Judging ‘Noah’

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.

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By day, Austin Gunderson is a media production professional; by night a reader and writer of fantasy, and is the former Lorehaven review chief. He resides in Utah with the wife of his youth and two children.
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  1. Alissa says:

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

  2. merechristian says:

    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.

  3. Julie D says:

    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.

  4. james somers says:

    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 🙁

    • Hey James, did you even read the review before commenting?  Just curious …

      1.  The movie does indeed employ a brilliant, beautiful montage to portray the creation process, which it describes through narration according to the days of Genesis 1.  However, this sequence merely implies theistic evolution instead of assuming it outright, and it concludes with an Adam and Eve who shine with the radiance of God’s glory which they enjoyed before the Fall.  But even if the film had depicted theistic evolution in an unambiguous format, so what?  Why is this the basis for your rejection of the film?

      2.  Your statement that “angels have no salvation” is utterly without scriptural basis.  It’s also a distortion to claim that the Nephilim in the film are saved through works. Before the battle is joined, their chief raises his eyes to heaven and begs, “Creator, forgive me.”  Then they demonstrate their good faith by fighting to defend God’s chosen remnant.  I have no idea how anyone could walk away from that scene thinking the film was somehow preaching a message of works-based salvation.

      3.  On this count, I’ll refer you to the body of the review above, which I strongly suspect you haven’t even read.

      4.  You say that God sent the Flood because man had sinned against God by breaking His commandments.  But to which commandments do you refer?  Remember, the Flood predates the Mosaic Law by approximately 700 years.  So let’s see what God had told mankind specifically.  In Genesis 1:28-30, He says, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth,” and, “Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit.  You shall have them for food.”  In Genesis 2:15, God puts man in the garden of Eden “to work it and keep it.”  It sure seems to me that God’s early commands have a lot to do with environmental stewardship.  Indeed, we know for a fact that it wasn’t God’s will for mankind to eat animals until after the Flood, when He makes such an allowance for the very first time (Gen. 9:1-7).  So it’s not at all irrational to assume that a large percentage of antediluvian man’s “sins against God” were in fact comprised of “sins against creation.”  And regardless, the film does a pretty comprehensive job of demonstrating mankind’s others- and God-directed wickedness.  Don’t even pretend that it doesn’t.

      • james somers says:

        Oh, I read the review…
        I just can’t believe someone wrote it.
        How can you say that angels have salvation? Or even imply it? They left their first estate and are condemned. Show me one scripture that says in any way shape or form that they can be saved from their rebellion. There are none. Plenty to the contrary. And the flood did not come because of man deciding to “eat animals” like Noah movie puts forth…. consider that God told them to eat animals right after they get off of the ark in the bible!
        God destroys all flesh because of the imaginations of their hearts are only evil continually… meaning sin! Sin is rebellion to God. Sin was present even before the Law was given through Moses. This is plainly taught in the New Testament, and even in Genesis the bible tells us that man was totally wicked before God. The Noah movie only shows man deforesting the earth, strip mining for magic fire rocks and eating animals….that is nowhere in the bible the sins God refers to. As I said, and the bible says, God had them eating animals right off of the ark.
        I read your review. I just couldn’t believe how naive it was and how little biblical discernment it contained…your reply to justify the review only strengthens that opinion for me.
        We disagree. This movie flatly teaches Theistic Evolution in that montage. How you don’t see it, or can’t admit it is beyond me. Ken Ham sure sees it. Why can’t you? What’s wrong with Theistic Evolution, you ask? That would take too long to explain, beside saying it is a con…a worthless and shameful attempt to compromise God’s word with Evolution because some Believers are unwilling to stand against the false doctrine of atheistic evolution. The bible rejects it. Atheists even reject Theistic Evolution. Only those unwilling to simply believe what the bible says about creation accept it.
        Read your review… just couldn’t believe a “Christian” would applaud a bible trashing movie like Noah.

        • James, you seem to have different assumptions about what movies are for — you seem to think them limited only to being Teaching Tools, to do the job of Biblical-expositional pastors and teachers, or else help “support” the infallible Word of God itself. But is not Scripture sufficient for this task? Does not God expect nonfiction preaching of the word to be the mission of Christians themselves, and also Biblical, faithful elders whom God has appointed to help shepherd local churches? Why then would we expect movies to do this instead? No, movies are not “just entertainment” and they are certainly never “harmless.” But let us not cross to the other extreme and thereby declare they must also be equivalent to Biblical expositional (or even systematic) preaching.

          I have a different view. It’s that the discerning Christian has the option to use a secular thing like a movie or novel to the glory of God whether over or through the creator’s intentions. This also sees the story as a “simulation” for certain ideas and themes. A good (or at least honest) story will honestly show the fictitionalized results of those ideas. A bad (or dishonest) film will pretend that the ideas have no consequences.

          I’ve said all along that it sounds like the Noah movie-makers take liberties with the Biblical text. You seem stuck on wanting to prove that — proving the case that pagans, stunningly, act like pagans — without also feeling the need to prove that therefore Christians can only have one response: to shun and avoid. Biblical discernment, I think, would instead lead to an effort to actually show a causation. Instead, what does Scripture show about the different ways mature Christians respond to actual Things that pagans meant to be used for evil? Do we merely fear the Thing? See Acts 17, Daniel 1, 1 Corinthians 8–10, and of course the incarnational life of Jesus Christ.

        • And now I wonder whether you actually saw the film, as well.

          It’s patently dishonest to suggest that Noah “only shows man deforesting the earth, strip mining for magic fire rocks and eating animals,” or that the film implies that God sent the Flood “because of man deciding to ‘eat animals’.”  Within its first thirty seconds, Noah has thrown up a line of text which reads, “Temptation lead to sin,” accompanied by imagery of the Serpent in Eden, Eve plucking the Forbidden Fruit, and Cain bludgeoning Abel to death with a rock.  These become visual leitmotifs throughout the film, recurring when Noah receives visions from the Creator and when he tells his family the story of creation aboard the ark.  Within its first ten minutes, the film shows Tubal-cain murdering Noah’s father for no other reason than because he wouldn’t get out of his way.  As Noah’s family is journeying across the wasteland toward Methuselah’s mountain, they encounter a mining camp gutted by bandits and rescue an orphaned girl from the corpses.  The bandits return and are about to capture them and they only escape by fleeing into Nephilim territory.  When Tubal-cain and his army appear on Noah’s doorstep, Tubal-cain tempts Ham from his father’s side by offering him a war-hammer.  This scene is particularly evocative and clear-cut.  Later, when Noah surreptitiously enters Tubal-cain’s camp, he witnesses rapes, beatings, and the screams of the dying and destitute. On the ark itself, Tubal-cain the stowaway convinces Ham to become accessory to his own father’s murder.  Yes, the eating of animals is presented as a major component of human depravity.  But to suggest that Noah doesn’t contain a comprehensive view of sin is to perpetrate a straight-up falsehood.  And that’s unbecoming of any Christian, no matter what his or her overall opinion of the film.

          It’s pretty easy for me to imply that angels might have salvation, actually. I can say this because scripture is silent on the subject. And I’m loath to pass dogmatic judgement on things the Bible doesn’t deem worthy of my knowledge. Might angels not have salvation? Sure. But that’s pure speculation. In the meantime, all I care about is what potential angelic salvation implies about the nature of God. And to my eyes, it implies nothing erroneous. Therefore, I have no problem with its portrayal on-screen.

          I didn’t ask you “What’s wrong with theistic evolution?”  What I asked was, “Even if the film had depicted theistic evolution in an unambiguous format, so what?  Why is this the basis for your rejection of the film?”  In other words, why does a single scene that incidentally implies something that you don’t believe ruin a film that’s not even about that particular subject?  If the film had been titled Creation, or even Adam & Eve, then I’d understand why an implication of theistic evolution would leave you feeling betrayed or upset.  But Noah isn’t about the creation process.  Heck, not even that one scene is about the creation process in particular; the emphasis there is placed upon the fact that, on each and every day of creation, God saw that what He had made was “good.”  Should the implication of theistic evolution irritate you?  Sure.  Should it form a basis for your rejection of the film?  That seems unreasonable to me.

          Oh, and I speak as a young-earth creationist, myself.  Not that you care.  After all, I’m only a “Christian.”  But I guess one’s enjoyment of Noah has become a useful benchmark for whether that word warrants quote-marks.

  5. Tony Breeden says:

    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.

    • As I said early on in my review, you’ll only be able to appreciate this film if you swallow two deviations from scripture: God’s lack of instructional specificity, and Noah’s lack of compassion for the lost (which is eventually subverted).  If you can’t swallow one or both of those alterations, then this movie isn’t for you.  And that’s okay.  I understand.

      To claim that the movie is worthless unless it depicts the biblical account with total accuracy, however, is to insinuate that no work of fiction has the capacity to glorify God.  I find this assertion patently false.  Case in point: if Aronofsky’s Noah is approached as a work of speculative fiction rather than as an attempt to accurately translate the events of Genesis 6-9 to the screen, it can be a powerful and poignant storytelling experience, as it was for me.  You see, it doesn’t misrepresent the character of God.  For me, that’s always the central dealbreaker in any given work of fiction.  I don’t really care whether the biblical character of Noah gets altered in the storytelling process; I didn’t know that much about Noah anyway, except that he had faith (a character attribute this film certainly gives him).  What matters more than anything else is the way that God’s portrayed.  A story in which a historical human character acts differently than he does in scripture could potentially have happened (just look at the story of Jonah, whom God used for His glory even though Jonah hated God’s mercy).  Such a story explores a narrative possibility — a “what if?” tale — which is the essence of speculative fiction.  But a story in which God Himself acts like a different person … well, that story would’ve crossed the line, because there’d be no possibility of such a thing ever occurring, even potentially or theoretically.

      Aronofsky’s Noah passes that test.

      1.  The movie isn’t about creation.  The particular sequence in question is both incidental and ambiguous in nature, so I don’t see how it could possibly rise to the level of boycott-incitation.  What matters to me is whether the film portrays God as sovereign over the creation process, which it absolutely does.  (By the way, I speak as a young-earth creationist, myself.  Not everything has to be about that particular debate.)

      2.  Such an interpretation of 1 Peter 1:12 would be an example of eisegesis at its most speculative.

      3.  Yup.  The Bible does indeed make it plain that Noah knew exactly what God wanted him to do.  Hence my categorization of Aronofsky’s film as speculative fiction.

      4.  Yup, God’s law is written on the human heart.  Does that mean incest was immoral for the children of Adam and Eve?  Does that mean it was okay for man to eat animals before God gave him such permission following the Flood?  Does it mean that a failure of environmental stewardship is somehow not a sin against God?  Does it mean that Aronofsky’s Noah — which punctuates almost every mention of man’s wickedness with an image of Cain murdering Abel — somehow dropped the ball in its portrayal of the nature of sin?  The answer to each of these rhetorical questions is “No.”

      • I may be getting caught up in a non-essential, but I can’t help but wonder what the rationale was for Noah deciding to kill his grandbabies if they were girls. The boys he would let live? Why?

        I see that as a blatant appeal to a feminist audience.


        • It all starts with the non-specific nature of God’s instructions.  Noah knows the Flood is coming, and he knows he should build an ark, but he doesn’t know for certain that God intends mankind to survive the apocalypse.  So when Noah realizes that he and his family are sinners just like the rest of humanity, he becomes convinced that God has chosen him to oversee the preservation of the animal kingdom, and then to die of old age without repopulating the world.  But after Methuselah heals the womb of Noah’s barren daughter-in-law, Noah threatens to kill her child if it’s a girl in order to prevent the creation of further generations (since one of his unmarried sons could wed a granddaughter of his in the same way that the children of Adam and Eve married each other).

          To my mind, this is a perfectly logical conclusion for Noah to reach.  Without specific instructions from God to tell him otherwise (which is, of course, what actually happened), Noah would’ve been right to assume that all of mankind had come under judgement.  The third act of the film follows Noah as he struggles with the horrible, unspeakable conviction that it’s his duty to God to prevent his sons from having descendants.  What this did for me as a viewer was force me to confront the fact that all of humanity deserves to die without the unearned, intercessory grace of God.


          During this time, Noah receives several “circumstantial” signs from God.  When he’s on the roof of the ark, crying out in the rain for direction, for confirmation, for some kind of a concrete answer, the rains suddenly stop.  He interprets this sign as a confirmation of his convictions, but it could also be easily interpreted as an indication that God’s wrath had been expended.

          In the end, love stays Noah’s hand.  And when he drops the knife, unbloodied, the ark’s dove flies up with an olive branch.  All the circumstantial evidence is adding up in favor of mercy.  Yet still Noah thinks his love constitutes a failure of his duty.  It isn’t until the very end of the film, when he’s finally convinced that he made the right decision, that God confirms his choice by filling the sky with a supernatural aurora-rainbow.  That’s why I can say with confidence that the character of God isn’t impugned by this highly speculative adaptation of a biblical account.

          • james somers says:

            If you want a “Review with Biblical Discernment,” then check out Ken Ham’s review of the “Noah,” Movie :
            Ken Ham is well known and respected… and he was offended by this movie!

          • Ham is hardly an objective observer. 🙂 But such questions aside — I’m also an overall Ham fan, having kept up with Answers in Genesis since its “origin” — I do not believe Ham has a very Biblical understanding of what popular culture is for and how Christians should react and respond to pop culture after they’ve been outraged by it. He also practices a sort of “pagan culture high priest” view common to many Christian leaders, who often don’t know they’ve fallen into this attitude. To Ham it’s apparently perfectly fine for him to see the film, along with things such as raunchy comedy show clips that make fun of him and the Creation Museum, but he warns other believers away from them lest they be “polluted.” My response is always: why? What secret potion did you take to make you immune and therefore able to be a sort of “media mediator” for other Christians? (The question is rhetorical; my answer is: Other Christians may aspire to be as spiritually mature as someone like Ken Ham, and do their own discerning with help from all of Christ’s people sharing their gifts together, rather than being sheltered by Special Ministry Leaders.)

            In response to Ken Ham’s Noah-disliking Facebook status I wrote:

            Hmm. Imagine the apostle Paul coming back from his discussions with the Areopagus (Acts 17) moaning to the other believers, “OH! IT WAS SO HORRIBLE AND PAGAN AND MADE ME FEEL ALL DIRTY INSIDE. DON’T EVER EVER EVER GO THERE YOURSELVES (EVEN THOUGH I JUST DID AND TECHNICALLY MANAGED TO GET AWAY WITH IT).”

            C’mon, brother Ken, He has made you of stronger stuff than this. And obviously you’re managing to do something with those feelings, such as fundraising for the Ark Encounter. ‘Tis a worthy goal. Can we “standard” Christians not see the film if we choose and also use it for other purposes?

            And from another comment I wrote elsewhere:

            Finally I may have managed to condense my reply to some #NoahMovie critics:

            I’m not saying, “Don’t be outraged; it looks bad!” I’m saying, “Yes, be outraged. But the heroes of Scripture starting with the capital-H Hero Himself show other responses even to the worst enemies of God who truly hate Him and want to mock Him. Recall how Jesus Himself reacted to those who mocked Him on the Cross. Parking in outrage and gunning the engine gets us nowhere.”

        • Kirsty says:

          The point is just that a girl can become a mother and therefore continue the human race (which Noah wants to die out). Although, since Shem & his wife could easily have other children after they leave the ark, why not kill his wife instead?

          • since Shem & his wife could easily have other children after they leave the ark, why not kill his wife instead?

            Having now seen the film, I had the same question while re-reading these comments. One could say, “They didn’t know that they could have children again and whether this pregnancy was a one-off thanks to Methuselah’s blessing.”

            Quite strange that critical Christians didn’t even give a passing remark of praise that this element of the film came across as a pro-life defense. I think it further illustrates our capacity for climbing on bandwagons — either all for or all against — based primarily on the spiritual zeitgeist we by and large inherit from pastors and more often parachurch leaders such as Ken Ham.

      • james somers says:

        May I make a contrast here?
        Take the old, “Ten Commandments” movie with Charleton Heston. Here we find a movie that is not exactly biblically or historically accurate. However, there is a fundamental difference between it and Noah. What was added doesn’t twist God into something he is not. In Ten Commandments God is still very much presented as God is presented in scripture. I can’t think of one way in which he is presented counter to how scripture portrays him.
        In Noah, God leaves Noah believing all man must die to preserve the animals alone. God uses evolution to create…which is contrary to scripture. Thank you for being a young earth creationists. I would have thought you would have more problems with Noah because of that. You don’t which seems very odd.
        People are impacted very deeply by movies…and when a movie claims to be in the “spirit of the biblical account” they take that to be a good close representation of God’s Word with a little extra added. That’s not Noah at all. It takes the bible and twists it into something completely unrecognizable.
        God has magnified his word above his name Psalm 138:2… He doesn’t like it when people, for whatever reason, mess with it and make it into a lie.
        So what should His people think about it? You judge that for yourself and so will I

        • Thank you for being a young earth creationists. I would have thought you would have more problems with Noah because of that. You don’t which seems very odd.”

          This is because, as a consumer of stories, my priorities are entirely different from yours.  You seem to value historical accuracy — at least when it comes to a biblical narrative — above all other considerations.  But why is that?  Certainly not because there’s any real danger of public deception or confusion — after all, Aronofsky’s Noah doesn’t even pretend to be a faithful reproduction of scripture.  It’s based on scripture, yes, but at its core it’s speculative fiction.  It takes a well-known story — so well known that it’s lost all savor and bite — and tweaks a few things here and there in order to explore a “what if?” scenario.  What if God had been less clear with Noah?  What if Noah had been more like Jonah?  What kind of narrative would’ve then unfolded, and why?  A good storyteller understands the power of novelty, the shock wrought by a shift in perspective from the expected to the unforeseen.  And Aronofsky is a very good storyteller.  It’s only by moving away from the didactic clarity of scriptural historicity that he’s able to tap into the stark horror which lurks behind our modern flippancy regarding Noah’s blasé righteousness and God’s taken-for-granted salvation.  Aronofsky dares to ask the unspeakable question: Why should God have spared anyone?  It’s a question that never gets asked.  And it’s an incredibly difficult question to answer.

          The goals of the film are thematic rather than documentary or didactic.  And that’s why I love it despite the fact that it contains a scene that briefly and incidentally implies a natural process which I don’t believe occurred in the distant past.

          • Kirsty says:

            not because there’s any real danger of public deception or confusion — after all, Aronofsky’s Noah doesn’t even pretend to be a faithful reproduction of scripture

            This is important. There are a lot of ‘faithful’ biblical accounts that are much worse from this point of view. Like the Sunday School song that states Noah pleaded with them to enter the ark. Really? Or creationist children’s literature that categorically states (rather than speculating) all kinds of things that are not in the Bible or provable by science.

  6. notleia says:

    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.

  7. 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.


    • It’s hard to know where to start with Matt Walsh’s “review,” other than to say that if you walk into a theater hoping to hate any given movie, there ain’t nothin’ gonna stop ya from hatin’ that thar movie.  He isn’t the slightest bit interested in approaching the film on its own terms, only in using it as fodder for his blogosphere demagoguery.

    • merechristian says:

      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.

      • 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.

        • 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.


        • 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:





          • 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.


  8. HG Ferguson says:

    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…..

    • Then I suppose you hate The Prince of Egypt and The Passion of the Christ as well, do ya?  ‘Cause they deviate from God’s Word.

      Can you point me to even a single person — anywhere, ever — who’s claimed that Noah or any other biblically-inspired film constitutes an inerrant, infallible version of the Word of God?  If such people exist, they are deeply confused.  It’s impossible to translate any book to the screen without adding thereto or subtracting therefrom.  It’s just the nature of the medium.  And it’s no different for films based on scripture.

      Yes, there is a relevant distinction: Noah‘s filmmakers did deviate from scripture intentionally.  That’s why one must approach their film as speculative fiction if it’s to be appreciated.  Therefore, it’s the film’s themes that I’ve chosen to review above, not the historical accuracy of its content.

      • notleia says:

        Not to mention Cecil B DeMille’s The Ten Commandments, which used the Koran and then-current Egyptology as other sources for the movie. And it’s almost that time of year to watch it. Gotta get my Charlton Heston/Yul Brenner fix. Shirtless Charlton Heston and Yul Brenner, no less.

      • But Austin, you did say viewers would have to “swallow” two things that contradict Scripture:

        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.

        I suggest there’s a difference between speculation and fabrication, and changing such fundamental things as God’s nature and Noah’s character seem to me to be the latter, not the former.


        • I disagree with your assertion that the film “changes God’s nature.” There’s no difference between God’s purpose in the Bible and in Aronofsky’s adaptation. What changes is how much of that purpose God chooses to reveal to his servant Noah.
          I also don’t necessarily agree with your contention that the film “changes Noah’s character.” After all, what do we really know for certain about Noah’s character? Only that he was righteous, and that he had faith. And that’s exactly how the film portrays him: as someone willing to do whatever he thinks God wants him to. And before you protest that God couldn’t possibly want anyone to slaughter his own grandchild, let’s remember the countless Israelite leaders condemned by God for their compassion toward those whom God had commanded them to kill. And now let’s look at the story’s context: God is actively wiping out millions of lives all over the world. Therefore, the fact that Noah is willing to do something as abhorrant as killing his own grandchild (and the film makes it clear that he finds the deed abhorrant) is a testament to his faith. He’s like Abraham, raising the knife over his own son.
          How is this a “fundamental change” to the thematic nature of the story?

          • There’s no difference between God’s puurpose in the Bible and in Aronofsky’s adaptation.

            I can’t speak to the purpose of the movie, but I think I can say something about the purpose of the Bible. It is God’s revelation of His purpose, plan, person, and work in the world.

            From what you yourself said, Austin, the movie shows “a God who doesn’t bother to communicate with any degree of specificity.” That’s not true about God. It undercuts His nature.

            Think about the parable Jesus told about the landowner who went away but in time sent servants one after the other to collect was was owed him until he finally sent his son. The picture is clear. God, the Landowner, hasn’t left us to wonder if we are to kill the babies and kick out the repentant. He was specific in His instructions to Noah, and Noah demonstrated his faith by obeying them. Anything else is a different story.

            As I said in another comment, showing Noah to be a person who clung to his belief in a dream and his best guess at what it meant, shows him to be a fool, not a man of faith.


            • It wasn’t until after Christ that the rich symbolism of the Flood was fully understood.  So no, at the time of the Flood, God’s purpose wasn’t to “reveal His purpose, plan, Person, and work in the world.”  Those kind of connections would come much, much later.  At the time of the Flood, God’s purpose was pretty straightforward: to wipe out corrupt humanity and start over with a chosen remnant.  And that’s the purpose examined by Aronofsky’s film.  It would be asking far too much of anyone in Hollywood, I think, to expect some kind of clearly messianic message to be encapsulated in a retelling of the Flood story.  The film dives deep — deeper than I would’ve expected it to had it been made by a Christian filmmaker, I’ll gladly admit — but it dives not into meditations on God’s love and mercy, but into a stark examination of the impartiality of His justice and wrath.  This is contextually appropriate, as God just happens to be slaughtering 99.9999% of the world’s population at the time.  The central question posed by the film (via its repeatedly-acknowledged creative liberties) is this: why should God have spared anyone from the apocalypse?  Wouldn’t it have been perfectly just of Him to have ended the human race right then and there?

              The technically-correct answer, of course, is “Yes.”  It’s an incredibly painful answer, an answer we humans will do practically anything to avoid, and its examination in the film comprises an incredibly painful and gut-wrenching narrative process. It’s the answer arrived at by the fictionalized character of Noah in part due to his absolute faith in the righteousness of God.

              And yet … and yet we know there’s more to God than justice.  We yearn for the mercy and grace we can never deserve on our own.  Noah himself recoils at his own perfectly logical surmise of God’s intensions.  He wails at the heavens to give him direction.  And when the moment of truth arrives, he drops the knife.  “I looked into her eyes,” he later recalls, “and all I felt was love.”  The film implies that Noah didn’t receive any direct guidance on this question so that he’d reach this conclusion on his own.  Is this a completely accurate depiction of God?  Of course not.  But what it allows the film to do is ask the question.

              And that’s what I think that Christians who’ve seen the film (and a surprisingly small percentage of its Christian critics fall into that category) react most strongly to: the fact that it’s more interested in asking questions than in giving answers.  Personally, I believe an aversion to ambiguity is at the root of most of what’s mediocre in Christian art today, and nowhere is that aversion on more vehement display than in the rhetorical beating that Noah has endured in the Christian press.

              Consider the question of Noah’s righteousness.  Depending on how one reads various circumstantial signs throughout the narrative, Noah’s insistence on carrying out what he believes to be God’s will is either sickeningly admirable or just another piece of evidence that mankind is totally depraved (even in his desire to follow God, Noah reveals his sin nature by nearly murdering his own granddaughter!).  Early on in the film, Noah asserts, in answer to his son’s complaint about wife-deficit, that “the Creator will provide everything that we need.”  Well, where’s that confidence later on when Noah takes it upon himself to “finish the Creator’s work” by killing his granddaughter?  There’s an intellectual dishonesty apparent in his reasoning.  And you know what?  The film is content to leave this dissonance implied.  It’s something to consider later, when you’re grappling with all the other implications dredged up by Aronofsky’s incisive riff on scripture.  Maybe it’ll even keep you up at night.

              Is that really a bad thing?  Is a storyteller really supposed to tell me how to think, instead of giving me questions to think upon?

      • merechristian says:

        I look at it as Christian fantasy. I think that, if one looks at it that way, it is fine. I think some anime/manga/light novels, with their versions of Christianity are fantasy. My question is whether I can gain some benefit from them so long as they are clearly fantasy. If the author stated, this is the truth of the Bible, then he’d be a liar, but he’s NOT. I am going to continue to look at the cool fantasy with Christian elements in various media, and find the cool stuff in them. Love, friendship, self-sacrifice in my Japanese otaku self, and man’s depravity and God’s holiness in stuff like this film when I see it.

    • 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.

  9. Wow!!! A terrifying God indeed!

  10. R. L. Copple says:

    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.

    • 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.


      • R. L. Copple says:

        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.

  11. Tim Frankovich says:

     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.

    • 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).
  12. Jill says:

    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.

    • I concur that Noah isn’t entirely biblical.  I’ve never implied anything else.  The second paragraph of my review categorizes the film as “speculative fiction.”

      Assuming I’m okay with Aronofsky’s language is like assuming I’m okay with Mel Gibson’s anti-semitic rants just ’cause I’m okay with his depictions of Jews on-screen.  I judge art based on its own merits, not based on the personal failings or successes of the artist.  If I didn’t, I’d never again be able to watch another Hollywood film.

      My parting words are these: beware of viewing “discernment” as a license to vehemently review films which you yourself haven’t bothered to see.

      • Jill says:

        His language is directly related to the subject because it’s how he views people who care about the Bible. His don’t-give-a-fuck went into the making of the film. Of note, I didn’t vehemently review this film, nor do I plan to. Why would I want to contribute to his getting rich off mocking my holy book?

        • “… mocking my holy book.”

          That counts as a review.  You’re vehemently telling me what the film is, what the film does, and what’s wrong with the film, all without actually having seen the film.  That’s not discernment; it’s presumption.

          • Jill says:

            Austin, are you being intentionally obtuse? I’m not vehemently reviewing anything. I’m just repeating what the director said about his own work.

            • Right.  Because Darren Aronofsky has said, “It is my intent to mock the Bible in my new movie.”

              • Jill says:

                Have it your way, Austin. He didn’t, in quotes, say, “It is my intent to mock the Bible….” He said he made the least biblical film about the Bible ever and furthermore didn’t give a fuck. But it’s great artwork, apparently, and great artwork will teach us great things. So watch it. Watch it again and again. I never told you not to. I told you why I won’t watch it. I don’t need to fill my mind and soul with that tripe. Maybe you do.

        • notleia says:

          Dude, chill the fuck out and leave the persecuted-Christian-majority pity-party at home. Context, motherfucker, do you speak it? This movie is an adaptation of a story. No more, no less.

          • d blayne says:


            You are way beyond the pale in your aggressive communication here!

            Jill has consistently been quoting and referencing an *actual* quote of director Darren Aronofsky to illustrate from his own words how much he cares about a potential christian audience or staying true to the (biblical) source. An Aronofsky quote about the film is completely relevant to this conversation.

            She has NEVER resorted to using such language *against* anyone or to insult or be offensive to anyone on this thread.

            • notleia says:

              I’m defending my title as Resident Pottymouth (and I was adapting a Pulp Fiction quote), but seriously, peeps, let’s talk about a concept called “dominant cultural narrative.” Aronofsky can go ahead and not give a fuck, because pretty much everybody in this culture knows the basic deets of the story of Noah. It was in Fantasia 2000, for cryin’ out loud, and I think everybody knows Donald Duck wasn’t “really” there.
              And I kinda want to see Jill’s real-time reaction to Monty Python’s The Life of Brian. That schadenfreude sounds delicious.

              • dmdutcher says:

                Interesting point about adaptations. People seem to take animated adaptions less seriously.
                A funny example about Noah specifically is that a lot of Christians might shudder at this movie, go out to Wal-Mart, and see an animated Noah’s Ark film. If they pick it up, they’ll find out they are buying El Arca, a rather notorious film which has a ton of references to sex and stomps all over Noah far worse than this film could. Obligatory TV Tropes link here:
                It’s really that bad. 

  13. 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.


    • Jill says:

      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.

    • That review is the most gnostic thing I’ve read in a long time.  Guess it’s impossible to comprehend anything in the entire movie without first ingesting a buttload of obscure, cryptic, top-secret, hidden insider factoids.  Sounds just like the kind of stuff Christians paraded out against Harry Potter a decade ago.

      I also find it pretty hilarious that Noah is getting lambasted, on one hand, for “overemphasizing the significance of animals,” and, on the other hand, for “dismissing the significance of the material world.”  These two interpretations are mutually exclusive.  And neither are obvious takaways from an unbiased viewing.

      • Jill says:

        Gnosticism is anything but obscure and top-secret. How would you get that idea? It’s very mainstream–rife in our popular media. And, aside from that, Aronosfsky plainly stated that he consulted Kabbalistic retellings of Genesis for his film (Kabbala being Gnosticism). But, no, that couldn’t possibly be! Instead of that, Christians are just being stupid caricatures who don’t appreciate great artwork, just like they’ve always been, especially back in the days when they condemned a series of popular books about witchcraft! 

        • I didn’t say that gnosticism is a rarely-held belief system.  I said that the review in question is itself gnostic in that it claims no one can understand Aronofsky’s Noah without accepting the Word of Experts that Everything Means Something Other Than What It Means On Its Face.  This kind of appeal to hidden, esoteric knowledge is a characteristic component of gnosticism.

          I find that rather ironic.

          • Jill says:

            Ah, gotcha. I barely skimmed that review. You’re right about that.

          • Finally I read this review. I can’t help but notice that yes, he’s treating this movie in exactly the same way Dan “Da Vinci Code” Brown treats pretty much everything. (Or if you prefer, Jack Chick vs. The Catholic Church.) I like to call this approach: “The Berenstein Bears and Too Much English Major.” The “review’s” ending struck me as pretty much insufferable. In short: “I don’t expect ‘regular’ people to pick up on all this secret symbolic academic content, but you Christian leaders have no excuse not to go secret-meaning-hunting exactly as I do.” This view seems arrogant and absurd. Unfortunately this kind of thing spawns reactionary approaches from other Christians who therefore feel pressured to praise the movie — and ignore its real flaws, false-religious content, and Bible alterations — mainly as a form of revenge against “criticisms” like this.

            • Stephen and Austin, I don’t see anything Gnostic in that review. That accusation grows thin. First, this man who holds some sort of doctorate, which says he’s studied things I haven’t studied, went to books he had on his shelf to verify and deepen his understanding of a false belief system. That means, the information has been published. It is hardly secret.

              Second, he concludes by saying average people who haven’t studied different belief systems can be forgiven if they didn’t recognize the false belief system displayed in the movie. However, those who should have studied false belief systems ought to be held accountable for missing it.

              This is not saying they have some secret knowledge! Anyone who wants to study Kabbala will learn exactly the same things. You’re free to study it, I’m free to study it. It’s not secret.

              If I watch an NCAA basketball game and critique the way a team runs their 2-2-1 press, but say the average basketball fan would probably miss this, I’m not claiming secret knowledge. I’m simply stating the fact that someone who has coached sees things someone who has not, will miss. That’s precisely what Dr. Mattson was saying, with the added point that those who “coached” ought not to have missed it.


              • When a reviewer asserts outright falsehoods about a movie, I have a lot less respect for whatever letters may follow his name.  Having actually seen the film myself, I have a duty to call him out on those falsehoods.  This particular review has caught on with Christians like wildfire; I’ve had to debunk it three separate times on Facebook just today.  The common denominator among those friends of mine who’ve been tagging me in their postings thereof?  None of ’em have actually seen the film.

                That matters.

                It matters because Dr. Brian Mattson’s review is, as I’ve previously pointed out, brimming with convenient distortions and outright falsehoods.  Add to that the fact that it totally ignores the obvious, in-your-face thematic thrust of the film, and you’ve created a dangerous cocktail of misdirected righteous indignation.  This is fundamentally unfair toward Darren Aronofsky and everyone associated with Noah, regardless of whether we Christians, at the end of the day, believe the film deserves our support.

                To recap and expand upon the distortions and falsehoods contained in “Sympathy for the Devil”:

                1.  “Adam and Eve are luminescent and fleshless, right up until the moment they eat the forbidden fruit.”  They’re luminescent, yes.  But fleshless?  No.  How on earth would Eve have been able to pluck the Fruit and take a bite without a physical hand and mouth?  For crying out loud, Jesus demonstrated the physicality of His resurrection body with just such an action!

                (Aside:  Dr. Mattson may have instantly recognized our first parents’ radiance as a gnostic reference, but I instantly recognized it as a reference to a popular creationist theory that Adam and Eve had been clothed in the glory of God prior to the Fall — point being, it’s an image that bears multitudinous interpretations and says nothing emphatic about any subversive gnostic intent on the part of the director.)

                2.  Dr. Mattson’s indignation regarding the redemption of the Nephilim rings hollow.  Scripture has nothing to say about the possibility for redemption among angels, fallen angels, demons, and/or Nephilim.  To insinuate that Aronofsky has spit in the face of established Christian dogma on this issue is laughable to me.

                3.  Dr. Mattson contradicts himself when he asserts that “the Creator” is, as per gnostic theology, a lesser deity.  This is because the Creator is portrayed by the film as not only the Maker of the universe and Sender of the Flood, but also as the Source of the spiritual beings who disobey his orders by descending to earth to become the Nephilim.  We know this without a shadow of a doubt because, when the first “Rock Person” is killed in defense of the ark and ascends from his physical shell, the other Nephilim cry out, “The Creator takes him home!”  It’s obvious that, within the film’s story-world, “the Creator” is ultimate Lord of both the physical and spiritual realms.

                But leave that crucial contradiction aside for just a moment.  Let’s pretend that the film didn’t provide us with proof that “the Creator” is who he claims.  Even were that not the case, Dr. Mattson’s whole argument constitutes a logical fallacy.  He presupposes that Aronofsky intended to tell a gnostic story, and then interprets the entire film according to that unprovable premise.  This is no different than if he’d defined the word “God” as actually meaning “Satan,” and then reviewed a movie ostensibly about God as actually having been all about Satan, using as “proof” the fact that the movie keeps talking about “God.”  There’s no “proof” here; it’s all semantic slight-of-hand.

                4.  With regard to the snakeskin relic, I’ll admit that it puzzled me at first.  But here as elsewhere there are multiple possible interpretations.  You see, Adam is shown touching the shed snakeskin right before Eve plucks the Forbidden Fruit, so it’s entirely possible that the film is implying that some of Adam’s pre-Fall spiritual purity was transferred into that shed.  The shed itself, of course, symbolizes mankind’s temptation and Fall.  So as a relic, a snakeskin with a golden glow could be a powerful symbol of mankind’s mingled depravity and innate value.

                5.  In Noah’s vision of the ark, it isn’t clear whether he’s sinking or rising.  That’s what leads to his uncertainty, which allows the film to develop the theme of universal human depravity, as I explored in my review.

                6.  Nowhere does the Creator indicate to Noah that he’s supposed to kill his own grandchild in order to end humanity.  That’s Noah’s own inference, and the film makes it clear in subtext that it’s not the Creator’s will.  When Noah first cries out to God to show him what to do, the rains stop.  When he’s about to shed blood aboard the ark, it strikes land, throwing everyone across the deck.  When he finally decides to spare his granddaughter, the dove returns with an olive branch.  When he rejoins his family and gives thanks to God, an auroral rainbow erupts in the heavens.  This is not a sequence of events designed to turn a viewer against “the Creator.”  It’s a sequence of events designed to cast doubt upon the decisions and actions of Noah, the man who may or may not understand God’s will.

                7.  No abrupt change overtakes Noah after he recovers the snakeskin relic.  He’s been deeply troubled and in conflict of spirit ever since he knew his daughter-in-law was pregnant.  Let me say this again: his actions, attitude, and behavior do not change until the moment of truth when he drops the knife.  The spiritual and psychological journey of Noah is unpunctuated by any arcane spiritual intercession.  He has a decision to make.  He (logically) thinks the decision is God’s will.  He thinks he’s committed to the decision.  But then when the time comes, he just can’t do it.  That’s the order of events.

                Now, let me take this opportunity to again point out the irony inherent in the fact that well-meaning Christians are attacking this film from two entirely different directions at once.  In opposition to the “It’s all a giant gnostic conspiracy!” theorists, there are arrayed the “It’s all a giant environmentalist whacko conspiracy!” detractors.  The fact that the film can generate two mutually-exclusive interpretations (and it is a self-contradictory statement to claim that the film simultaneously makes the earth out to be an inherently unspiritual place ruled by an evil deity, and also some kind of fragile Gaia-land spoilt by evil mankind on a resource-exploitation spree) should indicate that neither theory is sufficient to explain its thematic purpose.

                But what else should we expect from a film that dares to ask the unanswerable question: “Why on earth should God spare anyone?”  What else should we expect from a film that takes it upon itself to explore the implications of the near-extinction of humanity as decreed by God Himself?  This is not a happy-fuzzy-cuddly story.  Nothing but sheer dishonesty could ever make it so.  This is the story of a righteously wrathful God, and of a man who tries to take that righteous wrath to its logical conclusion.  It’s uncomfortable.  It’s troubling.  It’s deeply confusing at times.

                And that’s a good thing.

            • dmdutcher says:

              He has a point though. It’s not wrong to recognize Gnostic themes; virtually all of cyberpunk and the Matrix Trilogy in particular hold the spirit good, the meat bad as an ideal. I think his problem is that he only focuses on those themes, and doesn’t evaluate the whole film as a work. 

            • For my part, anyway, I didn’t mean that the reviewer used “secret knowledge” and that’s somehow wrong. Of course an academic might be more informed about such things. But it’s tantamount to using “secret knowledge” to analyze a story in this fashion — as if to say that clearly all these secret symbols and meanings are in the story and that only the most learned among us can recognize them. That’s what I meant when I made my tongue-in-cheek reference to Dan “Da Vinci Code” Brown, who does the same sort of symbol-importing to the Bible.

              But all this is a secondary argument. As I think we would agree, filmmakers may put all kinds of symbolism into the movie to cover all their bases and ensure they try to make the movie have “something for everyone.” (I understand this was the approach by the chaps who made The Matrix trilogy.) But mature Christians can see through this nonsense anyway and appreciate any of the truthful explorations that are there — as Austin seems to have pointed out in his original review. I still haven’t seen anyone directly rebut that central claim before moving on to dismiss it in favor of other reviewers — often reviewers who haven’t yet demonstrated their views about popular culture are consistent or even Biblical. (Do they also dislike, say, It’s A Wonderful Life? Or is that sub-Biblical film okay because it’s old and “harmless”? I bring this up not to be legalistic but simply to remind us that it’s often “harmless” films, like Avatar, that actually more deceptive.)

              (Simul-written with SpecFaith Anime Film Reviewer D. M. Dutcher, who pointed out the parallel with the Matrix films and everything)

  14. 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.


    • 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!

    • 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 …

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


      • 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.

    • dmdutcher says:

      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.

    • If a commenter doesn’t bother to address a single point that I raise in my review of a film, but instead launches into an irate diatribe in which he “reveals” elements of the film that I’d clearly spelled out in my review, I’m gonna ask him the obvious question.  If he then responds to my challenge by spewing a slew of objective falsehoods, I’m forced to choose between two conclusions: either he’s being dishonest about what he saw in the film, or he’s being dishonest about having seen the film in the first place.  There is no third option.

      And I did previously address the issues brought up by Dr. Brian Mattson.  I pointed out two of his factually incorrect statements: that Adam and Eve aren’t portrayed by the film as fleshless, and that “the Creator” is portrayed as the maker of both physical and spiritual beings.  Those two distortions alone should’ve served to invalidate his “it’s all gnosticism” interpretation.  But since they apparently didn’t, I’ve now posted a more thorough deconstruction above.

      [Edit: Sorry about this, Becky – I just realized that the initial rebuttals I referenced above were posted as part of a Facebook discussion, and not on this thread originally. So I’m wrong when I say here that I’d previously addressed the issues raised by Dr. Mattson. Hopefully, however, the rebuttal I’ve now posted farther up this thread will help clarify my reaction to his interpretation with an exhaustive degree of specificity.]

      Becky, I respect your choice to not see the film and to believe that an inaccurately told Bible story is necessarily a bad thing.  But I resent your implication that I “didn’t call out the error” or “recommended the [film] … without cautioning [readers] that it doesn’t tell the truth about God.”  On the contrary, I highlighted the fact that Noah is an unfaithful adaptation on no less than eight separate occasions in my original review (yes, I just went back and counted).  My appreciation for the film has nothing to do with its historical accuracy and everything to do with its thematic substance, and I’ve made this abundantly clear from the very beginning.  If you disagree with my valuation, then fine.  That’s your prerogative as a fellow media-consuming Christian.  But please don’t make me out to be someone who lacks some fundamental element of discernment just because I judge a movie by its themes instead of by its content.

      • Jill says:

        Austin, the subject of art critique is something I’ve been thinking about lately. And this bothers me a little: “…I judge a movie by its themes instead of by its content.” You can’t, really, can you? The content of a movie informs the theme. That is how an artist develops theme–through the content of language, setting, character, symbol. If he doesn’t use content, what else is going to use? And, honestly, looking at your review, you use content to extrapolate theme. I don’t want to belabor this thread, but I find this to be an interesting topic of conversation all on its own. I find it interesting that you would distance yourself from content in that last statement. Rather than not seeing the forest for the trees, your stance is more akin to denying that there are trees in the forest. Certainly, you don’t have to focus on Gnostic/Kabbalistic* symbolism in the film and how that informs theme, but I find that Christians often downplay potentially controversial content in reviews in order to touch on what is of potential value to the consumer–how the themes can help us understand others, grow in our faith, grow as humans. And that approach strikes me as a little disingenuous. But I haven’t completely worked out my thoughts on it, so I’m just talking it out. If you no longer want to continue with this thread, that’s fine. I’ll probably write something about this subject on my blog.
        *These terms are being used interchangeably, and that is because the symbolism for both mystic traditions is pretty much the same–esp in Hollywood. For the sake of convenience, I equated the two in an earlier comment, but that is only a true statement if we’re discussing common symbolism.

        • You raise a fair point.  The phrasing at the end of my last comment was perhaps too concise to be clear.  What I meant was this: I try to understand stories on their own terms.

          Noah isn’t meant to be an accurate, faithful retelling of the story as found in scripture.  This is clear from the opening montage.  It is a work of speculative fiction rooted in a Judeo-Christian understanding of the respective natures of God and man.  If I approach it expecting historical accuracy, I’ll come away feeling confused, betrayed, and disillusioned.  But if I instead choose to recognize it for what it is, to cease expecting something from it that it has no intension of giving me, and to approach it with an open mind that doesn’t pre-judge it as devil-spawn just ’cause it’s not what I originally wanted, then I’ll begin to perceive what it’s actually trying to say.

          Then I’ll be judging it by its themes (as revealed by its content) instead of by its content (or rather, its lack of certain forms of content that I wanted it to have).  I’ll be exclaiming to myself, “Oh, what beautiful taiga!” instead of grousing, “But why aren’t there mangroves?  I wanted mangroves!

          When approached on its own terms, irrespective of the historical account of Noah in scripture, I believe the film grapples with weighty themes, asks bold questions, and, ultimately, brings glory to God.  I don’t believe it misrepresents His nature at all.  Rather, it forces me to confront the terrible immanence of His righteous wrath against sin, His justification in punishing depraved humanity, and the miraculous, unspeakable relief that is His mercy and grace.

          • It is a work of speculative fiction rooted in a Judeo-Christian understanding of the respective natures of God and man.

            Here’s the point with which I disagree, Austin. You don’t think the movie distorts the nature of God, but everything I’ve read, in whatever review, written from whatever angle, yours included, makes God out to be what He is not nor was not during the days of Noah. I’m not focusing on historical data. I’m concerned for God’s name.

            I understand that you see the movie as a powerful statement about God’s righteous wrath, but if it misrepresents Him as a distant, uncommunicative being who allows His follower to muddle through on his own, how is that true to God’s nature? In the Garden, God walked and talked with Adam and Eve. When they sinned, He personally confronted them and passed judgment. He then showed His mercy by clothing them. He continued to interact with them, demonstrated by the sacrifices Cain and Abel offered and God’s response to them. When Cain killed his brother, God confronted him, and instead of giving him the death penalty, protected him. I could go on. The point is, from the beginning, God did everything possible to have a relationship with humankind. It is we who rejected God and moved away from Him, not He who distanced Himself from us. Anything that shows a different kind of God is a distortion.

            In light of a different kind of God, the righteous indignation you see in the movie can so easily be interpreted as the unjust venting of a cold tyrant, as so many atheists (“If there is a God like the Old Testament God, he’s . . .) and “progressives” claim.

            In fact, before I read any of the Kabbala information, that was my thought–an atheist film maker would most certainly want to present a wrathful God, especially a wrathful God who leaves a man guessing but so zealous he’s willing to commit infanticide.

            Perhaps this is an example of a viewer bringing his own worldview to bear on a work of fiction–the idea that the maker of the film may have one intent but the viewer, because of who he is, sees something inline with his own beliefs.

            Certainly I applaud your conclusion: “it forces me to confront the terrible immanence of His righteous wrath against sin, His justification in punishing depraved humanity, and the miraculous, unspeakable relief that is His mercy and grace.”

            Since I haven’t seen it, I don’t know if I’d see that same truth.

            I suggest from everything I’ve read about Mr. Aronofsky, he being an atheist in particular, this theme was not his intention. Does that mean you can’t glean that meaning? I think you can because of that reader/writer symbiosis. It’s why Wiccans can read Tolkien and worship the earth as a result. It’s not true to the intent of the author, but it’s true to their interpretation based on their own beliefs.

            This is why I think we as believers do need to anchor our interpretations to Scripture. Otherwise we are simply swayed by one experience, one point of emphasis, to another. The meta narrative of the Bible gives us a greater picture that is true, and I would like to see us Christians measure stories up against that truth.


            • “It is we who rejected God and moved away from Him, not He who distanced Himself from us. Anything that shows a different kind of God is a distortion.”

              Except the film doesn’t show a different kind of God.  From the opening montage to the final shot, it clearly portrays a powerful, righteous, loving Creator and a greedy, shortsighted, vainglorious humanity who have, of their own volition, rejected their Maker and His precepts.

              The film does downplay God’s mercy and grace.  But this is absolutely necessary in order to take the viewer on an emotional journey into fear — fear of a sort I’ve rarely felt in a film.  The fear of God’s wrath.  The fear that the film was gonna make Him out to be as merciless as His servant Noah.  The fear felt by those outside the ark, those under condemnation.

              That’s not a feeling I could’ve ever felt had God’s redemptive clarity been obligatorily highlighted by Aronofsky.  That’s why I say in my review that the film “diminishes one truth to expand upon another.”  That’s why I think it’s a great work of speculative fiction.

              I’m not sure where else this discussion can go from here but in circles.  I definitely think you should see the film.  It’ll probably be very different from what you seem to expect.

              • Austin, I don’t have time to debate this further. If you don’t think the movie showed God as removed and silent, that’s fine. All I know is, from your description of the movie’s depiction of God, I conclude they presented Him with an altered nature to what He showed.

                Make your own conclusions.

                Much like Jill, I find it hard to understand how you can see such a strong Judeo-Christian theme in the movie but think you are neutral and open-minded to what an atheist and seeker, at least, of Kabbala has said, whereas other Christians who disagree with you are seeing the movie through the veil of their expectations.

                It’s the inconsistency and the determination to defend your position that I don’t get. But I don’t need to.

                Suffice it to say, it’s been an interesting discussion.


          • Jill says:

            Again, I’m still working out my thoughts on a Christian’s approach to art.  And this time, I find this troubling: “I try to understand stories on their own terms.” In a sense, of course, how could you do anything else? But the problem is that nothing ever works solely off its own terms. Its terms are defined by culture and history, and not merely by the artist. In other words, art is never produced in a vacuum. The artist is connected to a culture, and so are we. In many ways, we share a culture with the artist, but we also part ways with him regarding our religious cultures. You choose to find points where the conversation merges; I choose not take part in a conversation with the artist because I don’t like his attitude toward something I hold sacred. Other Christians choose to take part in the conversation and criticize the artist for the way his vision differs from a Christian vision. All of these are valid responses, even the scholar’s response when he dissects the Gnostic symbolism in the film. These are all valid responses because the art was not produced in a vacuum. And these responses are not only valid, but they are much more complex than wanting a story to be one way and then vilifying it because it didn’t fulfill the expectation. You say, “But if I instead choose to recognize it for what it is, to cease expecting something from it that it has no intension of giving me, and to approach it with an open mind that doesn’t pre-judge it as devil-spawn just ’cause it’s not what I originally wanted, then I’ll begin to perceive what it’s actually trying to say.” With this statement, you seem to be making an assumption that Christians originally wanted something from this film at all. Yet, it wasn’t something that was demanded as far as I know. It wasn’t wanted, so much as it happened, and now they are joining in to decry it or uphold it or ignore it. If you want me to get down to the nitty-gritty of the rest of that statement, well I recognize it for what it is. You believe you can know what something is by examining it with an open mind and leaving aside your pre-conceived notions of it (or at the very least, approach knowing what it is). Through that, you believe you can perceive what the film is actually trying to say. Yet, due to your own solipsism, you are merely seeing what you want to in the film–that is, giving it a Judeo-Christian reading. You do this to the point of writing off those, like the scholar Rebecca linked to above, who are actually trying to fit the story into the framework of the director’s own Kabbalistic influences.

            • “All of these are valid responses, even the scholar’s response when he dissects the Gnostic symbolism in the film.”

              “You do this [see what you want to in the film] to the point of writing off those, like the scholar Rebecca linked to above, who are actually trying to fit the story into the framework of the director’s own Kabbalistic influences.”

              If a response is based on objective distortions and falsehoods, as is the “gnosticism” charge, then it’s not valid.  I have exhaustively debunked Dr. Mattson’s polemic above.  That should be an end to the matter, unless you want to explain, point by point and scene by scene, exactly how it is that I’m either mistaken or “solipsistic.”

              “You seem to be making an assumption that Christians originally wanted something from this film at all. Yet, it wasn’t something that was demanded as far as I know.”

              And yet it seems obvious, in light of the response of many Christians to Aronofsky’s Noah (whether they’ve seen it or not!), that they did indeed want something very specific from this film: a word-for-word accuracy to the biblical text.  And now that it’s become clear that slavish scriptural faithfulness isn’t one of Aronofsky’s chief priorities as a storyteller, the hue and cry has been raised on a grand scale.

              • Jill says:

                “I have exhaustively debunked Dr. Mattson’s polemic above.  That should be an end to the matter, unless you want to explain, point by point and scene by scene, exactly how it is that I’m either mistaken or “solipsistic.”” That should be an end to the matter? You must have a very lofty view of your own intelligence and/or persuasion abilities. You also seem to have an inability to recognize your own solipsistic responses to the film–believing them to be “neutral” and a way into discovering what the director truly was attempting to say in the film. You found Judeo-Christian motifs in the film, but I as a neutral outsider (neutral outsider because I haven’t seen the film, so I have had no visceral reactions to the power of the storytelling) have read that the director gave a Kabbalistic interpretation of Noah, that the director is, indeed, heavily influenced by Kabbalah, and yet you still maintain that no such reading of the film is valid. However, it is valid in as much as Gnosticism merged with Kabbalistic ideas from the Medieval ages onward, and since then, the two systems have taken on very similar ideas, symbols, and mysticism. A theologian or historian would know that; you may not. How can it be that you accept your own reading as the accurate one? But  at a certain point in my last comment and the one preceding it, I was no longer discussing the Noah film. I was discussing the way we approach art. You believe that if we don’t project our expectations onto the film, we can allow the art to speak for itself. However, I would posit that that is an impossibility, and you have projected your own worldview into your reading of the film. You saw what you wanted to see, just as much as the Christians you decry here saw the Gnosticism they wanted to see because they were/are projecting from their own belief structures and knowledge bases, some of which is knowledge of the director. Art doesn’t live in a vacuum.

              • Jill, my rejection of Dr. Mattson’s interpretation has nothing whatsoever to do with my own intelligence or perception.  I don’t debunk his claims because I feel defensive; I debunk them — claim by claim, “evidence” by “evidence” — because I remember what I saw in the theater, and what I saw is not the same as what he claims he saw.  It’s an objective fact that his conclusions are based largely on patent falsehoods and ridiculous distortions.  If you doubt me, go see the film yourself.

                I saw the movie, Jill.  It’s not a “perception” of mine that Aronofsky gave Adam and Eve physical bodies before their Fall — it’s a fact.  You can see it on the screen.  You can see them walk along the ground and pick up things.  It’s not a “solipsistic response” to say that, in the film, “the Creator” is presented as Lord of both the physical and spiritual realms.  It’s explicitly stated as fact by various physical and spiritual beings throughout the duration of the story.  I’m not espousing an opinion when I say that the snakeskin relic plays no role in Noah’s decision-making — Noah doesn’t even obtain it until after his decision’s been made, as Peter Chattaway points out in his concurrent rebuttal.

                In his critique, Dr. Mattson describes his reasoning in great detail.  For him, says he, such reasoning isn’t based on his own perception.  It’s not an emotional takeaway.  Therefore, if I demonstrate — as I have — that the “evidence” upon which he’s based his reasoning is in fact objectively erroneous, then I have invalidated his argument.  He’s the one who gave me the means to do so.

                You say that I saw what you wanted to see, just as much as the Christians you decry here saw the Gnosticism they wanted to see because they were/are projecting from their own belief structures and knowledge bases.”  But that statement just dodges the issue.  The real issue here isn’t perceptual in nature.  If Dr. Mattson had written a review which cautioned viewers to avoid Noah because its director was interested in Kabbalah and because it contained some recognizably Kabbalistic imagery, that’d be one thing.  He would’ve walked away with one perception, I with another.  But that’s not what we’re talking about here.  We’re talking about competing claims regarding what’s actually, verifiably in the movie, not about the relative ways that various viewers get affected by what’s in the movie.  And if you don’t trust me when I delineate precisely where Mattson has distorted and falsified the film’s contents, then you’ll simply have to see the film yourself before you can draw an informed conclusion.

      • If a commenter doesn’t bother to address a single point that I raise in my review of a film, but instead launches into an irate diatribe in which he “reveals” elements of the film that I’d clearly spelled out in my review. . .

        I took what you termed to be a diatribe in which he “reveals” elements of the film that you’d spelled out, to be a rebuttal of you interpretation. I never once thought what James wrote was disassociated with your post–just in disagreement.

        If he missed some of the details of what you said, I think that’s understandable since this is the internet and we’re all reading fast. For example, I never said, as you reported, that I’m not going to see Noah (“Becky, I respect your choice to not see the film”). What I said was, “Will I go see it? I don’t know. I went to see Avatar and would have no compunction against seeing it again . . .” Because you got that wrong, am I forced to believe you’re being dishonest? Of course not.

        What I suggest is, we read comments to blog posts with a bit more charity. And respond with a bit more kindness.


        • Not to pick at a nit, but James in his comment didn’t address even one single point I raised in my review.  Not a single one.  And when it came time for him to address that theme of the film which formed the central thesis of my review, he had this to say:

          “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.”

          This not only ignores everything I said in my review regarding the thematic import of God’s ambiguity, Noah’s terrible conviction, the innocence of the animals vis-a-vis humanity, and the ultimate vindication of mercy, but it also “unveils” plot elements with a level of indignation heated enough to indicate that no alternative explanation — such as that found in my review — had been considered beforehand.  It’s not a comment that interacts with my review in the slightest; all it does is shout its own perspective.  That’s why I asked the obvious question: “Did you even read the review before commenting?”  I’d rather that someone go back and read what I’ve already written than that I have to type up all over again.

    • Kirsty says:

      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.

  15. David A says:

    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.

    • I think your critique is a valid one, David.  There’s an ambiguity to the film’s conclusion that I’d love to have clarified.  But then again, I’m not sure whether an easing of ambiguity at the end would make it easier for me to simply shake off the unsettling implications raised by the film, and I’m not sure whether or not that’d weaken its challenge to my complacency.

      In reference to God, I understand “being shown mercy” to mean “not getting what I deserve.”  In that sense, we’ve all fallen short of God’s mercy in that we don’t deserve it.  The fact that it’s undeserved is, after all, what differentiates mercy from justice, fairness, or obligation.  Are you understanding the word to mean something different, or is our disagreement merely semantic?

      • David A says:

        Mostly semantic I think. The phrase “falling short” implies that we could have attained it but did not. No one has (or can) do enough sin to disqualify them for God’s mercy (whereas we’ve all disqualified ourselves for his glory). We do not have to qualify for God’s mercy.
        I tuned out the Watchers storyline, so I wasn’t bothered by them that much. I focused on Noah’s character the entire movie and surprisingly the Watchers never really factored into his arc. I did think the message of them was jumbled, but I didn’t care.
        Also, what happened to Na’el got under my skin like few movie moments ever have. I was seething at Noah for a goof 15 minutes afterward including through the battle with the Watchers. So I missed the finer points of their “redemption”.

  16. Christian Jaeschke says:

    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:


    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.


What do you think?