I read a lot of opinions about Noah and decided to go check it out for myself this weekend. Some people argue that it doesn’t stay true to the Bible, some say it stays true enough, some say that’s not the point. What the internet does not need is one more blog about the movie, but since I’ve had at least five people ask me this weekend what I thought, I’m just going to go ahead and add my one-and-a-half cents. So, if you came up to me at church or stopped by for a cup of coffee, here’s what I’d tell you:
I liked it.
(I’m going to mention several things from the movie now. I’m not going to mention anything that you won’t see in the first few minutes, though, so if you’re worried about spoilers, I think you’re safe here. You can always just go see it, then come back here to talk.)
I’ve read several reviews about the movie (click here for my favorite), and lots of people have questions and concerns. I’ll give my perspective on each issue, and as always, feel free to disagree. I am an unabashed Peter Jackson-loving fantasy film freak, so Noah is a movie I’d go see even if it wasn’t based on my favorite book that I believe is true. If you love the Bible but epic historical or fantasy movies are not your bag, you might not like it.
Isn’t the movie really dark?
The murals that we paint in children’s nurseries of fluffy clouds and rainbows and floaty boats with smiling animals have always made me raise an eyebrow. We’ll chalk it up to that macabre streak running through my Jesus-loving soul. When I think about Noah, I think about a man charged with overseeing the destruction of the entire planet, the guy co-laboring with God for a massive reboot. And what must the planet have been like for God to think He needed a do-over? When I think Noah, I picture drowning and all creation groaning before we get to doves and rainbows in the sky.
I see God’s faithfulness and compassion, but also His decision to destroy everything. Somehow the story of Noah and the flood has always seemed both comforting and freaking scary.
I think this movie captures a lot of the freaking scary. And there are moments of redemption. It’s dark and painful, and a lot of the time I don’t really like Russell Crowe’s “Noah” at all. He freaks me out. He’s tortured and at times maniacal. But I don’t know if I would’ve liked the real Noah either. Would I have tried to sneak extra people onto the ark? I wonder how it really went down. I do know that the Bible is chock full of fallible people trying to follow God and not always getting it right.
Doesn’t the movie deviate from Genesis?
Many people seem upset by the movie’s departure from the biblical text. For me, I enjoy seeing the infinite ways man portrays God through art. Each piece, whether a painting or a book or a movie, isn’t going to get everything right. I love seeing God’s fingerprints across a piece. In the case of Noah, the source material is actual Scripture that I hold as sacred and true. A movie inspired by that text makes me want to get into the original and compare and contrast.
Art doesn’t threaten the Bible. The Bible can inspire art, but the art itself isn’t the Bible. The movie made me picture what it could’ve felt like. The feelings and images help bring the text to life when I read it. We came home after the movie and reread the Genesis account, noting the differences and similarities, and have been discussing it all weekend.
If I went to church and heard a sermon about Noah and the flood and the pastor added characters and changed a few things about Noah’s family, I might not want to listen to that pastor anymore. I love the Bible and want to hear exactly what it says without stuff added or taken out.
But when I go to the movies to see Noah, I appreciate the genre, the artistry, and bringing the epic story to life. We could call it “based on a true story” or “inspired by a true story.” I can love the Bible and like this movie. I liked Evan Almighty, too.
Wasn’t some of it totally made up?
For sure. For instance, director Darren Aronofsky added a character who is barren. She’s not in the biblical account, but her presence in the film is one of the most powerful components for me, as an infertile woman. As someone who has wrestled with her place in a world where God said, “Be fruitful and multiply,” I’m drawn to the struggles of a barren character in a world of two-by-two, male and female, and everyone prepared to breed.
When we read the Bible, we often read it with a “how does this apply to my life” hanging in the air. The movie Noah sorta helped me set my barren self right down in the middle of the action. It was painful and unearthed a bunch of emotion, and I was afraid I’d ugly cry right there in the theater. I went with eating an entire large popcorn and two Coke slushies.
What about the environmental agenda?
God made Adam and Eve to be custodians of His creation, so taking care of the environment is kind of a big deal (says the woman who recently discovered four rolls of plastic cling wrap in a drawer). The theme of environmentalism running throughout the movie is an interesting method to show Noah and his family caring for the earth and the rest of humanity destroying it. In the Bible, God gave people plants to eat, and then after the flood, in Genesis 9 when He makes a covenant with Noah, He gives them animals to eat, too. So Russell Crowe running around as an antediluvian vegetarian is actually pretty accurate.
Doesn’t it bother you that they call God “The Creator?”
They refer to God as the Creator throughout the whole movie. When I think about it, that is the major aspect of God that they understood then. He was their creator. That’s what they knew. This was long before Abraham, when they became a family. God was Creator. And He is Creator. It’s an aspect of Him, and as we are created in his image, we get to create things, too. Like movies. Movies that can’t possibly capture every aspect of the multifaceted, many-named, Lord of the universe.
I heard something about rock monsters…what the what?
There are elements of fantasy in Noah that appeal to me as a lover of The Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit, and Narnia. This is my genre. I am comfortable here and have spent a lifetime tracing God’s fingers through epic tales of good and evil. So Aronofsky’s rendition of the Nephilim from Genesis 6 as giant rocks makes me go, “Ooh, interesting interpretation. Very creative.” For someone who isn’t into fantasy, you might really, really hate them. It’s an issue of genre.
I’ll end at rock monsters. If you saw it and have thoughts, I’d love to hear them. I’ve reread the first chunk of Genesis three times since seeing the movie Friday night, and that’s really the cool thing here, that we can see art, interact with it, read the original source text, God-breathed and preserved through civilizations, and decide for ourselves if it resonates with us or not.
image released from Paramount Pictures, from bayoobuzz.com