The movie Noah (directed, produced, and written by Darren Aronofsky) has been the source of a great deal of controversy. I saw the movie last night, and now I understand why. I wasn’t really sure what to expect, as I had read many reviews about the movie. Some praised the movie as a great example of film making, and some questioned the motives, storyline and overall message. Since it was creating such a ruckus, I decided to see it for myself.
This decision in itself was met with a great deal of resistance from friends of mine. I am not a film student, nor do I enjoy controversy. I do consider myself to be a Christian apologist, and this film addresses something that I have a stake in: The Bible. I am very concerned about how our culture views the Bible, and the God of the Bible. I determined that I needed to understand what was being said in this movie so I can give a thoughtful response. There are those who do not see this as being a legitimate reason to see this film, and on this issue, we will have to remain in disagreement.
There is really just one problem with this movie, but this problem permeates the entire story. It is not based on the Noah of the Bible. Aronofky’s Noah is a composite of many influences. I picked up elements from Genesis, Greek Mythology, the Transformer movies, Apocalypse Now, and Star Wars (List is not exhaustive). The movie would have been better if it had a different title. Perhaps Ha-On (Noah backwards). If this movie were offered without involving a connection to Genesis, it would still not be what I would call a good movie, but it would make more sense to me. This is a classic example of a movie that is not as good as the trailer.
I will start by saying that the film is dark, strange, disturbing and contradictory. There are so many bizarre and ill-fitting elements, that it almost seemed like a “Greatest Hits” album of film making conventions.
On a purely aesthetic level, I have to say that the acting is not very convincing. The characters are held captive by a strange and contradictory story, and the conviction needed to sell this plot is lacking. It felt like I was watching the Phantom Menace or something, and the movie would need to be saved by the special effects.
Another minor, aesthetic issue is the clothing, which is distinctly modern/post apocalyptic in style. The robes of old Hollywood Bible movies are gone, and replaced by trousers and tunics that have more than a little designer influence. The costumes are the first clue that this isn’t going to follow convention or historical accuracy. They look cool, very much like something out of the Matrix or a Star Wars outpost planet, but it seems out of place, and an effort to update what doesn’t need to be updated.
The “Watchers” are introduced as fallen angels that have been cursed. They are now Transformer Ents constructed of solid rock. Their inclusion in the story might have been okay as a passing curiosity, but the entire plot and Noah’s survival are completely dependent on these fabrications. Indeed, they are a massive plot manipulation that the story depends upon, and there is more than a whiff of Deus Ex Machina going on here. They actually are the primary builders of the Ark, they protect Noah and his family from thousands of rampaging wild men, and it is revealed that they were cursed for trying to help man, in the manner of Prometheus. The Watchers are so integral to this movie, an uninformed person would be shocked to learn that there is no such creature found in the book of Genesis.
The main enemy, Tubal Cain, is revealed to be the worst of mankind. He is a king, a carnivore, a cannibal, and a killer. He cries out to the Creator, but is not answered (God is mean, it is His fault Tubal Cain is messed up). He believes that man was given dominion over the beasts of the field, and over the earth, and he is to subdue it. (And so does God – Genesis 1:28) He believes in the ability of man to do anything, and thinks that man can do great things because he is created in the Creator’s image. The only thing I could think of when I saw Tubal Cain, was that here was the ultimate evil in Aronofsky’s mind: a corporate CEO who uses the resources of the earth to build cars and TVs for a profit, kills animals for McNuggets, and thinks that man should build great structures like the Freedom Tower. He probably even opposes Affordable Health Care. The Consummate Republican. Oh, the Horror……
The worst thing about this movie is the portrayal of the Creator. He is all powerful, but distant. He is unconcerned with the suffering of people. He demands much but gives nothing. Any good that is done comes at the efforts of Methusaleh, Noah or his family. The Creator just wants to use Noah to build a big boat to save the animals, the ultimate good.
It is clear that the Creator (not God), is going to destroy all life due to man’s violence to the earth. This seems to be consistent with the Bible’s account, until you get deeper into Aronofsky’s story. It is clear that the Creator in the movie is upset that man has hurt the planet. The violence of men toward each other is mentioned, but the greater evil of man is his poor stewardship of the earth’s resources. There is a strong theme of environmentalism being the Creator’s main concern.
Noah is convinced that he is charged with saving all of the animals, but that man needs to become extinct after the flood destroys all life on earth. He is convinced that man is the ultimate evil. This begs the question, why did the Creator bother to use Noah, and not just use the Watchers to build the Ark? Kill all of mankind, and get it over with. Noah is a pawn in the hands of a very awful God in this story.
Instead, He instructs Noah to build the Ark, but then appears to stop talking to him, leaving him to guess what the will of the Creator might be. Or worse, the Will involves killing his own granddaughters, thus assuring the extinction of the human race. It is the mercy of Noah, not God, that saves his granddaughters. He says “I am sorry, I cannot do this” to the Creator’s demand that he kill his offspring. And here is the theme: Man is merciful, God is bent on death. Make no mistake, this movie assumes that God is cruel, powerful, and bloodthirsty. The ultimate Bully.
The best part of the movie is toward the end, when Noah speaks to his daughter in law, Ila, the mother of his grandchildren. She tells him that the Creator left the decision of whether to kill his granddaughters up to Noah. The fact that Noah didn’t, proves that there is good in man, and the Creator was right to spare Noah and his family. This is a small scrap of redemption, but it comes in contradiction to everything else that is presented in the movie. Though it was the best part, and the denouement of the movie, it doesn’t fit. It seems disjointed and comes off like it is pasted on.
If there was any one thing that I came away from Noah with, it was a profound appreciation for the original account of Noah in the Bible. I am grateful to God for his Mercy toward Noah, and his continued covenant with man that I am reminded of with every rainbow.
I will conclude by saying that I do not recommend this movie. Perhaps it might be worth catching on Netflix or TV, but it doesn’t merit a full box office admission.
(If you want to read the story of Noah as presented in the Bible, you can find it in Genesis, chapters six through nine.)