Noah: A Movie Review

I went to see Noah this weekend, and given the flood of controversy surrounding the film, I thought I’d offer my thoughts. I had to convince (beg) my movie guest to see it with me, as she was one of the many made skeptical by the media surrounding the film. I was too, but I guess you could say curiosity got to me.

Short review: “Stimulating” might be the best word to describe it. The criticism from early reviewers over artistic license has merit, but I was pleasantly surprised in several areas. I was neither offended, nor can I give a genuine endorsement without an (*) asterisk.

Noah was a mixed bag right from the beginning. Twenty seconds into the film you discover that there are going to be “watchers” (fallen Nephilim) present in the story. This didn’t bother me as much, as Nephilim are actually mentioned in the chapter of Noah, five verses before God tells Noah to build the Ark, in fact.

From here, the film proceeded to be “stimulating” and “entertaining” depending on how you look at it. It marvelously depicted the building of the ark, arrival of the animals and the flood in a manner that blew my Sunday School imagery of the story out of the water (no pun intended). This was the main reason I had purchased my ticket to begin with.

There were, however, a lot of subplots. The story went off script a couple of times – like Methuselah appearing with a seed from the Garden of Eden to help grow the timber to build the Ark. I was distracted by the seed, but fascinated by the thought that Noah and Methuselah probably knew each other, as these weren’t two Biblical characters I had ever imagined intersecting. Methuselah was Noah’s grandfather, however, and as he lived to be 969, they probably did know each other.

As the plot grew more and more fantastical, both my companion and I agreed that the negative things were offset by several positive ones. Noah tells a spellbinding version of the creation story to his children while on the Ark. He remained an unmovably righteous man throughout the movie, trying to do God’s will even if there were times when (like us all) he was slightly confused on what that was. One of my favorite moments of the movie was when one of Noah’s sons, Ham, criticizes Noah for not going into a hedonistic city to get him a wife before the impending flood, as offspring would be needed to carry on the line of man. Noah calmly replies, “Do you see this Ark, which He helped us build? Did you just see the animals come two by two of their own free will? Will He not provide us with what we need?”

Amen to that.

The artistic license, however, did threaten to “flood” the biblical plot at times. I was OK right up until the part where Noah goes a little psycho inside the Ark. Then again, if you were trapped inside a floating zoo with animals, snakes and your immediate family for six months, wouldn’t you go little nuts too?

Thankfully there was no profanity or sex – the filmmakers even managed to show Noah’s visit to a nearby wicked town tactfully, without seizing the opportunity to portray something out of an MTV video. Noah wasn’t totally without modern influence however – the part where the dove brings back the olive branch to the Ark was left out, while Noah’s getting drunk/naked and having Shem and Japheth “cover him” was.  (Thanks, Hollywood.)

In summary: There was a lot of artistic license taken. If this bothers you, maybe you shouldn’t go see it (no judgment from me). But the basic parts of the biblical story were intact, floating like the Ark above all the fantastical drama. I came away with a heightened sense of my own wickedness and an awe of what God must have had to put up with from man.

Will it inspire others to read the biblical account of Noah? Yes, probably so.

Rather than anything they did or didn’t put in the movie, my main concern with the film is this:

Like any “fans of the book” I don’t know if Hollywood quite understands the burden of accuracy Christians expect to see from Biblical films – and we don’t appreciate being called “unimaginative” or “closed-minded.” It would be like making a posthumous movie of President Obama, putting whatever you want to in the script, and then saying “for the story of Obama, go look in the encyclopedia.” To add further insult to injury, try having a Republican direct the film (similar to having an atheist director orchestrate Noah).

I do understand “artistic license” – two fairly recent movies Hollywood has done well with are Prince of Egypt and The Nativity – but I don’t buy the excuse with Noah that the story had to be jazzed up with fictional extras to make it “interesting.” You’re talking about 8-10 people trapped in a giant boat with all the remaining animals in the world for more than 180 days while the earth is flooded – do you really not have enough to work with?

And to Christians, I would say this – I have friends who go to see all kinds of movies at the theater filled with profanity and sex, who have indignantly announced that they are boycotting Noah. This doesn’t make much sense either.

Let’s be sure we are being consistent with our habits.

As for the film, whether you will think Noah is a stimulating “triumph” or an unforgivable deviation…

Well, I guess you could say, the devil’s in the details.