I was pleasantly surprised by Noah, partly because director Darren Aronofsky was able to bring a new take on a story that is so familiar that it’s primal. In fact, this epic retelling of the story of Noah (played by Russell Crowe) may not be totally true to the account found in the Bible (or at least it takes some great liberties filling in the gaps) it is in many ways more primal than most previous retellings. I appreciate that Noah’s world is very underpopulated and primative (though the people seem a lot more technologically-advanced than they should be — they seem more like pre-Medieval than ancient pre-civilization). Nevertheless, this movie provides explanations for most of its incongruities with the biblical version. On a whole it stays true to the classic plot: righteous man and family build an ark to ride-out the extinction-level flood. When giving a story as old as this one new life, it’s important not to update it too much or you strain credibility. In this case, some add-ons include a bit more magic in the world, including The Watchers — a group of fallen angels who are giant rock creatures (which is explained as well). Noah’s grandfather Methuselah (played by Anthony Hopkins) seems to take on the Merlin-esque role of wise shaman. When the floods come, Noah is written as a man so committed to the cause he believes God has given him that he’s willing to kill his own family — this is a bit of a departure from the Noah I grew up hearing about. Many people, especially Judeo-Christians, seem to find that too much has been changed and that this movie is deceptively inaccurate. Even though I am Christian, I didn’t mind (and actually kind of enjoyed) the departures from the text. First, it’s a lot more exciting to have an epic feel to a Bible story. When I think about those stories from the book of Genesis, I have a hard time believing that their world was even recognizably the same as the one we know now. I’m not saying there were wizards and rock-giants, but I think it’s cool to imagine that there were. Admittedly half the time I didn’t really remember that I was watching a biblical adaptation. It felt much like a piece of fantasy fiction. The other wonderful thing about this movie was the locations (though a lot was probably CGI, I think there was still much that was natural/actual) and the visuals. I especially liked the jump-cut imagery of Noah’s visions/dreams, which were far less literal than the Bible makes them seem. Crowe did a good job as his usual burly, gruff self. He always seems like a guy that you should be afraid of but are really glad is on your side. Jennifer Connelly was also pretty moving as Noah’s wife Naameh. However, I really enjoyed watching Emma Watson (Yes, Hermione can get all primal too) as their adopted daughter and wife to their eldest son Shem. She went through an emotional roller-coaster (I’ll bet you didn’t think you’d see that term used in a review for a Bible film). Finally, the story subplot that I kind of hated had second-son Ham (played by Logan Lerman from the Percy Jackson movies) act like a stereotypical teenage, middle-child brat. Leave the family drama in the midst of epic action to Steven Spielberg! If you’d told me yesterday that Noah would not only be more than a curiosity, but actually a highlight of my movie marathon so far, I would not have believed it. Now I say that it’s a definite 4 out of 5.