Review: Noah

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I had absolutely no interest in seeing this biblical epic as, frankly, it seemed a bit stupid-looking. I mean, Russell Crowe playing Noah building a massive ark to house two of every animal in existence while also appearing to be taking on all the men in the world,  including Ray Winstone, who were desperate to seek salvation from the oncoming flood? What a load of nonsense – not to mention I’ve never been one for bible stories converted into films.

But then I heard people taking about it ,and what the movie contained, and it sounded intriguing so I decided to see what all the fuss was about.

‘In the beginning there was nothing…’ is how the movie opens, but then progresses to cover all the bases covered in any historically based action film as well as adding a few more ingredients for good measure.

The visuals are quite stunning; the first shot you see is the world as it would have looked millions of years ago – with all the land masses still joined together in one massive super-continent, departing from the bible’s theory that the world is only a few thousand years old. This is not the only thing in the film that deviates from the teachings of the bible either.

In the middle of the film, Noah tells the story of creation as it was passed down from his father at the beginning of the film, except that it is now accompanied by an interesting  animated visual that starts ‘with nothing’.  The Big Bang happens on-screen and  galaxies fly past until the camera lands on one particular group of stars; a planet is formed from dust, a meteor crashes into it forming The Moon and on the planet volcanoes form the surface. This is followed by weather creating plants and the seas in which life is born and evolves from single-celled organisms right through to homosapiens.  So this film, inspired by the bible, includes an evolution sequence. Which is interesting.

The landscapes are stunningly shot with vast, barren plains where Man had abused and mined the Earth empty of a special mineral which appears to create fire. This wanton destruction of the Earth is why Noah has been having visions of a word destroyed by flood. So, he ups and moves his family on a journey to the foot of a mountain he believes his Grandfather, Methuselah (played with more than a touch of comedy by Anthony Hopkins), lives.

This journey is interrupted when his family are taken prisoner by giant rock monsters which are actually fallen Angels, trapped in stone so they cannot get back into Heaven. The animation of the Angels owes a great debt to the monsters of Ray Harryhausen although they appear to be computer generated rather than stop motion.

These Angels help him once he has explained his lineage and that he is on a mission from The Creator (never mentioned as God). From a seed given to him by Methuselah a spring gushes from the ground creating a forest at the foot of the mountain, enough to build an ark from, conveniently, and with a lot of help from the Angels the ark is built, but not without the curiosity of Tubal-cain (Ray Winstone, trying to sound regal), the King of Men being piqued by hordes of animals, reptiles and birds have flocked to the ark.

Much fighting ensues between man and Angel as well as tensions within Noah’s family unit at the futility of their efforts bearing in mind that the only females on board are Noah’s wife Naameh (Jennifer Connelly) and Ila (Emma Watson) who is betrothed to Noah’s eldest, Shem (Douglas Booth), and is barren. Noah explains that after the flood has subsided they will all die and man will be no more as they do not deserve the Earth. There is a lot more going on aboard the ark than you’ve ever heard in previous tellings, but this part of the film would be spoiled if I went into too much detail. The tension was so high during this part of the film that I didn’t realise I’d  been sat in a rigid position for quite a while until I relaxed and suddenly felt pain in my muscles!

There are some interesting concepts thrown up by director, Darren Aronofsky, in Noah. Though it has been said that he didn’t base this wholly on the bible story and that a lot of the inspiration from his re-telling of the parable comes from a poem he wrote while in school. All the visual spectacle seems to be splitting the faithful’s opinion of the film, with some religious leaders backing such a thought-provoking re-imagining and others slamming the massive departure from traditional biblical epics like The Ten Commandments and The Greatest Story Ever Told.

What is interesting is that the audience in the screening I attended ranged from groups of teenagers right through to elderly couples and, though there were one or two protests from a guy sat behind me, no one left and everyone seemed to be engaged. If big-budget, special effects blockbuster is the way Hollywood chooses to go with biblical story telling – and it makes sense to use special effects to visualise miracles – the genre could well be reinvigorated and find a new audience, which wouldn’t hurt any of the major religions either.

It’s worth a watch in the cinema, though I’m not sure I’d buy it; the acting all around was great (apart from the accents!) –  it didn’t  make a lot of sense and some of the effects were a bit ropey, not to mention what I said at the top of this review – that I’m not a fan of biblical epics. Perhaps Bank Holiday TV viewing, like the bible films of the last generation (and Ben Hur), will be where this should sit, just to see how it compares.

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