I haven’t seen it, However, I have read literally over a dozen reviews, largely from a Christian perspective, about the merits and failures of this movie. Mostly, people fall into one or the other extreme in their opinion: either it’s brilliant and every Christian should see it, or it’s a miserable farce and no one should support it. Almost no one had much in the way of balance or middle ground. Oh, the Pro-Noah crowd threw out a couple things they disliked, and the Nay-Noah crowd managed to find a few redeeming qualities, but by and large, it was a hard lean in one direction or the other.
Now, when I first heard about this movie, I wanted to believe in it. I wanted to support it. Hollywood’s making a high-budget Bible-based movie?! Everyone go opening weekend and make this a blockbuster so Hollywood will continue on this path, making high-quality faith-based movies! As a storyteller myself, and especially as a Christian, I want to encourage and support well-done faith-based movies. And, let’s face it, although some of the overtly Christian films out there have wonderful morals and are uplifting, they are, much like Christian books, very safe. They don’t test limits, they don’t cross any lines, and they don’t make any enemies. Moreover, they tend to be low-budget. The writing and acting are often sub-par, and special effects are virtually non-existent. So, when Hollywood takes it upon themselves to produce a movie that has the potential to be cinematically stunning, I want to encourage that with my dollars.
I was totally prepared to do so with Noah.
Then the reviews started coming in. The first several I read were highly critical of everything from storyline to visual effects. Then I saw some from the other side, praising the movie in every facet. And over the course of several of these reviews, I started to form an idea of the movie and its content and its positives and negatives.
The people who are Anti-Noah found fault mainly with these things (there were others, but these were a common thread): The fact that it strayed from the Biblical narrative, the presence of the Watchers, the “liberal vegetarian agenda,” the character of Noah, the implied character of God, and the fact that Noah wanted to kill his grandchildren as soon as they were born.
So, one by one.
Straying from the Biblical narrative:
The Biblical narrative is pretty short. There’s not enough material there for a two-hour movie. Even using additional sources, such as the Book of Enoch and other historical accounts of a flood, you don’t really have a lot to work with. There’s going to be character development and plot development that aren’t strictly Biblical. One of the major issues along these lines is the fact that one of the “bad guys” stows away on the ark and plots with Ham to kill Noah.
My personal opinion:
So what? I definitely wouldn’t discount the entire movie because of some artistic license being taken in some of these areas, especially as it serves to up the stakes and create tension. Personally, I think this story is plenty tense, and the plot device of having a stowaway is unnecessary, but it doesn’t bother me that it’s there.
A couple reviewers referred to them as “rock people” and many had no idea what they were or the purpose of them in the storyline. The Pro-Noah crowd understood that the Watchers were a reference to the Nephilim referenced in the Bible. One reviewer acclaimed the movie saying “They had everything!”, going on to exclaim how the writers of Noah took every line of the Bible literally and put in all the vague references and so on. More than one reviewer discussed how the idea of the Watchers was largely based on extra-biblical sources, such as the Book of Enoch.
Now, as a Spec-fic writer, I have a special appreciation for the Nephilim. I think it’s a fascinating subject, and I have used that concept in my own writing. However, just because they’re in the Bible (and the Book of Enoch), does not make this a Biblically accurate film. The role the Watchers play in the film is the exact opposite of the role they play in the Bible. In the film, they help Noah build the ark and defend him from the “bad guys.” One reviewer saw them as an analogy for humans, sinners separated from God who want desperately to make amends and are rewarded for their faithfulness. I have two major problems with this. First, as I said, it’s the exact opposite of the Biblical (and even extra-Biblical) account(s). They were not seeking to be redeemed, they were seeking the corruption and destruction of mankind. In fact, their presence on earth is, according to some scholars, the very reason FOR the flood. Second, to use as an analogy for man and redemption, it misses the entire point of the doctrine of grace, and implies that good works will save us.
I don’t think they were portrayed well or accurately, but I appreciate that they were added and I’m not so uptight that I can’t appreciate the artistic license taken there. I would’ve preferred they not be totally opposite the actual nature of the Nephilim in the Bible, but I’m not willing to disregard the entire movie based on that element.
The “liberal vegetarian agenda”:
In the movie, Noah is a vegetarian, and the “bad guys” are biting the heads off lizards and things. Noah tells his son to respect all life, while the “bad guys” are raping the earth and building industrialized cities, destroying the planet of all that is good and natural. Noah explains that they have to build the ark to protect the innocent: the animals. A Pro-Noah reviewer pointed out that pre-flood, people actually WERE vegetarian; it wasn’t until after the flood that God told Noah they could have meat as well as living off the land. It was also pointed out that God said not to eat the blood with the meat, but the “bad guys” in the movie were just ripping into everything. An Anti-Noah reviewer saw a discrepancy in the fact that Noah chides his son over picking a flower and then proceeds to tear down an entire forest to build the ark, while a Pro-Noah reviewer pointed out that with the flower, it was unnecessary, whereas with the wood for the ark, it was being used for a purpose.
Honestly, I don’t see this as a big deal. The Pro-Noah people are right about vegetarianism before the flood, so in a historical sense, that’s totally accurate. Moreover, Adam is told to steward the earth, so this portrayal isn’t too far off in my opinion. Especially coming from Hollywood, having a “green” agenda is to be expected, and if this were the worst thing in the movie, I’d say stop whining and go see the movie. The one negative I have about this is where Noah says the animals are the innocent, the implication being that the humans are not and that God didn’t want to actually save the humans or have the human race continue, which we’ll get into with the characters of God and Noah.
The character of Noah, and by extension the implied character of God, including the fact that Noah wanted to kill his grandchildren as soon as they were born:
The Anti-Noah crowd views the Noah character in the movie as a raving psychotic with no clear motivations. The Pro-Noah crowd views him as a fallen human who is trying to obey God to the best of his ability and represents all of us.
Anti-Noah points out Noah’s erratic behavior, especially in regard to wanting to kill his grandchildren. They point out that he’s dark and violent and not at all like the righteous man described in the Bible. Pro-Noah says things like “he asked God what he should do and God didn’t answer. Haven’t we all felt that way?”
Anti-Noah people make the point that when the time comes and Noah’s twin granddaughters are born, Noah goes to kill them, and then loses his nerve at the last minute, saying he just can’t do it. They say the implication is that Noah, even in his violent psychosis, is still better than the cruel God who wanted to wipe out all the humans, painting a horrifying picture of God and making even psycho-Noah look like a better man than God. The Pro-Noah people don’t seem to have a problem with this. They either ignore the implication, or, in one case, the reviewer agreed with it, saying the God of the Old Testament ordered His people to kill women and children all the time. Another reviewer likened Noah’s desire to kill his grandchildren to the story of Abraham sacrificing Isaac. They also point out that Noah got drunk and laid around naked afterward, the implication being that he wasn’t all that righteous or upright. They liken his apparent psychosis to survivor’s guilt or being essentially the one who killed everyone on the planet by not letting them on the ark.
This is where I have to disagree with the Pro-Noah people. I think defending Noah’s character and his actions in this movie show a fundamental misunderstanding of the nature of God, and of Noah’s role in this event. Sure, the Noah character in the movie may have had survivor’s guilt. Sure, he may have wanted to kill his grandkids because he didn’t hear from God and didn’t know what he should do. But that is totally opposed to what the Bible says about God and Noah. Bible Noah was a righteous man. He walked with God. God saved him and his family because of that righteousness, and told him that the world would continue through him. Movie Noah wanted to kill his grandkids because he didn’t hear God, because he didn’t know what God wanted, and because he didn’t understand what was happening.
By extension, the character of God as portrayed in the movie is vindictive, cruel, changing–one minute he’s giving Noah explicit instructions, the next He’s totally silent. He’s killing everyone, and implying that the human race is ending and all they’re needed for was to save the animals. He’s ready to kill everyone, including Noah, and let the human race die out, and the only reason the human race survives is because Noah, even though he’s psychotic and murderous, is still more compassionate than God, so what does that say about God?
I could spend pages and pages defending the character of God, explaining my views on why the corruption was so bad God wiped out everyone on earth except Noah’s family, on why God told the Israelites to wipe out certain nations, and so on, but it comes down to my belief about God. I believe God is righteous, and, very simplistically stated, if He rid the world of certain people, both with the flood and later, it was because their corruption was unrepented and thus irredeemable, and He didn’t want it to spread. And I think it is this fundamental misunderstanding of God that causes people to accept that the Noah movie is good and accurate and worth seeing, when it’s not.
As a Christian, I have a very hard time supporting a movie that misrepresents God so fundamentally. My spirit is not content to gloss over this aspect of the movie, even though there are other parts that are very good and several that I can live with even if I don’t agree. Yes, I know it’s Hollywood and they don’t understand God. Yes, I know the argument that we should encourage Hollywood in their attempt to make Bible-based movies, and I agree with that, but I don’t think this is that movie. I think, as with most things sinful, this is a corruption that is subtle, and easy to overlook, but will profoundly affect how people see God and how they relate to Him. I can’t expect Hollywood to get it all right, but I also can object to a movie that defiles the character of the God I love and serve.
Now, I’m not saying it isn’t good or that it isn’t worth seeing, and I’m not suggesting anyone should either see it or boycott it, but I do think as Christians we shouldn’t jump on the bandwagon to support it just because it’s based on a Bible story. I think we need to use discretion and wisdom when deciding whether it’s something we should support. Moreover, this is a personal decision. It’s not going to be the same for every Christian, and where some may be edified and applaud the film, others will come away with a more confused view of God and the Bible. We should each use the discernment we have when deciding whether or not to go see this movie, and we shouldn’t insist that others make the same choice we do or call them stupid if they object to it or disagree with our opinions.
Pro-Noah reviewers would say if I haven’t seen it, I can’t judge it, but I don’t think that’s fair. I haven’t read Fifty Shades of Grey, either, but I know enough about it to know it’s not one I have any intention of ever reading or going to see when the movie version comes out.
Will I see the Noah movie?
Will I squander one of my rare and precious nights out to go see it in the theater?
It seems unlikely.