Noah has attracted some attention from Christians that blows my mind. I thought the Church was past this, but this movie has made a serious impact outside of the entertainment world. Everyone from every sect of life seems to have an opinion about the film. Not simply an opinion, but many people that are not in favor of the film are especially vocal. Pastors from across America have used the pulpit to bash the film. Moreover, many people (that have no real background in biblical studies) have been quick to reject the film on the basis of being “unbiblical.”
In this tense and confusing environment, I offer my review.
First, let’s give some credit to the film! With the large budget and all-star cast, Noah is visually and emotionally satisfying. The special effects are great and Russell Crowe delivers an award-worthy performance. Darren Aronofsky did a brilliant job writing and directing the film. I was on the edge of my seat (yes, I know how the story ends, but the drama had me on edge). Before we look at some of the challenges and differences of the film, give credit where credit is due.
What about the story versus the Bible?
This is the type of comparison I think we should avoid. When thinking about Noah, it is important to understand that this movie is written as an ancient, Jewish method of interpretation called midrash. Midrash attempts to fill in the gaps of biblical stories; and, in short, its purpose is to deal with challenges in the Hebrew Bible by exploring things in greater detail. That is exactly what Aronofsky does with Noah.
Keep in mind, this film was never intended to be biblically exact. To help with processing, I would suggest you think of it as a story inspired by the story of Noah from the Bible. The truth is, if you wanted to make a movie about Noah and only used the information provided in Genesis 6-9, your story would be limited. Making a 2 hour film would prove more than a challenge. Aronofsky’s remedy for this is to explore and elaborate on Noah and his family. Thus, we see a magnified focus on Noah’s temperament and struggle with the task he is given. And like any good storyteller, the film does a great job of bringing to light Noah’s dynamic with his family and the world around him.
Since the movie is an interpretive story, the movie is full of additional characters and subplots. From the Watchers to the added love story, there is a more involved story of Noah and the ark. Yes, the added stuff is fictional and is in no way intended to be biblically-binding, but there are some major ideas to consider.
Within Aronofsky’s story of Noah, I left the theater with two things to consider:
1) Are we taking care of the earth like God intended?
There is definitely an environmentally-friendly message to the movie. For example, the point is made that humanity is being punished for their sins against not the Creator, but the earth. Then the statement is made, “we broke the world.” It made me wonder, “how does God feel about our lack of respect for the world around us?”
There is also a vegetarian message to the movie. Noah and his family are vegetarians and the others are carnivores and seemingly depicted as barbaric for their meat consumption. Whether they pull an animal apart or bite the head off of a snake, the movie shows consuming meat in a gross manner.
The others also seem to be depleting the land of its resources. Several times, Scripture is quoted in a harmful manner to push their meat-consumption and neglect for the world around them. The others are contrasted with Noah and his family, planting and tending beautiful, green pastures. Underneath the story is the message that just as Adam and Eve were created to take care of the earth, Noah and his family were considered righteous because they took care the earth.
2) Justice, Mercy, and Redemption
Justice is a major theme of the movie. Because of man’s treatment of the world, because of Adam and Eve’s sin, because of the children of Cain’s wickedness, The Creator is going to destroy the world. But wait, it gets better! Noah has dreams of an apocalypse, in which every man, woman, and child will be suffer “death by water.”
For Noah, God is justified in his plan to execute justice upon humanity.
Yet, as the story progresses, we see Noah and his family wrestle with the task at hand. The plot reaches its climax as Noah tells the family after the flood, they will all die and be the last human beings to live. Extinction. Just as Noah gets ready to kill his two granddaughters, mercy intervenes. When Noah looks at the little babies, all he feels is “love in his heart.” Mercy triumphs over justice. And in the same way Noah and his family are spared, he spares his granddaughters.
After the flood, when land appears and the sun comes out, Noah has a revelation: this is not the end, but the beginning.
God has given humanity another chance, redemption. He gives them the opportunity to start over and live as originally intended in the Garden of Eden. This redemption comes full circle as Noah returns from his drunkenness and reunites with his family. Noah’s family became recipients of redemption and have new life to live in a renewed earth. The Creator’s anger is satisfied and he makes all things new (sound familiar?).
If you are looking for a Sunday School story only, do not see Noah. If you are looking at your Bible to evaluate the biblical authenticity of the movie, do not see Noah. But if you are looking for a story about our world, how we lost our way and how God won us back through justice, mercy, and redemption–check it out!