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Noah

Noah




- for violence, disturbing images and brief suggestive content.
Director: Darren Aronofsky
Starring: Russell Crowe, Jennifer Connelly, Ray Winstone, Emma Watson, Anthony Hopkins, Logan Lerman, Douglas Booth, Nick Nolte (voice), Mark Margolis (voice)
Running Time: 2 hours, 18 minutes
Theatrical Release Date: March 28, 2014
Official Site
Christian Film Database Page
Blu-Ray Release Date: July 29, 2014 (Amazon.com)



Plot Summary

Russell Crowe stars as Noah in the film inspired by the epic story of courage, sacrifice and hope. Directed by visionary filmmaker Darren Aronofsky. (from Facebook.com/Noah)


Film Review

One of the most controversial films this year has to be Darren Aronofsky's take on the Biblical story of Noah. Aronofsky's work has largely been indie films and visually driven, mature-themed stories up until this point. His previous effort, Black Swan, won Natalie Portman an Oscar for Best Actress while the film itself was nominated for Best Picture, Director, Cinematography and Editing. Many were surprised to hear that Aronofsky would be taking on Noah, but to hear the director talk about the story, you realize the project was a kind of labor of love of his--which makes it all the more puzzling how much of a mixed bag Noah turns out to be.

It really may have been a labor of love for Aronofsky, but no one can deny that the target audience for a movie so obviously about the Biblical figure and so blatantly titled after him would be Bible-believing Christians. And while I get why Hollywood wouldn't want to cater to just the "Bible thumpers," it's pretty clear that Aronofsky wasn't exactly the best guy to bring this movie to the big screen (unless, of course, the intent was solely to offend said demographic, but I have a hard time believing that would be so). For starters, it's only a few minutes into the film when Aronofsky introduces "The Watchers," a race of angels that came to earth to assist Adam when The Fall happened. God was displeased with their effort to aid mankind, so he let the earth consume them. So these fiery, light beings became walking rock monsters with glowing eyes. No joke. They don't look more believable than the snow monster in Frozen either. So right off the bat, we have rock monsters helping Noah. Rock monsters. And how else would Noah build the ark? With the help of these rock monsters, of course. There are really no shortage of fantastical stories in the Bible (The mysterious giants called The Nephilim were cited as an example of the wickedness God wanted to wipe out in Genesis 6:4, for example.), but it's really hard to take Aronofsky's story seriously when it seems like he isn't. If it weren't for the enthusiastic way the director and his crew talk about the project in the film's extras, you'd probably never guess they felt that way. Instead, this movie can't decide if it's purely fantasy or a look at a true historical event.

As if rock monsters weren't enough, Aronofsky and his team play up the wickedness and violence of the men of the age. When we first see adult Noah and his young kids, they're on the run from randomly evil people. We don't know why they're being pursued, other than maybe to kill them, eat them or put them into slavery. Take your pick, I suppose. Noah has dreams of wickedness and death and destruction and it helps motivate him to build the ark that would rescue them. While on the run, however, they stumble upon a decimated village where they pick up an injured girl named Ila and take her into the family. Her injury has rendered her barren so it becomes a bit of a catalyst for some romantic drama about what use she'll be to the family if she can't help repopulate the earth after the flood. By the time the ark is finished, Noah's three boys and Ila are all grown up. Shem has already picked out Ila to be his mate, while Ham mopes around about being single, and Japheth is too young and just sits on the sidelines. Ham ends up struggling with feelings of resentment toward his father due to the way his father seems not to care for his needs and desires for a wife (and to become a "man"), and it just adds too much nonsense to the plot. If you revisit the chapters in Genesis about Noah's family, it always talks about Noah's sons and their wives. It never mentions Ila or any of the boys being single actually. It's clear Aronofsky was trying to appeal to the younger demographic with this significant plot change, and it doesn't help the movie any. Meanwhile, Noah's butting heads with a local warlord named Tubal-Cain who wants Noah to know he's the ruler of their land. However, Noah's got God and some rock monsters on his side. But once the rain starts, Tubal leads a charge to fight Noah and take the ark. While it's probably realistic to assume there was some violent opposition to Noah's ark and people wanting to board it in reality, it's unlikely there was a massive battle with Ent-like rock beasts and a Ray Winstone-like ruler involved. (Winstone, of whom which I have not yet forgiven for helping to ruin Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. He dogged every moment he showed up in that already troubled movie. But I digress...)

As if all of that isn't enough, there's [needlessly] still almost an hour of movie left once the flood comes and Aronofsky really goes for the creative jugular, so to speak, by amping up the tension between Ham and Noah, an evil stowaway, and the future of the human race. By the last half hour or so, Noah has pretty much become a villain and he's absolutely unlikeable. The finale is also a bunch of disjointed scripture references and feel-good sentiments. They portray God as not feeling sorrowful about the wickedness of His creation and so He causes the flood to start over, but as a heartless being who wants Noah to make sure the line of man ends after the flood (which makes absolutely no sense. Why save man at all then? For the animals to make it to land safely? God really NEEDS man to do that?). Noah's really just an absolute mess.

What works in Noah? Not much. The players are pretty good, and Darren Aronofsky's visuals are topnotch, but not much else keeps the movie together. I consider myself pretty patient with movies and even so-so movies. The only times I really lose my patience is usually with really poorly acted or poorly filmed movies (like a lot of indie or low budget Christian-made movies, sadly), or movies that cross the line content-wise. But with Noah, I couldn't wait for it to end. I have a soft spot for Jennifer Connelly ever since The Rocketeer but she didn't add much to the movie and, while Russell Crowe can be pretty bland (Robin Hood), I really liked him in Man of Steel. Here, he just can't do much but brood and look hefty. Logan Lerman is okay as Ham, but he's still stuck in that Percy Jackson kind of young teen stereotype role. He's going to need to work at not becoming the next Shia LeBouf. Emma Watson was alright at times as Ila, but toward the end of the movie, her whining and screaming was nigh unbearable. Finally, Anthony Hopkins is reduced to residing in a cave and blithering on about berries, to the point that it's rather sad. And no help to the actors are the costumes in the film. They often feel far too anachronistic. They don't seem at all like what these people might have worn in their time and it really bumps the viewer out of the story.

The content for the film doesn't help things much either. It's pretty violent at times--maybe not as bloody as the recent Hercules, but it comes close. One of the worst moments comes when Noah has a violent vision of hungry people begging to be fed when they literally rip apart a screaming lamb while it's still alive. It's quick but it's pretty graphic, disturbing and surprising when it happens. There's also some blood-spurting action violence as well. There's lots of talk about the teenage characters being able to reproduce, and Shem and Ila have a few pretty passionate encounters with each other. The only language is four uses of "d*mned," which, given their usage, could go either way. Otherwise, the film plays it about as safe as it can spiritually too. God is only ever referenced as "The Creator" and there's never a mention of God or Jesus or anything. And the film really doesn't show Noah himself in a very good light, which is unfortunate given that scripture says "Noah was a righteous man, blameless among the people of his time, and he walked faithfully with God." in Genesis 6:9 (NIV).

Overall, Noah is a big budget shipwreck of a movie. It has its moments (none that come to mind though) and it looks great visually speaking, but the actual story and Aronofsky's ambitious but sloshy pacing bog down a story that doesn't need to be. If you're looking for a decent Noah story--and I can't believe I'm saying this, but--you might be better off watching Evan Almighty.

- John DiBiase (reviewed: 8/7/14)

 

Blu-Ray Special Features Review

Noah is available on DVD and in a Blu-Ray/DVD combo pack with a digital copy (via iTunes too). The HD transfer is great and really the only way to watch a film like this one. Along with the main film are three bonus features that add up to an hour's worth of extra content.

Iceland: Extreme Beauty focuses on filming on location in Iceland. The segment opens by quoting Genesis 6:17, interestingly enough. They explain that they chose the location for its volcanic makeup, to capture the "new earth" look of a post-flood world. Aronofsky makes some strange, unexplained references to appeasing unseen "elves of Iceland," while filming there, that isn't clear if he's joking or being oddly serious. This portion also covers the unpredictable weather and shows lots of on-set footage.

The Ark Exterior: A Battle for 300 Cubits - Here we find that they'd built much of the ark on a field in Long Island. They also provided physical rain effects that dumped 2,000 gallons of water a minute onto the actors! This portion also features a great story about how Aronofsky had written an award-winning poem for his 7th grade English class. We then get to meet his teacher and hear her account of the story.

The Ark Interior: Animals Two by Two - The inside of the ark was built as a set inside of a hangar in Brooklyn. They talk about the set design here and we see some takes being filmed. There's also a detailed look at a scene that appears to have been cut out of the film in which Ham helps Tubal set a compound fracture in his leg. They show the fake rubber leg as made by the prop team and then some footage of the scene being filmed. Some of the cast and crew also talk about the story with the cowriter delving into the scriptural account of Noah and how they translated it to film. It's pretty interesting. Ray Winstone also talks about the differences between Tubal-Cain and Noah's characters and God's plan for the flood. It all wraps up with some footage of stunts being filmed.

- John DiBiase, (reviewed: 8/6/14)

 

Parental Guide: Content Summary


. Sex/Nudity: Shem passionately kisses Ila and they fall to the ground. He then kisses her tummy and she stops him, reminding him she's barren; Ila and Shem passionately kiss and he takes off his shirt for them to have sex in the woods (we later find out she's pregnant from this encounter); We see a flashback to the Garden of Eden with Adam and Eve being glowing beings. From a distance, we see Adam's glowing bare butt and from even further away we see Eve (but you can't see any detailed nudity); When Noah gets very drunk, his sons find him lying nude facedown on the ground. We see part of his bare butt from a distance. They then cover him up.
. Vulgarity/Language: 4 d*mned
. Alcohol/Drugs: Noah picks fresh berries to make his own wine and proceeds to get very drunk.
. Blood/Gore: We see a small bloody cut on a man's cheek; A dog with scales on its body is seen with a stick (or arrow head) sticking out of it and lots of blood on its side. We then see Noah remove the stick from the wound; We see a pool of blood forming on the ground under the broken, bent knee of one victim who was kicked there by Noah; In a dream, Noah has blood on his bare feet; We see a camp of slaughtered, dead bodies with corpses strewn about. We see blood on the head of one such body and another looking like it's missing its forearm (with bloody results), but both aren't focused on by the camera. Noah and his family find a young girl who has a deep bloody cut on her stomach; Tubal-Cain strikes a man threatening Ham and we see a spray of blood. And blood dripping off his ax. Tubal has scars on his face throughout the movie; We see a group of people chopping up meat for food and it's a pile of gory, bloody meat; We see a woman with scarring over entirely one eye. A nearby crowd gets more violent and a live lamb is pulled apart by hungry people (with very gory results). Noah then looks down and realizes he's standing in blood again; Ham falls into a pit of dead bodies. Ham has some blood on his head; A girl gets her ankle caught in a bear trap. We see some blood on it; Tubal has blood on his head and lots on his skinned leg; Noah has blood on his head; We see Tubal-Cain's knee wrapped in a bandage with blood on it; Tubal grabs a small animal and bites its head off; Tubal slices the throat of an animal, spraying blood onto Ham; We see a dead animal with its throat cut and guts spilled out on the ark floor. It's pretty gory; We see the sprayed blood on Ham's face; There's blood on Tubal's face; Ham stabs Tubal with blood squirting out. Tubal then spits up more blood, with it running down his face; We see blood on Noah's face;
. Violence: We see a silhouette of Cain killing Abel with a rock to his head; A man backhands another in the face; A man strikes a man in the face with a kind of ax, killing him; We see a dog that's been mortally wounded; Noah fights the men who had hunted the dog, taking the stick out of its dead body, stabbing one guy in the neck, kicking out the knee of another and impaling yet another with a staff. We see a pool of blood forming on the ground under the broken, bent knee of one victim; Noah burns the dead dog wrapped up in a cloth; In a dream, Noah has blood on his bare feet, then he's in a sea of drowning people; We see a camp of slaughtered, dead bodies with corpses strewn about. Noah and his family find a young girl who has a deep bloody cut on her stomach; A mob of angry people chases them. A Watcher punches Noah out and drags him away; Noah awakens in a pit of bones; We see a flashback of men and the Watchers fighting, and then one man draws a fiery sword that causes a blast of fire to consume the soldiers; Noah dreams of people and animals underwater again; Tubal-Cain strikes a man threatening Ham and we see a spray of blood. And blood dripping off his ax. Tubal has scars on his face throughout the movie; In another dream--that we don't realize is a dream right away--Noah sees a group of people chopping up meat for food and it's a pile of gory, bloody meat. He then sees a woman with scarring over entirely one eye. He watches a woman being dragged off to trade for food. He then sees himself looking evil and panics. The nearby crowd gets more violent and a live lamb is pulled apart by hungry people (with very gory results). Noah then looks down and realizes he's standing in blood again. Fire rains down and burns everything; Noah pushes Ham down to the ground; Ham falls into a pit of dead bodies. Ham has some blood on his head; A girl gets her ankle caught in a bear trap. We see some blood on it. She then gets trampled to death by people running over her; Men attack The Watchers and the rock monsters hit them back with clubs, throwing the men into the air. Tubal stabs a Watcher and he explodes. We then see it happen to many more Watchers; One Watcher injures Tubal's leg; There's more fighting with The Watchers squashing men and also getting destroyed. Noah fights off men with spears and knives, slashing and stabbing; We see geysers of water burst from the ground. People get hit with the water (being thrown or eventually drowning); We see a man kneeling throw his arms back to be pummelled by a wave of water; We see people piled on top of each other clinging to the tip of a mountaintop sticking out of the water. They're screaming to be rescued by the ark and the water continues to wash some of them away; We see a flashback with the same aforementioned silhouette of Cain killing Abel with a rock to his head again and again. There's then a shot of a man attacking another man in silhouette. It's shown in slow motion, and as the victim flies backward, we're seeing both silhouette's military uniforms and clothing rapidly changing (hinting at our violence through the ages); Tubal grabs a small animal and bites its head off; Noah throws something in anger on his table; Tubal slices the throat of an animal, spraying blood onto Ham; Noah sets a raft on fire; Tubal-Cain and Noah fight; Ila screams while giving birth; The ark crashes into land, throwing everyone around inside; Shem joins Tubal and Noah's fight; Ham stabs Tubal with blood squirting out. Tubal then spits up more blood, with it running down his face; A man raises a knife to two infants as the mother screams for him not to hurt them, but he doesn't;

 

Disclaimer: All reviews are based solely on the opinions of the reviewer. Most reviews are rated on how the reviewer enjoyed the film overall, not exclusively on content. However, if the content really affects the reviewer's opinion and experience of the film, it will definitely affect the reviewer's overall rating.

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