MPAA Rating: PG-13
for violence, disturbing images and brief suggestive content
Runtime: 138 minutes
Directed by: Darren Aronofsky
Cast: Russell Crowe, Jennifer Connelly,Ray Winstone, Emma Watson, Douglas Booth, Leo McHugh Carroll, Logan Lerman, Anthony Hopkins
After hearing a trailer of writer and director Darren Aronofsky’s Noah announcing “if you liked Titanic or Gladiator you’ll like Noah,” I knew we were in for a mystifying rendition of the Biblical Noah as found in the Bible.
The beginning of the film starts simply by explaining how God (which the film always refers to as the creator) began creating the earth and people. We learn that E-noch begat Methuselah (Anthony Hopkins), who begat La-mech (Marton Csokas), who begat Noah (Russell Crowe). Other than the title character, these men are briefly spoken about throughout the movie.
Noah now has a family including his wife Naameh (Jennifer Connelly) and three sons, Shem (Douglas Booth), Ham (Logan Lerman), and Japheth (Leo McHugh Carroll). They roam mountain sides trying to find food and avoid a band of warriors ruled by Tubal-cain (Ray Winstone). He’s a descendant of Cain, the son of Adam, who killed his brother – an act that resulted in God’s wrath of mankind’s wickedness.
After experiencing a vivid and disturbing dream Noah believes God had guided him to build a huge ark to house his family plus two of every animal on Earth, but no other people because they are deemed as unrighteous. Before begining that job, Noah takes his family, now including Ila (Emma Watson), an orphan girl, to visit Noah’s grandfather Methuselah, who gives them all some spiritual advice.
As the family move into the marked place to build the ark, they are met by a strange group called The Walkers. As big and moving as terminators, these creatures are made of huge rocks connected together to look like – well, rock terminators. They assume Noah is an enemy, but soon learn he was sent by God to build the ark.
Once built, the birds fly in, the snakes and large lizards slither in and the animals storm their way to the ark and are put to a long sleep by an ancient smoke. (I couldn’t help but wonder why it didn’t work on humans). The rains begin and the ark rises and rolls in the sea. Then Tubal-cain shows up with hundreds under his spell as they attack Noah and the Ark.
Ham has watched the love between his brother and his wife so he wants to find a woman before all of mankind is destroyed. That's why he makes a mad dash into Tubal-cain’s warriors and rescues a young woman he hopes to bring on to the ark. The walkers become Noah’s defenders as the huge battle becomes more of a scene from the movie 300 than one read about in Genesis. Although not many other scenes enthrall us here, the ark certainly holds viewers hostage. Noah has fulfilled God’s commandment of him, but now he’s become extreme and thinks he must also kill his own family, including the new babies just born to his son and daughter-in-law.
Noah comes across as incredible epic production. The visual effects are superb; the action after the first 1/3 of the film is intense and non-stop. Aronofsky collaborated closely with production designer Mark Friedberg (Mildred Pierce) to design and build the ark. Friedberg began the process more than a year before production, focusing first on proportions.
“In Genesis the dimensions of the ark are laid out as 30 cubits high, by 50 cubits wide, by 300 cubits long,” Friedberg said. “But there are Egyptian cubits and Venetian cubits – so we had to go deep into history to try to figure it out.”
The cast is very good. Crowe, a great choice for Noah, succeeds in projecting the stamina required to seize God’s command about destroying mankind as well as the man’s feeling of guilt if he fails to complete the mission, which he decides involves killing his own family. Connelly portrays Naameh exactly as a dutiful wife of that era would, but also is not afraid to stand up against Noah when she feels he's not in his right mind.
All sorts of buzz filled the media about this film from the day it was announced. Is the movie about water and the environment or about moral, faith-based people? Some Christians panned it; others thought it would be worth a look. The mix of anarchy and a heavenly presence interspersed with wars emerges as an interesting concept. However, I’m not sure I agree with Aronofsky when he said, “I think it will be very exciting for people to be reminded how amazing these stories are –so I was very focused on making this film equally available for believers and non-believers.”
The balance between the two seems very slim in Noah. If you go for one, you’re getting a lot of the other as well. Hollywood, it seems, is on a new track to relieve more Christians of some of their money. Movieguide reports that 83 percent of movies now feature biblical or moral content. The recent Son of God made its cost back the first weekend and has now earned more than two million dollars.
Coming in April is Heaven Is for Real (adapted from the book Heaven Is for Real: A Little Boy's Astounding Story of His Trip to Heaven and Back by Todd Burpo and Lynn Vincent). And I’ve heard rumors that more films about Mary, Moses and Cain & Abel are also in the works, which looking at new data, many will be eager to see.
Photo credits: Niko Tavernise /Paramount Pictures Corporation/ Regency Entertainment (USA), Inc.