Well, I’m doing it. I’m throwing my hat into the Noah movie reviews. But I’m not going to do the standard “Here’s what happened in the movie and why I like or dislike it” review. You can find plenty of those across the inter-webs. Rather I thought I’d give a review from my unique standpoint, 1) As a pastor who believes in the truth and beauty of every word of the Scriptures that “Noah” is based upon, and 2) As someone living in the epicenter of movies and movie-making culture in Studio City.
On the Love of the Scriptures
If you are not a follower of Jesus like many of our friends here, then you may not be aware that Aronofsky’s Noah has created quite the hubbub in the Christian community. Much of this response saddens me, because it is such a quick reaction to, what I believe, is an underlying assumption that Hollywood is out to harm Christianity and Christian faith somehow.
On the other hand, I identify with my Christian brothers and sisters because I know much of the reaction comes because they love the Scriptures, and long to see as accurate and faithful a portrayal of any on-screen Biblical story as possible. Loving and being faithful to the Scriptures is a vital part of what it means to be a follower of Jesus, because without them we have no basis for our faith and the truth we so deeply love. But let me share, after seeing the movie, why I think going in with only that perspective can hinder your experience of the movie.
Aronofsky’s Noah is not trying to be a line-by-line faithful retelling of the Genesis account of Noah found in Genesis 5:26-9:29. And guess what, ANY film that tries to do that is going to have problems on screen. Why? Because the Scriptures were never written as a screenplay! They were written by 40 different authors across 66 books by people inspired by the Holy Spirit to tell the good news of who God is and what he has done, showing us our weakness and sin, and leading us to Jesus so we can be redeemed from our sin and brought back into a relationship with God. The Scriptures were written so people could know God and walk with him (2 Timothy 3:16).
So whenever you see anything from the Scriptures portrayed on film, there has to be creative license taken by nature of the medium. And that’s fine! There is a reason the Holy Spirit did not have the Bible constructed using the medium of film. He chose the written word. And I’m thankful for that. The written word is so much more accessible for so many more people over the millennia. Film is a relatively new medium on that scale, but thankfully people have had access to knowing God in the Scriptures for much longer than the medium of film has been available. So leave the Scriptures to the job of being authoritative, and let’s let any film adaptation of the Scriptures follow the purpose for which the film was made, and judge it on those merits.
So the best way to look at Aronofsky’s Noah I think, is as a movie inspired by the Genesis account, but not basedon it.As it turns out, Aronofsky told us that this was their perspective in making the film:
"The film is inspired by the story of Noah.
While artistic license has been taken, we believe that this film is true to the essence, values, and integrity of a story that is a cornerstone of faith for millions of people worldwide.
The biblical story of Noah can be found in the book of Genesis.” - Paramount
I appreciate the makers of the film tell us what they are going for, a film inspired by the story of Noah, seeking to be true to the values in the story, but using artistic license (as every film has to do), and then telling people, “Hey, if you want the actually biblical account, crack open the Bible in Genesis.”
As a pastor, if this movie gets people to open the actual Scriptures when they otherwise wouldn’t, then I’m a happy man. Maybe even they seek out some churches to understand the over-arching message of the Scriptures too.
But if you go in hoping (and perhaps demanding) a film that adheres perfectly to the Genesis account, you are going to be sorely disappointed, and probably come out angry at the film and filmmakers. I think is why many come out outraged at the movie. But it doesn’t need to be that way.
On the Love of Art & Themes (spoiler-free)
So what about the actual movie itself? I really loved it. The acting was solid (I thought Jennifer Connelly had the best performance, and Anthony Hopkins was delightful too). The images and colors were extraordinary (I think it could be nominated for an Academy Award for visual effects). There is one point in the movie where Noah is telling his family about the Genesis 1 account of Creation, and it is absolutely glorious and beautiful. I won’t say any more, but it was probably my favorite part of the film (and amazingly sticks closely to the Scripture itself).
But most importantly of all I believe Aronofsky accomplishes his task of being true to the “big themes” of the Genesis account of Noah. There is absolutely a Creator God who is active and real to the people in the story. Even though he has been “silent” to everyone but Noah, even the antagonists speak actively and directly to God as a real person.
Aronofsky also creates a reality in which you can begin to stomach how God would destroy nearly the entire world. This is hard to accomplish for our “don’t judge me” secular-Western culture. But you get a sense in the movie that wickedness is real, and all of us (even Noah and his family) are deeply flawed.
Lastly, there is mercy, love, & redemption. It takes awhile to get there, and Aronofsky does an amazing job of getting us on our seats going, "Ahhhh I don’t know what’s going to happen!" with a story that we all know the end to. But in the end the grandest theme of the God of the Bible, that ultimately he is not only a God who condemns, but is a God who provides a way of redemption, comes through.
I found myself, as a follower of Jesus, coming out of the movie, reflecting on the biblical story of Noah, and remembering that ultimately Jesus is the true and better Noah, who through his faithfulness and obedience to God rescues his whole family and brings them salvation, not through a boat but through his cross, and God now promises Jesus and us that he will never condemn us for our sin again; we are clean.
If anyone comes away with even a glimpse of that story of redemption after seeing “Noah”, then I’m a very happy man.