HTS Moderator , Reviewer
HTS Overall Score:86
I knew this was going to be a controversial picture the moment I saw Darren Aronofsky’s name attached to the original press release. The man is giant in cinematography, but a man who’s also known for the incredible ego and extreme art house feel to his films, stretching across the obscure and bizarre (“The Fountain”), the surreal (“The Black Swan”) and gritty (“The Wrestler). Seeing the trailer made me rather reticent and suspicious that Aronofsky could pull off a good adaptation of the great flood Biblical story and I wasn’t exactly enthused when I heard the initial viewing experience of people in the theater. Some were incensed with the liberties taken and others saw it as a “meh” film, while still others raved over its beauty and artistic nature. Going in blind to this viewing I have to say that it’s a mixture of all three opinions. The film is basically a fantasy that is loosely BASED on the IDEA of the Biblical story that it supposedly mirrors. Much like other films that say “based on a true story”, “Noah” is a beautifully artistic film that tries to make a one chapter story of Genesis into a 2 hour and 18 minute epic extravaganza of fancy free imagination. If you go into “Noah” expecting a tale from the Bible you’ll be sorely disappointed, as Aronofsky has taken INCREDIBLE liberties to create a fantasy tale that bears little resemblance to the text other than there’s a guy named Noah who built and ark to save the animals and humanity (well, kinda, but that’s explained later).
It seems that 8 generations since the Garden of Eden has corrupted the Earth with man kind’s “natural sin”. Humans are ravaging the Earth, greed and evil run rampant and there seems to be only a few righteous people left on Earth. Noah (Russell Crowe), his wife Naameh (Jennifer Connelly), and his children Shem, Ham and Japeth are about the only remnant of humanity who still follows their creator and his ways. In effect he and his family are going to be the Lord’s hand in saving the animals and starting afresh, for his wrath is about to be poured out on the world and a flood the likes that have never been seen would purge humanity and rest of the beasts from the land. Seeing this wrath in a vision, Noah is warned by God and goes to his grandfather, Methuselah (Anthony Hopkins), to find out what he must do. There he is given another vision, a vision that gives him the knowledge to build a large boat (the Ark) which will hold 2 of each kind of animal in the world, plus the family of Noah.
To act as his guardians the Watchers become the servants of Noah and his family. Now before I go on I must explain the watchers. For the uninitiated seeing giant rock monsters the size of Ents is going to raise a questioning eye. I don’t remember them being in the text? And I’m sure you don’t either. Here Aronofsky has done what he does best, and gone off on a flight of fancy. Pulling from the Jewish mythology of the Golems and blending the theory of Nefilim (fallen Angels), he creates a unique being that further bolsters the idea that Aronofsky is going for a fantasy story, rather than trying to make a literal translation. The Golems, are ancient giant rock monsters, that can be controlled and utilized through magic from the old Jewish myths, and the Nefilim were, of course, the cast out angels from heaven who supposedly fell to earth. Here Aronofsky describes them as Angels who decided to let their own pride and decisions rule out over God and try to help Adam and Eve on their own. For their lack of obedience their luminous forms were encased in stone and cursed to wander the earth on their own, bereft of their heavenly bodies and powers. Now, back on track. These watchers serve as Noah’s muscle as well as protectors, for King Tubal-Cain is not about to let Noah get away from God’s wrath without him. Mounting an army, he plans to take the Ark by force and survive, by any means necessary.
Surviving the assault of men, Noah and his wards take to the high seas, but there is a couple of problems. One, Tubal-Cain has snuck on board and is being hidden by Noah’s own son, Ham, and Two, Noah has gotten it into his head that ALL of humanity is being punished, including himself and his family, rather than the rest of the world. Here’s where the film starts to fall apart a bit. In this story God has only spoken in cryptic visions and doesn’t converse directly with Noah, so Noah is forced to extrapolate the meanings and interpret what God wants. He starts to realize the evil and sin within himself and his family, a consequence of the fall from the Garden, and gets it into his mind that he can’t allow ANYONE, including himself, to live and repopulate the earth. When Shem’s barren wife, Ila (Emma Watson), becomes pregnant on the boat his goes mad with anger and righteous purpose, intending to kill the child if it’s a female. I can live with a lot of fantasy in the story, but the lack of communication that made this situation possible just felt WILDLY out of place and rather insulting to a creator who was leaving everything up to a man who was getting no communication from the one responsible for trying to save the animals. It’s believable for someone who isn’t getting any communication, but it felt wildly out of place and rather silly in my opinion. As such it paints Noah as someone who’s bouncing around in the dark TRYING to do the right thing, and ultimately succeeding, but more by luck and “human goodness” than actually following the instructions that were heavily implied in the Biblical text.
“The film is inspired by the story of Noah. While artistic license has been taken, we believe that this film is true to the essence, values and integrity of a story that is a cornerstone of faith for millions of people worldwide. The biblical story of Noah can be found in the book of Genesis.”
That phrase is taken straight from Paramount’s website, describing Aronofsky’s take on the Biblical story. I have to agree, that as a film, “Noah” is exceptionally well done, expect for the third act where our protagonist goes bat bonkers crazy. The problem with MY viewing experience is that, being a person of Christian faith, I have a core belief system that is intrinsically tied to the Bible. Those beliefs and experiences are a part of my very being and thus I can’t COMPLETELY ignore the from where the movie derived it’s inspiration from and as such I can’t completely ignore the discrepancies and the artistic licenses. I’m very capable of allowing artistic license in Hollywood biblical films. “Samson and Delilah” and “The Ten Commandments” aren’t the paragon of accuracy, but they are fairly harmless and only deviate in spirit in certain circumstances. The changes that Aronofsky made to the biblical “Noah” story taken on a whole new level of artistic license. As I mentioned earlier the story is basically Noah in name and general IDEA only, as they took a one chapter story and turned it into a fantastical epic that borrows from a plethora of ancient myths and religious takes on the flood, all the while calling it the “Noah” story. Had he not called it “Noah” and just went with a more generic tale of the flood it probably would have offended less people, but specifically tying it into the Bible’s account of the flood and using the names and events in the Bible is a bit jarring to us of Judeo-Christian beliefs. As such my enjoyment level wasn't as high as it could have been, because my enjoyment of fantastic storytelling was clashing a bit with my belief system, even after separating the movie from the source as much as humanely possible and enjoying it as a tale of fiction.
I honestly understand where Aronofsky is coming from. He’s a non-religious Jew, pulling from ancient Jewish mythology as well as information from The Bible and the Poem of Gilgamesh to create a surreal take on the flood. As such I have to agree that he made a phenomenal film….but only if you’re core beliefs are not wrapped up in the Judeo-Christian belief system and hold those beliefs as true. People without those beliefs will probably have a much different experience for the movie itself is truly marvelous in scope and composition. The cinematography is a work to behold as Aronofsky utilize a myriad of different filming techniques and threads to create a beautiful visual tapestry that is unrivaled. The cast is spot on cast, except for one minor flaw. That happens to be Tubal-Cain (Ray Winstone). His inclusion as a villain was just a bit too cookie cutter and over the top. Had he been excluded from the entire story I don’t think it would have been detrimental in the least, and most likely would have turned out for the better, giving the film a tighter feel and slightly shorter runtime. Emma Watson is a scene stealer and shows some incredibly emotion as a mother to children in peril and even Russell Crowe does his job with impeccable timing. Anthony Hopkins is Anthony Hopkins, playing the same “wizened old man” that he’s been doing for the last several years, but his portrayal as Methuselah is quite satisfactory (although it’s rather strange to see him sporting mystical powers, because I really don’t remember him being able to heal barren wombs or send fire out from his sword in the Bible).
Rated PG-13 for violence, disturbing images and brief suggestive content
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=22690[/img]Goodness gracious, great ball of fire! “Noah” is a splendidly shot film that is given a picture perfect (pun intended) 1080p AVC encode on Blu-ray. The fantastic outdoor cinematography is glorious in composition and the crystal clear filming shows up just as crystal clear on home video. The colors are glorious and had my jaw on the floor the entire movie. There are entire sections of outdoor shots that literally had me rewinding the Blu-ray multiple times just to stare in awe at the beautiful imagery. Detail is probably the best I have seen in a VERY long time, rivaling the greats and showing off every little detail, down the grains of soil, the raggedy stitches in Noah’s clothing and the little flecks of straw and mud in the sealant for the ark. Contrasts are absolutely incredible and paired with perfect skin tones. Blacks are inky and deep, even in the darkest of dark places in the Ark. I couldn’t see ANY signs of black crush or digital artifacting in those hard to resolve scenes. It’s very rare that I can say a picture is perfect, but this is most certainly one of those times.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=22698[/img]The 7.1 DTS-HD MA master track is almost as perfect as the video encode as we have a very aggressive and nuanced audio experience here. The LFE is pounding and deep, throbbing throughout the entire film, adding weight to the axe blows, the creaking of a Watcher’s rock body and the incredibly deep and powerful pounding of water upon the Ark’s hull. Dialogue is perfectly clear and very well balanced with the rest of the track. The effects are loud and powerful, but they never overwhelm the dialogue, even during a hushed whisper. I was really impressed with the surround usage for while there was plenty of activity, it was extremely well nuanced and allowed the ambient noises to blend seamlessly with the rest of the channels rather than making themselves the forefront at inopportune times. Overall I have to say this was a beautiful track. The audio was never too off balance, the LFE was strong, but not a sonic bombardment and the amount of auditory detail was near impeccable. Truly magnificent and another demo track for sure.
• Iceland: Extreme Beauty
• The Ark Exterior: A Battle for 300 Cubits
• The Ark Exterior: Animals Two by Two
Aronofsky’s “Noah” is a fantastic FILM, but a really poor take on the Biblical text unless you are able to treat it as a literal fantasy. I was able to do that for the most part, but being a person of faith there was only so much I could absorb before my critical nature came out over some of the more wild discrepancies. Shot immaculately and given a simply stellar Blu-ray release this is definitely worth checking out to make up your own mind. Will you be able to treat it as a fantasy story? Be offended, or just see another movie? That all depends on the viewer in this instance and I heartily recommend finding out for yourself. At least your home theater will be happy for another demo disc.
Starring: Russell Crowe, Jennifer Connelly, Emma Watson, Anthony Hopkins
Directed by: Darren Aronofsky
Written by: Ari Handel, Darren Aronofsky
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 AVC
Audio: ENGLISH: DTS-HD MA 7.1, French, Spanish, Portuguese DD 5.1
Blu-ray Release Date: July 29th, 2014
Buy Noah Blu-ray on Amazon
Recommendation: Watch It
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