You can’t help but wonder whether or not the modern day biblical adaptations that grace the silver screen every so often are in any way, shape or form like what really happened. Or didn’t happen. Or sort of happened. Of course we’re never really going to find out, but my gut tells me that we have a tendency to over-stylize, over-sexualize and over-blow most of what little details we can acknowledge as fact.
For me, the trick is seeing through all the pizzazz and getting to the film’s core merits. With “Noah”from Paramount Pictures, we seem to get a pretty decent balance of both, thereby developing a dramatically licensed take on the classic story, with a few special tweaks along the way. The lead performances are surprisingly strong (better than I expected, in fact), and the effects that “Noah” leans on work to establish it as a large scale disaster film that is driven by its plot and characters first, and its moxie second.
At the box office, “Noah” raked in nearly three times its $125 million budget worldwide. It offers some creative depth to a story often told as a great, peaceful one to children. The layers here are numerous: man versus man, man versus creator, man versus nature, man versus man’s faith, man versus man’s desires for love and emotion. But when it is all over and done with, we see a family at risk of being pulled apart by the tugs of their faith or the tugs of their desires, something I’d argue ever family out there can relate to.
A young Noah (Russell Crowe) sees his father Lamech (Marton Csokas) murdered by Tubal-cain (Ray Winstone). He carries this burden with him for decades, and it wears on his day to day life. His wife Naameh (Jennifer Connelly) and three sons Shem (Douglas Booth), Ham (Logan Lerman) and Japheth (Leo McHugh Carroll) all struggle to get through each week, until one day when Noah has vivid dreams depicting a massive flood. He rushes his family to see his grandfather, Methuselah (Anthony Hopkins), and en route they adopt the lone survivor of a violent outburst, a young girl named Ila (Emma Watson).
Tubal-Cain’s men track Noah’s family down, but they get a little help from the Watchers (who are stone creatures stuck on earthy because they helped humans who got tossed out of the Garden of Eden) and Methuselah. He gives Noah a single seed from the same garden, which sprouts and entire forest in seconds. Noah’s vision and mission become clear: use the trees to build an ark and escape the flood.
All this sounds in order, yes? But it isn’t where “Noah” stops telling its story. There are a few subplots surrounding Noah’s sons wanting to bring wives with them to further mankind despite his disapproval (his wife, however, is all for it), as well as cannibalism, Tubal-Cain’s army finally seizing on Noah and his ark, and, of course, the massive downpours and floods that put Noah into unprecedented peril. By the time the nearly 140 minute run time has concluded, you’ve experienced action, love, adventure, violence, compassion and a whole lot more adjectives along the way.
“Noah” probably doesn’t have widespread appeal, but it’s good enough, both in big picture and granular perspectives, to matter to the average viewer on more than one level. I suppose religious fundamentalists might take issue here and there with its historical accuracy, but doing to indirectly ignores the solid performances brought forward, especially from Crowe and his sons. Their relationship frequently takes center stage over all else, giving audiences a look at the way it positively and negatively influences the balance of power between each character throughout. We see Noah quickly grow up with his father’s death, and when he asks his sons to do the same thing, their resistance is tangible enough to demonstrate something that weighs on any person’s shoulders in thinking about the relationship with his or her parents.
It’s difficult to say what stands out most about “Noah,” which in general is something I would say about films I didn’t favor all that much. But in this case, there is really strong balance between the performances on screen, the script, the special effects and the ability to tie it all together without losing any attention or interest along the way. More so than others before and surely more so than those that will come after it, “Noah” works from top to bottom and doesn’t apologize for having its foundation laid on a concrete slab. It is extremely detail oriented, providing a unique authenticity that doesn’t otherwise rear its ugly head in most epic disaster titles (not that I’m naming names or pointing fingers or anything like that).
“Noah” takes a willingness to invest up front, but there is no reason your emotions won’t be positively engaged from beginning to end. I wouldn’t really go so far as to call it an epic, but it is surprisingly well made and detailed, so much so that you’ll see it as more than a one dimensional motion picture.
The film comes with a pretty consistent 1.85:1 1080p High Definition video transfer that does a good job clearly presenting a colorful, vivid image during the storm and combat sequences and simultaneously providing a softness to the close-up shots of Crowe and his loved ones. Grain does pop up periodically, but not so much that you are going to be distracted. Coloration is very well placed, with brights appearing now and again and darks taking the dominant, ominous role.
The star of the film is the English 7.1 DTS-High Definition Master Audio soundtrack. It booms through your speakers in a way that directs the overall pacing like a runner leading a pace group through the last mile of a marathon. While natural background noise is not in its place during “Noah,” we do get some very well directed musical pieces juxtaposed with sound that illustrates the clashes between good versus evil. It isn’t difficult to pick up any spoken words. Other audio selections include French, Spanish and Portuguese Dolby Digital 5.1s, while subtitle choices are English, French, Spanish and Portuguese.
A standard definition DVD and digital copy are provided here, along with a few featurettes that look at the film’s on location production development, the ark’s construction and more. I anticipated more, to be honest. These special features are mildly disappointing.
A Final Word:
“Noah” is entertaining and fun, but don’t expect it to be anything that brings home major awards or pop up on too many “best of” lists. I’d say it has replay value, enhanced primarily through the roller coaster of emotions it straps its audience into.