‘Noah’ review: A weird acid trip retelling of Noah’s Ark

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'Noah' review: Russell Crowe as Noah
Russell Crowe as Noah in the self-titled movie

Movie synopsis

The big-screen adaptation of the Biblical story of Noah building an Ark after God instructed him to do so and told him He would destroy the earth in a Flood.

Noah review in a nutshell

Takes sacrilegious, cringy liberties with the story of Noah.

Would I recommend you watch it?

I’m trying to think of reasons why I would want to recommend anyone to watch Noah, but I can’t think of any. Seriously, just read the Bible story instead.

If you really want to satisfy your curiosity, click here to jump to the bottom for where you can watch Noah.

Otherwise, continue reading for a full, spoiler-filled review that’ll tell you how much I dislike it and why you shouldn’t watch it.

Full review of Noah (with major spoilers)

Noah is a visualisation of what Noah’s ark and the Flood would be like — if the storyteller was on acid. Directed by Darren Aronofsky, who’s known for making strange, fantastical arthouse films like Black Swan, The Fountain, Requiem for a Dream and Pi, Noah is his first project with a massive budget (US$125 million) meant for the regular moviegoing crowd, who would otherwise not be privy to his seemingly drug-induced visions of movies.

If you ignore the fact that it’s an adaptation of a Bible story, the movie isn’t all that bad. The score is potent with apocalyptic foreboding and the Inception horn (BRAAAAAM!), and the visual effects of the flood itself are spectacular — the heavens assailed the earth and the waters burst like geysers from the ground in terrible splendour; not to mention the Watchers (fallen angels who look like Transformers, if the Transformers were made out of rocks) defending the Ark from the condemned masses, which reminds me a little of the Ents attacking Isengard in The Two Towers. The time-lapse of Noah (Russell Crowe) telling the story of creation is gorgeous too, and possibly a coup to traditionalists hoping to see a film that celebrates the almighty power of God.

Noah facing the Flood before the Ark doors are closed
Noah facing the Flood before the Ark doors are closed

However, they took many liberties with the story. Which I probably shouldn’t mind so much, since people who look to Hollywood for authenticity should be laughed out of the theatre. But the liberties came in the form of Methuselah (Anthony Hopkins) being turned into some kind of voodoo mumbo-jumbo magic practitioner, and the introduction of the annoying, weepish Ila (Noah’s adopted daughter, later daughter-in-law, played by Emma Watson) and grunting, snarling villainous Tubal-cain (Ray Winstone), who gets away with being a stowaway on the ark. I don’t protest them because they are uncanonical (well, maybe a little); I protest them because they are overdramatic to a ridiculous degree.

Anthony Hopkins (Methuselah) and Emma Watson (Ila) in Noah
Anthony Hopkins (Methuselah) and Emma Watson (Ila) in Noah

Ham’s (Logan Lerman) anxiety and constant bugging of his father to find him a wife really got under my skin, even though I understood where he was coming from about wanting to procreate and all after the flood. (This problem didn’t exist in the Bible since all Noah’s sons were grown up and had wives by then.)

And mad Noah. Drunk and naked Noah is biblical — the Christians who protested that part obviously didn’t read their Bible properly — but mad, baby-murdering Noah certainly is NOT.

(Though seeing that the real Noah built the ark over a period of about 100 years or so, almost singlehandedly, with only the help of his family and no “fallen angels”, and then stayed cooped up in it for more than a year while waiting for the waters to recede, I suppose he had every cause to become insane. Still, the movie’s manufactured drama with killing the babies was WAY too much.)

Noah and his family
Noah and his family

And the dialogue! Of all things that they chose to *not* discard, they kept the stilted dialogue of the Bible. Even Jennifer Connelly’s aggrieved performance when confronting Noah about the babies (yes, the damn babies. Spare the babies! *eye-roll*) couldn’t save the fact that she had to spout off language so wooden and archaic I’m pretty sure even Adam and Eve didn’t use it.

*Please* let Exodus: Gods and Kings, the other big Hollywood biblical movie coming out end of this year, be done better. (Though they should have just stuck to calling it Exodus — the “Gods and Kings” secondary title makes it sound like a cheesy B-movie.) Moses’ story should be easier to tell, since it has more elements to it, and it has been done successfully before (re: The Ten Commandments; The Prince of Eygpt). And Christian Bale is in it.

Maybe in 10 years time I’ll grow to appreciate Noah. (Which would take them digitally erasing Ila and Tubal-cain and mad, baby-killing Noah out of the picture, but who knows, I may change my mind.) Right now, I can’t wait to forget ever watching it.

Where to watch Noah

Streaming services: Noah is on Netflix Singapore, but not Netflix US, Amazon Prime Video, or Hulu.

Rent/Buy: Get it on iTunes, Amazon, Vudu, Microsoft, FandangoNOW, Redbox

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