the "baby killing evil Noah" storyline, awkwardly inserted to add tension once they are on the ark. C'mon. I get that this is modern day cinema with short attention spans, but it just seemed so out of place. Rock monsters I can live with. Evil Noah, no.

Best post here, I nearly wet myself when I read this!!
''Get those animals, (clap), out on the arky arky!!''

WARNING: RELIGIOUS COMMENT THAT HAS NO PLACE ON A DEN OF GEEK FORUM INCOMING.

"... far from being a reverential or even remotely accurate retelling of the Noahic story, it... [casts] God as a spiteful genocidal deity..."

I'm an atheist, I've just started reading the Bible, I'm only as far as halfway through Numbers and... yes. Yes He is. Seriously.

Disobey Him? DEATH BY SNAKES! Disobey Him? DEATH BY FLOOD! Disobey Him? DEATH BY STONING! BY PLAGUE! BY FIRE!

Like I said, I'm only as far as Numbers, but He is rather petty/overreacting when His laws are disobeyed.

This is all ignoring the fact that this is NOT a religious forum and I, personally, am intrigued to see how the film turns out.

Just not the story of Lot, eh?

Yeah i'm actually interested too as Aronofsky has never struck as a particularly religious and pious person (hellloooo dildo scene!)

I find it amusing that in a review about a biblical movie (and it is a biblical movie regardless of opinions the movie is based on a biblical event) is all the posts saying things like "Religious comment that has no place here" or that religious opinions are not welcome here. Why can't people who have a religious opinion post here if it is about the movie? Standfortruth may have a long winded post but he basically says if you're looking of a biblically accurate film about Noah this isn't it, which is a point he is entitled to make.

I'm a practicing catholic, I'll probably wait to catch this one on DVD or blurry. Not because of the inaccurate adaptation and to be frank to those who complain about this, since when has hollywood EVER made an accurate adaptation from a book? NEVER. But because I have little interest in going to see a movie about a topic I can read in just under two pages.

It would have been a whole lot shorter seeing as the biblical story is not even two pages long in your average sized bible (about A5 in size). They've said it is an adaptation, and we know hollywood seems to have a mental block when it comes to adapting things into movies. As in they take a fantastic book that has stood the test of time (war of the worlds, Lord of the Rings, just to name two of them) and decide they can do better or they want to put their own stamp on it to make it their own. It is something I am starting to get a bit sick of with hollywood lately.

No, maybe not that one. I don't think I had that read to me as a bed time story though!

The issue isn't that Standfortruth has a problem with it not being biblically accurate.
The issue is that Standfortruth has a problem with it BEING A DISTORTION OF THE TRUTH. That is the kind of religious perspective that doesn't belong here. It would be like me saying "god doesn't exist, this film distorts that truth so all atheists don't watch this movie".

As for your point about adaptations. Why would we want accurate or literal adaptations? The first two Harry Potter movies tried to take that reverential approach to the text and were dull as hell. Prisoner of Azkaban moved away from that, and tried to adapt the material into a visual medium. It is so much better than what came before. The Lord of the Rings movies for me are a great improvement over the books

he's not real, it's all made up. true dat.

It portrays god as a psychotic mass murderer (which, if he existed and these stories were anything other than stories, he would be!), so no, it doesn't really paint god in a great light. Seeing as Aronofsky is a non-practising Jew, I guess that's kinda expected.

A$$ to A$$!

We would want accurate adaptations so we get what is actually in the book. I know LotR some people say it was an improvement but when Christopher Tolkien says that Peter Jackson 'eviscerated" them and they not are lord of the rings but action movies then we can safely say they are not true to the books. Also back to simple sales, some books such as War of the worlds are over 100 years old and are still selling strong, yet the adapted movies gave a lukewarm performance and are all but forgotten.

Hahah yes, when I found out that the director of Black Swan would be directing a biblical movie, I was a little confused :P

Psychotic mass murderer? I had read from other reviews that it was made clear that the people that were killed were all rapists and murderers and like not good people that you wouldn't want running the world - it was essentially a world of Hitlers. Ironic to think that people get angry that God didn't stop Hitler but also get angry when he stopped a world full of them
Thank you for your opinions ^_^

Ok.... but did the movie make you think AT ALL about the possibility of a God or some form of higher deity, or did you just dismiss the thought and viewed it purely from a "This is a 100% fictional movie" point of view?

I am fully aware this is a movie review site, and I was wondering what the MOVIE had to say about the Bible - the source material for the MOVIE. A movie is more than just words and pictures, it has a meaning behind it. If we think about Aronofsky's other movies, he has created them to get people talking about a range of different social justice issues, so why get angry at people discussing religion?
If you'll notice in no comments was I in any way forceful of my own opinions or views and respectful to all - in fact I never mentioned that I was christian, you kinda just assumed that.
How is my comment in any way hurting your opinion of the movie? Just ignore it and move on. Simple.
But I should say thank you for your opinion. Your comment showed me that some people just disregard the christian messages/themes behind it and that was what i was wondering, whether it had a strong impact on people in regards to a christian mindset.

not at all. it was a fictional big budget popcorn extravaganza. and pretty bad to boot. not once did i find myself considering the existence of god during the movie.

OK so i saw your other comment and i just wanted to say a few things
I'm REALLY sorry if my other comment came of sarcastic or bitchy in any way - i was genuinely confused
You make a good point! I should watch the movie if i am going to start claiming it does things it doesn't. I didn't know that the movie mentioned that innocent people were killed. I really do i apologize for making an assumption like I did.
Lastly, please don't call Christians the same level as Hitler. I totally get that some Christians are genuinely bad people and have done some awful things - there's no denying that. But and a lot of other people are not like that. You have made a vast generalization which is largely inaccurate, and quite hurtful to a lot of people
So yeah, I just generally wanted to say that I'm sorry if I offended you or anything - I was just curious as to what impression the movie made on people...

Didn't Evan Almighty cover this story a few years ago? I'm getting sick of these bloody reboots...

Hmm...

A xenophobic mob want to rape three angels. Lot offers them his virgin daughters instead, His wife turns to salt because she dares to look back. And lets not forget his daughters get Lot drunk so they can sleep with him to get pregnant.

That's some classic morality material there. Worthy of Game of Thrones!

Fun for all the family!

"but what Aronofsky and co-writer Ari Handel have done - intentionally or otherwise - is to take that artistic licence so far as to corrupt, invert, and distort the meaning, themes, morality, and overall message of the original story"

So.... they've done similar to what religious folk do with the bible every day then?

Them with their sinful poly-cotton blends.

I share your views. I can't believe they've taken the religion out of a religious story. Would be interesting to know what the film makers reason for this was. What next, the life of Moses, but without his divine inspiration!! Doesn't matter if a person has a religious orientation or not, this appears to be a bizarre revisionism.

"the least biblical Biblical film ever made"

I've posted higher above then saw your post. Quite agree with your viewpoints. Utterly bizarre way to recount the story of man of such importance in Judaism and Christianity. I expect the film will suffer a deserved backlash because of that. What a cop out.

Hey, I was upset about Thor's portrayal in Avengers Assemble - barely any reference to the ancient Norse texts.

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