Judging ‘Noah’

This speculative adaptation of the biblical epic eliminates all assurance of salvation in order to gaze unflinchingly at the justice of God.
Austin Gunderson | Mar 29, 2014 | 91 comments |
A darker Noah than you'd imagined.

A darker Noah than you’d imagined.

I passed beneath the marquee last night steeled for disappointment, yearning for epic poignancy. I’d read Brian Godawa’s warning. I knew of auteurist director Darren Aronofsky’s atheism. After seeing The Fountain — a piercingly beautiful film — I’d spent two whole weeks wrestling with its themes before concluding that it deliberately defies everything I hold true about reality. So it was with no small tension of spirit that I assumed my seat before the screen.

What I witnessed over the course of the ensuing 138 minutes was the greatest work of Christian speculative cinema I’ve ever seen.

Now before you throw up your hands and storm off, let me explicate that statement. Noah is “Christian” not because it was intended as such by its creators, but because it adapts a biblical story while exploring, in consistently spiritual terms, the nature of God and the nature of man and the gulf which lies between them. It’s “speculative,” on the other hand, because it’s not a faithful adaptation of the biblical source material. It’s a story with its own agenda, its own vision, its own notes of emphasis. This isn’t shocking. What’s shocking is just how effectively those notes form a counterpoint with the Genesis 6-9 narrative to which we’ve all complacently acclimated over the course of our lives. It’s jarring. It demands a double-take. If what you’re looking for in Noah is an excuse to vicariously triumph over the wicked as they receive their just desserts, then don’t even bother finishing this review. Aronofsky’s not interested in enabling viewers to smugly identify with the titular protagonist while disdaining those degenerate Others left outside to die.

Instead, he invites judgement close, inside the walls, where it can be felt. Where it can be feared. And no, you won’t like it. That’s the whole point.

Salvation. But for whom?

Salvation. But for whom?

Okay, then. Vague ominousness aside, what does it take to appreciate this film? Two things. First, you must prepare yourself for a God who doesn’t bother to communicate with any degree of specificity. All the film’s issues originate with this deviation from scripture, and, paradoxically, so do all its strengths. Secondly, get ready for Noah as Jonah. No “herald of righteousness” here; this Noah fights to keep people off the ark, not to bring ‘em aboard. And that’s it. Upon these two alterations rests all the controversy and all the outrage. If you’re willing to swallow ‘em both, then I’m confident you’ll understand and appreciate what Aronofsky’s achieved with this film.

Noah (Russell Crowe) begins the movie living with his family in serene, one-with-nature isolation. They are the last of Seth’s godly descendants, harried and persecuted by the armies of the Cainites which, lead by the barbaric and charismatic Tubal-cain (Ray Winstone), have ravaged the earth into a desolate wasteland. One night, Noah receives a vision of an impending deluge from the Creator (who’s referred to as such throughout the duration of the film and whose existence is presupposed by every single character, to my great delight). A further vision prompts Noah to begin construction on an ark to preserve the innocent. He visits his grandfather Methuselah (Anthony Hopkins), who counsels him to believe that the Creator is speaking to him in a way that he can understand. This is a necessary step on Noah’s part, as God utters no audible words during the course of the entire narrative. Noah must trust to his own interpretation of hallucinatory imagery and emotional impressions.

The future of the human race.

The future of the human race.

Two of Noah’s sons are without wives. The wife of the third (Emma Watson) is barren. This, as you would expect, is of deep concern to a family that expects to repopulate the world. At the urging of his wife (Jennifer Connelly), Noah journeys to the nearest town in an effort to procure wives for his sons. There he beholds a tableau of human wickedness which I’d place beside Sarah Connor’s vision of nuclear apocalypse in Terminator 2 in terms of sheer, raw horror. In the midst of the violence and debauchery, Noah sees himself slinking through the shadows — his face a mask of hatred and lust. Shaken to the core, he returns to the ark without wives for his sons, convinced that humanity isn’t meant to survive the coming purge. Only the animals are innocent: they behave in the way God intended them to, whereas man has rebelled, perverting his own purpose.

Now about the by-now-infamous “Rock People” — recipients of disproportionate derision from some Christian critics — I have this to say. Either you want to see a bunch of boulder-encrusted ents uncorking an epic beatdown on an army storming the ark as the fountains of the deep erupt and the windows of heaven open, or you don’t. It’s really as simple as that. Also, the redemption of the Nephilim is one of the most poignant subplots in the entire film.

Moving right along.

Noah’s wife, distraught at his insistence that it’s the Creator’s will for them to oversee the end of mankind, begs Methuselah for help. Unbeknownst to Noah, his grandfather visits Shem’s barren wife and blesses her womb. (Aside: Methuselah is basically Gandalf. Again, this is something you’re either okay with or you’re not. As for me, my single greatest regret is that we only get a single shot of him wielding a flaming sword.) This act of compassion sets up the central conflict of Act Three, one that twisted my stomach into knots and had me pleading with Aronofsky to please, please not make God out to be as judgmental as he could’ve been. You see, Noah, bereft of further instruction, has gotten it into his head that all have sinned and fallen short of the Creator’s mercy.

Huh. How weird is that?

"Am I not like you?"

“Am I not like you?”

So the apocalypse arrives, overwhelming in its indifferent brutality, exhibited with all of Aronofsky’s characteristic passion and flair.  “You cursed man to work the earth by the sweat of his brow,” screams Tubal-cain at the roiling heavens, “and that’s what I’ve done! I’ve given life and taken it away! I’m just like you!” His words pierce to the heart of human rebellion: I can do this on my own, I can be like God. His army beats in waves upon the ark even as the earth is engulfed by the waters of purification. Their screams as they perish will chill your soul.

But the terror of judgement isn’t over. Aronofsky refuses to shut it out beyond the gopher-wood doors. The threat of God’s wrath has entered the ark itself, for Noah is nothing if not logically consistent. He will kill Shem’s child if it turns out to be a girl. In his mind, he’s accomplishing the Creator’s task. The Creator, of course, has said nothing about this either one way or the other. Noah’s merely extrapolating God’s judgement to its logical conclusion.

Can you imagine a Christian filmmaker daring to do this? To take God’s wrath this seriously? In Noah, God’s justice is assumed. His punishment is implacable. His mercy is a desperate plea in the human soul, a faint glimmer of hope to which you cling with a fervor you didn’t know that you possessed. By removing the assurance of Noah’s salvation, Aronofsky brings home the terror of God’s judgement in a way he could not have done otherwise. If he’d taken the time to develop characters we knew would be left behind, we’d have withheld our emotional investment. Instead, he threatens those in whom our hopes reside. Yes, that’s a newborn over whom Noah’s raising his knife. But how is this precious infant any different than the millions of infants who’ve died in the deluge outside? What makes her special? What sets her apart?

Nothing, it turns out. No flesh deserves to live. Only unearned love will avert the judgement. Noah wasn’t saved because he deserved it, but because God is rich in mercy. And as a community of believers all too familiar with the story’s outcome, this is a truth we no longer know how to feel. The strength of Aronofsky’s adaptation, unfaithful though it may be, is that it forces us to feel this truth. Aronofsky’s Noah stares unflinchingly at the unspeakable wrath of God against sin. When we at last behold God’s mercy, we gasp with relief instead of grinning in vindication. Salvation has become valuable in our eyes.

Must she too face God's wrath?

Must she too face God’s wrath?

And now, a caveat. The film deliberately leaves the Creator’s original intentions ambiguous until after Noah has acted. This approach bears several interpretations. The simplest of these is, unfortunately, the least scriptural: that God had delegated to Noah the responsibility of determining whether humanity should get a second chance. At the end of the film, a character theorizes that the Creator left this decision in Noah’s hands because he knew Noah’s heart, and thus foresaw that Noah would make the right choice. Again, this is a logical conclusion in light of the fact that, in Aronofsky’s adaptation, God doesn’t speak with specificity. Indeed, Noah’s struggle to understand the will of the Creator actually functions as a fairly relevant commentary on the tendency of many modern Christians to grasp at spiritual straws when attempting to interpret what they believe to be directives from the Holy Spirit. Visions and circumstances can be easily misread, as Noah himself demonstrates with aplomb.

Aronofsky’s Noah isn’t a faithful retelling of an historical event. Instead, it’s something far more ambitious and terrifying: an epic fantasy which dares to examine the impartiality of divine justice without taking salvation for granted. It’s not fun to watch. It diminishes one truth to expand upon another. It takes all manner of creative liberties. It defies your expectations and casts your soul into a flood of turmoil.

And it’s a beautiful, powerful thing. I’d see it again in a heartbeat.

By day Austin is a media production professional, by night a reader and writer of fantasy. He resides in the Pacific Northwest with the wife of his youth, and serves as a member of Lighthouse Christian Center.

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Alissa
Guest

I love this review. Seriously. Thank you. Now I really want to go see it!

merechristian
Member
merechristian

I must say you have been blessed with an ability to write very vividly. I love this review, and I am going to see the movie. Your review has me excited also.

Julie D
Guest

I still don’t know if I want to see it, but this is another way of looking at it that I hadn’t considered before.

James Somers
Member

Wanted to like the movie, but saw it and ended up walking out around the two hour mark when Noah insists on killing the baby because he’s so clueless that he believes God only wants to save the earth and animals from man.
There are huge problems in Noah for those who take God’s Word to be sacred truth. You want to tell a story from the Bible then do it justice. Don’t contradict what God says and does. That is the case with Noah.
1. The movie uses an expansive montage to show God using Evolution as his method for creating all things…we have the lightning striking the primordial seas, producing life and those single cells multiplying to a fish and then follow seemingly one creature evolving through amphibian to reptile to mammal over the course of innumerable “days” while Noah gives us the contradictory Genesis account.
2. the Nephilim rock creatures are actually shown to be angels who rebelled against God in order to help mankind after Adam rebelled against God…those angels that sinned are then redeemed during the movie by their works helping to build the ark and protect Noah. This flies in the face of what redemption is. Angels have no salvation, and man may only be saved by God’s grace and sacrifice in Jesus Christ.
3. the bible says Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord, and that he made his plan and purpose clear to Noah. However, the movie contradicts this again. Noah is so clueless about what God is doing that he means to see his whole family die so that God can save the animals, since that must be his purpose in creation, that must be his purpose in the flood.
4. And here’s the big problem in my estimation: Movie Noah makes it clear that God is destroying mankind because of his sins against creation, NOT because of his sins against GOD! That’s where the environmentalist message comes through. However, the bible is clear again that God judges sin – which is breaking God’s commandments…wickedness against the holiness of God. It was the reason man was judged then and will be the reason the world is judged in the future.
How Christians can simply wave away these problems with the Noah movie is quite beyond me… oh, James it’s just artistic license. Really? We’re talking about messing around with God’s Word here. And issues that flatly contradict the message of Noah’s story in scripture, as well as making God the master of Evolution (theistic Evolution which the bible rejects and the atheists…well at least we agree on something.)
This is lukewarmness at its height–not that atheist directors make a Noah movie that plainly contradicts God’s Word, but that Christians are willing to not only accept it, but applaud it 🙁

Tony Breeden
Member

While I intend to reserve judgment until after I’ve seen the movie, your review disturbs me on a basic level. It exposes the inherent danger of our craft; authors of speculative fiction sometimes go too far from the text. We seem to feel that all things are permissible if it is at least in part based on the Bible and/or we can derive a[n] Bible lesson/doctrinal truth/opportunity for discussion from it.
You have pointed out several points where Aronofsky deviates from the teaching of Scripture – and praised him for it!
You should also be aware that I do have a creation ministry and your disregard for the historical truth of Genesis is a bit telling. It certainly explains the tenor of your review.
A bit of brief commentary on the points brought up thus far:
1. So what if it teaches that God “created” by an all-natural process that makes him unnecessary? Really?
2.  Some have suggested that 1 Peter 1:12 should be translated that angels cannot be saved, so I wouldn’t say there’s no Scriptural support. By the way, where is the Scriptural support for evolution, theistic or otherwise?
3. The Bible does make it plain that Noah knew exactly what God wanted him to do
4. Romans 2 makes it clear that God’s law is written on our hearts. To put it another way, His commandments are written on our hearts. 
Again, I reserve final judgment until I’ve seen the movie, but your review makes me more wary of it than any of the outright rejections I’ve read thus far.

Leah Burchfiel
Member

It some ways it feels like a copout, but I think in the end the smartest thing to do with portraying the word of God (I mean the act of inspiration/communication, not the Word of God scriptures) is to leave it off-screen and show the characters’ interpretations of it (come to think of it, that’s probably the best thing to do with the Scriptures: not editorialize, just show a character’s reaction/interpretation to/of it).
But Noah as a Puritan is an interpretation worth looking at. How much is it inspiration from God, and how much is just  the nasty parts of our own personalities (*cough, cough* Westboro Baptist *cough*).
Though I would interpret Tubalcain’s rebellion in a different way. Instead of saying that they are like gods, he was saying that God is no better than humans. Which, when you take an atheist perspective, is pretty much the same as saying that God is an invention of the human mind and is therefore as cruel or merciful or just or arbitrary as the human in question makes him — often a simple case of projection. It’s worth wondering about, even if you take the assumption that God exists and is good, of how much one person’s interpretation colors what is done in God’s name.

Rebecca LuElla Miller
Admin

For a different take on the movie, here’s an interesting review: “I’m a Christian and I think ‘Noah’ deserves a four star review

It must be considered as it is: a gimmick. A brilliant gimmick, for sure.

If the movie studio wanted to spin a yarn about mythical beasts, epic battles, homicidal sea captains, and a pagan Earth god, they could have done so. They could have called it anything. They could have told their own story. But they called it Noah because they knew that the supposed connection to the Bible would garner immediate fascination. They knew there would be controversy, and controversy sells.

They padded it with enough action movie clichés to draw interest from secular crowds, they hid the outright blasphemy well enough to please gullible Christian crowds, and they mocked Biblical theology blatantly enough to delight the critics.

They came up with a way to make millions while exploiting the various sensibilities of different audience demographics.

That was their first and primary intention, and in it they succeeded wildly.

Becky

merechristian
Member
merechristian

I tend to ignore Matt Walsh, as he basically decides his conclusions ahead of time, and justifies them afterwards. The rest of the time he rants about some bad thing or another, almost always painting himself as some lone champion for justice. He is self-righteous and thoroughly annoying. Not to mention the fact that he seemed to have less commentary on the movie than desire to bash it no matter what.

E. Stephen Burnett
Admin

Well, Walsh knows his audience very well. Just like the conservative website(s) that published the deceptive headline to the effect that the Noah movie doesn’t even mention “God.” They’re absolutely right, apparently — except for the fact that he is constantly referred to as “the Creator.” Such “criticism” is just plain silly, if not deceptive, and detracts from the actual discussion or criticism of the film. It seems intended to provoke controversy and anger, stirring up heat and not light.

Rebecca LuElla Miller
Admin

I didn’t see anything like that in Walsh’s review. And yes, he used sarcasm, but it’s not like others who write reviews don’t use that device also from time to time. I haven’t seen the movie, but his review made me laugh and I can see why he came away with the conclusions he did.

Becky

E. Stephen Burnett
Admin

Indeed, I didn’t see/say that Walsh said say that. I was instead likening his audience-knowledge with that of some secular conservative websites that like to post stuff strictly to try to get the Christians in their audiences riled. Walsh strikes me as being of the same intent; nothing in his columns seems designed to get people thinking much beyond saying “Yeah! YEAH!”

I say this as a repentant Ann Coulter fan who used to think that sort of thing the epitome of wise punditry. Don’t misunderstand; I still enjoy blazing satire and even talk radio on occasion, but I also recognize that it often stirs up anger and the wrong kind of sarcasm in myself (which leads to loveless attitudes toward people). I also enjoy writing that’s been sprinkled with hot sauce, but a steady diet of it (as some have, not all) leads to indigestion.

Perhaps Luke Harrington says it best,”open letter” style:

See, the thing is, I’m starting to realize you’re just a polemicist. A talented and witty polemicist, sure. Maybe even an insightful one, occasionally. But even the best polemicist in the world is good for only one thing: making his readers really mad — either really mad at him, or really mad at people who disagree with him. And mad-all-the-time just isn’t something I want to be.

I’m cantankerous about Walsh also as a former opinion columnist myself (in student newspaper days). Walsh simply never has a surprising opinion. For any readership, his views on things are entirely predictable. And half the stunt is getting millions of people to agree and like and share and promote the piece while still feeling like they’re a voiceless underground minority.

I would never say, “Reading Matt Walsh (or pretty much anyone) is a sin for every Christian.” Instead I’m simply suggesting that Christians be aware of this temptation that can so easily overtake us — and trust me, it’s caught me often!

My own temptation-fighting solution is strange, but it’s like this: naturally I do my best to craft my own stunt-sarcasms myself. (Every time a friend shares a MATT WALSH BLOGGER post they get a new one of these. Be forewarned.) The following comes from my backlog:

BREAKING NEWS
BREAKING NEWS
MATT WALSH BLOGGER DEFENDS LITTLE BABY SEALS
BREAKING NEWS
MATT WALSH BLOGGER CAN’T STAND IT ANYMORE, CALLS ON VOLCANO VIRGIN-SACRIFICERS TO END PRACTICE.

BREAKING NEWS
BREAKING NEWS
MATT WALSH BLOGGER IS MAD AS HELL AND FINALLY STANDS UP, CONDEMNS CANNIBALISM
BREAKING NEWS
MATT WALSH TELLS IT LIKE IT IS, APPROVES VISITS TO PETTING ZOOS

BREAKING NEWS
BREAKING NEWS
MATT WALSH BLOGGER DEFENDS NOURISHMENT RIGHTS OF HELPLESS LITTLE PEEPING BABY BIRDS
BREAKING NEWS
MATT WALSH BLOGGER COURAGEOUSLY CONDEMNS HEAVY DRINKING AND NAKED DANCING AND VOMITING IN STREETS

BREAKING NEWS
BREAKING NEWS
MATT WALSH BLOGGER CAN’T STAND THAT GUM THAT GETS STUCK AT THE BOTTOM OF YOUR SHOE
BREAKING NEWS
BY THE POWER OF SCIENCE, MATT WALSH BLOGGER DECLARES HIGH-VOLTAGE LIGHTNING STRIKES ARE HAZARDOUS TO YOUR HEALTH

Rebecca LuElla Miller
Admin

OK, I’m taking a step back. I only quoted from this one review. I wasn’t anticipating a critique of the guy’s entire site or an examination of his motives and/or audience responses. He may be all you say, Stephen. I wouldn’t know since I’ve never been to his site before. I followed a link because I wanted to see what others reviewing Noah were saying. I thought his views were a contrast to Austin’s. I thought he made valid points, and although he used sarcasm, his and Austin’s reports of the actual events of the movie didn’t differ. So I feel safe to voice an opinion about the kind of movie that would do what reviewers say Noah did.

Beyond that, I have no opinion of or knowledge about Walsh.

Becky

HG Ferguson
Guest
HG Ferguson

Why should we “swallow” any deviation from God’s Word, which changes not and by which all flesh shall be judged?  That’s what brings judgment in  the first place…..

E. Stephen Burnett
Admin

Once again, I do wonder if some objections here are — without the critics’ knowing it — really an objection to the whole idea of a movie based on a portion of Scripture anyway. But in that case, why act as if the objection is to this particular Bible-derived movie? In fact such critic objects to the very concept of such a movie as intrinsically sinful. I’m reminded of a strange comparison: anti-war activists who constantly said that certain recent wars were evil because of certain laws or lack of laws or actions performed by soldiers. The criticism is actually strange if not laughable because such a critic actually disagrees with all wars regardless of national laws or soldiers’ actions.

Carole McDonnell
Member

Wow!!! A terrifying God indeed!

R. L. Copple
Member

Hum. If someone specifically states they are not making a Biblical accurate film, why do we condemn it as if it attempted to but failed miserably? I’ve not seen it yet, so can’t comment on the points of this review or the movie. But art should be judged on what it is and claims to be. Though it is also good discussion to point out where it deviates.
 
More on Tuesday.
 

Rebecca LuElla Miller
Admin

As I understand it, the quote was something about the most “unbiblical, Biblical film ever.” That’s different than saying it’s not a Biblical film, don’t you think, Rick?

I think Walsh addressed this in his review. From the part I quoted above:

If the movie studio wanted to spin a yarn about mythical beasts, epic battles, homicidal sea captains, and a pagan Earth god, they could have done so. They could have called it anything. They could have told their own story. But they called it Noah because they knew that the supposed connection to the Bible would garner immediate fascination. They knew there would be controversy, and controversy sells.

Becky

R. L. Copple
Member

Saying it is the most “unbiblical, Biblical film ever” sounds a lot like saying, “This is very loosely based upon the Biblical story of Noah. Very loosely.”
 
Fact is, if you make a movie about a man constructing an ark, fill it with animals, and they endure a world-wide flood, then survive and begin repopulating the Earth, but call it “Henry,” everyone is still going to say it is the Biblical story of Noah. They would have had to change the foundational premise of the plot, not simply slap a different name on it.
 
They plainly said they weren’t going to follow the Biblical story accurately. The problem isn’t that they did what they said they’d do, but whether or not they should have done what they did: use a Biblical story to lay the premise and basic plot line, then speculate on filing in the blanks with their own story.
 

Tim Frankovich
Guest
Tim Frankovich

 If you’re willing to swallow ‘em both, then I’m confident you’ll understand and appreciate what Aronofsky’s achieved with this film.

I’m not. Thanks. 
I love speculative fiction. I love Biblical-based fiction. I have tons of it on my shelf, including two trilogies related to the Noah story. What sets them apart from this movie is that neither of them contradict the Biblical account, while including tons and tons of speculation. Change the character of God Himself? Nope. I’m out. Change the character of the man God described as the only righteous one on Earth? Nope. I’m out.
These reviews by varying authors, however, are helping me decide whose books to add to my collection and whose to avoid.

E. Stephen Burnett
Admin

Change the character of God Himself? Nope. I’m out. Change the character of the man God described as the only righteous one on Earth? Nope. I’m out.

Here’s the dual problem, though, which cannot be avoided:

  1. Movies are already more subjective than propositional statements, and often storytellers like to hedge their bets. Therefore one person could come away from Noah saying, “Wow, that wasn’t exactly the story of Scripture, but not because they messed with God’s nature of wrath yet mercy,” and another person could come away convinced the whole thing was a big trap designed to make God look like an idiot. I’m sorry to say this, but even as we hold to the supreme truth of God’s Word we need to recognize that different people will react in different and almost relativistic ways to varying stories. Moreover, we’re all at different stages and journeys of santification. In the Spirit you may have whupped that “can’t help staring at scantily clad women on the beach” problem, while I may still be back there struggling — and yet where were the evangelical pundits roundly condemning Soul Surfer as evil?
  2. Some Christians, frankly, are in the business of simply lying about movies. So if you’ve heard some evangelical pundits say either that the movie is the greatest thing since sliced bread or that it’s the very spawn of Satan because the name “God” isn’t mentioned or else the movie “deifies man,” then you really have no way of knowing whether they’re right or wrong. My suggestion is therefore: if you don’t care to see the film yourself, listen to the opinions of a Christian who strives to be Biblical and who understands the venue of secular storytelling and whom you personally trust. E.g.: certain conservative websites, designed to inflame Christian conservatives, cannot be trusted. Neither can Christians who prove they lack discernment about the very purpose of visual storytellers, or the biblical point of popular culture in the first place (hint: Biblical Christians do not use popular culture solely as means for entertainment, or moral edification, or evangelism).
Jill
Guest

The Noah movie isn’t biblical. I don’t have to watch it to know that because the director said it wasn’t, and he also said he didn’t “give a fuck.” I assume you’re okay with that language, as you’re also okay with the artwork brought to us by the director. If all that I’ve read about this movie is true, it’s another twisted Gnostic Hollywood version of religion. Goody for that. My parting words are these: Beware of highly intelligent people who lack discernment. Watching this kind of film won’t affect your salvation; the spirits in it won’t jump out of the screen and harm you in any way. But it could very well influence and affect your thinking.

Rebecca LuElla Miller
Admin

Here’s a review that just might change the conversation–“Sympathy for the Devil” by Dr. Brian Mattson. Here’s a short excerpt so you can see where he goes:

I discovered what Darren Aronofsky’s first feature film was: Pi. Want to know its subject matter? . . .

Kabbalah. . .

The world of Aronofsky’s Noah is a thoroughly Gnostic one: a graded universe of “higher” and “lower.” The “spiritual” is good, and way, way, way “up there” where the ineffable, unspeaking god dwells, and the “material” is bad, and way, way down here where our spirits are encased in material flesh. This is not only true of the fallen sons and daughters of Adam and Eve, but of fallen angels, who are explicitly depicted as being spirits trapped inside a material “body” of cooled molten lava.

Again, all the story details he mentions are consistent with those I’ve read from other reviews. The thing is, he puts a Gnostic face to the movie, much the way I believe there was a panenthistic face to Avatar.

Worth the read, I think.

Becky

Jill
Guest

Gnosticism was exactly the way it came across to me when others described the symbolism. Of course, I had to take reviewers at face value because I haven’t seen it. However, I’m very familiar with the Gnostic worldview and symbolism, and they’re all over Hollywood.

Rebecca LuElla Miller
Admin

I’m disappointed with the tone this discussion has taken. It seems like there’s more attack and defense than there is engagement with content. Why are we questioning whether a commenter has read this post or suggesting via quotation marks that a person isn’t a Christian if they hold certain views? Why is what a different reviewer’s opinion dismissed out of hand because he writes for “that audience”? And why is another reviewer accused of Gnosticism rather than addressing the issues he brought up?

I think the things you’ve said, Austin, are interesting, but in the same way that I saw nothing Christian about the panentheistic movie Avatar, I can’t imagine seeing something God-honoring in a movie that lies about God. And clearly Noah does since all the reviewers agree that in the movie God is portrayed as silent, removed, distant (choose whatever term you wish). That’s reason enough for me to criticize this movie. Will I go see it? I don’t know. I went to see Avatar and would have no compunction against seeing it again, but I wouldn’t praise it for it’s Christian value.

I am most bothered when the truth about God is distorted or concealed AND viewers (or readers) don’t call out the error. Could some readers discover God’s love by reading The Shack? Many said they did. That doesn’t mean I’d recommend the book to anyone without cautioning them that it doesn’t tell the truth about God.

In the same way, I think it’s fair to say, I disagree with the conclusions of your post, Austin. God does, in fact, give assurance of salvation, and did so to Noah. He commanded Noah to build the ark that he might be rescued from God’s coming judgment, and by faith he obeyed. It is, in fact, a type of Christ’s redemptive rescue that would come. It’s a precious, beautiful picture. I’m sorry this movie distorts it, sorry it fabricates God’s role in Noah’s rescue, and sorry it tampers with His character.

Becky

E. Stephen Burnett
Admin

Why is what a different reviewer’s opinion dismissed out of hand because he writes for “that audience”?

Just to clarify, I don’t dismiss MATT WALSH BLOGGER® for that reason. I do, however, dismiss it because he’s a hack and therefore I don’t trust his judgment on popular culture at all. I doubt his view on popular culture is Biblical. That doesn’t mean he’s wrong. For all I know he could be 100 percent right, but his acerbic style doesn’t seem to reflect well on how the body of Christ handles even bad movies.

But it is true that your comment “triggered” my response to the MATT WALSH® phenemenon, which is only a tangential issue more to do with person than topic!

E. Stephen Burnett
Admin

Another thought: I absolutely distrust Hollywood and Hollywood storytellers to honor Scripture. Rather, I hope to have a higher standards of truth from Christians … so naturally I may object more loudly when they get truth about something wrong. Pagan behave like pagans. That’s a given. But when Christians behave like pagans …

Rebecca LuElla Miller
Admin

Still, Stephen, I don’t expect Christians to applaud pagans for acting like pagans, nor to say their pagan behavior is God-honoring.

Becky

E. Stephen Burnett
Admin

Agreed. In fact, I see a lot of over-praising that’s done mainly as a response to the over-condemning. The same thing happened with the Harry Potter series. Some went from “the series is the spawn of Satan that will corrupt your children’s souls” (this is not an exaggeration) to “Oh wow J.K. Rowling must be a Christian this is the best new salvation-allegory fantasty series ever.” In fact the series includes grace-mixed-idolatry like many other secular stories and must be treated as such.

D. M. Dutcher
Member

The one thing that’s good about this is that it shows Christians do have different opinions and interact with culture in different ways. It’s funny how often we’re accused of being in lockstep with each other and sheepthink, when if anything its harder for us to agree on anything but a few core essentials.

E. Stephen Burnett
Admin

D.M., you win internets, and money.

Kirsty
Guest

Becky, I don’t think it distorts God’s character (though it’s not as clear as it might be). I was disappointed that God didn’t speak more clearly. But, while that’s a distortion of a particular event, it’s not a distortion of his character as a whole – God doesn’t usually speak in an audible obvious way. So God in the movie was acting in a way that he often does, but didn’t actually do on that occassion.

David Alford
Member

I’ve seen the movie and read Austin’s review. Forgive me as I don’t have time to read the 60+ prior comments as well.
I thought Noah was a spectacular performance that stumbled on the dismount. Yes, it took me 15-20 minutes of it to “detach” from the biblical account. I loved the way Noah wrestled with the questions and decisions he had to make. And yes it made it VERY real.
But the whole time I was looking ahead to the coming love and mercy of God. And it didn’t come. The humans deduced that it came, but that is mere human opinion (much as my comment is). It doesn’t mean that’s what happened. To me, the movie’s message lacked authority…for lack of a better word.
Thus this movie morphed in the final minutes from an incredible portrayal to an incredible contrast. Because walking out of the theater, the presence and relational side of the God I worship and love was virtually screaming compared to the absent and quiet God in the movie. So, in a way, the movie did give me a heightened sense of God’s mercy, even though the movie failed to preach it.
For this reason alone, I would hesitate to recommend this movie to someone wanting to learn the nature of God. I, knowing that God is loving and merciful, could see the contrast. Someone not having those presupposed ideas would not discern this truth from the movie itself. Nor would they be convinced by Noah and Ila’s conclusion.
I do have one quibble with your review, however, Austin. You say that “all have sinned and fallen short of the Creator’s mercy.” In the movie this is seemingly true. In reality, however, this is not true. We have fallen short of the glory of God. Mercy and glory are not the same. I have definitely fallen short of God’s glory. However, it is not possible for me to fall short of the Creator’s mercy. So, yes, I would say that Noah’s assertion there is weird.

Christian Jaeschke
Guest
Christian Jaeschke

Austin, what an excellent review! I really enjoyed reading your thoughts concerning the movie. You’re right about the seriousness with which Aronofsky treats the wickedness of mankind, the need for divine judgment but also the mercy shown by God (the last very subtly, I might add). I saw Noah last night. I found it to be a very powerful movie. Here’s my review:

NOAH:

Great movie! Going into it, I knew this version would be different from the historical account found in the Bible, in the book of Genesis, Chapters 6-9. The movie is, in parts, both true to the Bible and rather speculative. The story borrows from Noah’s story in the Old Testament but also other sections in the Bible, including the earlier chapters of Genesis (the creation, the fall, Cain and Abel, the early genealogies). There’s some Jewish lore (the Book of Enoch), some Jewish mythology and Mesopotamian mythology and of course, director Darren Aronofsky’s own ideas.

I’ve seen some of Aronofsky’s other works – Pi (good), The Fountain (clever but dull) and Black Swan (good), so I had some idea of what to expect. He is clearly passionate about the story he’s telling and he’s not afraid to take it in unorthodox directions.

I found the storytelling to be layered and challenging and the major characters to be both psychologically and philosophically rich, save for Noah’s son, Japtheth. Much of the acting was well done, especially Russell Crowe playing Noah.

Noah’s story is fascinating. It’s terribly dark and disturbing and the movie is sombre in tone. Noah has many doubts and his dreams eventually drive him mad. He later develops a form of cabin fever aboard the Ark. That said, his story extrapolates on what may have happened eg. Noah’s doubting his role in God’s plan, family struggles, withstanding the culture of sin surrounding them, the fear and horror of experiencing the Flood – hearing all those outside the Ark dying, the doubts in creating an Ark and then trusting that God was watching over them, surivour’s guilt and so on. This Noah’s a far cry from the biblical man but he’s certainly shown to be fallible. That and his eventual psychosis is intriguing to watch.

The visuals were often compelling but not distracting. They were only there to further the story (here’s looking at you Michael Bay!) I was surprised at how little of the actual Flood was shown. It’s not a disaster movie in the tradition of Dean Devlin and Roland Emmirech (you don’t really see the continent break apart and the volcanoes erupt. You don’t even see the waters rise or recede or much of the violence done to the land, the people and the animals. Much is left to the imagination.

Many say Aronofsky is an atheist. After watching seeing several of his movies and now Noah, I have to strongly disagree. Seems to me, he’s either a lapsed Jew or one who’s struggling to hold onto his faith. He questions so much and uses all of his characters, to different degrees, to share a little of his story, his fascination with Noah and his own struggle with his Creator God. The result is raw and ugly and disturbing. It’s also honest and strangely encouraging. No saccharine religiosity here.

I have a few objections given the speculative nature of the movie. Some of them are major and some minor. My major objections are that the fallen angels are in league with Noah and his family and help them build the Ark (hello, these were Satan’s minions). The CGI fallen angels as rock giants looked a little silly and out of place. I wonder why they changed the character design from the graphic novel (which I haven’t read – yet). At one point, Noah tells the creation story to his family, but it’s laced with evolutionary imagery (which admittedly is artfully done and highly impressive but also contrary to what the Bible teaches. Noah fighting off Tubal-Cain’s men as the great waters of the deep shoot up into the sky. That was rather silly. Perhaps Noah’s madness was taken too far. The movie needed more humour and at times, a sense of joy.

Minor objections: The stowaway on the Ark wasn’t bad, so much as unnecessary. The writers could’ve mined Genesis 6:1-8 for more material; that was a missed opportunity. The meat = sinful, environment = good, people = bad message was a little preachy, but not nearly as bad as I feared. Also, there not being any dinosaurs aboard the Ark and no scenes where Noah’s family tended to the animals. Once they’re aboard, we see very little of the animals, because they’ve been drugged into hibernation (how convenient for the CGI artists!) Finally, I would’ve liked to have seen more of a civilization pre-Flood.

Judgment, sin, suffering, redemption – these themes are all given a fair hearing. Mankind is certainly not let off the hook for their sins and God isn’t portrayed as the enemy (very good).

All in all, Noah was a really good movie. The story is controversial but artfully considered. Just don’t go to see it expecting Noah’s story to be wholly true to the Bible, because it most certainly isn’t.

Warning: Mature audiences. Contains: Moderate violence, adult themes and disturbing imagery.

8/10