Biblical epics are always a tricky thing. This one was no exception. Some people don’t want to see it because of the religious nature while others are very stringent about the way things are depicted. You are caught between the proverbial rock and a hard place. Once, though, you hear that Darren Aronofsky (Black Swan, The Wrestler) is the man behind the product as a film fan your interest is piqued. Aronofsky is one of the most interesting and experimental directors working today. The man has a unique vision. Whether his films are a success financially or not they are always worth watching. You need that mixture of talent and bravado when you are taking on the story of Noah and how God destroyed all life on the planet.
After Adam and Eve were thrown out of Paradise they had three sons – Cain, Abel and Seth. Cain killed Abel then located The Watchers, huge stone creatures, to live under their protection. He then went off to found an industrially advanced society. Seth was the only son who tried to live by the rules set out by God. This is probably why he was hunted down by Tubal-Cain (Finn Wittrock – Winter’s Tale), who saw Seth’s ways as a threat to the society he was trying to build. When he caught up his brother he killed him and proclaimed Seth’s line ended. He did not know that Seth’s son was hidden, saw the whole thing and ran off. Seth’s line continued.
Noah (Russell Crowe – Gladiator, A Beautiful Mind), a man with a family of his own, continues on Seth’s way of living. He, his wife Naameh (Jennifer Connelly – Requiem for a Dream, Blood Diamond) and their three sons – Shem (Douglas Booth – Romeo & Juliet – 2013, LOL), Ham (Logan Lerman – The Perks of Being a Wallflower, Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters) and the baby, Japheth (Leo McHugh Carroll – first film) live apart from all other humans. The family lives off the land in an isolated area, only using what they need and not killing animals for meat.
Their simple and peaceful way of life is changed when Noah gets a message from God. In his dreams God has conveyed to Noah that he is angered by human behaviour and plans to destroy all life through a great flood. Noah decides to leave his home with his family on a voyage to locate his grandfather and discuss with Methulselah (Anthony Hopkins – Thor, Hitchcock) about his dreams from God.
Along the way they come upon a settlement which has been raided and burnt to the ground. Thinking everyone is dead they are surprised to come upon a young girl. She is alive, but injured. Naameh tends to her wound and tells Noah if she lasts through the fever she will survive. Noah decides to take young Ila (Skylar Burke) in as one of his own. It is then that Tubal-Cain’s men catch up with them and begin a pursuit. They are only saved by the fact that the soldiers are afraid to enter a parcel of land protected by The Watchers. Now Noah and his family are at risk of being slain by the giant stone creatures who no longer trust humans.
A seed given to Noah by Methuselah sprouts immediately and a giant stream erupts from it. The stream goes off in every direction and a great forest arises. The Watchers now trust Noah and he believes the forest is a sign from God for him to build a giant ark to carry off two of every creature when the great rains come.
About eight years have passed and the Ark is near completion. Things have changed. All are a little older. Ila (Emma Watson – Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, My Week With Marilyn) and Shem have fallen in love, but she believes herself to be barren due to her injuries as a child. This stops her from linking herself to Shem as she wants him to know the joy of children. Ham is worried that he will never have a wife as there are no other women so wants his father to ride off to Tubal-Cain’s (Ray Winstone – Beowulf, The Departed) encampment to get him one before they leave in the Ark.
When the rains begin it becomes a race against time for Noah and his family to finish the Ark before Tubal-Cain and his army defeats The Watchers then takes over the vessel.
In Aronofsky’s hands Noah the film becomes as religious as you would expect (and maybe even more so), but it also becomes an effects laden quest film a la Lord of the Rings. Its identity and even its messages become more and more muddled as result of the constant battle between the two genres. There are some good things here though most were discouraged by the fact that you have to dig so deep to find them.
No matter what your opinion is of the insertion of giant stone creatures named The Watchers or any of the other special effects you have to admit that they are great in the film. The blending of the effects with real actors is done flawlessly and is a delight to the eye.
Aronofsky definitely had a large scale epic film in mind while making Noah. He wanted everything to feel large about it. The cinematic story he weaves is complex one which only a man of his talent could have even attempted. While this is not a perfect film by any stretch it is a good one that gives us some food for thought about the well-known Genesis story of the flood and Noah.
If you are made of tough stuff and can see your way through the film you are amply rewarded. The talent of Aronofsky, his crew and the cast make sure of that despite the flaws. Filmed on location in Iceland the spectacular landscape is reason enough to see the film. The bleak and volcanic country sets just the right backdrop for the story. Applause for the cinematography is due to Matthew Libatique (Iron Man 2, Miracle at St. Anna). Then there is the fact that they actually built a life-sized ark makes things that much more realistic.
- Iceland: Extreme Beauty
- The Ark Exterior: A Battle for 300 Cubits
- The Ark Interior: Animals Two By Two