leaning away from a biblically orthodox worldview
|Faith and/or Biblical Relevance|
|Faith-compatible Depiction of Characters and Character Relationships|
|Faith-compatible Depiction of Situations|
|Family Viewing Suitability|
|view our criteria|
Riding into theaters on a wave of controversy, the highly anticipated nationwide release of NOAH on Friday, March 28, finally answers the question raised by media outlets since last fall about how well the film will resonate with faith-based audiences. Unfortunately for Paramount Pictures, which spent an estimated $125 million producing the project, NOAH misses the boat with Faith Driven Consumers by straying far enough from the biblical account to render the story only vaguely recognizable. Even non-believers will come away from NOAH scratching their heads wondering why acclaimed director Darren Aronofsky (The Wrestler, Requiem for a Dream, Black Swan) chose to portray God’s righteous man Noah as a homicidal maniac hell bent on killing his own family members.
Starring Russell Crowe (Gladiator, Man of Steel, Les Misérables) as Noah, Jennifer Connelly (Blood Diamond, A Beautiful Mind) as Noah’s wife, Anthony Hopkins (Thor, Silence of the Lambs) as Methuselah and Emma Watson (Harry Potter) as Shem’s wife, NOAH theoretically has the high-caliber star power to deliver. However, the story’s dark descent into a tale of Noah’s derangement – coupled with a fanciful and unbiblical treatment of the Nephilim – turns what could have been a satisfying epic about sin, judgment and salvation into a strange combination of MAD MAX, TRANSFORMERS and WATER WORLD.
Overall Faith and/or Biblical Relevance
While the dominant biblical theme of God’s decision in Genesis 6 – 9 to destroy the world because of mankind’s overarching wickedness and sin is clearly presented in NOAH, the messianic message of the ark as a safe vessel through which God’s righteous ones will be delivered from the coming judgment is lost. Instead, the ark is a place of punishment for God’s remnant – until the final scene when Noah comes to his senses and relents from killing some of his own family members. Similarly, Aronofsky’s Noah departs from the biblical account in claiming that he wasn’t chosen by God because he was righteous, but simply because he’d carry out the job of eliminating all humans from Earth so that the animals might be saved and allowed to start over free from human corruption.
Oddly, biblical themes not found in the Genesis account are present in NOAH, including a barren womb miraculously opened not by God, but by Methuselah, who is depicted as a magical wizard with supernatural powers dispensing godly wisdom from his guru mountaintop cave. And whereas the Bible indicates that Noah obediently “walks with God” and has explicit and detailed communication with Him about the fact that his family will be saved, Aronofsky’s Noah seems distant from God – confused about the fate of his family and hearing from Him only in dreams and mystical states.
Faith-compatible Depiction of Characters and Character Relationships
NOAH offers a several characters and situations that are not found in the biblical account. While the Bible clearly indicates that eight humans are saved in the flood – Noah, his wife, their three sons and three daughters-in law – in NOAH two of the sons do not have wives and Shem’s wife bears twin daughters, who function as God’s “provision” for Ham and Japeth. Similarly, the villain Tubal-cain breaks onto the ark and stows away for the duration of the flood and tries to tempt Ham into joining him to kill Noah before he himself is killed. Ironically, Tubal-cain seems to have a clearer understanding of how humans bear God’s image and are called to have dominion over the Earth than Noah does. Positively, the wives of both Noah and Shem are largely respectful and unified with their husbands, despite Noah’s increasingly irrational leadership.
Faith-compatible Depiction of Situations
In a movie that takes significant liberty with the biblical text, NOAH manages to get a few details correct. The flood is clearly depicted as universal, there’s a dove with an olive branch, and the wonder of the animals approaching the ark in pairs coming out of the woods is one of the few emotionally stirring scenes in the entire 138-minute movie. Here, however, the distinction God made between seven clean and two unclean animals is not made. In other ways, Aronofsky gets things right to a point, but then inexplicably diverges from the text. For example, he hints at an altar of worship after the flood, but turns it into a mystical birthright bestowal instead of an explicit covenant. There’s a rainbow, but no promise from God to never again destroy the Earth again with water. And Noah’s retelling of the six days of creation to his family while on the ark starts off strong, but then gets muddled in commentary about human depravity.
Family Viewing Suitability
While in popular culture the story of Noah has become a sanitized tale for young children to learn about the animals going onto the ark two-by-two, the biblical account is much more sobering and centers on the ugly reality of sin and wickedness, the apocalyptic destruction of humanity by a heartbroken and grieved God, and ultimately Noah’s post-flood drunkenness. Here, NOAH gets it right and earns its PG-13 rating – meaning it is theoretically suitable viewing for teens and up with parental guidance. Indeed, some adolescents will relate well to the Transformers-like depiction of the Nephilim and the younger casting for Noah’s sons and daughter-in-law. However, parents are cautioned to fully consider the broader question of exposing their teens to a version of the Noah account that differs significantly from the biblical narrative.
Faith Driven Consumers looking for a feel-good, big-budget, action-oriented movie that tracks closely with a biblical theme will be disappointed in NOAH. While the outlines of the Genesis account are there and some major biblical themes are taken seriously, the deviation from Scripture is too great to make up for the high production levels, Academy Award-winning cast and impressive special effects. Even movie-goers who aren’t particularly faith-oriented will find NOAH unsatisfying due to its slow pacing and uninteresting and unlikeable protagonist. Ironically, the most interesting and sympathetic characters in the film are Noah’s daughter-in-law, Ham and Tubal-cain. In the end, given Aronofsky’s focus on Noah’s dark, inner conflict, perhaps the film should have titled “The Last Temptation of Noah.”