I’m going to start off with the usual, what I liked and what I didn’t like. You are welcome to stop at that. There will be a ton of spoilers too, so if you haven’t seen it yet and want to, well I don’t know who you are.
And then I will launch into a lot of theology and Christian application which may or may not interest you or even apply to you. I make that distinction because many many critics who call themselves Christians fail to make that distinction and just want everyone to agree with them and do what they say. I would much rather you make up your own darn mind.
What I liked:
1. I actually liked the Watchers. I liked the idea of their story and I liked the way they looked. They looked incredibly sad and tormented. The story is not from the Bible account. For those who will be turned off by that, well, move on to #2. I liked the idea that there were some angels who felt bad for the humans in the garden. Yes they should know better and yes there are many problematic theological issues with this story line, but from a strictly humanistic viewpoint, the idea of some angels being empathetic sits well with me.
That said, the watchers could just as easily have been just regular ole angelic beings helping out. The facts of the matter include Noah building this monstrosity with the help of his sons. Because the movie made his sons much younger, it would have seemed like nothing short of pure magic to build the ark. So watchers make sense. I had no problem with this. I also liked that they fought off the hordes of people trying to fight their way onto the ark. Or attack it. I’m not sure what exactly the objective was.
2. Noah was a bit tormented too. It’s very post postmodern of hollywood to take a known character and turn him upside down and create some kind of anti-hero of him. We love to hate our protagonist. It’s tres chic. And these days we don’t believe in a goody goody two shoes as our main character and we know, well, the other shoe is gonna drop. He’s gonna be a jerkface. Or he leads a double life. Or he eats babies or something.
So it didn’t surprise me when Noah was portrayed as not all that righteous. He let a girl die in front of his son. He proclaimed that everyone had to die out including his own children. He was going to kill a baby. At least he wasn’t going to eat it.
But seriously, the Bible is filled with characters that have long been portrayed as better than you and me, and guess what. That’s incorrect. And I like it when a movie tries to remind us of that.
3. The Gospel. It was there. Trust me. I’ll get to it later, but I saw it and felt it. And it was good.
I’ll go out on a limb here and say that I don’t think the filmmakers were trying to start a new religion with this thing. I don’t think they were necessarily eager to provide a biblically and/or traditionally (which is not the same thing) accurate depiction either. I found it interesting what parts of the story they made up and how what they “messed” up in, they inadvertently made up for to some degree. More on that later.
What I didn’t like:
1. The acting. I’m sorry it was pretty bad. It was as if everyone got the script a couple days ago or they just didn’t believe they were any where but a sound stage. It felt formulaic and shallow. I would blame the script but sometimes overacting is just because the actors overact.
Related to the acting is the directing. Too many shots of people making strained faces and not enough epic scenery. Maybe the director took a page from Peter Jackson’s Laugh all the way to the bank class on movie making, but I hated it in LOTR and I’ll hate it in every movie not made as a Japanese anime. Leave the fretful face-making to the animators and give us something substantial to sink our teeth into.
2. But the script wasn’t great either. Some people blamed the script for Star Wars Episode I’s failures. I would say that was true. In this case, I think it’s a mix of things and the poor dialogue and weak character development certainly didn’t help the cause.
3. Not only did the story not adhere to the Bible account in pretty significant ways, which I would be totally ok with, it also HARPED on the points it deviated and created a chaotic mess of contrived, shallow plots. The “king” who wanted to get on the ark and befriended Ham, sorta, was really lame. I get it though, and I guess you needed some kind of drama somewhere. A dude using his mad carpentry skills for 2 hours does not an epic blockbuster make.
4. If PETA were to ever endorse a movie, this would be the one. I felt like the worst thing that anyone did in the movie was rip an animal to shreds. I mean it made Russell Crowe cry. I’m totally ok with the message of treating God’s creation with respect. I know too many people who don’t think twice about how much meat they eat and where it comes from, and I know people who love to quote the whole “have dominion and subdue” thing to give carte blanche to our carnivore driven culture. I’m not going to tell anyone what to eat or what not to eat, but I will say that making people think through an increasingly, shockingly wasteful meat production industry is not a bad thing.
All that said, the movie seemed to imply that the Creator liked the animals more than the people and while I’d like to think that’s true, well, it isn’t.
Theology of Noah the movie
1. The Creator is wishy washy. It felt like our human attempt to understand a God who would create the whole world and then threaten to devastate it and submerge it in high waters. What kind of god would do that? And then what kind of god would choose one small family and then lead the father to believe he had to sacrifice his offspring so that all of the world would be restored back to what it was supposed to be? That’s just crazy talk.
2. The Creator is silent to some and speaks through dubious dreams to others. Now, in all seriousness, I did wonder why the filmmakers didn’t have God just tell Noah outright what to do. But it also occurred to me that the scripture just says that “God told Noah.” I’ve heard people today say that God told them something. I have to wonder how. Does God speak audibly all the time? It seems consistent that God would have a special unique encounter with Noah about the flood and how to build the ark. But we also see other characters express how God did NOT speak to them and the contrast is set.
3. The numbers in Genesis 5 don’t add up, or at best, they are confusing. Poetic license someone took, hm? Maybe God is creative… it just seems God uses pretty specific numbers in the account and
4. Apparently it takes a big budget movie for all of us to run back to our bibles and read for detailed content and nuance. God does indeed move in mysterious ways… maybe He uses movies like Noah to confound the wise.
5. The Gospel is in there. I highly doubt the filmmakers meant it to be or even realize it is. Whenever you hear talk of death and sacrifice, the Gospel is just two steps away, or less. Noah couldn’t in the end murder his own grandchildren, even though he was convinced that it was necessary and even ordained by the Creator. He just couldn’t do it. And he struggled with the idea that all of the human race would die with his sons. It was the only way. Or so he thought. The part that the film missed out on was the salvation of the human race as primary objective, not by accident. And that we know it was God’s intention all along to show His grace and mercy, providing a way to be shielded from His wrath on judgment day – through an ark here, through a cross years later.
My overall take on the movie is that it wasn’t as great as I so desperately wanted it to be. But not for the same reasons most of my Christian right friends will tell you. I love creative outlandish ways of telling an old story. I love taking something everyone knows well and turning it on its head. The film was certainly an interesting conversation piece and will be for years to come, and I for one am always glad for visual, artistic expressions of deeper truths to use when talking about God and faith. I wish more people would delve into the bible for material, because it’s chock full of crazy, weird, fantastic stuff, and be forced to make creative decisions on how to depict it. The depiction of a subject always reveals more about the artist and the onlooker than it does the subject. What the movie Noah tells me about Noah isn’t what I’m after. It told me a whole lot about many other people.