Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Noah (2014)

You know you just don’t see many biblical epics any more. The heyday for them was really back in the 1950s and 60s when cinemascope allowed directors to really show off these huge ancient worlds. These days, if you even dare attempt a biblical story… well most likely you’ll attract a bunch of ire from all kinds of folks. It’s a shame really, because for a film score fan, biblical epics provide some of the best Golden age film scores ever written. But I digress. Because honestly I didn’t think we’d get a Ben Hur style score from a biblical film directed by Darren Aronofsky.

You think you know the story of Noah (Russell Crowe) but you don’t know the fantasy adventure version of the story. Yes, Noah is told by his god that humans must be destroyed in a flood (via some really cool and surreal imagery). After confirming the vision with his grandfather Methuselah (Anthony Hopkins), Noah starts working on his ark with his wife Naameh (Jennifer Connelly) by his side.

As some family drama begins to affect the progress on the ark, a band of devious humans lead by Tubal-cain (Ray Winstone) fear that Noah may be right, and decide to build an army to take the ark. Why an army? You see Noah isn’t alone working on his construction; he has some enormous rock monsters (no, I’m not kidding) helping him out. But even if Noah survives the attack by the children of Cain, can he survive his own self-doubt? As the voyage continues Noah becomes more and more convinced that all human kind must die – including him and his family.

Good Points:
  • A serious attempt at biblical characters facing the end of their world
  • Some very good acting by the entire cast
  • Impressive visual effects

Bad Points:
  • Fantasy imagery ripped right from Jackson’s vision of Lord of the Rings
  • Gritty, dower and dreary… again
  • Clint Mansell’s score is distracting, in a bad way

I appreciate the idea of turning a biblical story into a full-fledged mythic event film. Basically this is your Clash of the Titans version of the Noah story. As neat as that is in concept, for some reason the final product doesn’t mesh. Turning Noah into an angst ridden, angry, bitter man feels like this film is aping Batman Begins. With the relentlessly dreary visual overtones and scenes cribbed right from The Two Towers it feels like a mish mash of other movies instead of being its own thing. I admire Aronofsky as a director, because his films feel very much like they are his own. This one… not so much.

Scores (out of 5)
Visuals: 4
Sound: 3
Acting: 4
Script: 3
Music: 2
Direction: 4
Entertainment: 3
Total:  3

Curious about a full review, sent me an email and I’ll make additional thoughts to this review.


  1. I'll admit when I first heard about this one I was flummoxed. It seemed sort of out of character or the norm for a Hollywood picture no less from Aronofsky. But I guess if you pause and examine it, it does seem like a superhero/disaster///Clash of the Titans epic. I might have to give it a watch just to see how I feel about it. I wonder if those rock creatures were really the robots in Interstellar in disguise?

    1. The rock creatures remind me a bit of Bay's version of the Transformers in visual design actually. But my wife and I kept referring to them as the rock creature that threatens Tim Allen in "Galaxy Quest". Or they could be The Inhumanoids, a 1980s toy!

  2. I haven't seen this, but I know what you mean about movies with themes from any mainstream religion. In our tetchy times they irk folks across the belief spectrum for various reasons. I might have gone with Deucalion and Pyrrha for that reason. We seem OK with Greek mythology, and Lucian's version even has the animals.

    Your mention of Ben Hur reminds me of a story. Gore Vidal was an uncredited screenwriter on the script, but everyone was having trouble with the motivations of Ben Hur and Messala. Messala's initial betrayal and the intensity of their clash are hard to fathom. Gore came up with the solution. "They weren't just childhood friends, they were lovers," he said, which Messala took seriously while Ben didn't; so Messala feels jilted when adult Ben is no longer interested. "We can't show that," Wyler objected. Gore said they didn't need to state it; it just had to be a subtext. Gore said Stephen Boyd got the point at once and incorporated longing looks into his scenes with Heston. Charlton Heston didn't, but that worked fine because Ben was supposed to be uninterested in that way.

    1. Yeah I'm not sure why the Greek myths get a pass, it is really bizarre. Maybe because there aren't too many cults of Zeus out there any more. Just cults to Azathoth. ;)

      I had no idea Vidal worked on the script. That's really neat. And that angle works great for the character of Messala as well as the actors. Thanks for the info!

  3. I still think of Noah and what it may have possibly been trying to do. It is full of pretty awesome abstract tripped out scenes, but also really bizarre moments, like that whole bit with Ham trying to roll into town and find himself a wife (without a spoiler, it doesn't go so well). On the topic of motivation, I think that's pretty murky for just about every character in this movie. But Methuselah the wacky grandpa was a delight.

    I'd love to talk about this film more. I'm not quite sure if it was good or not yet. That probably means it wasn't, to be honest, but it doesn't quite deserve its reputation for being total bunk

    1. I agree. I wouldn't put it up there on Aronofsky's top five or anything. But I liked a lot of the concepts and themes in it. My bigger issue was the relentlessly dreary tone. In a way I get it, because we are talking about the end of the human race here. But at the same time, I'm just tired of that dower feeling spreading into so many blockbusters. Not that Aronofsky makes happy films, but this one just seemed so one note all the way through, as opposed to "Black Swan" or "Pi".