One of the truest axioms of our modern times is the one that says that if you’ve read the book, you won’t like the movie. Whether it’s Little Women, Harry Potter, Eragon, The DaVinci Code or just about any other movie. And the newly released Noah film is no exception.
After reading several reviews by religious commentators who ran the gamut from the movie promoting paganism to outright heresy, I decided to spend waste the money and go see it for myself. While Darren Aronofsky’s attempt at retelling the story of the man who saved humanity takes serious license and veers significantly in several places from the Bible’s account, it is no worse than any of the Disney adaptations. But of course, that’s not saying much.
Driving people to paganism? Pa-leeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeese. The biggest complaint that I’ve found in the reviews by people of faith is that Arnofsky’s Noah appears to put a higher value on a flower than on that of a human life, thus promoting the atheist, left-wing, tree-hugging humanist agenda. But this comment is misplaced because these reviewers have forgotten one very important detail – before the flood everyone was vegan! In Noah’s world, killing an animal wasn’t even on the radar, and it is a completely Jewish value to only take what you need and no more – even when it comes to picking a flower or harvesting berries. This is what one does when one is a good steward of that which has been entrusted to him.
The next complaint I’ve seen is that God is absent from the movie. Absent? Seriously? Who do they think The Creator is? In this vein, I think that Arnofsky does a reasonable job of showing that all of humanity understood and acknowledged that there was a God, even while thumbing their noses to His values and questioning His silence. The Torah tells us that nearly two thousand years after the flood, Moses is told by God to take the children of Israel out of Egypt and asks, “Behold, I am going to the sons of Israel, and I will say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you.’ Now they may say to me, ‘What is His name?’ What shall I say to them?” The fact that Arnofsky’s Noah doesn’t call God, “God” is nothing nefarious and may show that he was trying to be truer to the story than his critics realize.
By far my biggest complaint was that Arnofsky’s retelling veers far from the few details that we have in the biblical account by creating a situation whereby two of the eight people that the bible tells us were on the ark are missing. Rather than all three sons of Noah boarding the ark with their spouses, only Shem actually has a mate. Ham and Yafet are left to wait at least another decade until Shem’s daughters (born on the ark) are old enough to marry. It’s possible that Arnofsky felt that this change was necessary in order to help create some of the drama and suspense which was woefully missing from the film, but it is in this detail that Arnofsky most offends the religious contingent of his audience. Well, that and the fact that Noah never really hears God.
The main force of the plot of the movie is Noah’s struggle to understand exactly what it is that God wants from him and God’s intentions for the new world after the flood. In the movie, Noah dreams but never gets clear instructions. He is left to interpret his own dreams (with a little help from his grandfather Methuselah), whereas in the biblical account, God speaks directly to Noah. He doesn’t say much, though, which certainly leaves room for the idea that Noah had a lot to figure out on his own, so there is a lot of room for interpretation here. However, nowhere in the account is it implied that Noah thought part of his job was to kill his family.
If it was Arnofsky’s goal to show the uncertainty and struggles that even prophets and men of God may have to face, then he did an admirable (if not especially accurate) job.
While I don’t think that anyone is going to lose their faith from watching this movie, I don’t believe that anyone will walk away saying, “Wow, that was an amazing film,” either.
From a purely artistic/entertainment point of view, the film leaves a lot to be desired. After all, the first words out of your mouth at the end of a film should not be, “Well, that wasn’t so bad”.