While I’m normally not too vocal about movies, media and culture, I was asked by several people to post my opinion of the movie Noah released just this past weekend. So, here it goes.
When I first saw the preview for Noah, I’ll admit, I was excited. When done well, I think media is a powerful way to portray the stories from the Bible. Remember The Passion? I mean, who wasn’t moved by that movie? Noah, on the other hand, was disappointing. I was hoping for some redeeming qualities in the movie, but the truth is, the positives simply don’t outweigh the overwhelming creative liberties taken in this movie. Don’t get me wrong, I’m okay with using some or even lots of creativity to produce some filler content to the few paragraphs that we have in Genesis. Sight and Sound Theater’s “Noah”, for example, takes lots of creative license in portraying what Noah’s life was like before the flood, and what it may have been like being on a floating vessel for such a long period of time. The difference, however, is that the musical aligns itself with the Bible. Let me explain…
Some critics have commented that everything in the Biblical account is in the movie. I don’t agree with that statement, and a quick reading reveals details like the fact that all three of his sons were married in the Biblical account, while in the movie, only Shem boards the boat with a bride. It begs the question, why go through so much trouble to accurately create the ark according to the Biblical record, but yet botch details of Noah’s daughter-in-laws? The latter seems to be a critical piece of earth repopulation. But I digress…
My biggest problem with the movie is its portrayal of Noah and of God. In the Bible, Genesis 6:9 says that Noah was a righteous man. It seems that as a righteous man, Noah would have some joy in his life, while in the movie, I’m not sure Russell Crowe smiled even once. Okay, so he had a lot on his plate with the destruction of the world and what not, but the real problem is that in the movie the viewers are actually pushed to fear and even despise this “righteous” Noah towards the end.
On the other hand, God’s attributes are skewed as well. He is made out to be the silent force of creation who is only filled with wrath towards the human race that has rebelled against him. God’s mercy and love are left out of the story. This is a huge problem of contextualization. While the creators of this movie may have attempted to create an accurate account of the story of Noah based on what we have in the book of Genesis, the failure to produce that account without the context of the rest of the Bible results in a twisted interpretation of God’s character that is all too common. I’ll admit, the Biblical account of Noah from Genesis 6 through 8 is a story of God’s righteous wrath. But, the Bible is one book, and in the context of the rest of the Bible, the account of Noah becomes a testimony of God’s redemption, mercy, and love. These are characteristics not seen in the movie.
Despite the above, there are a couple of things that I did like. For example, at one point in the movie Noah explains that evil is inside all of us and that he and his family were essentially no better or more deserving of being saved than anyone else. This was encouraging to hear in our postmodern culture which would argue that mankind is generally good but is occasionally capable of evil. The evil side of Noah and his family is portrayed quite well while on the boat. This subtle explanation in the film actually fits very well with the main theme of the Bible: that righteousness comes through faith alone. The account of Noah in Genesis foreshadows the cross of Jesus. Noah wasn’t saved from the flood (God’s wrath) because he was good, he was saved because he had faith in what God told him (to build an ark). The same is true for believers in Christ. People are saved from God’s righteous wrath on the account of faith in what he tells us. We’ve all rebelled against God; we’ve all turned away from him, and we all deserve to have his wrath poured out (like a flood) on us as a result of that choice.
But God is so rich in mercy, and he loved us so much, that even though we deserved death because of our sins, he gave us life when he raised Christ from the dead. (Ephesians 2:4-5) It’s natural for us to think that our “goodness” can save us from the punishment we deserve. But even a righteous man like Noah wasn’t good enough to save himself. Neither should we think our own goodness is enough.
So what’s my recommendation? Should you see this movie or not? I would say don’t waste your money on a movie ticket. If you do decide that you want to see it, I’d wait to redbox it or rent it on itunes when it comes out. At the very least, a viewing of the movie can be helpful in preparing to explain its shortcomings should someone ask. That being said, a study of the account of Noah in Genesis will give you the best preparation for such a conversation.
Again, overall, I was disappointed with the film. I wanted to see God portrayed as loving and redemptive and that simply didn’t happen. Am I worried, however, that this movie will give the enemy the upper hand? Of course not. God is a god who is in the business of bringing good things out of seemingly bad situations. One of my other favorite stories from Genesis is that of Joseph. (Genesis 37-50) If you are unfamiliar, I won’t spoil it, but it ends with Joseph saying this: “You meant it for evil, but God meant it for good.” (Genesis 50:20) I believe that God can use even an off-base movie like Noah to somehow aid in the expansion of his kingdom.
And that, my friends, is all I’ve got. Thanks for taking the time to read my review. As always, please feel free to post your thoughts and comments below. I’d love to hear what others think!