Customer Reviews: Noah (Blu-ray + DVD + Digital HD)
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WARNING: CONTAINS SPOILERS. On the other hand, reading this before viewing the film just might open your eyes to some of the lesser-known Jewish themes it contains. Never has a movie so clearly illustrated the vast difference between how Christians and Jews read the Bible.

Yes, this is basically a Jewish movie, directed by a Jew (Darren Aronofsky) and written by him and his Jewish co-writer, Ari Handel. One of the early screenings was to a group of rabbis from various Jewish denominations, who gave it a thumbs up. In fact, I believe this is the first-ever major movie with a biblical theme that presents a Jewish POV on the story. That alone deserves a lot of kudos to a director who did NOT pander to the dominant culture in America.

So no, it does not stick to the common Christian understanding of the biblical text -- which is rather short and sketchy anyway, with no real character development. However, the Bible is only a small percentage of the sacred writings that Jews have. Aronofsky also consulted the Talmud, Midrash, Zohar, Book of Enoch, and other extra-biblical sources. Then you have the flood traditions in the Gilgamesh Epic, the story of Atlantis, the Hopi Indians, etc., plus archaological and historical data on what such an early culture might look like. Remember your Bible: "Tubal-Cain, who forged all instruments of copper and iron" (Genesis 4:22) which would place this story in the late Bronze or early Iron Age. People back then did not dress in biblical robes.

So, in his quest to make this more than mere iconography (of which we have already had enough Noah versions, both live action and animated), Aronofsky incorporated a number of themes and details that are not "in the Bible," including:

The Watchers: These are the Nephilim (neh-FEE-leem) mentioned in Genesis 6:4. Granted, the CGI version in the film is a bit hokey, but the idea of divine beings descending to Earth and becoming encased in rock is not alien to Jewish thought. They are also mentioned in the Book of Enoch, and in some gnostic texts. In an interview after the film came out, Aronofsky regretted he did not use the term "Nephilim" instead of "Watchers" -- he had thought it would be too obscure for the general public. Had he called them Nephilim, there might have been a less negative reaction.

Calling God "Creator": The Christian objections to this as "pagan" in some reviews is, in my opinion, ludicrous. OF COURSE the Creator is God! Even today in Jewish prayers and blessings we refer to God as "Boray" --the One Who Creates, as in "Boray pri ha-gafen," "Who creates the fruit of the vine," said over a cup of wine (or grape juice) every Sabbath. And remember: This story is only ten generations from Adam and Eve. So they would not know the "God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob" nor did they have the "I Am That I Am" name revealed to Moses, nor even the more generic "Lord." All that is in the future. They would only know God as the One who created the world.

The snakeskin: The implication in the movie is that the snakeskin is a family heirloom brought from Eden. The way it is wrapped around the arm is like a forerunner of tefillin, the leather straps still used by Jews today during morning prayers. So the scene with Lamech and little Noah is a sort of Bar Mitzvah, and indeed, Lamech does tell him that he is now a man -- as in the "today I am a man" recited at countless Bar Mitzvah ceremonies even today. Entering manhood is a theme that runs through the movie. Tubal-Cain thinks it means to become a warrior and learn to kill. Noah's line sees it differently -- a difference between gentiles and Jews even today, where knowledge is held above toughness.

Not Satanic: Christians interpret the Snake as an incarnation of Satan, but the text does not say that, it simply says he was "the shrewdest of all the wild beasts that God had created." So it is wrong to see the snakeskin scenes as "satanic" as some negative reviewers did. The snake was not cursed until AFTER he tricked Adam and Eve -- and yes, there is a tradition that he shed his beautiful skin at that time (as shown in the film). And he also lost his legs; the Bible itself curses him to crawl on his belly. So the Snake before the Fall was not the same creature as after the Fall. It is not unreasonable to think that the skin of the snake was something sacred, perhaps a reminder NOT to sin.

Methuselah's "magic" sword: Yes, such a tradition exists -- it is cited in "Legends of the Jews" by Louis Ginsberg (a classic).

The "tsohar stones": There is a Jewish tradition about this -- google it. They also show up in the Mormon writings. Plus some versions of the Atlantis myth speaks of using crystals as a power source. Numerous culture have stories of a pre-Flood fallen civilization.

Adam and Eve scene: There is much debate about what the "Garments of skin" were that God made after casting Adam and Eve out of the Garden. Usually we picture them as animal skins. Mystical traditions say they were physical bodies, and that Adam and Eve had been spiritual beings of light in the Garden -- an idea that is included in the film (and also a clever way to show them "naked" in a PG-13 movie.) There is also a tradition that the "garments of skin" God made after the flood were shed snakeskins, since Eden was vegetarian and animals were not yet being slaughtered. Which brings us to:

The sin of eating meat. Yes, folks, Eden was vegetarian (Genesis 3:20), and permission to eat meat was not given until AFTER the Flood at the Noah Covenant (Genesis 9.) That's classic Jewish theology. So this isn't some "animal rights" thing made up for the movie. It has a basis in tradition, and is also a graphic way to illustrate how humankind fell out of harmony with the will of God. In one scene it is hinted that Tubal-Cain's people are cannibals -- a detail also in accord with Jewish tradition. Cannibalism continued to exist well into modern times.

Seeds from Eden: There are Jewish traditions about plants brought from Eden that miraculously grew overnight. Noah's line is credited with developing agriculture. The bible itself says he was the first to plant a vineyard (Genesis 9:20).

The Ark: Usually it is pictured as a regular ship of some sort, but in Jewish commentaries it is indeed a big box without rudder or sails. The primitiveness of the construction is also accurate for the time period, with rough-hewn timbers and black pitch all over. And yes, the Midrash does say the people tried to attack Noah and seize the Ark -- which makes sense. People would probably do the same thing with survivalist bunkers today if there was a major catastrophe.

There are more such details, but I want to move on to the most controversial part: Noah himself. To begin with, Jewish tradition does not hold him to have been a perfect saint. Genesis 6:9 says he was "a righteous man" and "blameless in his age." Jews hold that he was righteous in comparison to the rest of his generation -- which, as the movie shows, were very wicked -- but that if he had lived in the time of Abraham or Moses, he would have been a nobody. He may have been the best that God could find in those times, but he was not perfect. One of his imperfections was that he did not try to save others -- which the movie shows. Even today there is a Jewish expression "to build an Ark for yourself" which implies selfishness and not caring about the rest of the community.

Noah's "nervous breakdown": This part is, as far as I know, purely Aronofsky's imagination, but it makes sense if you see it in terms of survivor guilt. People who survive a great upheaval are often convinced that they should not have survived, and feel guilty for doing so. Two events in Jewish history may have provided the model for this part of the script: The Holocaust, where, in many cases, only one or two people from a whole family line survived, and yes, there were suicides; and Masada, where Jews did indeed commit mass suicide at the end of the Bar Kochba uprising against the Romans. Survivor guilt is also common among soldiers returning from battle --and could account for the high number of suicides among veterans today. So it is perfectly plausible that Noah, after going through the Flood, was filled with such guilt and self-loathing that he did not think any humans should be left alive. The scene where he almost kills his baby granddaughter is horrifying to 21st-century eyes but remember, child sacrifice was common in the Iron Age. (See expanded addenda the bottom of this review.) So it is not unreasonable that the idea would occur to a Noah who, as we said, was not perfect and had just been emotionally traumatized.

Getting drunk: The Bible does indeed say Noah got drunk after the Flood (Genesis 11:20-21.) This movie gives a plausible reason WHY he got drunk. Again, it is not uncommon for survivors of war or disasters to sink into chemical dependency. And this is why the rainbow does not appear in the movie until AFTER Noah is able to reconcile himself with what he saw as a failure. Ila and his wife convince him that God did NOT want all humans to die, that Noah and his family were saved for humanity to start over. Then we see shots of baby animals -- signs of rebirth -- and finally the rainbow appears.

All in all, I think this is a movie that will continue to spark discussion and controversy -- and that is a good thing. As the old saying goes, where you have two Jews, you will find three opinions. So let the debates continue!

ADDENDA, SEPTEMBER 30, 2014: Since the almost-sacrifice of the two babies keeps getting referred to as Noah turning into a "psychotic baby killer" or some such, let me discuss this from the POV of history and theology. No, that story is not in the Bible, but historically it is perfectly plausible. This story is taking place in a Bronze-Age culture, when human sacrifice to appease the gods was very common. Recall the biblical story of Abraham, where God tells him to sacrifice his son, Isaac. That may horrify us in the 21st century, but in ancient times it was so "normal" that Abraham does not even argue against it, he just sets out to obey the command. Recall also the sacrifice of Iphegenia during the Trojan Wars, done in order to make the wind blow so the ships could set sail. (In this case, her mother does take revenge for it later.) Or the sacrifices offered to Kali in India, the child sacrifices of the Mayans, etc. In fact, the Christian idea that God sacrificed his son to save the world is based on the same idea. It resonated with the pagan populations of early Christianity precisely because they were USED TO stories about gods wanting sacrifices of firstborn sons.

Noah, in the movie, believes he is sacrificing his granddaughters to save the world from becoming corrupted by humans again. My take on that scene is that Aronofsky wanted to show us exactly what the horror of that action would be. Christians interpret the almost-sacrifice of Isaac as a forerunner of Jesus on the cross. But Jews see the Abraham-Isaac story as a STOPPING of human sacrifice forever, because God stopped Abraham and told him to substitute a ram instead. The story is there to tell us NOT to sacrifice children. This is my take on why God would test Abraham in the first place -- to give us a clear teaching that although Abraham might be WILLING to do that, it is not what God needs or wants. It is a critical turning point where Judaism breaks away from this brutal custom forever. It is also why Jews reject the idea of Jesus as a human sacrifice.

Mention should also be made of the decade-long debate between Hillel and Shammai, two schools of thought during the rabbinic period (Greco-Roman in secular history), about whether or not humans should have been created. the House of Hillel argued it was better that humans were created. The House of Shammai argued that is would have been better if they had not been created. A compromise was reached: it would have been better had humans not been created, but now that they were here, let people mend their ways. You can see this debate taking place in the movie, with Noah playing the role of Shammai, his wife and daughter-in-law playing Hillel. And a compromise was reached: humanity would live on, and hopefully the new start would be better.
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The tale of Noah is only a short story in Genesis. Any movie adaptation was going to have to find a way to fill out a two hour movie. In some respects, Director Darren Aronofsky did fine. The movie is well cast, with Russell Crowe as a determined and devout Noah, Jennifer Connelly as his dutiful wife, Emma Watson as an adopted daughter, Anthony Hopkins as Noah's grandfather Methuselah, and Ray Winstone as the leader of a band of roving scavengers. If you've seen the trailer, you know the cinematography is quite good. The Icelandic location shooting is dramatic, and those portions of the movie which stick to the original storyline work fairly well.

In some other respects, the movie does less well. The traditional story of Noah is a straightforward morality tale about mankind. Aronofsky insisted on respinning it as a not very convincing environmental cautionary tale about a pre-industrial age. He also chose to rewrite the story of Noah and his sons and their respective wives in order to invent a disturbing and almost lethal family drama inside the Ark. At the end, the message of the movie is quite confusing.

Judging from other reviews, viewers with no particular commitment to the original story of Noah like the movie. Those viewers with expectations of a faithful adaptation of the original story are likely to be disappointed. Judge accordingly.
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on March 31, 2014
I saw Noah a week ago at my local theater, and am just now able to write a level headed review about it. See, Noah is that type of movie that you either absolutely love, or downright hate. Its the kind of movie that makes people fiercely defensive of their opinions, that sparks widespread controversy. This is rare, as movies nowadays seem to be pretty tailored to their target audience. Most of the controversy is centered around whether or not the film is biblical. As a Christian who has read the bible, I feel the need to point out that the bible is very vague concerning the story of Noah. God has the only speaking part, and the feelings and experiences of Noah and his family are not shared with us. If the film ONLY included the text as it was written, it would be about half an hour, and very impersonal. Darren Aronofsky adds additional material because if he didn't, there wouldn't be a film. There wouldn't even be any characters, other then names. Now, a lot of the controversy concerns what he added, mainly the bit about the fallen angels. People seem very confused about this, shortsightedly likening them to "Rock Transformers". The Nephilim, as they are called, are mentioned in the Bible, as well as in the Book of Enoch (Enoch was the great grandfather of Noah), which is a Jewish telling of the flood that is separate from the one in the Bible. They are also referred to in the Epic of Gilgamesh, which is an ancient historical and mythological text containing the story of the flood, also separate from the bible. If one considers for a moment that Darren Aronofksy came from a Jewish background, its easy to see where he would have gotten some of his content. Other characters from the Bible are featured, such as Tubal Cain (the leader of the 'wicked' humans in the film), as well as Methuselah, even though they aren't mentioned in the biblical story of the flood. If one considers that all of these people lived at the same time however, its not much of a stretch. You can have whatever opinion about the film that you want, I just thought it might be interesting for those of you who are confused as to what the Nephilim are, or who the "Yoda character" is. Now, considering the vagueness of the bible on the event of the flood, it is only reasonable that Darren Aronofsky would have to fill in some blanks, and he does take creative license with it. Of course a lot of it isn't in the bible, but it does not contradict or disrespect what is already there. I think it should be celebrated that the bible is so narratively complex, its mysteries so compelling, that a self professed Atheist would be moved to try and tell one of its stories. There is a lot of material in that book for compelling films, whether you believe it to be fact or fantasy.

Of course, a lot of people will disagree with me, both on my opinions of the film and its source material. That is fine, I am just tired of reading negative and uneducated articles and reviews by people who refer to the Nephilim as "rock transformers", even by people who have admitted to not even seeing the film! Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, and some people will not like the liberties taken by the director. Its understandable. But as far as I am concerned, Noah is a beautiful, grim, powerfully compelling epic about the human capacity for wickedness and immorality, as well as love and mercy. The cinematography, art design, special effects, and music are uniformly brilliant. Russell Crowe brings a humanity and chilling focus to the character of Noah in one of his best performances, with Jennifer Connelly, Emma Watson, Ray Winstone, and Logan Lerman all turning in powerfully brazen work as well. The film is tense, brutal, spectacular, smart, emotionally involving and thought provoking. Love if or hate it, you cannot deny the importance and power of anything that has inspired so much debate and controversy. As entertainment, I loved it, as a story with compelling characters and themes, I loved it. If you enjoyed Braveheart or Lord of the Rings, and are willing to see Noah as a work of film rather than an advertisement for the Christian church, I think you will enjoy it too. And if you don't, that's okay. But at least see it and decide for yourself.
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on May 3, 2015
I think this was a pretty good movie. I'm a Roman Catholic but don't really practice, but this version of Noah isn't based off the Kings James or Hebrew bible or even the Koran as much as it is based on the Gnostic teachings of the time. I just happen to appreciate movies based on Dead Sea Scrolls, or texts that didn't make it into the bible. The History channel does many documentaries on texts banned from the bible and bible wars.

Either way, the special effects are sporadic in quality. Some FX are pretty good while others are kind of fake, but the overall theme, with good actors make this worth watching. Other more devote people may hate this movie. Non religious people may not like it because the don't go for religious movies. I guess what held my attention best was the deviation from the bible and the way the movie, it's creators, and writers told the story of Noah from a different group religious people, the Gnostics. I guess I've just been interested in their texts and how they differ from what made it into the bible. Don't get me wrong this isn't a documentary. I'm sure the people who worked on the movie put in their own flourishes, but in the end I did like it. And who doesn't like Russel Crow and Emma Stone?
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on September 12, 2014
I just finished watching NOAH and am not sure exactly how I should rate this; well made, excellent effects, good cast but some weird
additions near the end. Perhaps I should read the Bible because I do not know this tale well enough; mostly got my religious views
from the many religious type films. I liked Emma Watson cast as sort of the heroine at the end, but kept looking for Ron Weasley (!)CUTE! I thought the very ending had a very nice touch! I got this DVD from Amazon; I recommend this for those folks who like
religious style stories; it has been said religion was kept out of this film but that Is far from the truth. God (the Creator) was mentioned many times as well as Adam and Eve; they even shown the serpent and the Tree of Knowledge. All said, I think this
movie was good; MUCH better than expected. And of course no Dr Sweets or Martha of the Mouth!! Enjoy!
This is a new addition to the above review because I have had a bit of a change of opinion of this movie. I have recently discovered
that the Jewish and Christian tales from the respective Bibles do not always jive. This movie as I understand it follows the Jewish
traditions. Anyhow, I decided this is a better movie than I first thought. The Four Stars stand, but after watching it a couple of times,
I got to really begin to appreciate it more. I still prefer the version with John Huston but I am moved more and more with the tale told
here, especially liking the ending which I will not reveal here. But I do strongly recommend this interpretation of the Noah story. Well
photographed, excellent musical sound track and good performances by the cast. Not as spiritually rousing as other Biblical tales,
but very realistic, believable, and at times very moving. Special effects are excellent with a rather curious but believable Ark, probably
based on that "thing" thought to be on a Turkish mountain that some think is the wreck of the Ark. If I could I would give it Four and one
half stars. Much, much better than that weird EXODUS Fox creation. I got my DVD from Amazon. Quality of picture is excellent.
Enjoy again!.
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on May 8, 2015
Loved this movie - was surprised that I did like it because I'm not a big bible movie fan. But this was well done and I enjoyed it very much. GREAT special effects. Recommend it be watched by all - not just a religious movie....
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on January 6, 2016
Disturbing. Engrossing. Challenging. Contrary to what most people wanted out of it, the movie refuses to simplify the biblical story. It retains the moral and ethical complexity of scripture, which is shocking and offensive (just like the actual story). The problem people have with this movie is not actually the movie's fault; the problem is with how Christians have been trained to read (or not read) the Bible. Most people want a simple, felt-board, Sunday school story. But that story is not actually in the Bible. The story we find in Genesis is not easy to understand, and refuses to be softened. Aronofsky nails it. As a Christian, and as a biblical scholar, I highly recommend this movie. Watch it like you read your bible, ready to be challenged, ready to be offended, and ultimately, ready to see a side of God you may have missed the first time around.
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on June 26, 2015
If one watched this as a myth, it wasn't too bad. As a Biblical epic it is a total failure. Obviously, it was not trying to be a myth. Now I know all the atheists are going to jump on the myth thing, but many people believe the Bible and should have been shown some respect. The Noah story from "The Bible in the Beginning," from the late 60s was much better than this and more respectful of the material.

Whether one believes in the Bible or not, respect should be given to the material. The "Ten Commandments" had some Hollywood backstories in the screen play, but it was still respectful of the source. That should be the case when dealing with a religious story held sacred by millions no matter the religion referenced.
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on June 5, 2016
I really liked this movie. I found it by doing a search for anything with Anthony Hopkins in it and so glad I did.

I was raised as a Christian but have studied many different religions over many decades and if I was a strict Christian, I could see where people would not be happy with this movie, but as someone that has studied many different religions, mostly Judaism, I really enjoyed this movie and have watched it many times and find something new and interesting each time I have watched it.

There is a group of characters in this movie, called the Watchers, (Don't worry, no spoilers) and when I was watching it the first time, I got a feeling that I had seen something like them before in a different movie. Then it came to me.... They remind me of TRANSFORMERS. Just in the way that they move and interact with other characters in the movie, and the way they speak. No I am not saying that the Watchers were actually transformers, just that in the movie they remind me of each other.

Anyway... There were even some things I noticed in the movie that caused me to go do addition research on the subject I noticed. So for me, this was a very interesting movie and I really enjoyed it.

But again, I can see where people will not like it because it does not conform to their understanding of the Noah story.
My reviews are my opinions of the product received and just my opinion. Everyone is different and could have a different opinion of a product.

I was able to watch this movie for free as part of my Amazon Prime membership.

Thank you for taking the time to read my review. Please consider following me here on Amazon for other reviews,[...]. Thanks and have a blessed day.
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on February 6, 2016
This surprised me by growing considerably on a second viewing. -- a second viewing I almost didn’t like it enough the first time around to even give it. Russell Crowe’s tortured performance of Noah as half prophet, half madman felt more honest, affecting and deeper seeing it again. A lot of the family drama that felt a bit forced on first try, was moving and involving on the second. In particular, there’s a deeply moving and memorable ‘human’ scene, when Jennifer Connolly finally stands up to Noah’s determination to wipe out mankind. Her emotional power and fury overwhelm even Noah’s (and Crowe’s) strength.

That said, many of the film’s best bits are it’s visions and ‘non-plot’ sections, as when Noah tells his children the story of genesis while we watch a super speeded up flow of the evolution of the universe, then earth, and then life evolving, finding a sort of connectedness between Darwin, science, and still having a spiritual feeling about the world. Powerful too, the few second montage of man going from ape to 20th century man in silhouette, while showing his violence in each step, just a few frames long.

On the other hand, there are still – for me – sizable flaws, from annoying lapses in logic (some the fault of the original story, not just Aronofsky Like, if there are only 2 of each animal, how did we avoid a world of doomed inbreeding?). And much feels a bit forced ‘Hollywood’. Like the villainous stowaway on the arc who also just happens to be Noah’s mortal enemy and the man who killed his father.

There’s no denying that Aronofsky is bold, intelligent, and capable of being a visionary film-maker, even if he can be infuriatingly uneven, and fall prey at key moments to being showy rather than deep. The same could be said about much of his work, and it’s why I always look forward to seeing his films, and feel they are due a second viewing, but I rarely have as powerful or complete an experience as they seem to promise.
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