This movie is a disaster.
If you now think that you know what I think of the movie Noah, you are wrong. Read on.
I read a myriad of reviews about Noah before going to see it. When I saw the first trailers, I was pretty excited to see this movie. I didn't know anything about it besides what I saw in the trailer. However, after reading many reviews, mostly from Christian reviewers, I was convinced it would be a waste of my time. I then watched a podcast by The Blaze featuring Greg Thornbury, president of King's College, who not only had seen the movie but had the opportunity to be a part of a small group with the director himself. Hearing his evaluation of what was done with this movie; to the story, and to the theology, made me rethink whether I would see this movie or not.
Noah hit the theaters on Friday. I was still wavering between seeing it or ignoring it. Then a friend on Facebook linked to a review of Noah by William P. Young, author of The Shack. He hated it. My mind was made up, I was going to this movie and I was going opening night.
Many of my friends from around the country went as well. To a one, they disliked this movie. There are a couple who I haven't read their thoughts yet. They are writing their own reviews which I will post here, unedited. I am anxious to read their thoughts.
As I thought about this movie and the controversy surrounding it, it seemed to me there are three areas where this movie needs to be evaluated. How faithful is Noah to the actual story? How accurate is Noah to the theology of the story of the Flood? How does Noah stand as a film?
I sat down in my seat at the theater with my extra-buttered popcorn and my diet Dr. Pepper. What I was expecting to see was the "christian" version of Avatar. As I stood up from my seat to toss my bucket of popcorn crumbs floating in a liquid that is clearly not real butter and my empty cup into the trash, I knew that what I had watched was not Avatar. Not by a long shot.
|Grizzly Adams...I mean Noah|
|Noah's young family|
Some of the other variances include the death of Lamach, Noah's father. The only thing we know about Lamach's death is his age. But since the ages in the movie are totally changed up, it is very difficult to complain about this. My suspicions are that the direction Aronofsky took in this regard had much to do with answering the question as to why Noah went to see his grandfather Methuselah rather than his father.
Probably the largest departure from the Biblical account is the handling of the angels or "sons of God", who came to the earth and defiled themselves with human women. This is the aspect of the movie that is most derided by the people I have read. In the movie, these angels came to earth to help mankind after they were banished from the Garden. In the Biblical account, the only motivation for coming to earth was to fulfill their lusts, which is a very different motive indeed. For me, this is the greatest disappointment I had with the movie. If Aronofsky had stuck to the real story in this area, it would have made for some very dramatic and epic scenes. It would have brought the evil of mankind to a whole different level. But he chose to go a different route. I will let you be the judge on whether that was a good idea or not.
|A Watcher coming to Earth|
Still, Aronofsky chooses to create an amalgam of the details found in the Book of Enoch about the angels. Maybe he felt that a faithful rendering of this aspect of the story would complicate things too much and take away from the real focus of the story. I can only speculate of course, but I am willing to give him the benefit of the doubt.
In the Book of Enoch, the angels that came to earth and defiled themselves with humans were called Watchers. They came and did what they did out of selfish lusts and rebellion against God, not for benevolent reasons as described in the movie. I can surmise he changed this aspect of the story because of another change he made. In Enoch, God sends angels to help Noah build the ark. In the movie, the damned Watchers help Noah build the ark. This can only make any sense if the Watchers had good motives to begin with, however misguided they were.
In Enoch, the punishment for the Watchers who came to earth was to be encased in stone in the earth. This is why the angels were represented in the movie as these weird, Transformer-type, stone giants. (Contrary to many reviews have read, there are no Nephilim in the movie)
In Noah, the Watchers end up being the angels who help Noah and his family build the ark, and in the final twist to the story, when the Watchers petition God for forgiveness, as they indeed do in Enoch, they are forgiven and returned to Heaven. In Enoch, they are denied their petition and damned forever. Scripture would suggest a similar fate.
This brings me to the theology of the movie. What does the movie Noah say about God? This movie presents God as the Creator. Not a "Force" or an "alien", but as a supreme Creator. And not just that, but a Creator who cares about His creation. A Creator who is actively involved in His creation.
What does this movie say about Creation? It shows a Creator who created the universe in six days. It shows a Creator who created each creature after its own kind, especially and extravagantly, human beings, Adam and Eve. It presents Adam and Eve as husband and wife. In direct contrast to our current world's diminishing of that truth in the promoting of promiscuity and homosexuality. The depiction of Adam and Eve in their glorified, "in the image of God" states is stunning. It does continually refer to the animals as "innocent" which, of course, is not a correct view of creation. All of creation was affected by the Fall, including animals. And Scripture makes it very clear that all of creation needed to be destroyed, not just humans.
There is a scene near the beginning of the movie where a dog-like creature is fleeing from some hunters and comes across Noah and his son's path as they gather plants for food, the result being a statement clearly establishing Noah as being a vegetarian and the other men as being meat eaters. I have read many who have cried about this making Noah out to be some environmentalist wacko. If you read the Genesis account, you will see that God did not give the animals over to be food until after the Flood. He actually gives this command to Noah at the same time that He instructs him to take dominion over the earth and populate the earth. So this representation of Noah is 100% Biblically accurate, if we are to believe that Noah "walked with God". It is speculation, of course, that the other men would have been meat eaters but it is certainly not far-fetched since God had not allowed such a thing yet and men were wholly rebelling from God in every conceivable way.
In the end, theologically, this movie is absolutely sound. This realization stunned me to be honest. In a world where every new movement in the church is trying to pull us away from Scripture and particularly, Genesis and all of its truth, to have a movie directed and written by two men who are not explicitly Christians and released by a wholly secular company, is nothing short of amazing.
|Dream sequence of the killing of Abel|
There were scenes that communicated how large the scheme of things were, like when the entire planet is shown engulfed in dozens of hurricanes covering its entire surface. What an amazing graphic that was! But those were fleeting moments and did little in relieving the feeling of this world of Noah being very myopic.
|Ham and his bride to be,|
The end result of this poor development of characters for me was a suffering of an edge and intensity when it came to several climatic scenes. This movie should have invoked fear, dread, disgust, horror, sorrow, trepidation, and great relief. It just didn't do this for me. I found myself asking why. I found myself trying to search for the emotions within myself during the movie. Trying to dredge them up to match what my eyes were witnessing and my ears were hearing. But I couldn't. When Lamach was murdered I should have felt anger and anguish. When Noah was in the midst of the horror that was the encampment of men, I should have felt disgust and sorrow. When Noah was about to murder his two infant grandchildren, I should have felt extreme sadness and dread. When the rain finally stopped, I should have felt amazing joy and happiness. I just didn't. I can't explain why. Something didn't connect. Something didn't click for me. Maybe it was uncertainty. Maybe it was being thrown so far off balance by the retelling of a story I thought I knew in my head that I had guarded my emotions or was simply unable to access them. Whatever the reason, the moments of impact were great, but not very impacting. And that is too bad.
The acting is top notch. Outside of possibly a poor choice in the casting of Ham, every actor and actress in Noah does a magnificent job. And there are some absolutely amazing scenes in this movie.
The telling of the creation story is the best I have ever seen. When God said "Let there be light" I was literally pushed back in my seat. What followed was an ultra fast paced visual journey through the six days of creation, culminating in the Garden of Eden and a wonderful depiction of Adam and Eve. Again, the best I have ever seen. I wish I had always envisioned them in this way. I will from now on.
And then there is the moment when the flood finally strikes and Noah and his family are huddled inside the ark with only the pounding of the water and the screams of the dying, echoing in their ears. What horror! The scene then moves outside the ark and we see one of the last of the mountain tops, covered in people trying to escape the waters, only to be swept off the rocks by enormous waves. It was a scene I will never forget.
But the scene that hit me the hardest was the final time we look up into the sky. It is the last moment of the movie. And a rainbow breaks across the sky. If you are not one who understands the significance of that scene, then its magnitude is probably lost one you. But for those who understand, that last moment is incredible. The promise, the love, the mercy, the faithfulness, the hope for mankind and the sign that the Creator is indeed there and has not forgotten us was absolutely devastating in its power.
The story of Noah is that a God who created the universe and then specifically man, in His own image, is heartbroken when Eve takes the forbidden fruit. He heart is wrenched when even His angels desert Him and His beloved children become vile, evil creatures, destroying all He created. But yet there was one man who still followed all he could of what he knew the Creator wanted him to do. Noah wasn't perfect. He had in him the same sin that destroyed the rest of mankind. But he had faith in God. And the Creator was faithful to him. He rescued Noah and all of creation through him. God loved, He showed mercy, He executed justice, He was faithful to His Creation. He never deserted them even when they did so to Him. That is the story of Noah. And that is the story told in Noah, the movie. I challenge you to go back and read the story of the Flood in Genesis and see if you could do better. Maybe you could. I know I couldn't.
When all is said and done, I would encourage you to see Noah for yourself. Discard your preconceived notions at the theater door. Allow the Holy Spirit to speak to you and reveal the true God of the universe to you through this film. If you have already watched Noah. Go again. Watch it with a fresh eye. Let it teach you of God's everlasting love and mercy. It was a great miracle that Noah, his family and all the creatures of Creation survived the Flood. But it is also a miracle that this film ever got made. It would be a disaster of an entirely different kind if someone missed out on its true message: In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth...and He loves us.