Noah (Blu-ray) (2014)

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Released 27-Aug-2014

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Action Adventure Featurette-Iceland: Extreme Beauty (20:40)
Featurette-The Ark Exterior: A Battle for 300 Cubits (19:46)
Featurette-The Ark Interior: Animals Two by Two (19:55)
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 2014
Running Time 137:53
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Darren Aronofsky
Studio
Distributor

Paramount Home Entertainment
Starring Russell Crowe
Jennifer Connelly
Emma Watson
Ray Winstone
Anthony Hopkins
Logan Lerman
Douglas Booth
Case Standard Blu-ray
RPI ? Music Clint Mansell


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English DTS HD Master Audio 7.1
English Descriptive Audio Dolby Digital
German Dolby Digital 5.1
Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1
French Dolby Digital 5.1
Italian Dolby Digital 5.1
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.85:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 1080p
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English
English for the Hearing Impaired
Danish
Dutch
Finnish
German
Spanish
Swedish
Norwegian
Italian
French
Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

     In a bleak and desolate landscape, destroyed due to the wickedness of humans, Noah (Russell Crowe) is having visions about an apocalypse that will inundate the Earth and destroy humanity. Seeking guidance he travels with his wife (Jennifer Connelly) and his three sons to consult with his grandfather Methuselah (Anthony Hopkins), along the way rescuing a young girl, Ila, and escaping death with the help of creatures made of stone called Watchers. He decides to build an Ark and to rescue pairs of the animals so that life on Earth can be regenerated but as commanded will let the rest of wicked humankind perish.

     Ten years later Noah is still building the massive Ark with the help of the Watchers. Ila (Emma Watson) and Noah’s oldest son Shem (Douglas Booth) are in love and pairs of the birds, insects, reptiles and animals are gathering although Noah’s second son Ham (Logan Lerman) is feeling left out. The family and the Ark are discovered by the tribe led by Tubal-cain (Ray Winstone) who believes that the survival of humans (especially himself) is more important that saving animals. When the deluge commences the tribe attack, intent on killing Noah and his family and taking the Ark for themselves. And when the Earth is inundated, Noah is forced into making some terrible moral choices to do with all he loves and holds dear.

     Noah was co-written and directed by Darren Aronofsky, a director with range of interesting and intelligent films on his resume including Pi (1998), The Fountain (2006) and Black Swan (2010). The biblical subject matter of Noah certainly created some issues for its backing studio Paramount, who apparently created three versions of the film for Christian test audiences. All three versions were not well received, so Paramount passed the cut back to Aronofsky, who made the cut which was released and which we have on this Blu-ray. Aronofsky has commented that he wanted to make the “least Biblical biblical film” but leaving aside the ire of Christian groups and judging Noah as filmed entertainment rather than as a faithful or otherwise retelling of a Bible story, the greater issue for me is that Noah is probably one of the least spectacular “epics” I have seen in a while.

     This is a because of artistic choices about the way Noah was shot. For a start, the film has a very dark colour palate. The Icelandic exteriors are bleak, with black sands and dull grey rocks, the interiors in caves and the Ark are shot with minimal lighting so are very dark and the battle (shot at night for day) takes place in a deluge. As well, Noah was not shot in the more usual epic widescreen aspect ratio of 2.35:1, but in 1.85:1 using digital Arri Alexa Plus digital cameras that are hand held and moving and frequently focus closely on faces. The close-in shots, I think, are intended to mean we concentrate upon the characters and the human drama, rather than the landscape or the epic effects. Sadly, it seems to have the opposite effect and I felt distanced from Noah and his family. The sections where Ham turns against his father are unconvincing and it is only towards the very end, with the conflict created within Noah’s heart by the birth of his twin granddaughters to Ila, that the film starts to have an emotional impact.

     A bit like 300 or Pompeii, most people know how Noah ends; the Earth is inundated and humankind destroyed. Like Pompeii, Noah takes an hour to get to the action, an hour which is quite talky although at least Russell Crowe keeps things interesting. Crowe seems to be the Charlton Heston for a new epic filmmaking generation, although he can play the tortured hero rather better than Heston I think, and his Noah is a grizzled, loving man, conflicted by some of the commands he believes he received from the Creator but willing to do what he is instructed whatever the cost to his family. Jennifer Connelly and Emma Watson are also good, although the most delightful scene steeling performance comes from Ray Winston, whose Tubal-cain happens to believe in the free will of humans, not commands emanating from a Creator he believes has abandoned his people.

     When the action does start, Noah remains underwhelming due to the use of CGI. There is a dark CGI based battle between the stone Watchers and the tribe, some rain and a bit of a deluge, then the Ark is afloat on the sea of water. Some sequences, however, do make better use of CGI, such as the stunning creation of a forest of green trees on the barren landscape, trees that will provide the wood needed by Noah to build the Ark.

     At the start of Noah there could perhaps have been a caption saying the film is “loosely adapted from the Bible story” or something similar. Aronofsky seems to be seeking to say something intellectual about the environment (Noah as the first environmentalist), about free will and destiny, but despite watchable performances by Russell Crowe and Ray Winstone (who seems to get most of the best lines), in the end Noah comes over as talky and dull, with not enough spectacle. One should not expect Hollywood to be realistic when it comes to history, or indeed myth, but I must say the thing which most felt anachronistic to me were the references in Noah to having “a cup of tea”, something totally unknown in the Biblical world.

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Transfer Quality

Video

     Noah is presented in the original aspect ratio of 1.85:1 in 1080p using the MPEG-4 AVC code.

     The minute detail of the film is impressive, with every line, dirt mark, blood splotch and whisker on Russell Crowe’s grizzled face finely detailed. Colours have been digitally manipulated; scenes sometimes have almost a silver look. Greens are fine, but the sky and water look more grey than blue. Blacks are solid, but many scenes in the interior of the Ark, in caves or at night are very dark indeed and it is almost impossible to distinguish background. This was deliberate however, not Blu-ray authoring, as the cinematographer notes in one of the featurettes. Skin tones also look a silvery grey, while contrast and brightness is consistent.

     I did not notice any marks or artefacts.

     Subtitles are available in a wide range of European languages, plus English and English for the hearing impaired.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

     The main audio is DTS-HD MA 7.1 and there are German, Spanish, French and Italian Dolby Digital 5.1 dubs plus an English audio description track.

     There are no issues with the audio, which is loud and enveloping. While some speech was mumbled, mostly dialogue was clear and easy to understand. The surrounds and rears were used extensively for effects such as the rain, voices, trees, the feet of the tribe, the sounds of the Watchers and the music and there were directional effects, such as voices out of the frame. The sub-woofer added bass to the feet of the Watchers, the storm and the music.

    Lip synchronisation was fine.

     The original score by Clint Mansell was epic in tone and intent, perhaps showing the direction of the film might have taken.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

     The three featurettes show the three stages of filming Noah: the landscapes and exteriors in Iceland, the exterior of the Ark and the battle filmed in Long Island and the interior Ark sequences shot on the set in Brooklyn. All three are interesting and made the same way, consisting of an on set “video diary”, music from the film, captions and interviews with a range of people including director and co-writer Darren Aronofsky, producer Scott Franklin, production designer Mark Friedberg, cinematographer Matthew Libatique, an executive producer, camera operator, chief lighting technician, special effects make-up supervisor, location manager and co-writer Ari Handel.

Iceland: Extreme Beauty (20:40)

     The joys, beauty and challenges of filming on location in Iceland.

The Ark Exterior: A Battle for 300 Cubits (19:46)

    Designing and building the Ark, rain machines and shooting the battle in the night for day to be able to control the environment.

The Ark Interior: Animals Two by Two (19:55)

    Visualising, building and filming in the interior of the Ark, plus the character of Noah.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

     The worldwide releases of Noah are the same except for some language and subtitle options.

Summary

     Russell Crowe and Ray Winstone are worth watching but Noah is too dull, with too much talk and not enough spectacle. Call Noah a family drama, with water, and you may get closer to the feel of the film.

     The video is dark but fine, the audio good; the extras are worthwhile and the same as in other regions.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Ray Nyland (the bio is the thing)
Thursday, November 20, 2014
Review Equipment
DVDSony BDP-S580, using HDMI output
DisplayLG 55inch HD LCD. This display device has not been calibrated. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.
Audio DecoderNAD T737. This audio decoder/receiver has not been calibrated.
AmplificationNAD T737
SpeakersStudio Acoustics 5.1

Other Reviews NONE
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