Well, you all knew it was coming. My post defending the movie Noah being made is one of my most read articles, and now that I’ve finally seen the film, I figured I should share some of my thoughts.
I liked the movie. I really did. I probably won’t buy it, but my initial reaction is that it is well done, and it stays true to the biblical story as well as it could. Is it exactly the story from the Bible? No. And I, for one, am glad it wasn’t. As I said before, the original story would have made for a really short and rather boring film, so I’m glad they added things to make it more exciting. I’m going to give five awesome things about this film, and five reasons someone may want to steer clear, just to be fair. Warning: there are spoilers below.
1. Stellar First Half
My wife disagrees with me, but I thought the first half of the film was miles better than the second. Aronofsky was able to take a classic Bible story, add in some cool new additions, and make the whole thing fresh for a new generation of seekers.
2. Portrayal of God
This is going to earn me a lot of backlash, but I loved how God, referred to throughout as “The Creator,” is portrayed. The creators of the film were not hesitant to show God’s beauty in creating the universe and his wrath towards humans for falling so far into sin. This God seems very true to his portrayal in throughout the Old Testament, but his glaring silence at key moments in the film can resonate with those yearning for God’s voice today.
3. Solid Filmmaking
There is very little about this production that isn’t well done. The writing, the acting, and the special effects all come together to create a movie-going experience that is definitely worth your $15. Each character’s arc (not ark) was compelling, and the inter-personal conflicts that arise keep everything tense. It’s really cool to see Hollywood using it’s impressive creative prowess to make the stories from the Bible come alive.
4. Interesting Questions
It seems that no one can agree on this film’s themes, and whether they accurately depict what is in the Bible. This doesn’t bother me. In fact, it made for some great conversation as we left the theatre. Some imagery is a little confusing (I still don’t understand the snake-skin armband, but I’m not ready to jump onto the Satan bandwagon yet), but some is really, really cool (the destructive power of industry, for example). I know many hated how progress was portrayed, but I think it is worth our time to ask if we are really stewarding the planet as we strip it of all its resources.
5. Rock Angels
The Watchers are cool, don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. Fallen angels who are encased in stone as punishment for their rejection of God’s commands may not be in the Bible, but the Fall of the Watchers comes from other non-canonical books, such as the books of Enoch and Jubilees. I loved their six arms harkening back to the six wings of the seraphim in Isaiah 6. Even their return to Heaven, signifying God’s forgiveness, while not biblical, is a reminder of the forgiveness we receive when we turn to follow Jesus.
1. Noah Goes Crazy
At one of the key turning points in the film, Noah believes God does not want to start over using Noah’s family. He believes humanity had its chance and blew it, so God is only saving the animals. While this is clearly not in accord with the biblical account, some may find this section of the movie confusing. Does God actually want to abolish humanity, or is Noah just going crazy because of the hard choices he has already had to make. Hard to know, and the movie does little to clear it up.
2. Dark, dark, dark.
This is pretty self-explanitory, but if you’ve seen any of Darren Aronofsky’s movies, you know he’s not too big into sunlight and nice things. He delves into the dark recesses of the human mind, and pulls up some distrubing stuff. I had to look away as a CGI animal was torn apart alive by the wicked who were about to perish. However, if we really look at the source material for the story, the narrative is pretty dark to begin with. Humanity is so far gone that God needs to kill almost every person on the planet. I’m sure their dying screams would have been horrific, and the poor family on the boat would not have been singing joyous songs while others drown. But it is a little oppressive, so this movie is not for the faint of heart.
If you are a hard-core young earth creationist, you aren’t going to like the portrayal of Creation. Noah tells the rest of the family on the ark the story of God creating the universe, and a rapid visual showcase accompanies the tale. Each line is partnered with the corresponding section of the evolutionary, old earth take on how God created everything. It is not a literal seven day telling. The creation of humanity, however, is left up in the air. We see life begin as single celled creatures and evolve all the way to tree-dwelling apes, but the camera pans away and comes back to find humanity fully formed (and glowing…). I appreciated this portrayal of Creation, but I know others don’t. You’ve been warned.
This film has too many of them. A huge climax at the introduction of the flood and the battle for the ark. A final showdown between Noah and Tubal-Cain, the main antagonist. Noah’s conflict over the fate of his grandchildren. Noah’s choice to rejoin his family at the end. Perhaps this was meant to mimic the wave-like pattern of being on the ark, but so many ups and downs had me a little disappointed in the plot structure. If you don’t care about such things, you probably won’t even notice.
I’m aware that this choice was on purpose, but I did not like how ambiguous the film was about when it was set. The wicked people seem to have advanced to near-modern industrial practices, yet still use swords, spears, and axes (as well as weird glowing-gunpowder-rock “guns”). It seemed to be a cross between ancient humanity and post-apocalyptic survivors. It’s not a big thing, but I wasn’t a fan.
Was this movie perfect? Not at all. Does it raise some interesting questions about humanity, our relationship with our Creator, and our respect for the rest of his Creation? Definitely. If you are looking for the Bible story, I would suggest the first episode of Mark Burnett’s The Bible mini-series, because this is not that story. It instead uses the story as a jumping off point for a great movie that blends drama and action and explores our faith in a God who is beyond our comprehension. If that is something you are up for, I highly suggest seeing the film. And be ready to talk about it with those you see it with.