Darren Aronofsky has been called a visionary director, and he's taken that vision and applied it to one of the most widely known Bible stories: Noah's Ark. "Noah" isn't a verse-by-verse adaptation of the Genesis tale, but it is inspired by it, with some embellishments and alterations that may excite some viewers but upset those who feel any movie about the bible should be a literalist interpretation. Starring Russell Crowe as Noah and Jennifer Connelly as his steadfast wife, the movie is intense, philosophical, and thought-provoking. The younger cast is equally as wonderful: Douglas Booth as Noah's loyal eldest son Shem; Logan Lerman as his questioning middle son Ham; and Emma Watson as Noah's daughter-in-law Ila. Consider taking your mature teens if you want a movie that will make you think.
The PG-13 rating is "for violence, disturbing images and brief suggestive content." This isn't a mild Sunday School tale; it's intense, so make sure to consider these five questions before going to the movie with your teens.
1. How do you feel about the religious subject matter? Depending on your family's beliefs, "Noah" is based either on the biblical truth, a religious fable, or something in-between. As the studio and Aronofsky have made clear, "Noah" is not a literal adaptation of the Genesis story. The National Catholic Register runs down some of the major differences between the biblical presentation and Aronofsky's interpretation and The Atlantic features a Q&A with the director about what drove him to make the film. Like any adaptation based on written source material, there are omissions, additions, and departures from the text. If you're comfortable talking about religion in art, this would be an insightful film to see together and discuss afterward. If you're looking for biblical accuracy, you may need to skip this one.
2. How does your kid handle violence in movies? It's no surprise that the bible can be incredibly violent, and the "Noah" story is no exception. While the message is about Noah's unwavering faith and commitment to the Creator, it's also about a whole lot of people dying. Sure, they are wicked, meat-eating cannibals, but they are also women and children. And it's not just the flood that kills people, it's Noah himself, and of course the Caininites. People are killed with axes, spears, and the Fallen Angel "Watchers" crush people to death. Then there's a horrific scene where it's clear people are being led to the slaughter for food, and when a horde of people tramples a wounded girl to death. One situation involving infanticide is harrowing to watch. None of those scenes are easy to handle even for an adult, so it will definitely be hard for younger viewers.
3. Do you worry about sex/language? The language isn't much of an issue, but there are a few references to sex. In one scene, Noah's eldest son Shem (Booth) is shown running after, tackling, tickling and then passionately kissing Ila (Watson) as his brother Ham not-so-secretly watches. Shem and Ila kiss several times and in another scene make love in the woods (but there's no nudity, and most of the love scene is off camera). They are also shown half-dressed in bed together in the Ark. Before the flood begins, Ham becomes obsessed with Noah finding him (and to a lesser degree his younger brother Japheth) a wife with whom to "be fruitful and multiply."
4. Who will enjoy the movie most? Darren Aronofsky fans. If you've been following his films since "Pi" and "Requiem for a Dream," you will definitely want to see how the director interprets this ancient Judeo-Christian story. In addition, moviegoers who appreciate epic stories, are into the stellar cast (Russell Crowe, Jennifer Connelly, Ray Winstone, Emma Watson, Anthony Hopkins, Douglas Booth, Logan Lerman), and can understand the biblical subject matter and mature scenes of violence.
5. What are critics saying about "Noah"? Critical reaction to the biblical drama is overwhelmingly positive, with a "generally favorable" score of 72 on Metacritic and a "fresh" 76 percent on Rotten Tomatoes. "As much a fantasia inspired by the Old Testament as a literal retelling of that tale, 'Noah' manages to blend the expected with the unexpected and does it with so much gusto and cinematic energy you won't want to divert your eyes from the screen," writes Kenneth Turan of the Los Angeles Times. Moira MacDonald of The Seattle Times says: "An often strange yet always intriguing depiction, filtered through contemporary ideas of environmentalism and presenting its title character as a man of unshakable faith and almost unendurable burdens."
WATCH the trailer for "Noah" (VIDEO)