Headlined by Russell Crowe, this super budget semi-Bible adaption needs CG rock monsters to tell its story. Because, that’s why.
Filmmaker Darren Aronofsky creates a different kind of biblical epic with Noah, one that is more action blockbuster than sobering religious narrative. A star-studded cast headlined by Russell Crowe, Jennifer Connelly, and Emma Watson tackle the story of Noah and his ark. This is not the tale as it’s told in the Bible – Aronofsky’s Noah colors way outside the lines in an attempt to add dramatic appeal and possibly re-invent its themes for a less religious audience. What it does accomplish for a reported $130 million is a visually stunning spectacle that makes for decent entertainment.
The sweeping visuals and large-scale action would mean nothing if the story didn’t work. Despite an overwrought final act laden with emotional acting, this unorthodox telling of Noah’s family and the great flood is largely compelling. Russell Crowe looks more invested in the titular role as the biblical patriarch than any in recent memory. It is some of his best work in years, as he portrays Noah’s struggles in keeping with the Creator’s mission to destroy the world corrupted by man and start over. This film takes the curious choice of calling God the “Creator” instead of his more familiar names.
While the basic story of Noah is grounded in a kind of Judeo-Christian ethic, this version of Noah as a man is somewhat different than what most probably imagined from reading the story in a more religious context. Given more emotional texture than expected, this Noah is driven to follow the Creator’s plan without regard for his own needs. He comes to believe the human race doesn’t deserve this world and forcefully plans to end them, even if it means killing his own loved ones. It’s a plan that drives him into eventual conflict with his wife Nameeh (Jennifer Connelly) and adopted daughter, As Il-La (Emma Watson).
It wouldn’t be a big blockbuster without an arch-villain, Noah’s nemesis Tubal Cain (Ray Winstone). Cain represents wicked people destined to be destroyed. One of the weaker elements in Noah is when Cain alone sneaks onto the ark, rescued from the great flood. I am not sure that Winstone got the same memo as the rest of the cast; it’s a hammy performance as the lone antagonist. Anthony Hopkins has a strange part as Methusela, Noah’s grandfather. It’s a name familiar to Bible readers, though Hopkins plays the oldest living man like one of his stock characters instead of a more conservative approach.
No one will dispute that Noah looks impressive. The digital effects are great with several interesting time-lapse shots. Spicing up the narrative are the addition of rocky creatures to the biblical tale, supposedly fallen angels entrapped in rock called the Watchers. They suspiciously look like leftover CGI creatures from Harry Potter but they do help to provide some of the movie’s best action.
Noah is not going to be shown in churches or used as study material for Bible classes. It’s a big Hollywood blockbuster loosely using the familiar story. Layered with more depth than is typical for this type of film, Russell Crowe’s performance elevates it above the usual mindless fare. Brimming with intelligence, one can enjoy the film even if they don’t agree with all its sentiments.
No one will question the fabulous and often stunning video found in Noah. Paramount delivers a demo-worthy spectacle on this Blu-ray presentation. The main feature runs a lengthy 137 minutes, encoded in AVC with satisfactory compression standards. Framed in the intended 1.85:1 aspect ratio, the 1080P video has spectacular definition and extraordinary detail. The epic film will satisfy videophiles and casual fans alike with its nearly flawless picture.
Some of the time-lapse imagery is truly stunning. The transfer is beautifully unfiltered, exhibiting incredible levels of razor-sharp detail in tighter shots. Every penny spent ends up on screen. Given the amount of CGI and digital composites to create Noah’s world, there are virtually no seams hanging out in this demo-quality picture.
Noah’s immense depth and dimensionality in the cinematography produces outstanding definition which leaps off the screen. Its digital color-grading walks the line of restraint, preferring a less vibrant palette drained of the brighter primary colors. There might be a little unnecessary teal but flesh-tones remain decidedly neutral. Black levels are impressive, layered with fantastic shadow detail.
This is a reference disc that should be one of the best-looking BDs released all year. Some might be disappointed to find out a 3-D Blu-ray version is available in some European markets, completely absent from the American market.
If one thought the video was great, Noah’s audio might be even more impressive. The 7.1 DTS-HD MA soundtrack has a powerful mix on par with the best mega blockbusters. Bursting with deep bass and incredible fidelity, the soundfield is alive as water swirls around the listener. It’s a critical part of enjoying the film and delivers in spades, featuring pinpoint sound cues and immersive directionality. The sound design does not stray far from the expected cacophony of crashing waves and loud explosions, but adds a nice touch of ambiance to Noah’s world. It’s not the best audio presentation on Blu-ray but certainly qualifies as a vigorous test of your home theater system.
The included dubs are fine-sounding French (Canada) Dolby Digital 5.1, Portuguese Dolby Digital 5.1, and Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 mixes for lossy audio. The following optional subtitles display in a white font: English, English HoH, French, Portuguese and Spanish.
The three included featurettes are more substantial affairs than what we normally get these days. Like some other big Hollywood movies, there are several alternate versions found at various retailers. Best Buy carries an exclusive steelbook, while Target has a bonus disc with added featurettes (The Watchers, Noah’s Score, Special Make-up FX on Noah, Sounds of Noah) and collectible wood packaging.
A slipcover is available while supplies last. This combo set also includes a DVD version of the film and both an UltraViolet copy and iTunes digital copy.
Iceland: Extreme Beauty (20:40) – A meaty featurette detailing the challenges of filming in Iceland and how it helped shape the creation of Noah. Some interesting behind-the-scenes footage adds the proper amount of context.
The Ark Exterior: A Battle For 300 Cubits (19:46 in HD) – More on-set footage of building the Ark and the struggles in coming up with something faithful to the story.
The Ark Interior: Animals Two By Two (19:55 in HD) – A look inside the Ark and how it was constructed.
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Click on the images below for full resolution screen captures taken directly from the Blu-ray. Images have not been altered in any way during the process.
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Now that it’s out in the wild at retail, it is looking more and more like the Target exclusive is the way to go with Noah. Here are the included featurettes found on it:
Iceland: Extreme Beauty (27:18)
The Ark Exterior: A Battle for 300 Cubits (27:48)
The Ark Interior: Animals Two by Two (22:08)
The Watchers (13:11)
Special Makeup FX of Noah (10:15)
Noah’s Score (14:28)
The Sounds of Noah (10:02)
The critical thing to notice beyond the additional featurettes? The three included featurettes from the standard edition are actually longer on the Target disc.