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Blu-ray Review: 'Noah'

Russell Crowe in "Noah"
Russell Crowe in "Noah"
Yahoo Images

The Film:

There is perhaps no better-known Bible story than that of Noah’s Ark. It’s an amazing tale that takes a stretch of the imagination to believe, so who better to tell it than one of the most imaginative filmmakers working today? Darren Aronofsky has already shown how incredible he can be in the realm of storytelling in his masterpiece “The Fountain,” a film that crisscrossed through three different time periods, but now he takes us much further back to tell the epic tale of the cleansing and rebirth of mankind, a tale that delves deeper into the Noah legend than most others have explored before.

When we first meet Noah (Russell Crowe), he is living a somewhat peaceful life with his family, which includes his wife Naameh (Jennifer Connelly), and his two sons, Shem (Douglas Booth) and Ham (Logan Lerman). However, not all days are peaceful as he still has to deal with the wicked descendants of Cain that still roam the land. It’s not long after one of these encounters that he is given a vision from “The Creator” of a flood that will come and destroy mankind, which would allow for a new beginning for the planet. In order to make The Creator’s plan work, Noah is also given instructions that he is to build an ark, not only for his family, but also to house two of every creature on Earth so that they can repopulate the world after the flood. With help from a group of fallen angels known as “The Watchers,” he sets out to build the ark, but the descendants of Cain, led by Tubal-cain (Ray Winstone), are not about to stand by and allow themselves to be wiped out.

Aronofsky’s take on “Noah” is a fascinating adaptation that undergoes an amazing change about halfway through its runtime. The first half of the film, as I think it’s fair to say, is somewhat dull and languid as Noah tries to interpret his vision with the help of his grandfather (Anthony Hopkins), followed by the building of the ark. However, once the flood finally comes, it feels as though the story begins at last, mainly because it finally gives us a chance to delve into the characters. Most intriguing is the dichotomy of Crowe’s Noah, whom we see as the embodiment of good in the first half of the film, only to have that make a sudden switch in the second half when he believes his Creator has told him to do something that his family is shocked and appalled by. It provides for a much deeper look into the struggles that Noah must face as he tries to please both his god and his family, a struggle that appears rather one-sided as he continues to carry out his monumental task. In a sense, the film becomes a bit of a thriller as Noah’s family begins to turn against him, making you wonder just how everything is going to resolve itself.

Yes, there are amazing special effects, and Aronfosky’s direction is spectacular as it always is, but they’re only a part of what turns out to be an epic, yet intimate, character piece. This is a film that could have easily gotten overwhelmed with its flashier elements, but Aronfosky and his co-writer Ari Handel have made sure that the characters don’t get left behind, ultimately turning “Noah” into not only a feast for the eyes, but one for the mind as well.

Video/Audio:

“Noah” comes to Blu-ray in a 1.85:1, 1080p High Definition transfer of variable quality. For scenes set in daylight, the picture is perfectly sharp and clear, but for nighttime scenes the picture is very dark and a little blurry, making it hard to see much of anything. It’s unclear as to whether this is a problem with the picture not being enhanced enough or if it was simply a lighting issue during the filming of the movie. The 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio is one of the softest tracks I’ve ever heard on a Blu-ray. Even after turning it up higher than normal, much of the dialogue continued to be hard to hear, so a slightly more radical adjustment is needed than the usual in order to hear everything clearly. Once that’s taken care of, you are treated to a grand audio track that presents all elements in outstanding quality. Overall, there was a little work that needed to be done, especially on the video, but there are no problems that are overly-distracting when trying to enjoy the film.

Special Features:

  • Iceland: Extreme Beauty
  • The Ark Exterior: A Battle for 300 Cubits
  • The Ark Interior: Animals Two by Two

All three of these featurettes provide a fascinating look behind the scenes at the making of the film. Each one runs about 20 minutes and also includes in-depth interviews with the filmmakers, who take you through the process of filming in Iceland to the building of the massive exterior and interior sets of the ark. All of them are very much worth watching, particularly for the abundance of on-set footage.

Conclusion:

“Noah” starts off a little rocky in its first half, but soon grows into a much grander film that manages to be both an epic and intimate character piece. Aronofsky has done an amazing job bringing this ancient tale to the big screen, giving us not only the part of the story that everyone knows, but also delving deeper into Noah’s struggles between faith and family. Again, this is an epic that could easily have gotten lost in spectacle, but Aronofsky has managed to balance things just right, making for a thrilling and touching cinematic experience.

Score: 3.5/5

Available on Blu-ray and DVD starting tomorrow.

Recent Blu-ray/DVD releases: Transcendence, The Angriest Man in Brooklyn, Cesar Chavez, Rio 2, Under the Skin, Open Grave, Deadly Eyes, Jodorowsky's Dune, Lake Placid, Nymphomaniac, Afflicted, House of Cards: Season Two, The Lego Movie, Ernest & Celestine, 13 Sins, Joe, Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit, Tim's Vermeer, Alan Partridge, RoboCop (2014), Alexander: The Ultimate Cut, Ravenous, Son of God, The Rodgers & Hammerstein Collection, Stalingrad, The Monuments Men, Pompeii

Now playing in theaters: How to Train Your Dragon 2, The Amazing Spider-Man 2, Captain America: The Winter Soldier

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