(Das Arche Noah Prinzip)
West Germany. 1984.
Director/Screenplay – Roland Emmerich, Producers – Wolfgang Lansfeld & Peter Zenk, Photography – Thomas Meeker & Egon Werdin, Music – Hubert Batholama, Visual Effects – Egon Werdin, Thomas Herbich & Thomas Merker, Process Photography – Roland Emmerich, Thomas Herbich, Thomas Merker, Egon Werdin, Hubert Bartholoma, Michael Bentele, Annette Deiters, Thomas Lechner & Anthony Waller, Models – Herbert & Hubert Bartholoma, Special Effects – Klaus Dittrich, Makeup – Monoka Schoel, Art Direction – Annette Deiters, Roland Emmerich & Roger Katholing. Production Company – HFF/Solaris/Maran Film/Centropolis BMI FFA/Kuratorium Junger Deutscher Film
Richy Muller (Billy Hayes), Franz Buchrieser (Max Marek), Aviva Joel (Eva Thompson), Nikolas Lansky (Gregor Vandenburg), Matthias Fuchs (Felix Kronenberg)
1997. Billy Hayes, an astronaut from the Florida Arklab weather control space station, is questioned by his superior and demanded to account for his treasonous behaviour. Billy recounts how he and his crewmate Max Marek received irregular orders, requesting them to conduct radiation bursts over the Indian Ocean. They then discovered that the radiation bursts were being used to create radar blindspots with the enemy during American troop movements. When they tried to stop further expropriation of the project, two armed astronauts were sent up to take over the station.
The Noah’s Ark Principle was the first film from German director Roland Emmerich. Roland Emmerich of course since went onto considerable A-budget success in the US mainstream with big-budget special effects-driven vehicles such as Universal Soldier (1992), Stargate (1994), Independence Day (1996), Godzilla (1998), The Day After Tomorrow (2004), 10,000 BC (2008), 2012 (2009), Independence Day: Resurgence (2016) and Moonfall (2022). The Noah’s Ark Principle was in fact Roland Emmerich’s short film graduate project from the Munich Film and Television School, which sufficiently impressed people that he was given funding to expand it to feature length.
With The Noah’s Ark Principle, Roland Emmerich makes an earnest stab at creating a hard science-fiction film. There is a convincing depiction of life aboard a space station – although it is hardly believable that people would be allowed to smoke aboard a space station, while the zero gravity effects occur at some points and not at others. (Although, for the scientifically scrupulous, this apparent inconsistency could at least be explained by the fact that the station is seen rotating – there would be a semblance of artificial gravity at the outer edges of the rotation and none at the centre).
The effects work in the space scenes is modest without being flashy (maybe about the only time you could ever say that about a Roland Emmerich film). The film does take some time to get going. The conspiracy angle holds one’s interest somewhat but the plot as a whole is unsatisfying and fails to hold one with any tension. Emmerich builds to a moderately exciting climax and the twist ending is effectively downbeat.
Most irritatingly, one never finds out what the significance of the title is. There is no Noah’s Ark Principle ever mentioned throughout. A name like Noah’s Ark can surely only allude to the preservation of humanity and/or other species from an oncoming disaster, something that the film’s plot fails to even remotely come anywhere near encompassing.