Review by Gene
I’m not one of those people who refuse to see trailers or read reviews of a movie I’m looking forward to. I figure if I can enjoy a movie after seeing every trailer, then that’s a good mark on the movie. For that reason I didn’t shy away from checking on some reviews for this year’s first major Bible-based movie, Noah. If you did the same, you’re probably going into this movie with the same feelings of hesitation as I did given some of the terrible reviews, mostly from Christian sources. Even the studio itself has been back-peddling and putting out some subtle reminders that this film is simply “inspired by” the events described in the Bible.
I’m not going to tell you to stay away from this film as some have. We have here some awesome imaginings of the flood and the structure of the ark. We have at least two or three decent performances from Noah (Russel Crowe), Tubal-Cain (Ray Winstone) and Ila (Emma Watson), who plays the wife of Shem. In fact, I would encourage just about any Christian to see it if for no other reason than to be able to communicate with others about the movie, and then about the Biblical story of Noah. See how I separated the two there? Consider that a hint of things to come.
I almost don’t know where to start with this write up, which is a weird feeling. I can’t give an honest review without pointing out some obvious spots where it deviates from the Bible story. But, I have a word limit, so I can’t expound on them all. There is an element of love present near the beginning and end which I really liked, but it unfortunately gets very lost for a majority of the film. I’ll be sure to drop in little notes when the movie gets way off base in terms of what the Bible tells us about Noah, his family, the reason for the flood, the sin of man, fallen angels, rock peop…. whoa! Almost went off on a rant there… whew. Anyway, I’m sure you’ll quickly see by the sheer volume of those little notes that this is in no way an accurate reflection of the Biblical Noah, or the flood, as the title and all the trailers have portrayed it to be.
We begin with a brief synopsis of the history of man from Adam to Noah. On the way, we learn that Cain was sheltered with fallen angels after murdering his brother Abel (Nope, he was given a “sign” as a warning to others, not talking rock people… or rock spiders… whatever they were – Gen. 4:15). From this point mankind is basically split into the bad, Cain’s descendants, and the good, Seth’s descendants. This is actually a fairly common interpretation of Genesis, pre-flood. It’s not one I subscribe to, but it’s inclusion didn’t bother me, even if it’s application in this film was mind-bogglingly contradictory to that interpretation of scripture. Fast-forward about ten generations and we come to Noah (a spry 500 year old) with his family, fleeing from Cain’s descendants (whom they call “man”) wherever they run into them. Then, Noah receives a vision.
Noah sees flashes of the evil of man, of Cain killing Abel, then of himself submerged in water surrounded by a multitude of dead bodies. From this he concludes that The Creator (never called “God”, always “The Creator”) plans to blot out all man. But he’s still unsure of the full meaning so he consults his grandfather, Methuselah (played by Anthony Hopkins, despite no such interaction in scripture). From this revelation, and with some more intense moments later in the film, God is portrayed as delivering a confusing message to Noah. So confusing he must consult another man to ask what God just showed him. First it should be noted that when God wants to deliver a message, his purpose is always clear. We never see a prophet asking God to repeat himself, or to be more clear. God is not a God of confusion (1 Cor. 14:33) and His message to Noah in the Bible was very clear and to the point. He even specified the material and dimensions of the ark! (Gen. 6:13-16).
Noah’s interaction with Methuselah is an interesting one. Partly because he receives further instruction from The Creator brought on my some sort of hallucinogen. But also because he reveals to Methuselah that, “men are going to be punished for what they’ve done to this world.” What they’ve done TO this world? This is a curious statement. Much has been made of the pro-animal, pro-environmental message in this film. It’s quite easy to spot. The land is always presented as a scorched, polluted wasteland, ravaged of all it’s resources. The killing of animals, even for food, is portrayed as an evil on the level of murdering another man. Again, here is another somewhat common interpretation of the pre-flood world in Genesis. There is decent scriptural evidence to suggest that animals may not have been originally intended for food. I’m fine with that. But are we to believe that this is the reason The Creator decided to destroy all man, because of his treatment of the environment and of animals? We must answer this with a resounding “NO!”. The scriptural reason is clear: men were wicked and evil to each other! No where is it implied that this wickedness was against the earth, or it’s animals. The closest we come is Gen. 6:5, “The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great on the earth…” Did you catch that? Man’s wickedness ON the earth, not TO the earth. All the context from creation to the flood shows that the wickedness of man, the evil thoughts of his heart, were against his fellow man.
Let’s step away from scriptural misrepresentations and take a moment here to exercise some logic that the film apparently decided to ignore. Noah eventually concludes that this evil that he sees in “man” is in him and his family as well. He even lists all their sins and how similar they all are to “man”. Now, if you’re convinced The Creator finds fault with man’s treatment of the environment and animals, an evil which also exists in you, what sense does it make to kill all mankind except for you? Wouldn’t your seed inevitably get back to this same predicament? Noah does eventually reach this conclusion, which is unfortunate for his family. Also, if animals are the innocent party then why enact a scenario where all but two of every kind are destroyed? You’re angry with man for his wickedness against animals, so you destroy nearly every animal on earth… a little counter-productive isn’t it? Finally, Noah later relays to his family that this flood is to return the earth to the way The Creator originally wanted it; a world without man. Ha! Really? The Creator actually wanted a world without man, so he created… man? Makes perfect sense. Even if this were an original story and we had no scriptural backdrop with which to compare it, these contradictions would still exist.
Warning: massive spoilers ahead, included here to drive home a point. Skip this next paragraph if you like.
Nevertheless, Noah begins the task of building the ark by first planting a magical seed from the Garden of Eden (not in the Bible), given to him by Methuselah (not in the Bible), enlisting the fallen angel rock spiders to help him (not in the Bible) along with his sons, only one of which had a wife (not in the Bible). Then Noah and the rock spiders fight an epic battle against the descendants of Cain (not in the Bible), which results in one actually making it aboard the ark (not in the Bible) and convincing Noah’s son Ham to betray him (not in the Bible). Then upon discovering that Shem’s formerly barren wife Ila is now pregnant on the ark (not in the Bible), Noah commits himself to killing the baby if it’s a girl (not in the Bible). Shem and Ila try to escape on their own boat (not in the Bible) but Noah torches the boat just before Ila gives birth to twin girls (not in the Bible). But yeah, this movie is inspired by the Bible.
Some of the interactions with the “king of men”, Tubal-Cain, are quite interesting. It’s not in the Bible, but I’m totally fine with it because it’s easy to see how such confrontations may have taken place. I don’t believe they ever got to the level of a war, as depicted in the film, but we do know that Noah at least preached to the people before entering the ark (2 Pet. 2:5). Ironically, Tubal-Cain was often the only character accurately reflecting the biblical narrative with his actions and words. In anger and defiance of God, he proclaims “I give life, I take it away, as you do! I am like you, am I not? Speak to me!”. He places himself as equal with God, an attitude I believe is reflective of the wickedness and evil intentions of men at that time. While a stowaway on the ark, he actually gives the most scriptural portrayal of the creation order. It was man, not nature and animals, that was the culmination and completion of God’s creative work. God gave man all the earth and all creatures to rule over and subdue (Gen. 1:28). However, in this film, that is twisted and distorted to be an evil thing. That is a shame, as this was an opportunity missed to show the goodness of God’s creation, and how man’s disobedience leads to evil.
My Rating: 2/5
If I’m viewing this movie as an isolated event with no scripture to compare, it’s probably a 3/5 after all the plot contradictions and lackluster performances. If I’m viewing it strictly as an accurate portrayal of the Biblical story, it’s probably a 1/5. I mean, it does has some things the Bible also has: a flood, an ark, a guy named Noah with three sons… a rainbow at the end… Oh, Noah got drunk too. There, five whole thing! Despite this low rating, I think Christians should see this film. I’m not mad that it exists. I wouldn’t want it to “go away”. There are some excellent opportunities to contrast God’s will with man’s will and come to a better understanding of what God was doing with Noah and the flood. I have to give big props to Emma Watson. She was given a lot of opportunities to shine and she did not disappoint. Russell Crowe was decent enough, but I was pretty disappointed in Jennifer Connelly’s performance. It was very cool to see the “fountains of the deep” (Gen. 7:11) come to life on screen, and it’s always cool to see the ark made from scratch. At the end though, I was left shaking my head far more than I was left in awe.
Noah: “Fire destroys all. Water cleanses.”
Noah: “They forget, strength comes from The Creator.”
Ila: “You chose mercy. You chose love.”