You might be wondering why ‘Noah’ is being reviewed here on ScienceFiction.com but think about this: I suggest a more accurate title for this epic drama from director Darren Aronofsky: ‘Transformers: Revenge of the Righteous’.
Yes, somehow a film about a guy who gets a message from God that tells him to build a huge ship to rescue every animal because a big, big rain is coming has been turned into a sci-fi epic complete with 15-foot tall rock creatures and an ark that could be shooting through space in 1972’s classic ‘Silent Running’.
Those 15-foot tall creatures are called Watchers and they’re are inspired by the Biblical “Nephilim”, except in the Bible these fallen angels are able to mate with humans. In ‘Noah’, however, they’re more like the love child of an Autobot and Ben Grimm/The Thing from ‘The Fantastic Four‘ and they’re just bizarre.
Noah is the last descendent of Seth, one of the three sons of Adam and Eve (the other two are Cain and Abel, the former of whom murdered the latter), and is chosen by God to save his family and all the innocent animals of the Earth from the apocalypse. We’ve seen this on screen before and when Noah’s grandfather Methuselah (Anthony Hopkins) fights off thousands of scroungy locals with his staff of power, it looks like something out of ‘Lord of the Rings’. I kept waiting for Gandalf to show up and say “Nice one, Methuselah!”
Noah (Russell Crowe) is married to Naameh (Jennifer Connelly) and they have three boys, Ham (Logan Lerman), Shem (Douglas Booth) and Japheth (Leo McHugh Carroll), but only one wife along for the journey, the rescued orphan Ila (Emma Watson) was added. The lack of wives causes great dramatic tension, as does the unlikely presence of the thuggish king Tubal-cain (Ray Winstone) who sneaks aboard the Ark and manages to hide in the furthest reaches for almost the entire voyage.
The film starts with a pretty neat high speed photo montage of the creation of the universe, the creation of Earth and the evolution of single-celled organisms into man. Then we meet Noah and it becomes clear that he is a gentle, righteous man in a world of dangerous roaming people who eat meat — horror! — and believe killing others is the ultimate proof of manhood.
Our man Noah has vivid and rather ambiguous dreams that inspire him to build the ark, and in a miraculous scene a small bubbling brook in the midst of a massive lava field begets a lush forest to supply wood for the ship. Oddly, the hoards of bad guys seem completely unfazed by this terraforming magic and harass the odd guy and his goofy, but impressive construction project.
Then there’s the epic battle scene which is perhaps the most unlikely part of the entire movie, when thousands of neatly dressed vandals rush and attack the great ship as the rain starts to pour. But wait! The Autobots, I mean Watchers, defend Noah and his family so they can get the ship underway. They may be 15-feet tall and made out of stones, however, but wily humans like King Tubal-cain can kill them. That’s okay, however, because the long-misunderstood proto-Nephilim then finally ascend back up to heaven.
The waters quickly rise and soon it’s an endless ocean and everything transpires in the surprisingly well-lit ship where it’s clear that Noah’s gone round the bend and is convinced that God wants humankind to end completely with his descendents. No babies, no breeding. Which proves awkward when Ila turns out to be pregnant.
Finally, as anyone who has knows the story will recall, the rain stops, a dove flies back with an olive branch and the ship lands on the top of a mountain. The waters gradually recede and, well, the humans reseed too, though not until Ila assures Noah that the death of everyone on Earth wasn’t his responsibility. Yes, shades of Ender from ‘Ender’s Game‘.
If you can accept the sometimes rather wild additions for dramatic purpose and the fanciful visual effects, then Noah is definitely an entertaining film. It’s just hard not to see the Watchers as Transformers and hard not to be confused about how a civilization from thousands of years ago ends up looking so darn much like the city-states of ‘Game of Thrones‘.
Yes, who knew that the story of Noah can be turned into a apocalytic sci-fi film. Apparently Aronofsky did.