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Featured Blu-ray / DVD Review: Noah

July 27th, 2014

Noah - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray Combo Pack

Noah was a risky movie to make. It is a Bible Epic, which is to say, it uses a Bible story to tell an epic movie, as opposed to a faith-based film aimed at churchgoers. It was bound to offend that target audience, while being based on the Bible was bound to turn off those who get annoyed at those who get offended by films like Noah. Should either of these audiences give the film a second chance? Will it appeal to churchgoers? Is it an entertaining film, even for those who don't believe?

The Movie

I'm trying to figure out how much of the plot I need to get into. The movie is based on one of the most famous Bible stories, one so famous that even non-churchgoers will be familiar with it. The only thing most moviegoers will need to know is what the filmmakers did differently with the movie. However, what they did differently runs into spoiler territory.

After the prologue, which includes a very fast recap of the early verses of the Bible, we meet Noah and his family, including his wife, Naameh and his three sons: Shem, Ham, and the infant Japheth. They live a very difficult life scavenging small bits of lichen to eat. It seems men have destroyed the environment and the difficult life has made the surviving men turn to evil acts to survive, all but Noah and his family. While scavenging, Noah sees a sign. A single drop of rain that causes a flower to instantly grow. Later than night, he has a prophet dream and must go to his grandfather, Methuselah, to help him with his visions.

Noah and his family travel to Methuselah, but along the way see a family that was attacked by men with only one survivor, Ila, who appears to be mortally wounded, but Naameh is able to help her, with assistance from Shem. Unfortunately, the men that attacked her family return, and Noah and his family have to run to the land of the giants, the Watchers. (Essentially they are the fallen angels covered in rock.) The men are scared of the Watchers and run off. This is only momentarily relief, as the lead of the watchers, Samyaza, hates mankind, because mankind nearly hunted Watchers to extinction. It takes one blow to the head to render Noah unconscious.

Later, when Noah, regains consciousness, one of the watchers, Og, decides to help Noah, because he still wants to help God and leads him to Methuselah. After a short conversation, Methuselah gives Noah some tea that allows him to see his dream clearer. God is to not going to destroy the Earth with fire as Methuselah's father predicted, but cleanse the Earth with water. Not only that, but Noah is to build an Ark to save the innocent animals so that they can start again. Once Samyaza witnesses God's work, he decides the Watchers will help Noah until the job is done. There is one catch. Noah isn't sure his family is supposed to be on the Ark or not. Are all humans supposed to be cleansed? Or will mankind be given a second chance?

I'm of two minds when it comes to Noah. I've reviewed at least two other Bible Epics from the classic era of the genre, The Ten Commandments and Samson and Delilah, and this film is much better than those two. (On a side note, my opinion of The Ten Commandments has gone down since I wrote that review. I no longer consider it a great movie, in part because the film tried too hard to be epic at the expense of the characters.) In Noah, on the other hand, we do learn a lot more about the characters. Noah isn't just someone called by God, so their motivations and personality are no longer crucial to their actions. Noah struggles to understand what God wants him to do, whether or not he's capable of doing it, and if it is the right thing to do. This makes for a far more interesting experience.

Additionally, Noah looks better than the Bible Epics of the Golden Era of the genre, for obvious reasons. The level of technical advancement in special effects has been huge over the past two decades since CGI became viable for movies, never mind the past six decades since Bible Epics were at their peak. The cinematography is also better, as are the the sound design and sound mixing. I would also go further and say the acting is better in this movie, but that's partially to do with having more complicated characters, as opposed to having a hero that can do no wrong, because he's literally following the word of God. It's hard to act complexly when your character isn't.

Some people complained that Noah wasn't Biblically accurate citing the Watchers as being a new addition to the story. However, angels being on Earth and helping mankind is in the Bible. In fact, there are the Nephilim, which are the result of angels mating with human women, which are described as giants. Yes, there are giants in the Bible. There is a character named Og who was described as having a bed that was nearly 14 feet long and 6 feet wide and was made of iron to support his weight. Unicorns are in the Bible, as are dragons. The Biblical apocrypha includes some even weirder stuff.

The Extras

There are no extras on the DVD. There are a trio of making of / behind-the-scenes featurettes on the Blu-ray. They do have a combined running time of an hour, so the Blu-ray doesn't feel devoid of extras.

The technical presentation is fantastic, damn near presentation quality. The level of details is phenomenal, as are the black levels, which never seem to harm details. A lot of the early scenes lack colors. The environment is post-apocalyptical and are limited to browns of indeed black earth. When we do see colors, they are vivid. It goes without saying there are no compression issues of digital artifacts. The audio is just as strong with an active 7.1 surround sound track. The dialogue is always clear with good separation. There's plenty of activity in the surround sound speakers, including dynamic effects.

The Blu-ray costs just $18, which is just $1 more than the DVD. Clearly it is the better deal.

The Verdict

Noah takes a very short Bible story (the entire story is just 2,000 words in the Bible) and turns it into a true epic with a more complex story. The character of Noah is someone who doesn't know if he is doing the right thing or if he is messing up God's instructions. There are not a ton of extras on the DVD or the Blu-ray Combo Pack, but there are enough that the latter is worth picking up.

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Filed under: Video Review, Noah, Jennifer Connelly, Russell Crowe, Kevin Durand, Anthony Hopkins, Nick Nolte, Gavin Casalegno, Nolan Gross, Skylar Burke