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    Noah Blu-ray Review

    Blu-ray Paramount

    Jul 31 2014 07:14 PM | Neil Middlemiss in DVD & Blu-ray Reviews
    Noah is director Darren Aronofsky’s largest production to date. The director of Black Swan, Requiem for a Dream, and the fantastic (and underappreciated) The Fountain sets off with great ambition into the story of Noah, and while the finished product is technically impressive, with strong performances and the core message intact, the film sways under the weight of its own ambitions. The film folds impressive visuals and some action-spectacle into the drama central to its tale, and though it is not a strict adaptation of the most commonly accepted Christian version of Noah’s building of the Ark, it delivers a worthy experience, faithful at least to the major theme, though not all will be satisfied.

    Title Info:

    • Studio: Paramount
    • Distributed By: N/A
    • Video Resolution: 1080P/AVC
    • Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
    • Audio: English 7.1 DTS-HDMA, French 5.1 DD, Other
    • Subtitles: English, English SDH, Spanish, French, Portuguese
    • Rating: PG-13
    • Run Time: 2 Hr. 18 Min.
    • Package Includes: Blu-ray, DVD, Digital Copy, UltraViolet
    • Case Type: Standard case with slipsleeve
    • Disc Type: BD50 (dual layer)
    • Region: A
    • Release Date: 07/29/2014
    • MSRP: $39.99

    The Production Rating: 3.5/5

    “A great flood is coming. The waters of the heavens will meet the waters of earth. We build a vessel to survive the storm. We build an ark.”


    Noah (Russell Crowe), a direct descendent of Adam and Eve’s son, Seth, receives a message from God; that the earth and all upon it will be washed away when the heavens open up and the waters spring from the ground, causing a great flood, ending the reign of man. Noah, startled by the images he sees (the message from God is in vision, rather than direct word,) travels with his devoted wife, Naameh (Jennifer Connelly,) and his three sons, Shem (Douglas Booth,) Hem (Logan Lerman,) and Japheth (Leo McHugh Carroll) to seek the council of his grandfather, Methuselah (Anthony Hopkins), to better understand the message. Along the way, they find an ambushed and murdered group, and among the dead they discover a survivor whom they rescue and take in. The survivor is a young girl, Ila (Emma Watson,) who was injured in the attack and as a result will never bear children

    Noah’s vision comes into focus with Methuselah’s help, and Noah understands what he has been asked to do. He must labor and build an Ark that will hold two of each animal on the earth, a male and a female of the species, so that they can survive the great flood which God intends to unleash. Noah, chosen for his faithfulness and purity of heart, bears the burden of his mission, and sets forth to do as God wishes. He convinces the Watchers, the fallen angels struck from Heaven for helping those banished from the Garden of Eden (who now appear as creatures of rock) to help build the Ark and to ward off those who will come to find solace and safety from the impending flood. And they do come, led by their King, Tubal-Cain (Ray Winstone,) who intends to take the Ark and save himself…and his people, from the watery wrath of God.

    Director Darren Aronofsky was taken with the story of Noah as a child, contemplating at times the larger emotional tale of Noah and his burden to bear witness to the end of all mankind, perspectives not explicitly covered in the core texts. He considered questions of what it must be like to know that, by following word of God, he will survive, but see such destruction and death. This is a fascinating subject for drama and a prism through which he paints the larger, more familiar (and able to be referenced) elements of the story of Noah and his Ark.

    For devout Christians, or those with an intimate knowledge of Noah’s story in Genesis (and other references to him throughout the Bible,) Aronofsky’s adaptation will be seen to deviate from both the commonly accepted timetable of events and the limited information offered about the others chosen to survive the flood on the Ark. But, quite strikingly, this adaptation (or interpretation) of Noah seeks to extrapolate from the text, leaning on some scholarly findings here and there, to tell a more detailed story for the big screen. In doing so, Noah might easily turn off some viewers, but given the many different versions of the Bible (the King James being perhaps the most prevalent) and even voluminous variations of texts from non-Christian religions, such as the Qur’an, where Noah’s story is told, it is harder to fault the film outright.

    Noah, as a biblical epic, seeks a balance; to tell a familiar story from religious text but also to, through the interpretation of a man who does not share the faith of the text (Aronofsky is an atheist,) introduce the foundational tenets of the tale to believers and non-believers alike. If Noah is to be judged, it must be judged on the success of that endeavor, and not written off outright because the visuals and handling don’t conform to the core text word for word. That may sound like a defense of the film and the filmmaker, and perhaps it is, but as a man of faith, I found the film to be a rewarding affirmation of the key message from the Noah tale, and the pragmatism and in some way, realism of the interpretation, a fascinating, if not entirely successful, effort.

    Noah seems like an unlikely choice for the Aronofsky, a non-Christian. Coming off his critical darling, Black Swan, to explore the biblical story of a man forbidding anyone but the few chosen few to board his Ark, and thereby casting them to the impending death of the great flood, is curious – but the director’s fascination with the man himself, beyond the larger story of the Ark, becomes a driving force of the adaptation. License is clearly taken to form a narrative around that idea – and in some ways it works, in others it feels like overreach. A common complaint heard when the film was released theatrically is the use of the term “Creator” throughout the film in pace of “God.” Another complaint was the ‘reason’ God sought to flood the earth. Dismissed as being a product of a political agenda, some criticized the film for, in their view, offering God’s motivation as being due to man’s treatment the earth (environmentalism.) I don’t agree. Noah is shown as having respect for animals and the plants of the earth, but that reverence to God’s creation is a part of the righteousness that God saw in Noah. In the biblical texts, Cain was cursed to not be able to toil the earth for himself (“And now you are cursed from the ground, which has opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood from your hand. When you work the ground, it shall no longer yield to you its strength.”) His lineage is shown as mining the earth to ruin, building cities and battlements that ravaged the earth, forcing them to wander in search of new land to sustain themselves. This isn’t outside of what the original text offers (Cain cursed to wander.) Some interpretations hold that God’s reason was the sinfulness of man, others that man had been infected by Satan, yet others proclaim it was disobedience. Defilement of God’s creation (the earth) fits reasonably in those interpretations.

    Aronofsky and director of photography Matthew Libatique, ASC, create the cursed earth with vivid, desolate beauty. An almost alien world that could as much be from the dawn of time as thousands of years in the future. That timelessness is the most daring exploration of the early time of man – according to the bible – that I have seen. It was a time when the decedents of Adam and Eve’s offspring would live for generations, and where, following Cain’s murder of Able, the decedents of Cain would become increasingly wicked, an embodiment of evil, while those descended from Adam and Eve’s third son, Seth (so little is written about him) would produce a number of ‘chosen’ descendants in his line. The sparse, unforgiving earth, where these descendants lived is a powerful visual presence in the film.

    And through the construction of its narrative, Noah succeeds in pulling the underlying bleakness and the horror of the event (the death of all non-animal life, save a few passengers aboard the Ark) to the fore. As a Sunday school tale, the story of Noah’s Ark is rarely bleak, but in essence the story is the culmination of mankind’s fall, there continuation – from the original sin – of a ‘transgression of instruction,’ where man is so mired in impurity, evil, wickedness and disregard for the Creator, that God’s wrath is born upon him. And this side of the story, at times, aches onscreen.

    Personally, I find it is the imperfections of biblical ‘heroes’ that speak the loudest. The interpretation of a Noah troubled by the sight of such death, who finds himself tested even in the commission of his most resolute and faithful obedience, is compelling, bringing with it surprising emotional heft and in the final act of the film, ringing with a surprising power despite its new interpretation of events.

    Performances are uniformly excellent, with Russell Crowe being reliably good as Noah. Here, Noah is portrayed as a man of absolute faith, who wears the burden of his calling visibly. The tests and trials of faith are witnessed through events, but it is Crowe’s abilities as a performer that give drama to his the inner bracing and determination to abide. We see Noah initially as a man who struggles to interpret the word of God (understand the elusive flash images God gives him as instruction,) then as a man fully committed to his mission, bearing a strain on his relationship with his sons, particularly Hem, the middle child, and with his wife. As Naameh, Jennifer Connelly is largely a supportive presence until the flood comes and the survivors are aboard the Ark. As conflict arises and her husband’s interpretation of what the Creator wants (when something unexpected happens while at sea,) Connelly delivers a wrenching speech, pleading with dexterous vulnerability to her husband. It is a powerful moment in the film exquisitely performed. Emma Watson as Ila is very good. Required to be strong at times and helpless at others, she manages the balance brilliantly – never betraying the time of the story. Douglas Booth’s Shem is fine, if underused, and Logan Lerman’s Ham, a character that struggles with his father’s focus and dispassion for what the future will hold for him, develops well through the story. Ray Winstone’s Tubal-Cain is every bit as wicked, and with strong presence, as you might expect. Here he exudes menace and self-entitlement and though his character’s action later in the film seem engineered for the film (I could find no references to these events in the texts I researched,) it does not diminish the service he provides the film. Lastly is Anthony Hopkins’ Methuselah. An expectedly fine performance is given. Methuselah in the film is a presence of wisdom and experience, but it also provides some welcome light levity, which Hopkins through his long career has refined to an art.

    A flawed, valiant, earnest attempt to tell the story of Noah in a relatively untraditional way. Despites its faults, Noah should be applauded for holding a faith-based through line that echoes the commonly understood religious text (and considers a number of scholarly interpretations to help it flesh out more detail, such as the identity of Noah’s wife,) while examining the personal impacts of the event through extrapolation and compression of the timeline (depending upon which biblical text with which you are familiar). As interpretation, perhaps the most curious element in the film is that of the fallen angels, the Watchers, who were struck down by God, chained and abandoned by Him. The fallen angels are depicted as beings drowned in the rock and earth into which they crashed after being cast out for helping man following the exile from the Garden of Eden. The rock forming around these fallen angels, weighing them down (like taut chains) so that all that remained of their body was the rock encasement. So, in essence, they appear as rock “monsters.” It’s a curious choice offset by the visual effects that bring them to life, rendered with a jagged movement, almost stop-motion that sets them apart from the expected visual effect renderings.

    The Creator formed us on the second day. They day He made the heavens. We watched over Adam and Eve. Saw their frailty and their love. And then we saw their fall. And we pitied them. We were not stone then, but light. It was not our place to interfere. Yet we chose to try and help mankind. and when we disobeyed The Creator, He punished us. We were encrusted by your world. Rock and mud shackled our fiery glow. Still, we taught mankind all we knew of Creation. With our help they rose from the dust, became great and mighty. But then they turned our gifts to violence. Only one man protected us. Your grandfather Methuselah. We were hunted, Most of us killed. Those who lived were left prisoners in these stony shells, marooned upon this barren land. We begged The Creator to take us home. But He was always silent. And now you claim that you have heard His call. Samyaza cannot accept this. A man? When it is men who broke the world. But I look at you and I see a glimmer of Adam again. The man I knew. The man I came to help.

    - Samyaza, Fallen Angel
    Trailer


    Video Rating: 5/5 3D Rating: NA

    Visually, Noah is beautiful. Presented in its original 1.85:1 aspect ratio, the Blu-ray offers exquisite detail. And the lighting, framing, and movement of the camera provide many opportunities for that detail to be front and center. A gritty production (that isn’t grey or muted until late in the construction of the Ark and the subsequent flood,) the black soil and sand, the bright green covering the mountain, and the lushness of the trees that Noah and the Watchers use to construct the Ark are wonderful. Cloth isn’t bright – being expectedly drab – though the impressive costuming (designed by Michael Wilkinson) manages to be standout at times.

    Early in the film, the setting has an almost storybook like, despite the bleakness of the Icelandic locations. There is a brightness about the sky as the stars that shine through even in daylight that place the film almost out of time.

    Industrial Light & Magic produces legions of excellent visual effects, fully rendering a swath of animals that are variations on the animals we see today, and there detail is another strong element of the presentation. Flawless.

    Audio Rating: 5/5

    Paramount provides a crisp and booming DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 soundtrack, and it is impressive. Dialogue, even when voices are hushed or quieted, is superbly clear and balanced. Action sequences (the attack on the Ark, protected by the Watchers, and the arrival of the floods) take full advantage of the channels, and the clang of metal, the rustles, snorts, and stampedes of the arriving animals has depth.

    Clint Mansell, Aronofsky’s longtime composer collaborator, delivers an impressive score that echoes his masterful score for Aronofsky’s The Fountain. For Noah, Mansell creates an aching, urgent rhythm of strings, punctuating the sorrow in scenes with weeping melodies, and filling the tender moments with a minimalist approach worthy of the inward drama. The score is angry at times, tense with pressure, but always a marvelous fit for what we see onscreen.

    Special Features: 3/5

    Paramount Pictures has supplied a brief collection of extras that add up to just shy of an hour. The on-location footage of the Ark’s construction is very interesting, and the Iceland location special feature informative, but with so much to know and see about the production of this epic, the opportunity has been missed (unless of course a special edition is in the works that does a better job of giving us a deeper look behind the scenes).

    Iceland: Extreme Beauty

    The Ark Exterior: A Battle for 300 Cubits

    The Ark Interior: Animals Two by Two

    DVD Version of the Film

    Digital Copy (Ultraviolet or iTunes)


    Note: Paramount has also created several intriguing features (not related to the Blu-ray release) for people to explore information about the Ark, including a free App and a fascinating infographic. Follow the links below to access.

    Ark Infographic

    Noah: Ark Builder App(iOS and Android)

    Overall Rating: 3.5/5

    There is a harsh dichotomy inherent in Noah. On one hand, it is a most grounded and authentic attempt to tell the story of the son of Enoch, through extraordinary Icelandic locations and an incredible recreation of the Ark itself, through a major construction effort and augmented with state of the art visual effects – on the other, it is able to wander too easily at time from the most established translation of the Biblical texts that many are quite familiar.

    Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ sought to be as authentic as possible, with the characters speaking Latin and Aramaic, and the brutality of Christ’s flogging and crucifixion unflinchingly shown. The film would become an enormous box office and critical hit, grossing over $600MM worldwide. And this would have been key in Paramount’s decision to green light a large-scale production of the Noah story, with a budget reportedly around $125MM. That kind of investment would need the support of the faith-based community (for Church organized viewings and word of mouth.) But it did not happen as Paramount had hoped, especially compared with other productions this year such as Son of God.) Still, Noah grossed $359MM globally, with extremely positive returns in South American countries ($30MM in Brazil alone.) Some of the creative decisions ruffled some religious leaders, and some negative press surrounding director Aronofsky’s atheism became a problem during the pre-release period. Would a more strict interpretation have met with richer returns? It’s hard to say, but I suspect the answer is yes.

    While everyone must determine the amount of ‘creative license’ they are willing to accept (whether it is of religious texts or the works of Tolkien, Shakespeare and the like,) I would recommend Noah as a biblical epic. Although there are clear creative adaptations, finding a film without notable creative changes from the source text is incredibly hard. Consider the popular Cecil B. DeMille film The Ten Commandments, starring Charlton Heston; it too takes creative license - for example, non-Bible sources were scoured to add to the script, some characters in the film never appear in the Bible, and the spectacular parting of the red sea, according to Exodus 14:21, took all night instead of the few moments it is shown to take in the film. These changes don’t diminish the power of Moses’ story just as they don’t diminish the power of the story of Noah. And Aronofsky’s take on the tale is flawed and fascinating, but absolutely worthy of watching.

    Reviewed by: Neil Middlemiss
    Support HTF when you buy this title:



    18 Comments

    Photo
    Adam Gregorich
    Aug 01 2014 11:48 AM

    Thanks Neil.  You can win a copy on Blu-ray plus a prize pack here: http://www.hometheat...ray-prize-pack/

    So is this a work of fiction or fact.  ;)  :D

      • Radioman970 and schan1269 like this
    Photo
    Mike Frezon
    Aug 01 2014 12:28 PM

    So is this a work of fiction or fact.  ;)  :D

     

    Troublemaker.  :biggrin:

     

    Let's not go down that rabbit hole, people.  Please. 

    Troublemaker.  :biggrin:

     

    Let's not go down that rabbit hole, people.  Please. 

     

    I don't want to go religious but well the title of the film is Noah, it's in the bible, by it's very nature it's a little religious.

     

    I think i am avoiding the religious aspect, i don't want to talk about that, i want to concentrate on books in general and how some of them may be based on reality, real events in history, just look at the weather we have today, the Noah story may be an account of a natural disaster that happened 2000 or more years ago and may well be fact and based on a catastrophic storm that happened, obviously they embellish it a little, add some drama but, the basis of the story may be a true one.

    Photo
    Mike Frezon
    Aug 01 2014 01:17 PM

    Nope. 

     

    Not gonna happen.  The underlying basis of your point is whether the story of Noah is fact or fiction and that's not going to be debated on this forum.

     

    The film is based on a story in the Bible.  I read Neil's review with great respect for the way he handled his own discussion surrounding the religious aspects of the film.  Very deft, indeed.

     

    There is much which can be said about the film and it's religious aspects--and whether they are satisfactory to us as individuals based on our own personal beliefs.  But opening up a discussion as to whether the underlying story is fact or fiction will only open a can of worms which will, instead, remain closed. 

     

    My intent here is NOT to stifle discussion of Neil's review--or of the film itself.  Frankly, I missed this in the theater--was well aware of the controversies surrounding the Christian backlash against the way the story was presented--and am quite curious to hear what people thought about the film.  But let's honor the HTF Rule Book and not get into the deeper aspects of the original source material (such as fact/fiction). 

     

    From the HTF Rulebook:

     

    4. No politics or religion. We do not permit the discussion of politics or religion at HTF. However, there is a narrow exception to this rule. If the subject matter of a movie or television show includes politics and/or religion, then they may be discussed insofar as they pertain to that specific movie or television show. We stress, however, that such discussions are carefully monitored and will be moderated if it appears that any participant is using this narrow exception to introduce a broader political or religious discussion than is warranted by the movie or television show under discussion. Also, anyone who has not seen a particular movie or television show is disqualified from discussing its political and/or religious content under this rule.

      • Sam Posten likes this

    Please delete this if it breaks the rules but I don't see how anyone could find this movie offensive. The movie may deviate wildly from what's in the Bible (I honestly don't know) but I don't think what's depicted would offend anyone and I highly doubt that that was the intent of the people making it.

     

    I was surprised by how dark the movie was. Even with an apocalypse involved, I expected Noah to be bolstering people's spirits and saying to keep a stiff upper lip but instead he's pretty grim.

    Travis I don't know about offending but perhaps having
    Spoiler
    in a biblical film might be offensive to some.
      • nedinme likes this

    Thanks for the very thoughtful review, Neil. It is difficult to discuss a film like this without delving into how it challenges the religious and non-religious alike, but I'll definitely try to stay within the Rulebooks's guidelines.

     

    I really enjoyed this film, and I think the most controversial aspect of it is that sets itself up as more of an all-out mythological epic, rather than a traditional biblical epic. It's more along the lines of The Odyssey or even Clash of the Titans than The Ten Commandments (although that film took plenty of liberties with the text, as well). That said, it does explore some, for lack of a better word, spiritual themes about correctly interpreting your visions. Not to give anything away, but I thought the entire second half of the film was an interesting meditation on how we as human beings sometimes cling so strongly to what we believe we are Supposed To Do, that we miss the evidence that it may not the right thing.

     

    Also, is it just me, or does Russell Crowe go through a dozen different makeup and hair changes to show the passing years, while Jennifer Connelly hardly seems to age at all? Could that have been intentional?

    Not gonna happen.  

     

    Even if i bought the beer.  :D  Nah it's okay, these things can easily turn nasty and argumentative so best to leave alone.

     

    Okay i'll stick to the movie, i have been thinking about buying the 3D edition from Europe as they spent a lot of money converting it and i want to see if it'a a good job or if it's just all depth again and typical Hollywood 2.5D, maybe i'll wait for reviews of that one.

    In my opinion, this movie fails both in accuracy to the Biblical account and in entertainment value. It was a waste of a couple of hours!
    Photo
    Radioman970
    Aug 04 2014 08:52 AM

    So, when they were fishing off the back of the ark... was the limit 2 per species...? 

    Photo
    Neil Middlemiss
    Aug 04 2014 10:46 AM

    I have a hard time getting YouTube videos to embed properly but I wanted to post these examples for Clint Mansell's score. I make reference to the score in my review and, after more listens to the score on CD this past week, have an even deeper appreciation for it.

     


     

    Photo
    Cameron Yee
    Aug 04 2014 10:52 AM

    I find using the "share" link on YouTube generates the cleanest URL for embedding here (and I updated the links in your post accordingly).

      • Neil Middlemiss likes this
    Photo
    Neil Middlemiss
    Aug 13 2014 05:20 PM

    I find using the "share" link on YouTube generates the cleanest URL for embedding here (and I updated the links in your post accordingly).

     

    Thank you, Cameron.

     

    It's been another week and I find that I am still listening to this score (at least twice a day, to and from work during my commute.) It's a terrific companion score to Mansell's The Fountain, a film which serves as Aronofsky’s first engagement with spiritual subject matter - and one that, on balance, I find more satisfying than Noah. The Fountain was largely ignored by audiences when it was released, and that's a shame, but the score should be celebrated nonetheless.

    Great review Neil! I skipped this one for religious content but I just recently saw a clip of the watchers in 3d and became intrigued. Apparently this was released in both theaters and disk in the US in 2d only yet around the world in 3D, what's the point of that???

    Anyone have experience buying a region free 3d copy they can recommend?

    http://www.dddhouse....ProductID=14349

     

    Region A 3d. The movie is helped considerably with a 3D presentation.

      • Sam Posten likes this

    I can say that I enjoyed this film and thought it was a solid story well told and photographed. I am not "religious" and will admit I do not view this as a "true" story but as a philosophical allegory . However, I do think it does explore the idea of "faith" in a wonderful way. It was both entertaining and thought provoking and I think that adds up to a good film. 

      • Neil Middlemiss likes this
    I love this description from that website.

    "Rating/Genres : Science Fiction, Action, Drama"

    That might piss some people off. ;)