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Possibly the biggest complaint an audience will make about a movie based on a book is their disappointment when the director’s interpretation doesn’t match their own vision. Those who approach this film with some knowledge of the original story may also leave wondering if director (and co-writer) Darren Aronofsky was reading from the same pages.
In his version, Noah (Russell Crowe) is a peaceful man who lives his life completely in accordance with the will of “The Creator.” He roams the barren mountains looking for vegetation to feed his wife Naameh (Jennifer Connelly) and and three sons Shem, Ham and Japheth (Douglas Booth, Logan Lerman and Leo McHugh Carroll). . They, along with his grandfather Methuselah (Anthony Hopkins), are the last of the line of Seth, one of Adam’s sons. The rest of the Earth is populated with hoards of descendants from Cain, another son of Adam, who committed the world’s first murder. Playing on the premise that evil begets evil, these people are bloodthirsty carnivores led by Tubal-cain (Ray Winstone). During the first few minutes of the movie, this warrior-like villain kills Noah’s father, believing now all of Seth’s posterity are extinct.
When Noah and his family are discovered, they are forced to flee from the ferocious Cainanites. But Noah finds bigger fish to fry than his family’s survival when he is shown, through a drug-induced vision courtesy of some ancient potions cooked up by Methuselah, that The Creator is planning to flood the world and destroy all the evil people. And that leads him to the film’s ultimate visual showpiece: Building an ark.
With the help of his wife, sons, an adopted daughter they saved as a child (Emma Watson) and some friendly rock monsters that are actually fallen angels covered in hardened lava (I’m not joking…) they get the boat project built just before the rains fall. At about this same time Tubal-cain and his masses realize there’s only one ship leaving port and they are determined to be on board. It leads to a huge battle that quickly depopulates the cast of extras, with the rock monsters throwing and tromping most of the aggressors, and providing Noah and his crew a chance to get afloat.
At this point there is still close to an hour left in this biblical epic. Time enough for Noah to tell his family (and us) what The Creator’s ultimate plan is. It certainly is a literal interpretation of Genesis and asks for everyone to eventually pay the ultimate sacrifice. Again Noah is determined to demonstrate complete obedience to God. The problem is, other than the aforementioned drug induced vision, we see very little evidence that this man, who is referred to as a prophet in Genesis but never within this movie, ever speaks with God.
Religious perspectives aside, there are other reasons you may not want to sail into these choppy waters with children in tow. Violence occurs throughout, with blood effects. There are depictions of countless people being thrown, beaten, pummeled and stabbed. Scenes show parents attempting to sell their children for undisclosed reasons. While this takes place in darkness, which obscures the details of what’s happening, it will nevertheless still be scary for young viewers. A couple of brief sexual interludes occur (with no details or nudity) and Noah uses mysterious potions to keep the animals asleep for months.
Of course it’s impossible to take a Biblical account this well known and create a film that will please everyone. For many, the violence (while somewhat justified) may drown what little scriptural meat is offered in this movie. That leaves Noah barely floating at C-level for family viewing.
Noah is rated PG-13: for violence, disturbing images and brief suggestive content.
Director: Darren Aronofsky
Cast: Russell Crowe, Jennifer Connelly, Anthony Hopkins, Russell Crowe, Emma Watson, Logan Lerman.
Studio: 2014 Paramount Pictures
Website: Official site for Noah.