“If you think too deeply about religion, it will drive you insane.” That’s the message I brought away from the controversial new movie Noah. Most of us weren’t expecting a biblical documentary. To the contrary, I was willing to give the director lots of creative space to make the brief account in Genesis more cinematic and more suspenseful. But halfway through Darren Aronofsky’s fantasy, Noah goes mad and the historic Ark drifts off the radar, apparently disappearing forever in the remote Indian Ocean!
Movie goers looking for an action-adventure experience may find what they’re looking for. Noah features vast armies of angry warriors and a fantastic CGI battle waged by giant rock-covered Transformers and violent men armed with spears. When our hero Noah finally spots land, his face is covered in blood. Whatever this movie is, it is not boring.
Christians hoping for some biblical authenticity will find moments of inspiration in the first half. The neighbors are surly and violent, but this is a world the Creator is about to destroy! The name God is never mentioned, but the term Creator is used reverently. Although there are hints of New Age environmentalism, Noah constantly trusts the Almighty to keep his promises and take care of business. While the great boat is under construction, there are interesting images and insights all around.
But when the Ark is carried away by the rising tide, the story almost immediately gets lost at sea. This Ark is not a safe place, the people on board are not happy campers, and the title character seems more like a deranged kidnapper than a Bible hero. Granted, Noah and his family were righteous- not perfect. And a good movie relies on conflict and escalating adversity to maintain interest and advance the plot. But what happens on this wooden boat is not just sinful- it’s criminal.
Most Evangelicals won’t give Noah many stars. If you’re planning to see it, look for topics you can use in conversations with your friends who have missed the boat.
Lift up the Cross!
I look forward to seeing Noah when it finally opens in theaters on March 28. Yes, there’s a great deal of controversy swirling around the film, but have you noticed how often that happens when Hollywood makes a serious feature film inspired by the Bible? When Mel Gibson directed The Passion of the Christ a decade ago, critics and talking heads were outraged- outraged!– by so much violence in a movie about crucifixion! More recently, when Mark Burnett brought Son of God to the screen, a firestorm erupted because the actor playing Satan resembled the President of the United States. In a pagan culture that resents biblical faith, movies based on scripture are always preceded by a storm.
Some of my friends are concerned that the director has taken liberties with the actual story. There are rumors that the movie alludes to global warming and abuse of the environment by human beings. Some critics are troubled that the whole production is extremely dark. But think about it: the world must have been a dark, revolting place if it provoked the Creator God to wipe almost everybody out with a flood! A true account of Noah’s world should be dark, and good movies always make changes in the stories that inspire them.
Many church people point to Cecil B. DeMille’s classic, The Ten Commandments, and wish they would make movies like that once again. But in fact, Mr. DeMille took all kinds of detours around the Exodus account. He dramatized four plagues on Egypt rather than the ten described in the Bible. And when the cinematic moment comes for the Red Sea to roll back, it all happens in seconds. Of course, that’s quite miraculous! But the scripture explains that the wind blew all night to finally expose dry land in the Sea! The script liberally altered many of the details but it captured the majesty and message of the story.
Cecil B. DeMille treated the story of Moses with respect and a bit of reverence, and perhaps director Darren Aronofsky will do the same for Noah. But let’s remember this is a motion picture, not a sermon. Sermons are designed to apply the truth of the Bible to every day life. Movies are produced largely to entertain and make money. And along the way to earning box office boffo, I’m hoping Noah the Movie will inspire millions of Americans to ask, “Do you think that really happened?” If the saints are paying attention, we will be able to reply, “Here’s what the Bible says.” I plan to enjoy the cultural buzz around Noah’s Ark this spring, so I hope it plays in the theaters for months.
Lift up the Cross!