‘Noah’ Review: Don’t Be Afraid of the Ark


Movie Rating:


The most remarkable aspect of Darren Aronofsky’s ‘Noah’ is simply the fact that it exists. It’s not supposed to be possible for an idiosyncratic director to get a massive blockbuster budget to make a challenging and thought-provoking movie, no matter how many battle scenes are wrapped around the ideas. More than that, such a movie certainly shouldn’t take source material out of ‘The Bible’ and then take great liberties with that material to suit the filmmaker’s intent rather than church rhetoric. And yet, somehow ‘Noah’ exists. Flawed though it may be, it’s both a fascinating directorial experiment and a satisfying blockbuster.

If you know the Noah story, you know the basics of the movie… and yet you don’t. Russell Crowe indeed plays the descendant of Adam who’s tasked by God to build an ark to save two of every creature on the planet from an apocalyptic flood. Except, in Aronofsky’s version, the message from God comes not from a voice in the heavens, but via two hallucinatory visions: one in a dream and another provided by his father’s (Anthony Hopkins engagingly overacting as only he can) hallucinogenic tea. Then, when Noah starts constructing his ark with his family (Jennifer Connelly, Logan Lerman, Douglas Booth, and an adopted Emma Watson), fallen angels in the form of rock monsters assist in the task. Good thing too, since Ray Winstone soon arrives leading a tribe of filthy heathens that Noah and his rock army must viciously fight off.

So, it’s certainly a very different version of the story – one rooted equally in blood-and-guts fantasy epics as much as Biblical tales. But those changes to the story are just the ones you’ll see in the trailers. Aronofsky’s most daring work is more character driven and comes after the flood. His Noah isn’t just a badass/savior, but also a deeply flawed man perfectly portrayed by Russell Crowe, who has finally decided to do some acting in a movie after a few years of coasting.

Unable to call up his creator for advice, Noah toils and tortures away under the burden of his task. When his son questions why he can’t save a woman to be his wife in the new world, a screw comes loose in Noah’s head and he becomes convinced that his task is to supervise the death of humanity. He lets his son’s possible partner get trampled to death during the great ark battle. When an unexpected child is born on the ark, he decides that he must murder the infant at birth. Aronofsky’s Noah isn’t merely a savior chosen by God, but a lost servant driven to the brink of madness by an impossible task. It’s a fascinating interpretation of the story, and one that only this director could have imagined.

The film feels very much like Aronofsky’s attempt to make the philosophical action epic that he was unable to properly develop in ‘The Fountain‘. Sadly, much like in that film, the director’s ambition often outweighs his creation. ‘Noah’ features some of the finest filmmaking of Aronofsky’s career (in particular, an absolutely astonishing sequence visualizing the “intelligent design” version of creation from the Big Bang through primate evolution), but also suffers from his jackhammer sense of subtlety, his weakness for melodrama, and his unnatural dialogue rhythms.

Admittedly, all of those problems are less overt in a Biblical fable suited to them, but they harm the picture all the same. Still, the fact that Aronofsky has managed to make a film that works both as a visceral fantasy action spectacle and a carefully thought-out deconstruction of a religious myth is a minor miracle. ‘Noah’ is certainly a film that demands to be seen and discussed in an over-caffeinated debate regardless of whether you love or loathe the results. We need more movies like that from Hollywood. Well done Aronofsky for pulling this off, and well done Paramount for backing the project. Whether or not the final result is perfect is beside the point. ‘Noah’ is fascinating, challenging and thrilling blockbuster filmmaking. That’s more than enough to qualify as a success.


  1. Marv Ka

    Warning: Warning: DO NOT take anyone to see this movie who has a heart condition, mental condition or is just plain normal. The movie is so “dark” and “nightmarish” it will cause one to shake at the end. This movie is “THE WORST” movie I have EVER seen in my life.

    If “Ar-Enuff-sky” read the biblical account of Noah totaling approximately four paragraphs, he must be completely illiterate or just plain egocentric. Here are a few movie highlights:
    – “Transformer” type characters posing as fallen angels build the ark;
    – Noah is portrayed as a psychotic, homicidal, fundamentalist creep;
    – There is no joy in this movie; just a lot of screaming, blood, and blasphemy;
    – The 3 sons are not married upon entering the ark;
    – Methuselah performs acts of wizardry making a barren woman fertile;
    – Noah schemes to kill twin daughters of Shem;
    – The ark has many entrances and TubalCain makes a hole in the side which remains unrepaired.
    – The animals “storm” the ark for entry as if they declared war and are promptly put to sleep by magic incense;
    – there is no communication between God and Noah in this movie; reference to God is “The Creator”;
    – Noah separates from his wife due to an inability to mentally deal with the flood;
    – Ham wanders off by himself without a wife.
    – Japheth is portrayed as approximately 12-13 years old when the ark rests and is unmarried.
    – Shem and his wife/girlfriend attempt to escape from the ark in a rustic designed pontoon until Noah sets it afire.
    By the way, where did Noah acquire his Jeans, at The Gap?

    This movie is not a telling of the biblical account. This movie is not an interpretation. This movie is a nightmare.

  2. Phil Brown

    To Marv:
    1) Calm down. Everything is going to be alright.
    2) Google the word “adaptation.” You might be surprised to learn that it’s different from “transcription.” Artists are allowed to interpret and invent.
    3) If this is the worst movie that you’ve ever seen, you clearly missed out on the 80s.

  3. Matt G.

    You just called the story of Noah a “Biblical fable?” I’m sorry you don’t believe it, but it did truly happen, but certainly not in the way this movie portrays.

    This movie is an utter disgrace and pure blasphemy. When I first heard last year of a movie coming out about Noah, I was excited to see what a large budget could do in fully visualizing this amazing part of the Bible. However, I realized this was Hollywood, and it wouldn’t be taken in the right direction. This is not what people need. We have enough people preaching a watered down gospel that makes it easier for the world to swallow and feel good about themselves. We don’t need a movie that turns Noah’s story into an action flick with vague metaphorical images and dialogue. I could pick apart everything I have read from the “rock giants” to the fact that God isn’t mentioned as such, but as the “Creator” (which he is, but this is deliberate by the film maker to not make a “religious” movie). However, that would be an insanely long rant. I’m just simply disgusted by this, and nothing is gained in watching this movie. I’m sure someone will respond and have something snarky or cynical to say about Christianity, but I’m glad I at least expressed my thoughts.

  4. Phil Brown

    Really? That actually happened. Hmmmm…but what about all those other religious texts that I’ve been told actually happened. I’m confused…

  5. I’m far from a Biblical scholar, but here’s GENESIS 6:4:

    “There were giants in the earth in those days; and also after that, when the sons of God came in unto the daughters of men, and they bare children to them, the same became mighty men which were of old, men of renown.”

    So there’s your ‘rock giants’ right there.

  6. enfilmigult

    I don’t have anything snarky to say about Christianity by response…except to note that it’s the rare comment like this I see that doesn’t end by virtually daring people to say something like that in response, and it usually seems like that’s just what the poster wants. Not sure what that’s about.

    No, what bugs me is that you said all this, up to and including “nothing is gained in watching this movie,” without even seeing the movie. No matter what it’s about or what you think you *would* hate about it if you saw it, that’s unfair. You’ve got no idea what there is to be gained in seeing it, you’re just pretty sure one specific thing (whatever message you wanted it to impart) isn’t. At least Marv Ka did the due diligence before critcizing a story about God killing off most of humanity for being dark.

  7. And now starts the religious blasphemy junk that I knew would hit all over the web after this movie came out. For one, its entertainment and just like a remake, this takes nothing away from your bible or the true telling of the story from it. Again its just a story and its up for interpretation just like any other story. Not much is said in the Bible about all of this really, I just read through it tonight with my wife and its very vague, yes Noah’s sons had wives and there were no mention “specifically” of rock giants/fallen angels helping out Noah, but guess what? Its a movie and its damn fine entertainment, some of the best I’ve seen this year.

    As for the Creator stuff, you do realize going back and reading more of the old Testament that he was referred to that quite a bit? How can you seriously come and tear apart a film like this, one, not even seeing it and two, not really even knowing what you’re talking about for sure.

    I’ve been a Christian for my entire life but you cant seriously tell me that everything put down in the Bible actually happened? Especially exactly the way they say it did? How bout you go back and read the part where Noah lived till he was 700 some years old? His grandfather lived longer than that, but God magically cursed us to have a life span of about 120 after all of that. So this movie is some kind of crazy blasphemy with wizardry going on when the Old Testament has quite a bit of “supernatural” goings on in it as well.

    People need to calm the hell down and realize its just entertainment, some of these people posting on my facebook page about Paganism and all this other garbage are as bad as the nutjobs that want to burn Harry Potter books because they promote witchcraft…..

  8. Andrew

    I saw it. Didn’t like it at all. If all mankind was supposed to die, as Noah mentions, and it was just the animals that were supposed to survive, why were Noah and his family spared? The rock giants could have just built the ark to save the animals…. (they did a majority of the work anyway)… made NO sense.

    • enfilmigult

      Heh, that was actually why I wasn’t too interested…as an allegory it’s quite a story, but as a literal series of events it’s totally ridiculous, and I couldn’t see how a film version would successfully get you to ignore that for two hours. Still want to check it out, but I’m not racing to see it in the theater.

    • I’m guessing you dont read the bible much? I dont either but its said that Noah is chosen and is special, along with his family and he’s set to save creation and start a new, pretty much like Adam and Eve. But its a story, along with so many other stories out there, its up to you whether you believe this happened or not and thats fine but dont hate on the movie because you dont understand what the story is really about. I would think by the end of the movie you would have figured out the reason Noah was chosen and his family spared

  9. Pete G

    To Chaz: Saying you’ve been a Christian your whole life and then in the same breath denying truth in the Bible is an kind of an oxymoron. So, let me put this in context. I am a born-again Christian who believes that saving faith in Jesus Christ is the ONLY way to go to Heaven. I believe that the Bible is inerrant (meaning no mistakes or untruths). Do I understand everything in it? Nope and I would challenge anyone who claims full understanding on every insight. That lack of understanding of some aspects doesn’t make it wrong. I don’t fully understand how my TV works, but magically, it doesn’t fail to work because I don’t fully grasp every nuance of electrical engineering.

    To Everyone: OK, with that said up front, I do really enjoy movies and have my whole life. Love big adventures films (Lord of the Rings), action films (Avengers) and so on. But there are a few areas of peoples lives that have a significant sensitivity and certainly faith is likely at the top of the list. Take the Ten Commandments movie with Charlton Heston. It takes many artistic liberties but doesn’t violate fundamental truths of God’s nature of what he did. Really like that movie. Heck, I really liked Bruce Almighty. That took a LOT of liberties, but didn’t make a mockery of God and the overall conclusion Bruce came to was a good one and consistent with the Christian faith (God can run our lives better than we can).

    The biggest problem with Noah is that it misrepresents who Gods is and THAT is something true Christians are never OK with. The movie taken in it’s own context makes no sense because it doesn’t represent the Biblical story almost at all, so he created this tortured, crazy hodgepodge of human misery and tried to wrap a ‘Creator’ in it. Noah=FAIL.

  10. I don’t understand why Christians have an issue with Aronofsky providing his interpretation of the story, when the Bible they study every Sunday is an interpretation of a translated text, which isn’t even the original text, but rather another translated version that itself was based on copied versions passed down through the ages.

    Of course, you’ll hear how carefully translated these works have been for thousands of years, but who are we kidding? Just watch a dubbed Japanese film and you’ll know we can’t even get translations right TODAY. 😉

  11. Chris W.

    I’m a Christian and I’m the only Christian in my family that wants to see the movie. I just think it looks like a fun, entertaining movie. No matter what or how many liberties were taken, it will not change my faith in God and Jesus Christ and my belief in the Bible. It’s just a movie. From what I’ve read, it dosent mock Chrisianity or God, it actually holds true to the ideals of the Noah story will taking some liberties for entertainment sake. If I can handle the Narnia movies, which are pretty heavy on the Christian themes but also have magic and magical creatures, I think I can handle this interpretation of Noah. If I avoided all movies that take liberties with there source material then I don’t think I’d see many movies. Even The Bible miniseries took liberties in places.

    I understand why some Christians are offended and I’m not out to criticize them but, it think we should be greatful that Biblical epics are being made again. As long as they don’t mock God or the Bible, I’ll give them a chance.

    The main thing I’d like to know is why did this not get a 3D release here in the States?

    • Couldnt agree with you more, an article I read talked heavily about how this was a very serious effort by everyone involved, not once did they make a mockery of the bible, they even built the Ark to full biblical scale. Aronofsky worked on this script for 16 years and its been one of his most sought after stories to tell.

      If you do some research you will find that even The Watchers are talked about in religious text, it might be more on the jewish side of things and not in the Bible, but its called the book of Enoch and almost everything about the mysticism, The Watchers and the industrialized state of the world back then is in there. Aronofsky did a ton of research and yes, pulled from different places and religions to tell a full tale about the man the bible barely goes into. The whole story is what? Four paragraphs? And you cant tell me that a MAN chosen by God/The Creator to save Creation and pretty much start a new, would be perfectly able to handle it all? Aronofsky making Noah a flawed human being just like us is really the meat behind the story, unfortunately the bible goes into nothing about really who Noah is, how he dealt with such a burden, what happened on the Ark after the flood, yeah pretty much nothing. But its all blasphemy and I’ve even heard Paganism to add to the story and bring in a different take?

      People need to really sit back and think about this, if you worry so much about an interpretation from Hollywood that was actually taken VERY seriously and promoted to the point of telling people to read the real story in the bible, you must have an issue with your own faith. if your faith is strong enough, some movie isnt going to change that and you shouldnt be worrying about it so much. its an extremely entertaining movie, its epic, thought provoking, dramatic and its one of the best movies I’ve seen this year, hands down

  12. Oh you literalists, this is why we can’t have nice things.

    Taking a large piece of text ancient text that has been edited, rewritten, translated, over and over again, that also contradicts itself in a number of places, as well as being chock full of obviously fantastical elements meant for narrative and not literal purposes, and then not only taking it literally, but getting mad that others do not, makes absolutely no sense to me.

    You want THAT kind of movie? Then go make it. In a funny way it does remind me of the over zealous hatred towards remakes and reboots form fans of the originals, as if the remake itself somehow wipes the old version out of existence.

  13. William Henley

    Finally saw the movie. This may sound weird coming from a Christian, but I really did not have any real issues with the movie. It was WEIRD though.

    Basically, the Noah story really only makes for about 30 minutes worth of material, unless you really want to drag out them being on the ark or something. The Noah story is pretty much there, unaffected.

    As I said, though, the Biblical telling of Noah is only good for about 30 minutes of material. This is a 2 and a half hour long movie. So there is this huge back story, as well as quite a few other liberties, taken with the movie. So, here is the issue – the writer / director / producer was an atheist, who seemed to have an enormous fascination with the story. In fact, I would say that he has a better handling on Genesis than most Christians / Jews. There were some things talked about that kind of surprised me. However, the writer / director / producer seems to have pulled from multiple sources, including some stuff such as Science of the Bible and Ancient Aliens. This leads to a strange story that feels more like I am watching an episode of Stargate than a Bible movie. Now, there is really nothing that I can point to that says “this is in direct contradiction to the Bible”, and there is really nothing I can point to from any other perspective to say “that did not happen, that is historically inaccurate”. Instead, we seem to have the story of Noah surrounded by a bunch of Discovery / History channel inspired weird theories.

    If you are looking for something strictly Biblical, you are going to be disappointed or even hate this movie – especially if you think Noah was a saint. If you are looking for an interesting take on a Bible story, this may be for you.

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