This is not a full review of Noah though I’ll offer a few review thoughts at the bottom of this post.
Primarily I hope to contrast the major storyline departures of the movie with the Noah narrative in the Old Testament and references in the New Testament. There were also several significant scenes I think illuminate the text in helpful ways. This list is not exhaustive. This post contains multiple spoilers.
From before the first scene, Aronofsky departs from any remotely biblical narrative. Unfortunately this departure creates infinitely more problems than it solves. I think the movie could have been just as imaginative and far more credible had it had fewer angelic speculations.
The Bible teaches fallen angels (Matthew 25:41, 2 Peter 2:4, Jude 1:6). The Bible does not teach fallen angels turned into rock people. The Bible does refer to some who are held in chains of darkness so rock people could be a metaphor. Even so the redemption of fallen angels, their support of Noah, and defense of the ark are total cinematic inventions.
The Bible mentions Tubal in Genesis (chapter 10) but no Tubal-Cain. There is no storyline associated with Tubal-cain, much less as the leader of city building, armies, etc. There are no stowaways on the ark mentioned in the Bible. (Correction: Thanks to a reader for pointing out Tubal-cain is mentioned in Genesis 4:22 as one who “made all kids of bronze and iron tools.” He was, as the movie indicates, a descendent of Cain.)
The character seems to have been invented to create tension between the descendants of Seth (including Noah) and the descendants of Cain (who have ruined the world via over-mining).
Noah’s movie family consists of Noah, his wife, Shem and Ham (separated by five or so years), then down to Japheth who is considerably younger. They also pick up an orphan girl who eventually becomes the wife of Shem. The movie does not make it completely clear whether they are “married” at the time she becomes pregnant, though they ask for Noah’s blessing.
In the Bible the human passengers on the ark are Noah, his wife, their sons, Shem, Ham and Japheth, and their wives. We are not told of any births (human or animal) on the ark (Genesis 7:7).
The movie Noah seems often uncertain whether he is hearing from God unless he is dreaming. At least once the dream is achieved pharmaceutically. In the Bible God speaks clearly to Noah on multiple occasions and Noah responds (Genesis 6:13-22, 7:1-9).
The movie Noah comes off as a bit unhinged and enormously uncaring. He is almost an anti-hero, clearly ambivalent about the responsibility God has placed on him. He is more fundamentalist than a receiver of the favor of God. While we know little about Noah, the Bible never says he planned to allow humanity to die off being willing to kill his own grandchildren to ensure that outcome.
Evil is evil.
Though the focus of evil is a clearly one-sided (harm to the environment) that evil was pervasive in Noah’s day is clear. This is biblical (Genesis 6:5, 6). Noah recognizes the evil within himself and his family. Blasphemy, murder, greed, land-grabbing, abuse of creation, rape, trafficking, hate are all presented as real, serious and wrong.
I wonder if Aronofsky’s over-aggressive posture on the environment obscures what many followers of Christ have overlooked: God’s covenant following the flood is between God, humans, animals and the earth (Genesis 9:12-17).
The flood was no picnic.
I was talking with a co-worker this morning the subject of visual impact. Regardless of how many times you read a text, new thoughts and understanding can come from a visual presentation of the same material.
Those of us familiar with the Noah story in the Bible sometimes miss this foundational truth: people and animals died, and they died in large numbers (Genesis 7:21-23). This is dramatically portrayed in the movie. People climbing to high ground, falling from cliffs, screaming for Noah to let them in. If you, as I, believe the Noah story is literal, well and good. But for too long we gloss over the violent deaths suffered by a countless number. In a tsunami one might eventually move beyond the extent of its damage; in the flood, no one could.
This 3-5 minute scene was worth the ticket price. I was deeply moved during that scene.
The ark was immense.
Thanks to Fisher-Price the ark has been reduced to a 12-inch yellow boat with a few pairs of smiling animals. Noah’s ark was well represented in the movie.
Much has been made about the movie’s use of The Watchers (the “rock men”) in constructing the ark. Needless to say, that is not biblical.
However, it set me to thinking of the construction of the ark. Did Noah do it alone? Noah and his three sons? And their wives? Did he use contract labor? Did he use forced labor?
It is implied Noah took 100-120 years to build the ark (Genesis 6:3, 5:32, 7:6). If you believe the biblical story then between one and eight people built that enormous water craft over a number of decades. That means they cut the trees, prepared the lumber, erected the frame, built the decks, and covered it with pitch to keep out the water.
The idea of hired help doesn’t sound as far fetched as it might have. Rock people? No. Union carpenters? Maybe.
Noah got drunk.
Yes, after exiting the ark Noah planted a vineyard and fell off the wagon. This is after the rainbow, after the covenant, after surviving. Noah gets drunk and, most likely, passed out.
The movie narrative seems to indicate that Noah is dealing with some kind of “survivor’s guilt.” He drinks a goodly amount of wine before passing out naked. (I thought nothing could be worse than Russell Crowe singing, but…)
I find this very thought provoking and totally believable. The psychological burden of that lengthy ordeal of building, preaching, toiling and rejection would have destroyed the average person (Hebrews 11:7, 1 Peter 2:5). People get drunk for much less serious reasons.
The movie as a movie.
Apart from theological concerns I thought it was simply an overly long, very dark movie. Even the end is not enough to redeem what pretty much amounts to an overwhelmed preacher/builder wondering over a Mad Max landscape in the fashion of Cormac McCarthy’s The Road. My son liked the movie a little better than I did and he thought it was 30-minutes too long.
If you want rock people doing construction and fighting, the tree people (Ents) of LOTR fame are much more highly recommended. In fact, purely from a moviegoing perspective, Lord of The Rings is a much better choice.
Crowe does his best “Noah Maximus” effort, while Jennifer Connelly is the frustrated wife ever trying to convince her husband of another way. (Perhaps the most realistic role in the entire movie since most wives spend lots of time doing exactly that ;^)
I would give it 3 stars out of 5 overall, 2 stars out of 5 on storyline, 2 stars out of 5 on theology.
- 01 April 2014 at 3:04pm
- An Outstanding (and fair) Biblical Review of the Noah Movie | Paul Stanley
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