Monday, March 31, 2014


Noah (2014) Starring: Russell Crowe, Jennifer Connelly, Ray Winstone, Emma Watson, Logan Lerman, Anthony Hopkins Directed by Darren Aronofsky Screenplay by Darren Aronofsky, Ari Handel Producedby Scott Franklin, Darren Aronofsky, Mary Parent, Arnon Milchan Run time 139 minutes. US. Color. Biblical, Epic. Drama

Hollywood has had a love affair with the Bible and biblical fiction going almost as far back as film was first cranked through the camera. One of the earliest examples is a fifteen minute short based on  Lew Wallace's novel Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ from 1907. But sections of the Bible have been mined for feature films including The Ten Commandments, which was made into movies twice by Cecil B. DeMille in 1927 and again in 1956. Noah’s Ark has also been given the feature treatment three times: Noah’s Ark (1928) directed by Michael Curtiz; Noah’s Ark (1999) directed by John Irvin and Noah (2014) directed by Darren Aronofsky.

The story of Noah is not just a Christian story. Since it appears in the book of Genesis in the Old Testament, it is also part of Judaism and the story is also told in the Islamic Quran. The story itself does not take up much room in Genesis, being told in Chapters 6 through 9. In short, based on the wickedness of the world, God has decided to wipe the Earth clean and start again. He speaks to Noah, who builds an Ark to save the animals of the world, while it rains for 40 days and 40 nights. As the water recedes, the Ark crashes into Mount Ararat. Noah releases the animals and makes a covenant with God, who promises He would never flood the Earth again.

Watching the new film Noah, I was reminded of my experience watching the Lord of the Ring films in that situations and characters were introduced as if I was already familiar with everyone. I’m not a Bible scholar and I had never read Tolkien’s work. The character names are sometimes hard to catch and I spent a lot of time wondering if Noah’s middle son’s name Ham was spelled like the pork product, the actor from Mad Men or like the rock group (Spoiler alert, it’s the pork product).

Russell Crowe plays Noah.

While a self-proclaimed atheist like Aronofsky has as much right to make a Biblical film as anyone, the question might be why? His take doesn’t try to disprove the story or the existence of God, though He is only referred to over and over again as the Creator. What Aronofsky does do is embellish the story with characters and events that were not part of Genesis and he adds an even more surreal mythical paranormal element to it as well. I had to do some post viewing research to determine the elements he and Ari Handel had added to punch up God’s story. (I’ll leave it up to you decide if He needs a rewrite.)

The film is heavily laden with special effects, which sometimes look unreal. There were supposedly no animals used in the scenes involving the Ark (and this is not your daddy’s Ark either, in shape). The acting is pretty good, though I sometimes get lost when a character says one thing, but then does something completely different. I won’t go into who and what; don’t want to ruin the film for you.

No animals were harmed in the making of Noah, because no animals were used.

Russell Crowe, as usual, gives a very strong performance of a very troubled man. Again, there are elements of Noah’s personality and choices that he makes that I don’t believe are in the original story. They do however provide a depth to the character and give the actor more to do than just be righteous. Jennifer Connelly is also pretty good as Noah’s wife Naameh. Anthony Hopkins, last seen as Odin in Thor: The Dark World (2013), plays Methuselah, Noah’s grandfather. His part is serious, mystical and provides the only comedic relief in an otherwise very serious film. Emma Watson of Harry Potter fame plays Ila, Noah’s daughter-in-law and the wife of eldest son, Shem (Douglas Booth). Ila is one of the “new” characters added to fill out an otherwise thin story.

Naameh (Jennifer Connelly), Shem (Douglas Booth) and Ila (Emma Watson) in Noah.

The film has found its fair share of controversy. Any Biblical inspired film is likely to attract some unless it is a strict word for word adaptation of chapter and verse. I don’t know or really care about their beefs with the films, since many criticized it sight unseen. Perhaps it was an evolution spin put on the first Seven Days, as we see fish venture onto land and become mammals all during one of those days; a Clarence Darrow interpretation of Biblical verse.

I hate to say it, but I found the film rather slow paced and uninvolving. If you have a strong interest in seeing the film, for whatever reason, I would tell you to go ahead. But if you’re a little iffy, then I would recommend a pass.

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