To Noah or Not?

noah-poster-lead-photoAs probably most of you know, the movie Noah hit theaters last week. Likely, whether you’ve seen it or not, you have an opinion about it.

I do.

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.

The Watchers.

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.

My Opinion:

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.

My Opinion:

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.

My Opinion:

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?

Probably, eventually.

Will I squander one of my rare and precious nights out to go see it in the theater?

It seems unlikely.

About Avily Jerome

Avily Jerome is a writer and the editor of Havok Magazine. Her short stories have been published in various magazines, both print and digital. She has judged several writing contests and is a writing conference teacher and presenter. She writes speculative fiction, her ideas ranging from almost-real-world action/adventures to epic fantasies to supernatural thrillers.

12 comments on “To Noah or Not?

  1. I tend towards the idea “If you haven’t seen it, don’t publish an opinion on it” — but your approach here impressed me. You share your thoughts in a balanced way and show how we can weigh for ourselves the issues as reported by those who have seen the movie.

    Especially appreciate your point about “50 Shades…” It’s true you don’t have to see or read something to have an opinion about it. We all base our choice to read or watch something on whatever information we gather before choosing. We can’t give a detailed review or analysis of something we haven’t seen — but we can express our opinion on why we plan to see or not see it, based on the reports of others.

    I’ve come to pretty much the same conclusion: I may see it at some point in the future, but I’m not planning to see it in the theater.

    • As a rule, I agree about not judging a book by it’s cover and not spouting off about something you haven’t seen. In something as controversial as this, however, I think research and the opinions of others is a valid method of determining whether or not it’s something I can put my money toward.

  2. I just came across this, which I had not read before writing this article, but I find it fascinating and disturbing. http://drbrianmattson.com/journal/2014/3/31/sympathy-for-the-devil

    • I read your post and then read the one above that disturbed you. Thank you for sharing Dr Mattson’s post– it was EXACTLY the way my husband and I felt when we went to see it. The only truth in the movie was that there was a man named Noah, he built an ark. I expected more from Hollywood because if they had told the real Biblical story, it would have been a much more spectacular movie. What Dr Mattson said about CHRISTIANS, WAKE UP was exactly what we felt. Another thing that was disturbing was the message it sent to the non-Christian who may have believed it was a Biblical account of Noah.

  3. Yeah, you have to collect data to form an opinion. If we all had to see a movie to decide whether to watch it…well, I’d never see a movie. Not that I go to the movies anymore…

    Great roundup, Avily. 🙂

  4. Yes. Thank you so much for speaking up about this. As with “Son of God.” People are so content to shout and give pats on the back whenever the Bible is involved. But when it’s used mostly as a ploy to make big bucks (as I feel “Son of God” was…I mean, come on. Anyone who’s seen any other previous movie of the sort could have made that movie up. I felt no clear objective as to why this movie should be made besides making a digestible version of the “Passion of the Christ” to pump profit. Ugh.) , it’s very detestable.
    I do agree that Noah should be a disturbed man as he seems in the Bible. And they had a right to their liberties–creative freedom–which is why they named it “Noah” and not “The Flood” or something. Emphasis was clearly on man and not God. It provided Christians with a special effect-filled thrill seemingly wholesome and right up their ally
    Buuuut. If you’re a Christian, your joy comes from God. And the production of this movie perhaps, did not have much God in it.
    However, if people desire a clearer account of Him, they can always crack open a bible. If people are lost so easily just by whatever image the current movie portrays of Him, then we follow quite a flimsy faith, don’t we?
    We should never be afraid for the Lord. Only reinforce Him.

  5. The notion that human beings are parasites and we should be wiped out is more of “Gaia” than from El-Elyon. So I would disagree on that one, it’s neither biblical nor a trifling matter to present this as truth. That being said, thank you very much for standing tall and unwavering in denouncing this travesty’s depiction of Noah — and of God — as homicidal psychotics. Some reviewers who call themselves Christians who shall remain nameless don’t seem to have an issue with that lie and even suggest it might be plausible, i.e., that Noah may not be all we “perceive” him to be. But that’s not what God’s Word says. Thank you for supporting what the Bible actually says, sister!

  6. I also likely won’t see it, for similar reasons. It feels too much like “paganizing” God and his Prophets. My Mother went to see it, not knowing any of the concerns, and was very annoyed. She felt betrayed and misled. I can’t blame her. I’m not out to tell people whether or not to see it either, but I do believe it’s fair for people to understand the concerns in their decisions to check it out or not.
    Thanks for this assessment of it.

  7. Great material. It was very clear that you prayed before, or at the very least, thought very carefully before publishing your opinions regarding the movie. I vehemently agree with your last point’s “opinion.”
    God’s character, in my opinion, is ALWAYS represented negatively in Hollywood movies. I don’t believe they will ever make a movie that is biblically correct, Jesus-glorifying, or precise/positive in the way they portray God’s character
    It’s sad to ME that Christians would be behind anything that is shown to the masses with even the smallest straying from the bible’s primary message: God’s grace, mercy, and love for sinners and His wish that all were saved.
    So much is this a part of His character that He provided a way through the shed blood of His perfect son, Jesus Christ.
    I haven’t seen this movie, but everything you highlighted was enough for me to decide it’s not something I can get behind as a means to edify Christians or enlighten non-Christians. At most, it sounds like it is any other fictional account of any other Hollywood script. A good way to pass the time.
    When I do watch it, probably when it is released on cable, it will most likely be with a heavy heart, knowing that people, who might never have had the chance to learn who God really is, will be learning the exact opposite.

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