My in-laws are in town from Ohio and my daughters have been dying to show their grandma their newest passion in life, Frozen. So, faced with hearing “Let it Go” for the 6 millionth time, I opted to go with the guys to check out this movie you might have heard of…Noah.
Here are some reflections:
1. I’m glad I didn’t go in with any expectations of biblical fidelity. I had heard enough about the Noah movie to know that it wasn’t going to be a very accurate portrayal of the historic events described in Genesis 6-10 (I most appreciated reviews by Joe Carter and Greg Thornbury). This allowed me to watch the film (almost) as if it wasn’t a biblically-based movie at all and instead just to watch and evaluate it as I would with any film, trying to understand and engage with what the director (Darren Aronofsky) was saying and working to figure out what could be received, rejected or redeemed.
2. You can make a trailer look any way you want. It was interesting how within five minutes of the movie, you had a very clear sense that this didn’t follow the biblical text very closely. But the trailer — designed particularly to appeal to Christian audiences — made you think it would. One of the most glaring examples is in this trailer (at 1:18), when Noah boldly declares “I’m not alone.” The trailer made you think he was talking about God being with him. Instead, the movie reveals that he’s referring to the Watchers, the fallen-angel-rock-creatures that provide his security and help build the ark. Perhaps this is a good lesson to all of us who can easily get swept up in the hype of a movie based on a trailer — good editing easily manipulates.
3. I appreciated the depiction of the sinfulness of sin. Most movies seem to reflect the dominant worldview of the culture that man is basically good. Not Noah. There are no heroes in the film. There are very few semi-likable characters. This is a world dominated by sin, selfishness, pride. I think there is more common grace in the world than Noah depicted, but I appreciated a bold statement that, since the Garden of Eden, man is seriously sinful.
4. The film (ironically?) undercuts its argument that creation is good and innocent except man. Environmentalism shines brightly in Noah and one gets the idea that the world would be best without people at all since animals are innocent. Noah becomes obsessed with ridding the world of all people (including his family and descendants), as this seems to be what God wants. Ironically, the more obsessed Noah gets with this idea, the more he is horribly unlikable — a seemingly intentional choice by Aronofsky. Additionally, the Creator eventually provides a way for Noah’s family to live, showing that his intention was to re-create rather than annihilate. This was the most confusing part of the film for me. On one hand, the “man-is-the-problem-because-he’s-ruining-the-environment” argument was on display fully. On the other, the story itself undercut this massive theme.
5. I’ll take the God of Scripture any day over the Creator in Noah. The Creator is silent, distant and seemingly only angry. There is no mercy and little love. Noah imitates this Creator’s attitude toward people and he becomes a monster. Now, one could argue that a God who would drown the world is a monster (this film should make Christians wrestle with a vivid depiction of God’s wrath against sinners, even children). However, the God of Scripture is not silent or distant. He is not speaking through code and making you discern what you could from a dream. He is both a God of justice and mercy. In the biblical account, even his purposes in the flood are mixed with mercy and sorrow — not just fury.
6. A world without God’s mercy is a sad, hopeless world. Noah is a big-time downer. You will not feel good at the end. Despite a shallow attempt to end with some hope, it’s a hopeless film depicting a hopeless world. This is what happens when God is distant and thought of as only wrathful. Perhaps this is why many Christians remain so unfortunately hopeless and shine such dim light into the world. Perhaps, despite saying they believe the gospel of grace, they have continued to think of God only as a distant God who is angry at them and eager to crush them. Perhaps they have forgotten to live in light of the gospel, where in Christ God is for you and nothing can separate you from his love (Romans 8:31-39).
In the end, I’m glad I saw Noah. It wasn’t a great film — or even a particularly good film. But a lot of people are talking about it, and I wanted to interact directly with the messages of the film rather than just read reviews. And it isn’t often that films are made with such obvious theological statements. I always find it worthwhile to listen to what the culture is saying about God, whether in Louis CK’s SNL monologue or in a big-budget film like Noah.
Did you see the film? If so, what’d you think? If not, will you see it?