2014 sees the return of the Biblical epic. Exodus will be released in December, and Noah opened this weekend. Naturally, Noah has created quite a stir amongst evangelicals – will it be Biblical? Will it be offensive? Will it be too environmental?
I went to the theaters this weekend to watch the film. I love movies, and always enter the cinema with a sense of excitement. Story is powerful. It can change people at a heart level and cause entire shifts in our culture.
The director, Darren Aronofsky, is an atheist with some dark (though powerful) films in his history. I’ve seen some of his work, and so I knew he had a very unique style – this would not be your standard Hollywood epic. I was actually shocked that he would do a Biblical epic, but this piqued my interest even more.
Was it Biblical?
This is the most popular question and comment from Christians that I’ve seen. But I knew going into the movie it would not be completely Biblical. First, when was the last time you saw a movie that was the same as the book? Probably never – film structure works differently then the written word. Elements are also added in to increase the visual drama.
Secondly, the actual story of Noah in Genesis is less than 2500 words. In order to create an entire movie, narrative elements will need to be imagined and added. I might upset some for saying this, but there would be no point to judging it for every detail that differs from the Bible.
Interestingly, I think many people are probably comparing the film to the felt board stories they heard growing up. I have some news for you: those felt board stories with a smiling and happy Noah weren’t exactly Biblical either. The same could be said for the Veggie Tales version (Noah did not have an umbrella!)
We must be cautious with stories like this to not let the movie (or felt board, or anything else) replace Scripture. This is true in all things – God’s Word is our standard and nothing else.
Knowing what I know about the director and story in general, my chief concern going into the film was this: What themes and messages would the film convey? Would they align with the Bible? Would they enable Christians who desire to engage culture to have good discussions?
The quickest way to review any film is to answer this one question: Do you recommend that others watch the movie? For me, the answer about Noah is a yes. As expected with Aronofsky, the film does have a very unique and artsy style – and some may not like it. They attempted to blend art-house film with an epic adventure. Sometimes the blend worked, and other times it didn’t.
The “Watchers” were unexpected and awkward (their special effects felt fairly 80’s at times), but they did make the battle scene a lot more entertaining. Again, this is definitely not the felt board version of Noah. It is violent (like much of the Old Testament) and not one for kids. Overall, however, there are some beautiful scenes, the drama is often gripping, and the acting is superb.
Most Christian film or television is remarkably subpar and cheesy. While this isn’t technically a Christian film, it was extremely refreshing for me to watch a Biblical story told as an art form. It’s not perfect, but it was definitely a step in the right direction from a quality standpoint. I hope the movie encourages more Biblical films from Hollywood. Even more so, I hope it encourages Christian story tellers to improve their work.
I did find the themes of the film quite thought provoking, and though there are some holes Biblically, I believe that if you watch the film with non-Christians you can definitely have gospel-centered conversations.
Themes in Noah
There are several messages going on in Noah, and I think all of them are relevant for today and could lead to great conversations for people who want to #LiveFully in their approach to culture. I don’t want to ruin the film, so I won’t go into great detail.
1) Care for the Creation: One of the chief reasons God destroys the world in Noah is the destruction man has done to the Creation. God is frequently referred to as “the Creator.” Some will say the film was too politically environmental, and perhaps it is. But do you know what drives me nuts about Christian conservatives? They defend creation and condemn evolution, but do little to actually care for the Creation. Just to clarify, I am a conservative Christian and I do believe God created the world. I just think If we claim to love the Creator, then we should make sure we’re taking care of His creation. Question for discussing with friends: Are we honoring the Creator by our treatment of creation?
2) The sinful nature of man: The film definitely demonstrates the sin of mankind. You expect this with the people who drowned in the flood, but I was impressed by a scene where Noah confesses to his wife that he realized he was sinful and deserved death as well. This is as Biblical as it gets. We tend to look at heroes in the Old Testament as perfect, but they were deeply flawed and needed a Savior. Question for discussing with friends: Is all of mankind truly evil?
3) God is Just and Merciful: God’s justice is certainly abundant in this film. His mercy is more difficult to see, but it is also present. One character shouts, “Creator, forgive me” as he dies and is instantly swept up to Heaven. God blesses Noah and his family in the end, despite their faults. Our culture struggles with a God who would flood the entire world, and perhaps we should. But despite the sin and death we cause, God still chose to redeem our situation. Question for discussing with friends: Do we deserve justice or mercy?
4) Man’s choice or God’s plan? I think one of the most interesting questions of life is that of freewill. If God has a plan and knows all things, what role do our choices play? They must matter on some level, but I’m not sure we’ll ever know exactly how. Noah must make an extremely difficult choice in the climax of the story, and ultimately his decision is blessed by the Creator. The choices are quite dramatic, and I think the film puts too much weight into Noah’s choices, but it can still make for an interesting discussion. Question for discussing with friends: Do our choices matter? Or has God planned everything already? Or do they work together somehow?
Noah may not perfectly Biblical, but don’t miss this opportunity to engage with culture and point people to Jesus.
Your turn: Did you see Noah this weekend? What were your thoughts?