A lot has been said about Darren Aronofsky’s Noah (you can read the Flicks and the City review of it here) from a religious perspective but whatever anyone says, people are unanimous in their praise of the visuals in the film.
Aronofsky clearly had a vision (not quite the same as the one Noah had) and he puts this onto the screen with some very beautiful, shocking and interesting effects. So lets take a look at some of the visual elements you should look out for.
Putting evolution into a movie about Noah and his Ark may seem like a brave if not contradictory move, but this is the best sequence of the film. Starting in the darkness and showing evolution all the way up to humans (Adam and Eve to be precise) in the Garden of Eden is spectacular.
We follow the transitions through time-lapse, stop motion style footage in the third-person viewpoint. This sequence is incredible, essentially bridging the gap between science and religion, with echoes of Mallick’s The Tree of Life (though if you hate that film, as many do, don’t let the mere mention of it put you off seeing Noah).
2. Rock monsters
If you’re yet to see Noah, but remember the story from your childhood and have seen the trailer, you might think we’re making it up, but yes, there are angel-like figures – called Watchers – made of rock in the movie. Based loosely on the giant Nephilim mentioned in the Bible, they may well be an element of the movie that not all people are on board with.
It’s hard to describe them. They are Transformer-like in how they go from a pile of rocks on the floor to a moving, talking creature. They speak like Treebeard in Lord of the Rings, look like a cross between Onix and Golem, and are a powerful rock-type Pokemon.
So they’re a cross between Transformers, Ents and Pokemon, but voiced by Nick Nolte and they move almost akin to a classic Ray Harryhausen figure at times. The transformations are impressive and they way they move and act in battle is brilliant.
Ah yes, the great battle. The water rain has started and (following another excellent stop motion-style section following the flow of water) the descendants of Cain want to get on Noah’s Ark.
Noah’s family and the animals are safely tucked up in the Ark, but Cain’s people are going to have to get through a wall of Watchers and Noah himself to get on board. This battle won’t disappoint fans of Lord of the Rings as there are clear similarities to the Battle of Helm’s Deep. Waves of men are brushed aside with ease by the Watchers, whilst Noah engages in some hand-to-hand combat himself. All the while, the rain pours down. This is an exhilarating battle sequence, made all the more memorable by the change of pace once the Ark sets sail.
The animals are obviously a key part of the story of Noah’s Ark, but no animals were used in the making of Noah. No, they haven’t changed the plot so much that they don’t show any animals but they’re all created through CGI.
The animals are all mythical creatures and not necessarily present-day species. A deer-like creature that has been hunted hobbles along completely and feels like a living, breathing, bleeding creature. The movement of many other animals is also spot on, especially in the scenes of them arriving to board the ark. It’s truly awesome to see the large crowds of animals turn up together – small creatures along the floor, huge massive mammals walking above them, as well as birds flying in the sky.
But, like the film itself, the effects aren’t universally groundbreaking. The sound effects for the snakes are particularly good, breathing life into the CGI creations, but at the end of the opening depiction of Cain and Abel, it ends with the snake in the Garden of Eden, which unfortunately is a little cartoon-like.
Noah is out in UK cinemas today.