Noah is a 2014 American epic biblical drama film directed by Darren Aronofsky and inspired by the Biblical story of Noah's Ark from the Book of Genesis. Noah, which was co-written by Aronofsky and Ari Handel, stars Russell Crowe as Noah, along with Jennifer Connelly, Emma Watson, Ray Winstone, Logan Lerman, Douglas Booth, and Anthony Hopkins. The film was released in North American theaters on March 28, 2014, in 2D and IMAX, while a version converted to 3D and IMAX 3D was released in several other countries.
Noah received generally positive reviews from critics and grossed over $362 million worldwide, making it Aronofsky's highest-grossing film to date. It was praised for its direction and performances, but generated controversy and was banned in several Muslim countries because it was seen as contradicting the teachings of Islam.
As a young boy, Noah witnesses his father, Lamech, killed by a young Tubal-cain. Many years later, an adult Noah is living with his wife Naameh and their sons Shem, Ham, and Japheth. After seeing a flower grow instantly from the ground and being haunted by dreams of a great flood, Noah takes them to visit his grandfather Methuselah.
They encounter a group of people recently killed and take in and adopt the lone survivor, a girl named Ila, as their daughter. Ila is treated for a serious abdominal wound and will survive, but Naameh determines that she will be unable to have children. Noah and his family are chased by the murderers and seek refuge with the fallen angels known as the "Watchers", in whose territory Methuselah lives. The Watchers are confined on Earth as stone golems for helping humans banished from the Garden of Eden. Methuselah gives Noah a seed from Eden and tells Noah that he was chosen for a reason. Returning to his tent that night, Noah plants the seed in the ground. The Watchers arrive the next morning and debate whether they should help Noah until they see water spout from the spot where Noah planted the seed. Once a forest grows instantly, the Watchers agree to help Noah and his family build an ark.
After birds fly to the ark, Tubal-cain arrives with his followers and confronts Noah. Noah defies Tubal-cain and remarks that there is no escape for the line of Cain. Tubal-cain retreats and decides to build weapons to defeat the Watchers and take the ark. As the ark nears completion, animals of various species enter the ark and are put to sleep with incense.
With Ila having become enamored of Shem, Noah goes to a nearby settlement to find wives for Ham and Japheth but, seeing the settlers selling their daughters for food, he abandons his effort and begins believing that the Creator wants all of humanity dead. Back at the ark, he tells his family that he will not seek wives for his younger sons. After the flood, they will be the last humans and there will be no new human generations.
Devastated that he will be alone his entire life, Ham runs into the forest. Naameh begs Noah to reconsider but, when he will not, she goes to Methuselah for help. Later, in the forest, Ila encounters Methuselah who cures her infertility. Meanwhile, Ham, searching for a wife on his own, befriends the refugee Na'el.
After it starts raining, Tubal-cain becomes angry that he was not chosen to be saved and incites his followers to make a run for the ark. Noah finds Ham in the forest and forces Ham to save himself, but leaves Na'el to die when she is caught in an animal trap one of the sinners set. Noah's family enter the ark except for Methuselah, who remains in the forest and is swept away by the rushing waters just as he finds a single, delicious berry to eat. The Watchers fight off Tubal-cain and his mob of followers, sacrificing themselves and ascending to heaven, their reward for protecting the by now somewhat crazed Noah. As the flood drowns the remaining humans, an injured Tubal-cain climbs onto the ark and solicits Ham, playing on anger toward Noah for allowing Na'el to die.
Ila discovers that she is pregnant as the rains stop and begs the Creator to let the child live. Noah interprets the ending of the rain to mean he must ensure the extinction of humans and, against his wife's protests, resolves that, if the child is a girl, he will kill her. Months pass, and Ila and Shem build a raft to escape Noah's resolve, but Noah discovers and burns it. Ila then starts feeling labor pains and gives birth to twin girls. In the meantime Ham has called Noah telling him the beasts are awake and eating each other. Tubal-cain emerges and attempts to hit Noah. Noah and Tubal-cain engage in combat. Shem promises Ila that Noah will not harm their daughters and goes to stop him. He attacks Noah as Tubal-cain falls to the ground only to be knocked out. Tubal-cain eventually forces Noah to the edge of the raft, but Ham kills him with a dagger before he can shove Noah in the ocean. Noah picks himself up and immediately goes to find Ila and the babies. He is confronted by his wife who lies and tells him it was a boy but he does not believe her. He goes to find Ila on top of the ark, she cries and tells him to wait to kill them until she can calm them down as she doesn't want them to die crying. Noah prepares to stab Ila's twins, but he spares them upon looking at his granddaughters and only feeling love.
Upon exiting the ark on the new land, a shameful Noah goes into isolation in a nearby cave, making wine in which to drown his sorrows. Ham expresses disappointment for his father's current state of unseemly drunkenness and nakedness before leaving his kin to live alone. Having reconciled at the behest of Ila, Noah blesses the family as the beginning of a new human race and all witness waves of immense celestial rainbows.
Aronofsky first became interested in the story of Noah in the seventh grade. As part of a creative writing assignment, he submitted a poem about Noah entitled "The Dove". Years later, after finishing the movie Pi, Aronofsky was searching for ideas for his next movie and thought that a movie about Noah would be a good idea. Work on the script began in 2000 but Aronofsky put the project on hold when he learned Hallmark was already working on a similar movie. Work on the draft resumed sometime later, and a first draft was completed in 2003.
In adapting the story for a feature film Aronofsky struggled with how to adapt it to feature length—the story in the Bible is only four chapters and does not include names for his wife or his sons' wives. The text does mention Noah getting drunk after the flood and getting into an altercation with one of his sons, which provided Aronofsky and his team with ideas into what events could have taken place on the ark.
Aronofsky first discussed Noah with The Guardian in April 2007, explaining that he saw Noah as "a dark, complicated character" who experiences "real survivor's guilt" after the flood. Aronofsky was working on early drafts of the script for Noah around the time his first attempt to make The Fountain fell through when actor Brad Pitt left the project.
Ari Handel—Aronofsky's collaborator on The Fountain, The Wrestler, and Black Swan—helped Aronofsky develop the script. Before they found financial backing for Noah, they collaborated with Canadian artist Niko Henrichon to adapt the script into a graphic novel. The first volume of the graphic novel was released in the French language by Belgian publisher Le Lombard in October 2011 under the title Noé: Pour la cruauté des hommes (Noah: For the Cruelty of Men). After the creation of the graphic novel, Aronofsky struck a deal with Paramount and New Regency to produce a feature film of Noah with a budget of $130 million. Screenwriter John Logan was asked to re-draft the script alongside Aronofsky but is not credited for his contributions.
In October 2012, Emma Watson commented on the setting of the film: "I think what Darren's going for is a sense that it could be set in any time. It could be set sort of like a thousand years in the future or a thousand years in the past. ... You shouldn't be able to place it too much."
Aronofsky had previously offered the role of Noah to Christian Bale and Michael Fassbender, both of whom were unable to take the part due to previous commitments. Bale went on to star as Moses in Ridley Scott's religious epic film Exodus: Gods and Kings.
Liam Neeson, Liev Schreiber, and Val Kilmer were also considered for the part of Tubal-cain. Aronofsky reportedly wanted an actor "with the grit and size to be convincing as he goes head-to-head against Crowe's Noah character".
Filming also took place in New York state. A set representing Noah's Ark was built at the Planting Fields Arboretum in Upper Brookville, New York. In September 2012, while on break from a location on Long Island, Russell Crowe and a friend, both of whom had been kayaking for several hours, were rescued by the Coast Guard near Cold Spring Harbor. Production was put on hold while Hurricane Sandy subjected New York to heavy rain and flooding during late October 2012.
Post-production lasted over 14 months, with Aronofsky attempting some of the most complicated and extensive effects ever used in film. Industrial Light and Magic (ILM) said their work on the film represented "the most complicated rendering in the company's history."
To make the fallen angels' movements realistic, VFX supervisor Ben Snow and Aronofsky studied footage of real ballet dancers from the director’s Oscar-winning drama Black Swan. Snow and ILM also teamed for the movie's water scenes. "We created this great effect of geysers from the ground shooting water that meets rain falling to Earth," said Snow. "That’s the thrill: to create something you’ve never done, or something people have never seen."
Regarding the film's extensive use of visual effects, Aronofsky said he and his crew "had to create an entire animal kingdom" using no real animals in the production but instead "slightly tweaked" versions of real creatures. Besides the fictional land-based animals in the film, ILM was also responsible for creating the Watchers, the forest that sprouted from the seed, the deluge sequence during the battle between the Watchers and Tubal-cain and his army, and the two-minute-long sequence of the history of Earth's creation.
The musical score for Noah was composed by Clint Mansell, who scored the music for all of Aronofsky's previous feature films, and is performed by Kronos Quartet. A soundtrack album was released by Nonesuch Records on March 26, 2014.
The score also features an original song by Patti Smith, which is a lullaby sung by both Russell Crowe and Emma Watson's characters during the film. Smith performs the song herself over the end credits.
The president of the National Religious Broadcasters stated that the Noah film includes "major biblical themes" including "sin, judgment, righteousness, and God as Creator." In addition, the film promotes the concept of evolutionary creation. Ari Handel, the scriptwriter for the Noah film stated that
The story of Noah starts with this concept of strong justice, that the wickedness of man will soon be met with justice, and it ends when the rainbow comes and it says, even though the heart of man is filled with wickedness, I will never again destroy the world... So it ends with this idea of mercy. God somehow goes from this idea of judging the wickedness to mercy and grace. So we decided that was a powerful and emotional arc to go through, and we decided to give that arc to Noah.
Commenting on God's mercy, Wesley Hill in First Things notes that "near the end of the film, Emma Watson’s character, Ila...says to Noah that perhaps God preserved him because God knew that he had a merciful heart", "the film ends up locating the rationale for God’s mercy in some native spark of goodness in Noah that will, viewers hope, make the new, post-flood world more livable than the antediluvian one."
In mid-2013, Aronofsky and Paramount began sparring over final cut, with Paramount seeking to test unfinished, unscored, and alternate cuts of the film despite Aronofsky's objections. Paramount proceeded with test-screening the film nonetheless, prompting "worrisome" responses from largely religious audiences in October 2013. "They tried what they wanted to try, and eventually they came back. My version of the film hasn't been tested... It's what we wrote and what was green-lighted." After much discussion and compromise, the studio announced on February 12 that Darren Aronofsky's version, not any of the studio's alternate versions, would be the final cut of Noah.
Under pressure from Christian religious groups, Paramount Pictures added a disclaimer to marketing materials in February 2014, saying:
"The film is inspired by the story of Noah. While artistic license has been taken, we believe that this film is true to the essence, values and integrity of a story that is a cornerstone of faith for millions of people worldwide. The biblical story of Noah can be found in the book of Genesis."
Noah had its world premiere in Mexico City on March 10, 2014. In North America, the film grossed a little over $43.7 million during its opening box office weekend, becoming Aronofsky's highest opening weekend and his first film to open at No. 1. The opening weekend was also the biggest ever for Russell Crowe as a lead actor.
Overseas, the film's releases in Russia and Brazil were the largest-ever for a non-sequel, and were the fourth-biggest openings of all time with $17.2 million and $9.8 million, respectively. The opening in Russia was the largest-ever for a Paramount film. In South Korea, the film grossed $1.1 million on its opening day, the highest in 2014 for the territory.
Noah grossed $101.2 million in North America and $261.4 million in other countries, making a worldwide gross of $362.6 million. The film was declared "an unmitigated hit… by almost every measure."
In connection with the release of the film in North America, Aronofsky commissioned artists to create original works inspired by the Biblical story of Noah, stating that "The Noah story belongs to all of us—every religion, every culture, every citizen of planet Earth." The collection, titled Fountains of the Deep: Visions of Noah and Flood was open to the public for the month of March 2014 in the Soho district of New York City. Contributing artists included Ugo Rondinone, Karen Kilimnik, Mike Nelson, Nan Goldin, Jim Lee, Robert Liefeld, Jim Woodring, Simon Bisley, graffiti duo FAILE and James Jean.
On the eve of the film's release in Reykjavik, Iceland, Aronofsky teamed up with Björk to host an environmental benefit concert in response to proposed anti-conservationist policy changes by the Icelandic government, with guest performances by Björk, Patti Smith, Lykke Li, Russell Crowe, and Of Monsters and Men.
The review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes reported a 76% approval rating with an average rating of 6.7/10 based on 224 reviews. The website's consensus reads, "With sweeping visuals grounded by strong performances in service of a timeless tale told on a human scale, Darren Aronofsky's Noah brings the Bible epic into the 21st century." On Metacritic, the film has a score of 68 out of 100, based on 46 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews".
Movieline's Pete Hammond said that "It stays with you long after you leave the theatre. This 'Noah' is unlike any other film of its kind—an intimate and stirring new take on a biblical story we only thought we knew."[unreliable source?] Peter Travers of Rolling Stone said of the film: "a film of grit, grace, and visual wonders that for all its tech-head modernity is built on a spiritual core... In this flawed, fiercely relevant film, wonders never cease." Time's Richard Corliss said, "Darren Aronofsky brings out wild ambition and thrilling artistry to one of the Old Testament's best-known, most dramatic, least plausible stories- Noah and the Ark- with Russell Crowe infusing the role of God's first seaman and zookeeper with all his surly majesty."
Kathleen Parker, writing in The Washington Post, called the movie "Noah's Arc of Triumph" and said of the film: "If you like Braveheart, Gladiator, Star Wars, The Lord of The Rings, Indiana Jones, or Titanic, you will like Noah. If you like two or more of the above, you will love Noah."
The movie also had its detractors. IndieWire claimed "Aronofsky's worst movie is an epic misfire that, like the source material, offers plenty of lessons even if you don't buy the whole package." The Wrap called the film "Darren Aronofsky's Biblical Waterworld". The New Yorker's David Denby wrote: "Darren Aronofsky's 'Noah'- an epic farrago of tumultuous water, digital battle, and environmentalist rage... is the craziest big movie in years. 'Noah' may not make much sense, but only an artist could have made it."
The film was challenged for its lack of non-white characters. Reverend Wil Gafney, associate professor of Hebrew and Old Testament at the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia, sees the film as a throwback to the Hollywood era of all white casts and considers it worrisome in today's more multi-ethnic America. She goes on to state that "The Bible is the most multicultural piece of literature that most people will ever read. So a film about the Bible should reflect that diversity."
Efrem Smith, of Los Angeles-based World Impact, critiques the film as a throwback to the 1956 classic The Ten Commandments, where an all-white cast played Moses and Pharaoh. Smith states that Noah deals with the curse of Ham by "simply erasing people of color from the story."
Anthea Butler, an associate professor of religious studies at the University of Pennsylvania, said the casting choices send a worrying message: "It's a world where only white people get saved... this doesn't look like the world that God created."
However, "fittingly for a Biblical story", two of the characters are played by Jewish actors (Jennifer Connelly and Logan Lerman). Co-writer Ari Handel addressed the issues around race in an interview, where he stated, "From the beginning, we were concerned about casting, the issue of race. What we realized is that this story is functioning at the level of myth, and as a mythical story, the race of the individuals doesn't matter."
Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury and leader of the worldwide Anglican Communion, called the Noah film "interesting and thought-provoking" after the film's lead star, Russell Crowe travelled to Lambeth Palace in order to discuss with him "faith and spirituality" after the movie's British premiere. In addition, several Christian organizations have expressed support for the Noah film, "including leaders from organizations like the American Bible Society, National Catholic Register, The King's College, Q Ideas, Hollywood Prayer Network, and Focus on the Family." Focus on the Family president Jim Daly stated that: "[Noah] is a creative interpretation of the scriptural account that allows us to imagine the deep struggles Noah may have wrestled with as he answered God’s call on his life. This cinematic vision of Noah’s story gives Christians a great opportunity to engage our culture with the biblical Noah, and to have conversations with friends and family about matters of eternal significance." Cultural commenter Fr. Robert Barron praised the film for its inclusion of "God, creation, providence, sin, obedience, salvation: not bad for a major Hollywood movie!"
Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, an orthodox Jewish rabbi leader, hailed Noah as "a valuable film, especially for our times." In order to create "a story that tries to explicate Noah's relationship with God and God's relationship with the world as it has become", director of the film Darren Aronofsky himself stated that he was working in "the tradition of Jewish Midrash".
Noah has also been the subject of controversy with Christians who take issue with how the story has been portrayed. Ken Ham and Ray Comfort, both young earth creationists, objected to the film, with the latter apologist creating his own documentary, Noah and the Last Days as a response. The director angered many in the religious community by stating that his version of "Noah" was the "least-biblical biblical film ever made". Despite references to "The Creator", some still disliked the movie because God is not mentioned by name. Jerry Johnson, president of the National Religious Broadcasters, did not like the director's description of Noah as the "first environmentalist". Johnson called the film's "insertion of the extremist environmental agenda" a major concern. Christian blogger Michael Snyder claims that the film "promotes the Luciferian Gnostic belief that the Creator of this world is evil".
Producer Scott Franklin told Entertainment Weekly, "Noah is a very short section of the Bible with a lot of gaps, so we definitely had to take some creative expression in it. But I think we stayed very true to the story and didn't really deviate from the Bible, despite the six-armed angels." Kevin Hall, Ph.D., professor of biblical and theological studies and the Ida Elizabeth and J.W. Hollums chair of Bible at Oklahoma Baptist University observed that "the story in Genesis is extremely concise, so some creativity with the tale—especially by Hollywood—is hardly a surprise."
The film was banned in Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Malaysia, and Indonesia prior to its release because it is seen by the governments of those countries as contradicting the teachings of Islam. A representative of Paramount Pictures stated, "Censors for Qatar, Bahrain and the UAE officially confirmed this week that the film will not release in their countries." The film was also disapproved by the Al-Azhar University in Egypt since it violates Islamic law and could "provoke the feelings of believers". Mohammad Zareef from Pakistan's Central Board of Film Censors said they tended to steer clear of films with a religious theme, adding, "We haven't seen it yet, but I don't think it can go to the cinemas in Pakistan." However, the DVD release will be available in Pakistan. In many Islamic juristic schools, the portrayal of prophets such as Noah is forbidden.
The coastguard officers lifted the pair and their kayaks into the boat and ferried them to Huntington Bay, 10 miles from where the pair had set out on their trip.
For instance, at one point Noah is preaching to his family and telling the story of creation – one that is presented through an evolutionary lens, albeit a theistic one.
I think it is a valuable film, especially for our times.
Working in what he calls "the tradition of Jewish Midrash" (stories based on the Bible by scholars), in which he and Handel work to fill gaps in the biblical narrative, Aronofsky created a story that tries to explicate Noah's relationship with God and God's relationship with the world as it has become.
Oscar-winning actor Russell Crowe has urged Pope Francis to watch his biblical epic "Noah," but Christian evangelist and award-winning filmmaker Ray Comfort says the "sensational" film cannot be called a "biblical adventure." Comfort has produced his own version of "Noah."
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