From its inception, the film adaptation for the story of Noah’s Ark proved to be a daunting task. Not only is it one of the oldest, most recognizable, and well-known stories in the history of mankind, but for billions of people, it represents a piece of their faith, which defines their very existence. Mess it up and all hell breaks loose.
The story is known on a basic level by most people today. Disappointed with the path man has followed, the Creator decides to wipe clean the Earth with a flood and start anew with two of every animal. To ensure their survival, the Creator visits the good-hearted Noah in a dream, telling him of his plans and recruiting him to build an ark that would keep everyone on board alive until the waters settle.
In this version of the tale, Noah (Russell Crowe, Gladiator) brings his wife, Naameh (Jennifer Connelly, Blood Diamond), and his sons Shem, Ham, and Japeth, to visit his grandfather (Anthony Hopkins, The Silence of the Lambs) for advice. Grandfather Methuselah gives Noah a seed to plant an enormous forest that supplies him with wood for the ark, while providing effectively enjoyable comic relief in all of his appearances. With the help of fallen angels turned stone giants and a little girl left for dead, named Ila, Noah and his family spend the next decade building the enormous ark.
Barbaric descendants of Cain come to demand their place on the ark, forcing Noah to explain to them that they’re the reason the flood is coming in the first place. The group retreats with the intention of fortifying an army to claim the ark. Meanwhile, Noah’s son Ham (Logan Lerman, The Perks of Being a Wallflower) becomes angry for not having a wife, while he witnesses the love between his older brother Shem and Ila (Emma Watson, Harry Potter).
As the storm nears, Noah begins to believe God wants all humans, including his family, dead. This complicates things when Ila gets pregnant. But Noah’s first and primary task is guaranteeing the survival of the animals on board his ark, which becomes difficult as the descendants of Cain come to battle right as the storm starts.
When a story is written more than 2,000 years ago, it doesn’t matter how “timeless” it is – it will need some sort of update if it’s going to cater to modern movie audiences. Because of that, it’s no surprise that a few changes were made to the story to add some excitement and to keep the interest of the 21st century viewers. Not all of these changes went over well in my eyes. The one that stuck out most to me was turning Noah into somewhat of a villain.
Noah has been considered a hero for millennia, and in this movie, he makes many decisions that cost the lives of many innocent people, and almost claim those of two others. Giving a man still held in such high regards a rather villainous and evil spin, regardless of your belief in the man’s true existence, was a bold move that I didn’t see as successful. His actions become so upsetting that his own two sons try to kill him, and in a moment of subpar acting by Connelly, is told by his wife that his actions will push away everyone he loves. Another detracting element was the movie’s decision to imply anyone who eats meat is an inhumane being who is considered unworthy in the eyes of God. I mean, did PETA sponsor this movie?
Where Noah succeeded most was in the decision to make the story reliant on visuals, almost turning the movie into a popcorn flick. Although the line between real story and cinematic beauty sometimes became blurred, Noah boasted highly impressive and creative designs for its visual effects without going to the graphic extent of such films as 300 or Sucker Punch. Not only that, but the costumes, set design and filming locations made the movie’s optical appeal its most commendable aspects. And while some in the audience might suffer through it, the creatively unique creation scene is worthy of a positive mention.
So even though Noah takes an unnecessarily dark turn towards the end of his own movie, the film itself benefits from mostly strong performances, visual innovation, and a fitting musical score. Making this story into a page-by-page adaptation from the Bible wouldn’t have been the best way to appeal to modern audiences, so they took a respectably serious but less firm approach; Noah became one of the best biblical film adaptations I’ve ever seen.