Like “Ender’s Game,” the Harry Potter series, and other book-to-film adaptations, I’m only going to judge what was on screen. A great adaptation can take everything that’s special about an original source material and show why it’s so beloved. It can also be a bad studio, worse storytellers, or many other reasons, but sometimes an adaptation becomes a failure.
“Noah” is on tricky ground. Its story makes up a greater narrative that many people believe holds truth to a higher power, so reviewing it is going to be difficult. I haven’t been to a church since middle school and my knowledge of the story is about as much as the G-rated Sunday school version I was taught. If there is something I didn’t understand that was explained in the Bible, I don’t care. The film should stand on its own.
“Noah” tells the biblical tale of the titular hero and how he built a giant boat. The last in the line of Seth, one of Adam and Eve’s three sons, Noah receives a message from god in form of a fever dream that a flood will clean the world of the wickedness of children of Cain and there leader Tubal-Cain. With help from Methuselah, Noah’s grandfather, his family and The Watchers (fallen angels in the form of golems), they erect a giant ark to house two of every animal for the new world.
Yeah, golems. Not even cool looking golems; they’re a twisted mash of rocks that could barely walk a straight line. Also, these fallen angles became fallen when they defied God, thinking humanity was still worth saving. But that’s just how Old Testament God rolled.
I was left with questions. If Seth, Cain and Abel are the only children of Adam and Eve, how are there future generations? If Noah is the last in Seth’s line, does that make his wife a member of Cain’s lineage? If so, isn’t she also part of this greater evil? Is Methuselah a wizard since he lives in a cave, disappears at will and cures individuals of life long ailments? I don’t know, because these are never explained.
While the first half of “Noah” is in-line with a more traditional story, it’s the second half that gets interesting.
“The Creator” as Noah calls him is never heard from in the story. Really, all you have is Noah’s word that something will happen and even so it’s him interpreting this dream on what The Creator’s true intentions are. The filmmakers do a good job of building Noah and his family as these great heroes to save the world from the evil humans because that’s what Noah tells us: Cain’s children wear black, eat meat and don’t live to the words of The Creator.
The weight of this task that Noah thinks he has in front of him becomes warped by what he thinks is asked of him, and he is willing to become a monster to complete gods will. Really, what makes him so different then the people that he drowns on the outside of his ship? Not since “The Devil’s Rejects” has a turn been done so well.
It helps that “Noah” has good performances from Emma Watson and Ray Winstone to propel the slower moments of the first half of the film. I admire that they didn’t choose to play it safe, but also didn’t resort to being the torture porn that was “The Passion of the Christ.”
I went and saw this with my roommates and one of them left in the middle because he hated what he saw and that it wasn’t in-line with what the story he knew from the Bible. I cant tell you the difference, but what I can say is that it’s a fascinating character study that’s bogged down by vague story inconsistencies.