Warning: This review contains spoilers
I have read a number of critical reviews of the Hollywood produced film, Noah; some from people who have never seen the film and some from folks who saw saw the film and found it wanting. After reading some of those critiques, I wasn’t quite sure what I would find when I actually saw it for myself – a blasphemous account of a sacred Bible story or an honest attempt to create a storyline from a Bible account that is, in itself, somewhat sparse in detail.
I found the film to be quite interesting, with its fantastical creation of a world wracked with sin, overtaken by the depravity of humankind. Noah is an eclectic mix of drama, science fiction, action, mystery, magic realism, and apocalyptic fiction.
There are substantial discrepancies between the Biblical account of Noah and that witnessed on the big screen, including embellishments, deletions, alterations, and fabrications. Nonetheless, the underlying theme of Scripture comes through – humankind was a disappointment to God because of their blatant disregard for their Creator and only one person, Noah, found mercy in God’s sight and, subsequently, allowed himself to be used as a messenger and executor of God’s plan.
Without a doubt, the producer of Noah, Darren Aronofsky, extended the creative license far beyond the information we have available to us within Scripture, and he dismissed or altered some of the details we do have at our disposal (Genesis 5:32-10:1).
- The backdrop for the story is a barren, uninhabitable land, within which the only way to sustain human life is to snuff out the “innocent” lives of whatever animals they can conquer, an act looked upon with great disdain.
- Methuselah, Noah’s grandfather, is holed up in a desolate cave and possesses superhuman powers that allow him to randomly induce trances in others and to heal at will.
- Rock formations, the “Watchers,” are a surreal blend of the human and the celestial; they are depicted as beings who displeased God in their misguided compassion for humans fallen from grace. Some of the “Watchers” contribute further to humankind’s depravation, while others seek to redeem themselves as they serve to fulfill God’s plan, alongside Noah.
All of these elements, and more, serve to embellish the creative and imaginative account of Noah’s quest on God’s behalf.
In addition to embellishments, there are facets of Noah that stray from the descriptors we read in Scripture.
- In the Biblical account, Noah’s three sons, Shem, Ham and Japheth had wives who joined them on the ark. In Aronofsky’s account, only Shem has a partner who is not his wife, who is unable to bear children, and who was basically raised as a member of the family.
- Ham feels compelled to find a woman for himself because he fears he will be alone for the rest of his life, so he ventures into the place of human depravation in hopes of securing his future wife.
- Tubal-cain (Genesis 4:22), a descendant of Cain, leads the charge for evil and, ultimately, ends up as a stowaway on the ark, collaborating with Ham to exact revenge on Noah.
Despite the obvious deviation of the film, Noah, from the actual Biblical story of Noah, I believe there are many viewpoints Christians might consider as they offer critiques.
- We must see the film for what it is – an imaginative Hollywood-created fantasy movie, with a Biblical story as its foundation, created for the purpose of making money. Aronofsky even agreed to a disclaimer as part of the marketing for the movie: 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.
- The producer, Darren Aronofsky, does not profess to be a Christian so we ought not be holding him to Christian standards. In Colossians 4:5-6, God gives us specific instruction on how we ought to behave toward unbelievers – Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.
- While the movie has strong environmental and evolutionary appeals, it still acknowledges the presence of God as Creator of all, so much so that countries like Indonesia and Egypt have banned it.
- The depiction of a Biblical story on the big screen may be a catalyst for many to search out the Scriptures and read God’s account of Noah – and, as we know, regardless of the messenger, God says His word will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it (Isaiah 55:11b).
- This movie gives believers an opportunity to engage in dialogue about what actually happened and can open a door to introduce Christ to unbelievers.
- If we take the time to actually use the Bible as a lens through which to view this film, it is possible to see things in a different light.
For instance, some contend that the “Watchers” may serve as a metaphor of the Nephilim, or “men of great size,” that inhabited Canaan (Numbers 13:33). When I first saw them; however, my mind immediately went to the passage in Luke 19:37-40 in which the disciples were loudly proclaiming their belief in God and the miracles He had performed. They shouted, Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest! The Pharisees were angered by the disciples’ outbursts and said to Jesus, Teacher, rebuke your disciples! to which Jesus replied, If they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.
To me, the “Watchers” were a powerful element in the film, suggesting that, when humankind fails to recognize the Creator, His praises will be sung nonetheless even if the very foundation of the earth has to do it.
One of the other ideas that occurred to me was that, within Aronofsky’s storyline, God had put a plan into motion to be accomplished through Noah. All was going smoothly as long as everyone trusted in God’s design for the future. When people strayed from that trust and, instead, took things into their own hands, everything began to fall apart.
For example, when Ham crossed over into the cesspool of sin to find a woman, his behavior set off a series of events that resulted in him feeling angry, betrayed and, ultimately, vengeful toward Noah. And when Naamah, Noah’s wife, went to Methuselah and asked him to heal Ila’s barren womb, it opened the door to events that could never have occurred had she allowed God to remain in control.
I believe it is possible that the interference with God’s established design fostered an atmosphere of sin that clouded Noah’s judgment, making him question the plan God had set before him.
The temptation we possess to be in control and “fix” things that don’t seem quite right to us often interferes with the grand design God is orchestrating. And then, when events unfold in an unproductive or negative fashion because of our interference, we scramble to figure out what went wrong and how we can make it right again. Our humanness overshadows God’s sovereignty.
If we consider Aronofsky’s film, Noah, from a creative rather than theological standpoint, there is much to be gained from this work of art. Isn’t it phenomenal that the God we serve created the intellect that could imagine and construct something so emotionally and cognitively provocative? As believers, we can use this movie as a springboard for expanding God’s kingdom. We ought not squander the opportunity.
Ephesians 4:29 Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.