2014-04-01

Noah – This is the Bible?

by Yo Snyder

A happy little boat with happy little elephants hanging out
the window and happy little giraffes sticking their heads out the skylight, all
bobbing along on bright blue, happy water with a happy little rainbow overhead.
That’s the Sunday School version of the Noah story, and while it’s one that’s
probably influenced most people’s view of the story of Noah (at least the
people who went to church), let’s be honest; it’s not exactly an accurate
depiction. Now, Darren Aronofsky’s version of Noah isn’t all that Biblically
accurate either, but truth be told, in some regards it’s probably more accurate
than that stereotypical Sunday School version. Aronofsky’s version of Noah has
been a long time coming, and it’s generated plenty of buzz and conversation
along the way. Now that it’s here, there are really two things to consider;
whether or not it’s a good movie, and whether or not it’s a good Bible movie.

That second consideration is much more of a loaded question,
so let’s deal with the first one…er…first. Is Noah a good movie? I’d have to say, yeah, it is. It’s not a great
movie, it’s not a perfect movie, but it is a good fantasy/adventure flick
(emphasis on the fantasy) and a pretty compelling drama in parts as well. All
the leads are given good material to work with and deliver some solid
performances. I was concerned that Jennifer Connelly wouldn’t be much more than
the “supportive wife” early on, but she was given some pretty heavy scenes
later in the film and was, interestingly enough, one of my favorite characters
in the film. As was the character of Ham; mostly because of the interesting
developments with the character. Crowe is just fine as Noah, and perhaps the
strangest role was Anthony Hopkins’ Methuselah; who’s an odd mix of Yoda and
some sort of mage. Really, it’s hard to find fault with any of the actors who
all bring a solid, dramatic edge to the proceedings. Although some of the
special effects seemed just a little off, the film looks great and the action
set-pieces are suitably epic, although some viewers may have a bit of Lord of
the Rings deja vu. As a movie, I really liked Noah; it was moving, exciting, and thoughtful.

However, when a church-goer asks whether or not Noah is any good, they’re not really
asking about whether or not this is a good movie, but whether or not it lines
up with our nice, safe, Sunday School-informed version of the Biblical story.
Well, if the expectation is for this to be a movie version of the straight
Biblical account, than no, I’d have to say it shouldn’t be considered a “good”
movie. However, let me be clear; that’s entirely the wrong expectation to
approach this film with. This isn’t one of those “made by Christians, for
Christians” kind of movies. Indeed, this is a film made by someone who doesn’t
particularly believe in the sacredness of the Bible or in a personal God. In
fact, the Bible itself says that someone without the Spirit cannot really
understand what comes from God because they are discerned only through the
Spirit (2 Corinthians 2:14). Or in other words, someone who doesn’t believe in
the Bible isn’t going to see or interpret what’s in it the same way, with the
same viewpoint as one who does. I fail to understand any of the surprise, shock
and outrage that has been expressed that this version of Noah isn’t more
Biblically accurate; there was never really any good reason to expect it to be
in light that someone who doesn’t hold the Bible in same regard as Christians
do was making it. Which isn’t to say that when this film veers off the Biblical
narrative that it didn’t bother me, it did, but once I was able to set that
aside, I discovered something interesting; there’s value and insight to be
gained in seeing the Bible from a different point of view. More than it, it was
surprising to see that Aronofsky still covered many of the central themes of
the Biblical account anyway.

Yes, there’s an environmental slant to Aronofsky’s take on
Noah, but exactly what is humanity’s responsibility to caring for the Earth?
That’s something that Genesis certainly covers. The wickedness of man is a big
issue in Aronofsky’s take, and is also central to the Biblical account. Love
and goodness play a role, as they obviously do in the Bible as well. The big
difference is Aronofsky’s approach comes from a more humanistic view (the innate
goodness of man is worth saving) whereas the Bible has an entirely different
view (humanity can’t save itself because they aren’t innately good, yet God
loves us so much he not only preserved a remnant through Noah, he also provided
a way to save us from ourselves through Jesus). What I appreciated most about
this version of Noah is how it got me to step back and look at this overly
familiar story from a different angle. I was remind just how dark and gritty it
is. I understood how someone could think that God was rather impersonal and
capricious to do something like this (which is mostly due to lack of
understanding when it comes to God, his holiness, and the true egregiousness of
sin). I thought about some elements of this story differently, like how Noah
likely did have some tough choices to make, how he could have been seen as a
bit of an extremist and even on the edge of crazy. I even gained some new
insights to some of the more obscure and odd aspects of the story, like where
Noah gets drunk and passes out naked. It’s in the Bible, but ever wonder why?
In short, there’s a lot to ponder, a lot to think and about, and a lot to
discuss in this movie. And why would we as Christians ever pass up an
opportunity to talk about God and Bible?

Noah has caused its
own deluge of controversy ever since it was revealed that it would more closely
follow the graphic novel written by Aronofsky than the Bible. And while it
certainly veers off into some strange territory, it also brings to epic life
one of the most familiar stories of the Bible in a way that’s sure to get
people talking. Now, you don’t have to go and support this movie if you’re that
offended that it doesn’t have the happy little boat with the happy little
giraffes (neither does the Bible, really, but that’s beside the point right
now). However, any Bible-believing Christian shouldn’t miss this opportunity to
engage people with a discussion about the Bible, to shed some light on the
true, personal nature of God, on why sin was really just that serious to necessitate
the flood, and what God’s ultimate plan of dealing with sin really was. Noah is a dramatic, action-packed,
thought provoking fantasy/adventure, but it’s not for everyone. Yet, at the
core of this story is something that needs
to be discussed with everyone; what will we do with the God of the Bible?

Score: 5 of 7 – Noah
is PG-13, and it can be pretty gritty and intense at times, especially when it
tries to show just how wicked humanity had become. Then again, it’s not as gory
or bloody as other certain films that Christians embraced. It’s also a pretty
moody film, you won’t leave this one feeling happing, but you might be
challenged to take a closer look at the Bible, and I think that counts as a
success.

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