A happy little boat with happy little elephants hanging out the window and happy little giraffes sticking their heads out the skylight, all bobbing along on bright blue, happy water with a happy little rainbow overhead. That’s the Sunday School version of the Noah story, and while it’s one that’s probably influenced most people’s view of the story of Noah (at least the people who went to church), let’s be honest; it’s not exactly an accurate depiction. Now, Darren Aronofsky’s version of Noah isn’t all that Biblically accurate either, but truth be told, in some regards, it’s probably more accurate than that stereotypical Sunday School version. Aronofsky’s version of Noah has been a long time coming, and it’s generated plenty of buzz and conversation along the way. Now that it’s here, there are really two things to consider; whether or not it’s a good movie and whether or not it’s a good Bible movie.
That second consideration is much more of a loaded question, so let’s deal with the first one…er…first. Is Noah a good movie? I’d have to say, yeah, it is. It’s not a great movie, it’s not a perfect movie, but it is a good fantasy/adventure flick (emphasis on the fantasy), and a compelling drama in parts as well. All the leads are given good material to work with and deliver some solid performances. I was concerned that Jennifer Connelly wouldn’t be much more than the “supportive wife” early on, but she was given some heavy scenes later in the film and was, interestingly enough, one of my favorite characters in the film. As was the character of Ham; mostly because of the interesting developments with the character. Crowe is just fine as Noah, and perhaps the strangest role was Anthony Hopkins’ Methuselah, who’s an odd mix of Yoda and some sort of mage. Really, it’s hard to find fault with any of the actors who all bring a solid, dramatic edge to the proceedings. Although some of the special effects seemed just a little off, the film looks great and the action set pieces are suitably epic, although some viewers may have a bit of Lord of the Rings deja vu. As a movie, I really liked Noah; it was moving, exciting, and thoughtful.
However, when a church-goer asks whether or not Noah is any good, they’re not really asking about whether or not this is a good movie, but whether or not it lines up with our nice, safe, Sunday School-informed version of the Biblical story. Well, if the expectation is for this to be a movie version of the straight Biblical account, than no, I’d have to say it shouldn’t be considered a “good” movie. However, let me be clear; that’s entirely the wrong expectation to approach this film. This isn’t one of those “made by Christians, for Christians” kind of movies. Indeed, this is a film made by someone who doesn’t particularly believe in the sacredness of the Bible or in a personal God. In fact, the Bible itself says that someone without the Spirit cannot really understand what comes from God because they are discerned only through the Spirit (2 Corinthians 2:14). In other words, someone who doesn’t believe in the Bible isn’t going to see or interpret what’s in it the same way, with the same viewpoint as one who does. I fail to understand any of the surprise, shock, and outrage that has been expressed that this version of Noah isn’t more Biblically accurate. There was never any good reason to expect it to be in light that someone who doesn’t hold the Bible in same regard as Christians do was making it. Which isn’t to say that when this film veers off the Biblical narrative that it didn’t bother me, it did, but once I was able to set that aside, I discovered something interesting; there’s value and insight to be gained in seeing the Bible from a different point of view. More than it, it was surprising to see that Aronofsky still covered many of the central themes of the Biblical account anyway.
Yes, there’s an environmental slant to Aronofsky’s take on Noah, but exactly what is humanity’s responsibility to caring for the Earth? That’s something that Genesis certainly covers. The wickedness of man is a big issue in Aronofsky’s take and is central to the Biblical account. Love and goodness play a role, as they obviously do in the Bible as well. The big difference is Aronofsky’s approach comes from a more humanistic view (the innate goodness of man is worth saving) whereas the Bible has an entirely different view (humanity can’t save itself because they aren’t innately good, yet God loves us so much he not only preserved a remnant through Noah, he also provided a way to save us from ourselves through Jesus). What I appreciated most about this version of Noah is how it got me to step back and look at this overly familiar story from a different angle. I was reminded just how dark and gritty it is. I understood how someone could think that God was rather impersonal and capricious to do something like this (which is mostly due to lack of understanding when it comes to God, his holiness, and the true egregiousness of sin). I thought about some elements of this story differently, like how Noah likely did have some tough choices to make, how he could have been seen as a bit of an extremist and even on the edge of crazy. I even gained some new insights to some of the more obscure and odd aspects of the story, like where Noah gets drunk and passes out naked. It’s in the Bible, but ever wonder why? In short, there’s a lot to ponder, a lot to think and about, and a lot to discuss in this movie. In addition, why would we as Christians ever pass up an opportunity to talk about God and Bible?
Noah has caused its own deluge of controversy ever since it was revealed that it would more closely follow the graphic novel written by Aronofsky than the Bible. And while it certainly veers off into some strange territory, it brings to epic life one of the most familiar stories of the Bible in a way that’s sure to get people talking. Now, you don’t have to go and support this movie if you’re that offended that it doesn’t have the happy little boat with the happy little giraffes (neither does the Bible, really, but that’s beside the point right now). However, any Bible-believing Christian shouldn’t miss this opportunity to engage people with a discussion about the Bible, to shed some light on the true, personal nature of God, on why sin was really just that serious to necessitate the flood, and what God’s ultimate plan of dealing with sin really was. Noah is a dramatic, action-packed, thought provoking fantasy/adventure, but it’s not for everyone. Yet, at the core of this story is something that needs to be discussed with everyone; what will we do with the God of the Bible?