I saw the movie Noah a week or two ago and had considered throwing my thoughts in the ring back then, but never got around to doing it. Since then I’ve read a few reviews and seen a number of people commenting on it so I just couldn’t refrain from spewing my thoughts on the film as well.
First, here are a couple of sources that I thought offered valuable (not necessarily agreeable) perspective on Noah. Relevant Magazine Review, Huffington Post on racial diversity in the film, Christianity Today Review, Guide Review of the film, and a video of Jon Stewart doing what he does.
So, my thoughts on the film? To be honest I don’t feel like I have an incredibly strong opinion about the movie, but I do get a rush of mischievous pleasure from interjecting my sarcastically passive-aggressive opinion into a swarming mass of internet hysteria where it’s not wanted or needed.
I accept macroevolution as a reliable scientific theory, I do not regard Christian Scripture as a scientifically or historically inerrant text, my worldview is strongly shaped by the boundaries of Christian orthodoxy, and my religious sensibilities are not offended by creative liberties taken with cinematic portrayals of Biblical texts. These things shaped the way I saw the movie. You may disagree with me on these things and that will cause you to interpret the movie differently than me, just know this as you read.
There are aspects of the movie I didn’t enjoy and there were aspect I appreciated. I’m going to spoil the movie for you. I didn’t like how in the opening moments of the movie and later in the film the comment is made, “In the beginning was nothing”. I felt that it was a strong jab against the opening words of Scripture, “In the beginning when God created…”. Perhaps it’s a minuscule detail, but it mattered to me. Another thing I just didn’t understand about the film was the “Watchers”, which I’m pretty sure were suppose to be the Nephilim of Genesis 6. They were like ents turned rock, and I’m not sure what the purpose of that was. Although I did enjoy the Lord of the Rings vibe they brought. I didn’t really like that Ham and Japheth not having wives was such a big deal, especially because that’s not a problem for them in the Biblical text. It felt like an annoying distraction in the film that didn’t get resolved by the end. I didn’t realize until I read the Huffington Post article, that basically everyone in the Noah movie is white. I’m disappointed in myself for not noticing this while watching the movie, but it bothers me. Noah probably shouldn’t be a white dude (neither should Jesus), especially if you’re trying to be “historically accurate”.
I appreciated the way creation was displayed as Noah narrated the story to his children in the ark. It almost explicitly communicated that the means of creation was theistic evolution, in a really cinematographically neat way. The way Noah was portrayed as an emotionally complex and complicated character was refreshingly authentic. I feel that the Bible is often handled with “kid gloves” and we ignore the glaring flaws and moral ambiguity of Biblical characters. The director seemed to have no hesitation in portraying and embellishing Noah’s character. He also pulls in themes from other Biblical stories (e.g Genesis 22) and mixes them into Noah’s life, which I feel is a fair move in Hollywood. Another thing I appreciated about the film was how I was able to understand the perspective of the main bad guy. He felt that God had abandoned humanity so he had to fend for himself with a “survival of the fittest” mentality. At one point he even speaks to God asking why God doesn’t answer him (the reason probably being because the bad guy is a seriously messed up dude). The wickedness of humanity is communicated well. There were also strong environmentalist themes running throughout the film, and while environmentalism is not a primary cause I proclaim from rooftops, it added a neat additional layer to the scope and affect of humanity’s wickedness. I also appreciated the phrase “waters of chaos” Noah uses to describe the coming flood because it echoes the waters of chaos that God separates at the beginning of Genesis. It portrays the flood as “anti-creation”, an undoing of the first two chapters of Genesis, which I believe is one of the main purposes of this Biblical story.
On a less serious note, I thought Noah nonchalantly throwing a fire bomb at the raft was awesome! Herminoe should probably stay at Hogwarts with her accent. The march of the rock-ents against humanity was epic. Methuselah (Noah’s grandfather) was kind of weird, but simultaneously kind of cool in a sage-like way.
Overall I enjoyed the film. I don’t regret paying $11 to see it, but I probably will not buy it on DVD. To my knowledge, Darren Aronofsky (the director) is not a theologian by profession, he is a movie director. I didn’t expect him to pick up on and portray all of the theological themes of Noah because he’s not trained to and because the flood story fits into a broader narrative that is almost guaranteed to be missed when zooming in on the Noah story.