Behold the concept art for the Watchers of Noah!

Love ’em or hate ’em, one thing people can’t stop talking about after seeing Noah is the Watchers — angels who fell to Earth, lost their wings, and were encased in the molten rock that they crashed into.

In the early screenplay that leaked a couple years ago, and in the graphic novel that came out two weeks ago, the Watchers are basically organic; the screenplay describes them as “18 feet tall, ageless, sexless and covered with a light dusting of fur.”

But somewhere along the way, Darren Aronofsky turned them into rock monsters, spirits trapped in the rock they crashed into, whose struggle to rise from the tar was inspired by the wildlife covered in oil after the Exxon Valdez spill.

Paramount has studiously avoided releasing any official images of these creatures — even going so far as to delete them from shots that were used in the the trailers and early clips — but director Darren Aronofsky has not been so reticent, tweeting images of actors and voice-over artists standing in front of screens bearing images of the Watchers (or, as Aronofsky now prefers to call them, the Nephilim).

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The Jewish roots of — and responses to — Noah

If there’s one thing that has annoyed me about some of the debate around Darren Aronofsky’s Noah, it has been the persistent assumption — on both sides — that the film was made either for Christians or against Christians. Some people dismiss the film because they think the studio wanted to pander to the Christian market, while others think the film was made to subvert the beliefs of Christians. Rarely does anyone take a step back and say, “Hey, these filmmakers are Jewish, and the story of Noah comes from the Jewish scriptures. I wonder what Jewish audience members make of this film?”

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Second impressions: Noah (dir. Darren Aronofsky, 2014)

The first time I saw Darren Aronofsky’s Noah, I took six pages of notes, and I watched it with the memory of an early draft of the screenplay lingering in my brain. So I was distracted on at least two levels: by a need to jot down as many quotes and facts as I could, and by an awareness of how the script had evolved. Never mind people who obsess over how the film may or may not have deviated from Genesis; I kept thinking of how the film was deviating from that early script!

Needless to say, I don’t normally take that kind of background knowledge to the theatre when I go to see a movie, and I knew it wouldn’t be fair to Noah to hold that knowledge against it either. I also knew I needed to just sit back and watch the movie like a proper movie, to bask in the drama and let it unfold.

And so, on Wednesday morning, I saw the film a second time. And I can think of no better way to sum up the difference between my two viewings of the film than to say that I didn’t cry at all the first time I saw Noah, but I shed tears on a few separate occasions the second time I saw it. It’s a powerful, powerful film.

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Noah has a big first weekend, but what do audiences think?

The box-office estimates are in for this weekend, and the news on that front is very good for Noah, and perhaps for the Bible-movie genre as a whole.

Audience reactions to the film, however, are more of a mixed bag, which could affect the film’s long-term prospects.

Noah made an estimated $44 million in the United States and Canada between Thursday night and Sunday, and it has earned another $51.1 million overseas; the film opened in Mexico and South Korea one week ago and opened in another 20 territories on Thursday or Friday.

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A new Noah clip, and an early box-office report

Noah is out in theatres now, and many of you have probably seen it for yourselves already — but in case you needed to watch one more clip before buying your ticket, the studio has released one. And like every other clip they’ve released so far, this one is carefully edited to avoid any hint of the Nephilim. Check it out — along with some information on the film’s box-office performance so far — below the jump.

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Darren Aronofsky on “dominion” vs “stewardship”, and how the Exxon Valdez spill inspired his take on the Nephilim

Speaking of things that inspired Noah director Darren Aronofsky when he was young, he wrote an article for the Huffington Post today on a trip he made to Alaska in 1986, and how it affected his views on the environment and the stewardship of creation, etc.

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