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Mark Morris – Noah: The Official Movie Novelization

noah-novelTitan  £7.99
Review By: David Stonehouse

The announcement of a big budget movie based on the story of Noah’s Ark caused a bit of a stir. Biblical films can still do big business but tend to focus on the New Testament, with stories about Jesus playing very well with the large and devout American Christian communities. But was there really the same potential in bringing to life an Old Testament Sunday school story? Paramount were also taking a gamble on writer/director Darren Aronofsky, whose previous work has mostly been smaller in scale and budget and, frankly, a bit too arty for the mainstream event movie audience. Well, so far Noah has delivered, reviews have been mixed but, with a healthy $40m opening weekend and steady business since, it’s fair to call it a success.

Mark Morris has been called in to deliver the tie-in novel and he’s always a safe pair of hand for this sort of job. Like that other epic boat-based movie, Titanic, everybody already knows the story. Noah certainly won’t be delivering a shock ending so the entertainment lies in the pleasure of a great story well told. For the most part Morris succeeds in making a very visual cinematic experience work on the page.

Aronofsky’s take on the story was to focus on the savagery of the first human world and the necessity of the creator’s decision to make his apocalyptic slate-wipe. The plot opens with the young Noah witnessing the murder of his father Lamech at the hands of Tubal-Cain. A decade later Noah tries to hide and protect his family from the savagery of the rest of the human race. Tubal-Cain, descendent of Cain, the first murderer, rules the tribes of man and they are savage, brutal and morally bankrupt. Noah is plagued by nightmarish visions of a world where mankind has been destroyed. He becomes convinced that the Creator has chosen him to be His hand of justice. He gathers up his family and seeks out his Yoda-like ancient grandfather, Methuselah, for advice.

And so Noah plants a seed from the Garden of Eden and, with the help of fallen angels the Watchers, begins to build the Ark. However, as the great flood approaches so do the legions of Tubal-Cain, determined to survive and live again in the new world. That Aronofsky managed to shoe-horn the blockbuster conventions of an epic battle and a final bad-guy showdown into his screenplay my not sit comfortably with some but it does make for a damn good story.

Morris transfers the screenplay to the page effectively with an attractive and economic style. There is some very strong character material to explore. Noah’s mission becomes his obsession, eventually bringing him to the brink of madness and driving a wedge between him and his family. Their initial support and loyalty is pushed to the limit and some relationships are broken beyond repair when they realise what Noah intends to sacrifice to complete the task the Creator has given him. Morris gives these emotional dramas convincing depth and draws sympathy for the characters, including giving some additional weight to some who are paper thin on the screen.

Where the novelization is less successful is in depicting the sheer scale of Aronofsky’s apocalyptic vision. Morris’ description is vivid and vibrant but trying to match the astonishing visuals of the movie is a thankless task. Noah’s nightmares, Tubal-Cain’s camp, and the spectacle of the Watchers on the battle field in full flow as presented by this visionary director are one hell of a challenge for any writer.

On the whole this is a pretty good novelization and certainly worth your money if you loved the film and want a good quality souvenir before the BluRay arrives in the summer.

Also available for the younger or more reluctant reader is:

Noah: Ila’s Story by Susan Korman

Titan £5.99

This shorter novel focuses on the events of the film from the point of view of Noah’s adopted daughter Ila. Korman does a good job of selecting her material to make an effective shorter read. Enough is kept of the main story to keep the reader aware of the big picture and Ila’s character is presented in a very believable and sympathetic way.

Often, sadly, reluctant reader books equate simple stories with pretty poor writing. It’s refreshing that that this is not the case here. The style is attractive and literary while still being accessible which should be applauded as you don’t see it all that often in this sort of book.

Another bonus is that Ila’s Story takes a very masculine adventure and gives it a girl-friendly makeover that might attract female readers who might otherwise have been put off. There are also eight pages of glossy stills from the film to help the reader imagine the characters and settings. Overall this little book comes highly recommended for younger fans of the film who might feel a bit challenged by the full scale adult novel.

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