Although it is weighed down by its script and pacing, director Darren Aronofsky’s Noah features dazzling visual effects and action sequences that make the film feel truly epic. The film straddles the line of Biblical tale and full on fantasy, but manages to be entertaining if the audience is willing to give it a chance.
Very loosely based on the story of Noah found in Genesis (within the opening seconds it is clear this film will not follow the original text word for word), Aronofsky (who wrote the screenplay with Ari Handel) crafted a film that feels almost post-apocalyptic and tells the story of man’s evil destroying the Earth – which looks like a burned out wasteland where Mad Max would feel right at home.
The film opens with the story of creation, man’s original sin, and the story of Cain and Abel. After killing his brother, Cain left and joined with these fallen angels – who give Cain the ability to raise cities at the expense of the Earth. The children of Cain are meat eaters and wicked. The audience sees how wicked as the child Noah (who is a descendent of Seth and good people) witnesses his father killed by a descendent of Cain.
The film then shifts to an adult Noah (Russell Crowe) who is haunted by visions from the Creator that sees the world being destroyed. He and his family decide to trek across the wasteland of a burnt and devastated Earth so Noah can consult his grandfather Methuselah (Anthony Hopkins) about the dreams. Along the way, the family saves a small girl whose tribe has been massacred, presumably by murderous descendants of Cain in true nomadic fashion.
Arriving a Methuselah’s mountain, Noah receives more visions and begins to understand that the Creator intends to destroy man by a great flood, and it is up to his family to build a great ark to save the animal life of the world. To help him accomplish this task, Methuselah gives Noah a seed from the Garden of Eden (which magically sprouts a forest of trees to use for the ark) and good fallen angels, called Watchers and looking like stone golems, arrive to help Noah build the great Ark.
The film then jumps more years as Noah, his wife (Jennifer Connelly) and sons Ham (Logan Lerman) and Shem (Douglas Booth) continue to work on the Ark, discover a way to put all the animals to sleep on the ark, and even have time for a little romance between Shem and the now grown girl they rescued, Ila (Emma Watson).
Noah and his family also have to deal with the descendants of Cain who arrive at the building site. The leader of this debacle society, Tubal-cain (Ray Winstone) wants to destroy the Ark and kill Noah. They also cause strife in Noah’s family as Ham goes looking for a wife, and Noah starts to see that the descendants of Seth are part of the human race too so why should his family survive. Noah starts to believe that the Ark is meant to save the animal life of the Earth, but the human race is meant to die out with Noah’s family.
As the world begins to flood, the film shifts into overdrive and manages some true suspense. Noah and his family rush to the Ark right as Tubal-cain and his tribe attack. With rain pouring down, Noah and the Watchers fight off the descendants of Cain (Noah even leaves a young girl to die in the flood though Ham was in love with her). Tubal-cain manages to sneak in the Ark and with Ham’s help hide from Noah.
With the world covered by water, Noah’s faith is pushed to the limit as he discovers Ila (who was sterile until Methuselah cured her) is pregnant with Ham’s children. Believing the Creator wants man to die with Noah’s line, Noah warns he will kill the child if Ila gives birth to a girl. The declaration alienates Noah from his family – as Ham starts building a boat so he and Ila can escape his father. The film then shifts to a final dramatic action sequence as Noah discovers Tubal-cain, the animals start waking up, and Ila gives birth to twin daughters.
Despite all the controversy around the film not following the Bible’s story word for word, Noah is actually a good movie that manages to capture the essence of the original story. The film might have worked better if it had been some kind of full on fantasy with a guy that just happened to be named Noah, but Aronofsky and company make it clear they are simply borrowing elements of Noah’s original tale. He does include the Creationist view of the Earth’s creation and treats the Creator with a great deal of respect throughout the entire movie.
As Noah, Crowe plays the character as someone who is sure he is on the right path and doing what the Creator wanted him to do, but later is haunted by those actions and his own failure to fully understand the message. He is not what you would picture as Noah (looking more like he stepped off the set of a Viking film), but is believable in the role.
The film does drag from time to time and is weighed down by a script that feels more than a little clunky with some of the dialogue. It also has some truly laughable moments – such as Noah planting the magic seed to sprout a forest or Methuselah’s “curing” of Ila. With that said, Aronofsky has crafted a visual beauty and the flood sequence manages to get the audience on the edge of their seat as Noah and the angels fight the descendants of Cain.
On Blu-ray the film looks and sounds incredible with the format bringing out all the costuming details (which also help make the film feel more post-apocalyptic rather than historical). It is also loaded with bonus materials that show viewers the hard work that went into bringing the film to the screen. Features include looks at its Iceland location shooting, and the Ark’s interior and exterior design.
While Noah won’t please everyone, the film manages to be entertaining while maintaining its core message. It has problems, but Aronofsky manages to overcome thanks to his visual style of filming and incredible effects.