Inspired by the Biblical story of Noah found in the book of Genesis.
Director: Darren Aronofsky
Cool fantasy movie. Horrible Bible movie.
Let me just start by saying that I had the opportunity to read the script for Noah, before I saw the movie. It was leaked online about a year ago, and I was already excited for the movie, so I had to read it for myself. Darren Aronofsky and Ari Handel, who wrote the script, changed the story of Noah a lot. I was surprised, shocked, and somewhat confused. In short, it had heavy mythical overtones with bits and pieces from the original Biblical story.
"The film is inspired by the story of Noah. While artistic license has been taken, we believe that this film is true to the essence, values, and integrity of a story that is a cornerstone of faith for millions of people worldwide. The biblical story of Noah can be found in the book of Genesis."
Okay, we have our back-story.
Going into the theater, I felt I was prepared for the strangeness of the film since I had already read Aronofsky’s script. I half-hoped that Paramount changed most of the stupid stuff in the re-edits, so I felt a little excited.
When comparing the original script to the version I saw in theaters, I will admit, there were improvements… but not nearly enough. If Lord of the Rings, The Titanic, The Bible, and PETA had a baby….it would be this movie. The level of fantasy in this movie was too much to handle. Needless to say, this movie was totally out of whack. One could accuse me of deciding ahead of time, that I wouldn’t like this movie, but that just isn’t the case. I wanted very badly for this movie to be good. For over a year, I have been reading news articles and following Darren Aronofsky on Twitter, trying to learn everything I could about the making of this movie. But now that it’s finished, here is exactly what I think about it.
(Spoiler alerts ahead). Christians, if you really think holding true to the authenticity of Bible stories is important, then I promise you will be disappointed by this movie. I do not have the time or the desire to tell you everything wrong in this movie, so I will just give you my biggest problems.
THE THEME OF THE MOVIE:
It was promised that man’s sin, righteousness, judgment, mercy, and grace would all be themes in this film. I agree they were all themes, just not in the way that the Bible intended them to be. “In Genesis 6:9 it says, “…Noah was a righteous man, blameless in his generation. Noah walked with God.” It seemed that this verse never existed according to the film. Noah grows to be a hard, unkind, merciless man who thinks that there is no good in man. He comes from the point of view that mankind is a plague that needs to be wiped out; this includes himself and his family. He thinks that the only reason why God is choosing to save him and his family is to protect the “innocent”, which in this case is the animals. Um….What? So God told Noah to build a giant ark just to save the animals? According to this movie, yes. “I will not fail you,” Noah says, driven by his duty to God. Noah believes that he and his family will be the last people to walk the earth, and when they die the world will finally be perfect again. This is where drama comes in. Halfway through the movie, Noah’s daughter (Ila) gets pregnant, and Noah feels compelled to not let the child live. When she finally gives birth (to two girls), Noah’s intentions are to kill them, in hopes to fulfill the “creator’s will”. Ultimately, at the climax of the movie, Noah shows mercy and decides to let them live. “I have failed both the creator and you,” Noah says later to Ila. The movie still ends with a “positive” feel, where Noah and his family stand under the pulsing rainbow, and he says, “Be fruitful and multiply.” You can imagine my disappointment.
In Genesis 1, it’s very clear that the earth was created in 6 days. Contrary to what I believe the Bible is saying, a popular belief among many Christians today, is that one day of creation is actually ‘geologic ages’ of millions of years. (It’s like a combination of Evolution and Creation). This is the way Aronofsky decided to take it. The “creation montage” began with nothing, then with what looked like the ‘Big Bang’ accompanied by Noah’s voice reading Genesis 1. You can see “creation” evolve quickly in an artistic time lapse of millions of years, passing in just seconds. Adam and Eve walk through the garden, eat the forbidden fruit, then the montage ends with Cain killing Abel.
There are creatures called “Watchers”, who witnessed the creation of man, and took pity on them when they fell. These creatures were once beautiful, with large wings and covered in glowing light. In their pity for mankind, they decide to leave God’s side and teach man all they know. When they come to earth, God punishes them by turning them into stone giants with six arms, making them still powerful but also scary looking. (It gets weirder). Mankind ends up turning on the Watchers, killing them off, becoming more violent over the years. When Noah is told to build an ark, he recruits the Watchers to help him. The Watchers help Noah in hopes that God will forgive them and take them back. God ends up beaming them back to Heaven because they sacrifice themselves for Noah. (What the heck in happening!?)
For those of you who are familiar with scripture, I’m sure you noticed a massive detail that has blasphemy written all over it. Fallen angels are demons. Anyone who is familiar with the Bible knows that. These “Watchers” in the movie are nothing more than fallen angels cloaked in a fantastical veneer. Making this movie more mythical than Biblical, we essentially see “fallen angels” assist Noah in building the Ark, and God take them back. This is a dangerous and heretical change to the story of Noah.
The word “God” is never used in this movie. He is always referred to as the “Creator”. Noah seemingly receives apocalyptic visions from the creator, all of which are abstract and unclear. Although I will admit the aesthetic quality of these visions were both stimulating and creative, it still makes God sound like he is unclear when he tells Noah what to do. This creates confusion with Noah. Each decision that Noah makes in the movie are all based from his interpretation of what he thinks God said through the visions. What does this say about God? It makes God sound like he is unclear. It makes anything he says subject to analyses and change. In the movie, Methuselah (Noah’s grandfather) tells him, “[The creator] speaks to you. You must trust that he speaks in a way that you can understand.” Noah’s motives are all based on the assumption that God wants Noah’s family to care for all the animals, and be the last people to walk the earth. (This is why Noah tries killing his granddaughters.)
As Christians, we need to be careful when watching movies that secretly redefine God’s character. God doesn’t speak vague visions; he speaks with clear powerful authority. In the Bible, when God speaks to Noah, he makes it VERY clear that they will be saved and “Be fruitful and multiply.” (Just go read Genesis for yourself!)
With all that being said, God seemed like a distant, cold, uninterested being, who occasionally interacts with his creation. If you choose to watch this movie, remind yourself of whom God really is, not what the world says he is.
When I speak about this, keep in mind that this is strictly from a film making perspective, nothing else.
I’ll admit it. I like Darren Aronofsky’s artistic style. I always have. There were many overlapping elements between Noah and his film The Fountain (2006), which I found to be very engaging. His films are usually darker and have an artistic grit, which I usually like, but in Noah it did not. Sometimes I found the camera work distracting and unclear, but for the most part it was well done. My favorite parts of the film were all found in Noah’s visions and the back-story montages. Creative time-lapse sequences with vibrant colors and stimulating visual effects made the movie worth it for me. Although animated, the Watchers had a stop-motion look to them, making them walk unsmooth and rigid. I thought that it fit the creatures well. Another aspect that made this film look pretty was the locations. I feel that it’s growing more rare for a director to film on location. Most times, expensive movies like this are filmed on a stage with green screens. Most of it was filmed in Iceland, and you can really see the difference.
Even though I hated his character, (which is more of a writing flaw than and acting flaw) Russell Crowe brings a grit and seriousness to his role of Noah, which was very well acted. He has always been a good actor in films like Gladiator (2000), Beautiful Mind (2001), and Cinderella Man (2005). His Noah character brought out more of a darker side that I haven’t really seen in him. Ray Winstone, perfectly casted as the ruthless Tubal-cain, never disappoints when playing a bad guy. Logan Lerman, who played Noah’s conflicted son, Ham, surprised me. It has been a while since I’ve seen him in something worth talking about. He plays the son who doesn’t understand his father’s decisions, and grows into a man who holds a grudge against his father’s actions. From innocence to anger, I think Lerman finally gave a performance that demonstrated his acting ability. Anthony Hopkins, Jennifer Connelly, and Emma Watson were all fine too (apart from Watson’s horrible crying).
I think most Christians going to watch this movie will be shocked into anger towards something that does not hold true to the Biblical story. I am really disappointed by the outcome of this film. I think that it had the capacity to be great with the visuals, actors, and sets if they only stayed true to the story from the Bible. With older films like The Ten Commandments (1956) and Ben-Hur (1959), it’s made clear that staying faithful to biblical truths can still make a film successful, if it’s done right. I guess there is some sort of positivity I have toward Noah. I think the film will raise some interest in the Bible to our entertainment-indulging culture, and for that I’m thankful. It seems like big directors in Hollywood are interested in exploring Biblical stories, which could be a positive thing. Right now Ridley Scott, director of Gladiator (2000) and Prometheus (2012), is filming a movie about Moses called Exodus: Gods and Kings, scheduled to come out in December. I hope that it stays true to God’s Word, but we can all admit... no matter what… the book will always be better.
For more on Hollywood Christian Movies, check out this video. CLICK HERE.