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

It’s tempting to say that Darren Aronofsky’s Noah has brought back the Bible epic. It’s certainly the first major live-action Bible movie to be produced by a Hollywood studio in decades. But the fascinating thing about this film is how utterly different it is from the Bible movies that came before it. Aronofsky has not revived the genre so much as he has utterly transformed it.

Unlike most Bible films, which take place within decidedly historical contexts, Noah is based on the earliest, most “mythic” chapters of Genesis, as well as some of the Jewish legends that have grown up around those chapters. Building on the ancient otherworldliness of these stories, Aronofsky has created a grounded yet somewhat fantastical environment that is, at times, strikingly reminiscent of the Lord of the Rings movies.

But the core biblical themes — of temptation, wickedness and punishment — are still there, and Aronofsky infuses the genre with his own personal style, not least in his use of haunting dream sequences and in his focus on a morally ambiguous protagonist.

Put it all together and you’ve got something quite unique.

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Noah news round-up: novelizations, ratings, and more

Let’s keep this one brief.

The big Noah news today, of course, is that three books based on the film are now available for purchase: a regular novelization of the movie, a junior novelization that focuses on Noah’s daughter-in-law Ila, and a graphic novel that is based on an early draft of the script and is thus somewhat different from the movie.

If you can’t wait for the movie to learn all its spoilers, or if you want to study how the script evolved from the version that produced the graphic novel to the version that produced the novelizations, well, you’ve now got plenty of reading material to work with!

To help you get started, MTV has posted an excerpt from the junior novelization, Ila’s Story, which introduces the character as a wounded and orphaned little girl; it also introduces those fallen angels known as the Watchers. No pictures, alas.

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Patti Smith wrote a lullaby for Noah, and other tidbits from the Rolling Stone interview with Darren Aronofsky

Rolling Stone has just posted an interview with Noah director Darren Aronofsky, and one of the more surprising bits of news in there — for me, at least — is the fact that Patti Smith, the “godmother of punk”, wrote a lullaby for the film, which Russell Crowe’s Noah sings to the Emma Watson character (and perhaps also to the younger version of her character?):
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Family and fallen angels in the Noah Super Bowl TV spot

Needless to say, there isn’t a whole lot of new footage in the 35-second Super Bowl spot for Noah that Paramount released online tonight, four days before it will air on TV. But the ad does give us a few new images and a few new bits of dialogue, as well. Check ’em out below the jump.

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A last-minute casting change to Aronofsky’s Noah?

Darren Aronofsky tweeted this morning that Nick Nolte has just been added to the cast of Noah as the voice of Samyaza, one of the Watchers or Nephilim. (In most Jewish literature, the Nephilim are the offspring of the Watchers, but in Aronofsky’s film, they appear to be one and the same.) This is a little concerning, as the character had originally been played by Mark Margolis, an actor who has appeared in every single one of Aronofsky’s previous films. Margolis will still be represented in the film, sort of, as he provided the motion-capture performance that the CGI character is based on. But still, I had assumed his voice would be in the film. Let’s hope this bit of last-minute re-casting hasn’t been imposed on the film by the studio, the way New Line Cinema forced Chris Weitz to replace Nonso Anozie with Ian McKellen as the voice of an armoured bear in The Golden Compass (2007).

January 18 update: I just noticed that Aronofsky posted a follow-up tweet in which he assured Margolis fans that the actor is still in the film — as the voice of another Watcher named Magog. All right, then. Oh, and Aronofsky also indicated that Frank Langella may be voicing one of the Watchers, too. That could be interesting.
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The Nephilim are coming! The Nephilim are coming!

I have seen at least four different trailers for Noah so far — two that were shown at church conferences, and two that were released to the general public a couple of weeks ago — and if there is one thing that has been conspicuously absent from all four of those trailers, it is the gigantic fallen angels known as the Watchers. Oh, sure, I suspect that there are hints of those creatures in a few of the more cryptic shots in those trailers, but so far the studio has held back any bit of footage that might give us a clear sense of the role that they will play within the finished film.

Director Darren Aronofsky, on the other hand, has been teasing us with their presence in the film for a while, now. You might remember the “nephilim wuz here” picture, which didn’t really show anything, that he tweeted fifteen months ago. (In the Jewish apocrypha, the Nephilim are the offspring of the Watchers, but in Aronofsky’s film, these appear to be interchangeable names for the same basic set of creatures.)

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