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A man suffering visions of an apocalyptic deluge takes measures to protect his family from a coming flood. Inspired by the Biblical story.
For more about Noah and the Noah Blu-ray release, see Noah Blu-ray Review published by Martin Liebman on July 9, 2014 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.0 out of 5.
Starring: Russell Crowe, Jennifer Connelly, Emma Watson, Logan Lerman, Ray Winstone, Anthony Hopkins
Director: Darren Aronofsky
» See full cast & crew
Noah Blu-ray Review
And now for the rest of the story, as interpreted and told by Darren Aronofsky.
Reviewed by Martin Liebman, July 9, 2014
The storm cannot be stopped, but it can be survived.
So read text found on Paramount's official Noah website at the time of its theatrical release and the height of the criticism surrounding the film. There's no arguing with that brief statement. Noah is indeed a film in which its makers have taken rather heavy liberty with the story for the sake of dramatic value and, further, to create a distinction between the primary antagonists, one who chooses to sacrifice man to save the Earth, the other who would sacrifice, or at the very least, claim domain over, the Earth to better man. The snippet is also correct in calling the Biblical story "a cornerstone of faith." If nothing else, the story of Noah, and the entire Old Testament, is a cornerstone in that it's a Biblical tale that essentially washed the Earth clean and paved the way for the life of Christ and the new covenant that would have a profound, lasting effect on the world for the following 2,000+ years. Much may be read into this take on Noah's story beyond "boat, animals, flood" -- themes centered on environmentalism ring clearly throughout, for instance -- but, even considering the rather vast changes made and elements introduced, it does, at least, follow the same basic arc that sees Noah foretold of the Earth's destruction, the subsequent construction of the ark, the animals coming to it, and the floodwaters destroying everything not housed within the ark.
Noah (Russell Crowe), a descendent of Seth and a man of faith and of the earth, is one day presented with a disturbing vision. To decipher it, he seeks the counsel of his grandfather, Methuselah (Anthony Hopkins). Through drink, Noah is given a clearer vision, one that depicts the calamitous end of the world through a torrent of flood waters. He is to build an ark to house pairs of every animal and his family while the rest of humanity is destroyed in the cataclysm. He, his wife Naameh (Jennifer Connelly), and sons Shem (Douglas Booth), Ham (Logan Lerman), and Japheth (Leo McHugh Carroll), along with a young, barren girl named Ila (Emma Watson), begin the process of construction, building the ark from the harvest of a "magical" seed and assisted by "the watchers," fallen angels encased in stone who blame man for their imprisonment but who see in Noah goodness and seek redemption and salvation through their work with him. As construction progresses, the group is hounded by Tubal-cain (Ray Winstone), a man who plans to take the ark for himself and save humanity from the coming flood.
Hollywood playing fast and loose with source material is nothing new, and it should never come as a surprise when a new movie rewrites history -- be that human history, literary history, cinema history, or any sort of recorded, established history -- to fit a budget, to suit an audience, to push an agenda, whatever the case may be. Noah does all of these things, which doesn't make it necessarily a bad movie -- not in a literal, technical sense; it's far from that, actually -- but certainly makes it the movie a lot of people didn't want to see. While this Noah takes its cues from the Bible, it's not the Bible. It's Director Darren Aronofsky's vision of it, his additions to fill in dramatic gaps, better define characters -- including the title character himself who, in the Bible, never speaks -- and both subtly and overtly populate it with themes on everything from environmentalism to challenging what amounts to the humanity of God's destruction of the earth itself. The risk here is not even so much shaping a message within the movie or even taking some liberties with it -- the book of Genesis is itself only a portion of a much larger Bible, and the core story of Noah fills only four chapters (6-9) of a book fifty chapters long, and it's told in a very straightforward manner -- but rather the audacious task of reworking something so many hold precious, that "cornerstone of faith" Paramount mentions above, and adding quite a bit that's never even implied, let alone mentioned. It's inviting criticism and controversy if a film ever did invite them. On the flip side, there's something like Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ which, while welcome with much more open arms from the Christian community than was Noah, was itself no stranger to controversy for its violent portrayal of its story and some dramatic license taken with portions of its narrative.
That leaves the question, then, of just who the audience may be. Certainly, the film hoped to draw in churchgoing, devout Christians but, obviously, it never found a firm foothold in that arena, at least not in the same way the above-referenced Son of God and Passion of the Christ did. Nonbelievers may very well enjoy the film for its high entertainment value and technical prowess, but they may have initially been turned off by its connection to the Bible, leaving it for more secularly centered entertainment. In essence, then, it seems like a sort of "word of mouth" movie, unusual for something of such a large budget, star power, and familiar subject material. Regardless of who sees it -- and everyone should at least sample it to form their own opinions; it's not particularly offensive within its own context, and it lacks any sort of hard language, explicit violence, or graphic sexual content -- there's no mistaking its scope and splendor and the many things it does well, including a very fine depiction of the very basic story of Noah that can oftentimes be as awe-inspiring as anything Hollywood has ever done in terms of its sheer ability to recreate such a momentous Biblical moment with such believable scope, intensity, and immersion.
Perhaps what Aronofsky is doing with this film is what Noah did with the ark: build something on faith. The story of Noah is, after all, one of faith. It's about listening, believing, working towards something that cannot be seen, that cannot be touched, that cannot even be understood all of the time, and acting on it, anyway, because something from within -- a conviction, an experience, a yearning -- says that faith trumps everything else. After all, it's not everyday that man is guided by a burning bush, which makes faith all the more important in both the everyday workings of man and the greater humanity of which he is a part. Aronofsky's film, grounded in a strange sort of mixture between the Biblical and the fantastical, takes its own leaps of faith with the material. It's up to the audience to decipher whether Noah is well-intentioned or not, which will then itself be influenced by one's own personal belief system, life experiences, and shaped and understood faith. It's a circle of life idea that brings into question the relationships between the absolute and everything else, the tangible and the intangible, and individual preferences and prejudices. Indeed, it's easy to see why the film stirred up so much dialogue. In many ways it gets to the very essence of human nature, by building something -- a movie, a movie review, even an entire life -- on guiding principles but ultimately finishing it on that feeling, on that faith, that it's the right thing to do.
As for the story as it's told in the film, it's one of the most thought-provoking from recent memory. It depicts Noah as a man confident in his convictions but who does struggle with his place in the world. He's practically the last of his kind, a man who remains in favor with God and seeks harmony with the world around him, not its destruction. He finds value in every last animal and flower. He respects the Earth and what it provides. It's that dedication to natural ideals that make his selection to, in essence, oversee its destruction such a fascinating juxtaposition, but it also suits his character beautifully. He's man the chosen by God, as he says at one point in the movie, because God knows he will complete the task, no matter the challenge -- be it physical or emotional -- placed before him. Yet for his love of all that exists around him, he sees the value in its destruction, at least in terms of its ultimate rebirth, then free of those who would do it harm. If that means sacrificing himself and his family along the way, then so be it. He's countered by Tubal-cain, a leader of men who, opposite Noah, sees in the world something over which he has full domain -- the animals, the vegetation, the soil -- to do with as he sees fit, to benefit man rather than mother nature. The film delineates them wonderfully, making complex characters out of mostly simple men who hold opposing viewpoints. Beyond the picture's incredible portrayal of the actual ark construction and flood, this character confrontation is easily the film's best asset.
On a larger scale, the film's most fascinating theme is whether the world's destruction signifies an end or a beginning. Is it, in essence, putting mother nature out of her misery, or is it, as the Bible states, God's way of destroying the impurities He has created and beginning anew with a select few people who have captured His heart as servants in faith and good living? The picture ultimately answers that question in a climactic moment in which Noah is tasked with making the most difficult choice of his life, beyond even constructing the ark. The film also dabbles in more open-ended ideas, such as original sin, man's domain over the Earth versus his destruction of it (both literally and figuratively here), sacrifice, temptation, betrayal, redemption, morality, persistence, and resistance. In many ways, this is a very human, very universal movie, one that's rather deeply philosophical behind the scenes. In that way, it's very satisfying, but Aranofsky's blunder may very well be, then, unintentionally selling short, or as it may be here, washing away, all of the thought-provoking goodness within by so blatantly reworking a story so many hold dear, in essence, burying everything else the movie has to offer under the deluge of chatter centered on the film's Biblical accuracy.
From a purely technical perspective, the movie is a huge success. It's everything a modern epic should be, capturing a very tangible feeling of place, time, and situation, both before and after the ark, outside of it and inside of it. It's polished and nearly perfect, a veritable classroom example of big budget, but big budget done tastefully and subtly, giving the impression of absolute realism rather than hyper-realism, even, as the case may be here, with the rather large Fantasy element that plays alongside much of the film's first half. The performances are mostly spectacular, too. Russell Crowe makes a terrific lead Biblical character, not simply disappearing into costume and behind the beard but capturing the determination and resolve one would rightly expect of someone given such a monumental task to carry upon his shoulders. Ray Winstone is solid as the antagonist, showing a somewhat fanatical exterior but a calculated interior. He is just as determined as Crowe's Noah but, of course, while operating through a completely different motive. The craze in tone and delivery is matched with a balanced interior, demonstrated in his explanation of his position and outlook on life to Ham, one that is, like Noah, centered on his own beliefs about what "the creator" (God) has laid upon his own heart. The supporting cast is fine, but it's Crowe and Winstone who dominate the film, define its surface, and shape the foundation of its deeper layers.
Noah Blu-ray, Video Quality
Noah floats onto Blu-ray with a top-end 1080p, 1.85:1-framed transfer. The digital production nearly passes for film. It's very detailed and not particularly flat. It captures the fairly gritty, mostly gray and bleak backdrops beautifully. Details are so exacting as to be borderline startling at times. Clothing details are immaculate, down to the smallest fray, the largest stitch, and the finest fabric texture. Likewise, human skin and hair are precisely displayed, revealing the finest lines, dirt, and sweat with remarkable clarity. Image depth is rather good for digital as well, and the frame is sharp and satisfying close and far, near and wide alike. The film isn't at all what one would describe as "abundantly colorful." Beyond flesh and natural greenery, there's precious little vibrancy. Much of the film is made of bleak terrain, gray rocks, and wood. That natural greenery truly sparkles when it has the opportunity to do so, but nowhere else is there much of note. Still, the finest transitions and color details, limited in range as they may be, are faultlessly displayed in every scene. Blacks are deep and pure, never crushing details and never brightening up. Likewise, flesh tones never appear to betray real life, whether under the sun or darkened by cloud and rain. Nowhere does the image suffer from any noticeable banding, blockiness, or noise. In short, this is beautiful, borderline miraculous presentation from Paramount and one of the finest the format has yet seen.
Noah Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Noah's DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 lossless soundtrack delivers. Musical delivery is expectedly big and sweeping, engulfing the listening area with a flood of beautifully orchestrated and placed sound that features rich clarity and accuracy from every corner of the stage. Low end support is healthy and full, both in music and sound effect. The track frequently transports listeners into the film with a deluge of beautifully balanced and light atmospherics prior to the flood, including light blowing wind and rustling grasses. The torrent of rain saturates the stage with remarkable effectiveness later in the picture, while crashing waves and minor creaks heard from within the vessel are equally impressive and immersive. Dialogue is balanced and clear, firmly delivered from the center whether whisper or shout. A quality light reverberating effect is heard within Methuselah's cave in chapter six. Overall, a powerful yet balanced and full presentation from Paramount.
Noah Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Noah contains about an hour's worth of supplemental features. DVD and UV/iTunes digital copy codes are included in the case.
Noah Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Noah won't replace the family Bible, but then again nothing could, or should, do that. It's easy to understand why the film divided audiences as it did. It's nowhere close to the Biblical portrayal of Noah, which is admittedly a rather short stretch in a long chapter of an even longer Bible. There's no way to make a Noah movie without adding to or subtracting from the basic text on which it is based, lest one make a largely silent film that lasts mere minutes or, on the other hand, fails to speak to or entertain its audience. Why, then, make the movie in the first place, and why make it so different from what people who have known the story since Sunday School expect of it? That's a question better left to Darren Aronofsky and Paramount, but the film did do considerable business and will no doubt sell a considerable number of Blu-ray, DVD, and digital units. Taken at face value, the movie is an entertaining and beautifully constructed picture, a borderline masterpiece of simple storytelling on a rather small scale set against a large backdrop and a huge dramatic arc. Taken literally, on the other hand, the movie is an absolute failure when compared to that, again, to quote Paramount, "cornerstone of faith." Audiences, as always, should decide for themselves but should certainly, at least, give the movie a try before writing it off completely, a move that's understandable in context but discouraged in a broader sense. Paramount's Blu-ray release of Noah does deliver exceptional video and audio content. Only three extras are included, but they're rather good. Recommended to all audiences, even to those who will likely be turned off by its massive alterations to Scripture. There's no harm in giving it a chance, and no harm in turning it off after twenty minutes, either.
Noah: Other Editions
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Noah Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Blu-ray Sales, July 28-August 3: Noah Sails to Number One - August 7, 2014
For the week that ended on August 3rd, Paramount Home Entertainment's Noah took the top spot on the Blu-ray-only and overall package-media rankings. Director Darren Aronofsky's ambitious take on the story of Noah's ark courted much controversy in its reimagining ...
• This Week on Blu-ray: July 29-August 5 - July 27, 2014
For the week of July 29th, Paramount is bringing Twin Peaks: The Entire Mystery - which contains both seasons of the iconic TV show, director David Lynch's Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me movie, and ninety minutes of Fire Walk with Me deleted scenes - to Blu-ray. ...
• Noah Blu-ray: Exclusive Giveaway - July 25, 2014
Blu-ray.com and Paramount Home Entertainment are offering three members the opportunity to win a copy of director Darren Aronofsky's Noah (2014), starring Russell Crowe, Jennifer Connelly, Emma Watson, Logan Lerman, Ray Winstone, Douglas Booth and Anthony Hopkins. ...
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