By Brendan O’Regan
Film Review: Noah (2014)
Noah, based on the biblical tale, is an impresive and strange film. Sometimes the visuals are poetic and the special effects dramatic, enhanced by the striking Icelandic landscapes. The acting of the main roles is excellent. Russel Crowe once again brings a striking humanity to an epic role ( as he did in Master and Commander and Gladiator ), Anthony Hopkins dominates his scenes as Noah’s Grandfather, Methuselah, Jennifer Connelly is convincing as Noah’s wife Naameh, although she doesn’t seem to age as much as he does. Emma Watson is fine as as Ila, an adopted daughter, though the characters of Noah’s sons are underdeveloped.
There are several striking scenes- a poetic creation sequence as Noah tells the story to his children, and the beautiful rainbow event near the end. This ultimately gives the film a senses of hope and optimism that was largely absent from much of the film. The bleakness derives from the fact that in the film Noah is convinced that God, referred to throughout as “The Creator”, is punishing all of humanity and is just going to save the “innocent” animals using Noah as his vehicle for doing so. At times it seems that director Darren Aronofsky is pushing a trendy environmentalist line, a bit like the way in which the Noah story is treated in Evan Almighty. But it’s not that simple, as faith and hope in a loving humanity is restored, a humanity that hopefully will have respect for creation.
The film takes major liberties with the Genesis story, the most bizarre aspect being the the “Watchers”, a bunch of giant rock creatures that a reminiscent of the walking tree creatures ( The Ents ) in The Lord of the Rings films. Though they have some basis in ancient texts, they are not part of the biblical Noah story. It turns out that they are the angels that The Creator is punshing for siding with human beings and trying to help them! They protect Noah from other human beings who want to be taken on to the Ark and a great batlle scene ensues, a field day for CGI artists! The Ark itself is more like a fortress, all square shaped and ugly, looking like something which couldn’t possibly float. Any temptation to make the animals cute is avoided and the handling of the deluge itself is realtively restrained, though it is spectacular when it comes, not just rain but geysers rising from the earth and the scenes of peolple drowning are quite distressing. The film drags a bit after that, complete though it is with a sub plot about an evil stowaway.
The film has prompted much controversy online and beyond. Some see it as sinister, an underhand usurping of a biblical story to push a dodgy Gnostic or Kabbalistic agenda, others see it as a thoroughly Jewish film, with the short biblical story fleshed out in many directions. Yet others admire its emphasis on justice and mercy, without any inclination to delve into obscure non-canonical texts.
Noah is a film which teases out the issues of good and evil, love, discerning the will of God, temptation, choice and free will, and in that way is a cut above many current films.