Is man ruled by heaven or his own will? Is the great flood coming again? Does man deserve to survive? Often defying logic, this mythological story where miracles occur regularly explores such questions. Noah, who follows the ways of God and respects fellow creatures, is conservationist, vegetarian, but not pacifist, slaughtering those who oppose the Lord’s work. Those, the descendants of Cain, have created cities, ripping minerals from the land to forge weapons and armor. But the land is dying, and the cities are dead. And since selfish man has broken the world and exploits other creatures, God decides to annihilate humans. This, once the family is isolated on the ark and all special effects are done with, sets off a smaller, more intimate drama closer to Greek tragedy with sons murderously set against father. this Lord’s Lord of the Rings, images have great clarity, detail, and tinting, the first half playing out as a quest through vast vistas with background mountains, battlegrounds, and stone creatures that look and sound distinctly like Ent forest shepherds. You can see each strand of Noah’s beard, and fabrics reveal threads, weave, and loose pieces of wool, while boulders have distinct rough surfaces. Contrast is excel- lent, with deep black silhouettes and bright white doves, but for long stretches the color palette in rocky, barren, blighted landscape is limited to grays and browns. The eye is only dazzled in God’s created ark-timber forest, or the Garden of Eden flashback with an intensely red apple, or the post-flood world where rich greens and blue skies appear.

In the 7.1 mix, Clint Mansell’s bigger-than-mere-mortals orchestral score is often restrained, but then rumblingly rises up—as when the ark is revealed—filling different channels with formidable cellos and violins. When the flood comes, a booming wash of water crashes over you, and the ark door earthshatteringly slams. Effects pass back and forth from rears to surrounds when Noah dreams, and these channels are used for convincing atmospherics of wind across the plains, circling flocks, the creaking ark, and the constant rains. Voices are mostly clear, but Jennifer Connelly’s passionate whispers are sometimes lost.

Three 20-minute behind-the-scenes featurettes cover the difficult terrain of the volcanic Icelandic location, ideas behind the design of the ark, and the motivations of Noah. They’re more honest, thoughtful, and less slick than usual featurettes and give a sense of the daily shooting experience.

Studio: Paramount, 2014
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
Audio Format: DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1
Length: 138 mins.
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Director: Darren Aronofsky
Starring: Russell Crowe, Jennifer Connelly, Anthony Hopkins