I watched NOAH several weeks ago, and I’m finally ready to discuss what I saw. Earlier on Facebook, I took the stance that we as Christians (if you’re reading this and you don’t identify as Christian, I invite you, please keep reading. Just know that is the point of view from which I’m coming), should be able to relate to non-Christians insofar as to meet them where they are and show the love of God.
The most recent film adaption called NOAH is a point of contention within and without the Christian community. It’s a movie directed by Darren Aronofsky, who’s an atheist. (He’s also directed Black Swan, The Fountain and Requiem for a Dream, to name a few) How can an atheist adapt a story from the Bible if he doesn’t believe in its inerrant truth? How can he fully impart the impact of the story? I was willing to find out, even though many Christians weren’t.
This movie has been years in the making with a big budget, some outlets have reported $120-$130 million budget, and an A-list cast. This movie was no small feat, and because of that, I knew many would see this movie. I assumed most of those people wouldn’t be Christians. Most Christians wouldn’t pay money to watch a movie about a story from the Bible that was directed by an atheist. But I was willing to see it because I knew I’d be able to engage in discussions with my non-Christian friends who saw it. Or even my coworkers, or strangers. Maybe they’d have questions about the movie and I could explain, or even on the basest level, just have discussions about the movie. Without seeing the movie, how could I know what Aronofsky was presenting?
Okay, enough introduction. What follows below are huge spoilers. Forgive me for this, but I’m assuming anyone who’s reading this has either seen the movie or is never planning on seeing the movie. Or if you are planning to see the movie, you already know the biblical story, so nothing would really be spoiled anyway. I’m going to talk about Aronofsky’s plot and things that happen in the movie, beginning to end.
**SPOILERS AHEAD. PLEASE DO NOT READ ANY FURTHER IF YOU DO NOT WANT THE MOVIE NOAH SPOILED.**
In the beginning of the movie, Aronofsky gives us a run down of Genesis, from the fall of man to chapter 6. Something in the movie that’s extra-biblical are the “Watchers.” These are angels who decided to come to earth to help Adam and Eve after they had been cast out of the Garden of Eden. When they came to earth, they disobeyed God and He struck them and doomed them to be made of stone and be outcasts. Keep them in mind.
Noah and his family are young in the movie. His sons are teenagers and they don’t have families of their own, as they do in the Bible. The world is shown as destitute, and men have ravaged creation. They destroy people and towns with no regard. Noah seems to be the only righteous one. He sees visions from God, as referred to as the creator in the movie, but they’re pretty abstract. We never hear God’s voice. Noah seems to be able to interpret the visions, but he’s reluctant. He’s not sure what to do next. He tells his wife about his visions and that he needs to see his grandfather Methuselah. Methuselah lives in a mountain far from where Noah and his family live, so they pack everything and set out to consult Methuselah. Along the way, they happen upon a town that’s been destroyed, but there is a young girl who’s still alive. She’s injured, and Noah’s wife declares her barren, but she survives. They take her into their family and raise her as their own. As they are saving her, they see men in the distance, coming forth to kill them. They rescue the child and escape, narrowly missing certain death. The Watchers come out fighting, but we don’t know if they’re going to save Noah and his family or not. Finally, one of the Watchers takes pity on them and helps them escape. Throughout the movie, we get the backstory of the Watchers, most of which doesn’t make sense to me. But this is another one of Aronofsky’s additions. The Watchers help Noah and his family build the ark.
The family is safe and Noah goes to see Methuselah. He lives in a mountain secluded from everyone. We find that he has mystical powers, but we never learn from where they come. Is God giving him these powers? Are they from Satan? Does he just have them cause he’s the longest living person on earth? We never find out. But he tells Noah that he must go forward and do God’s will.
The first 90 minutes of the movie, I’m having a good time. Sure, I can overlook the Watchers and this extra girl they found along the way. Sure, Noah’s family is young, okay fine. Methuselah has some mystical powers, whatever. Aronofsky was doing a fine job with the theme of God always provides. The cinematography is beautiful and the images are breathtaking. There is a scene where Noah stands up for himself against a man and his army who’s trying to take over the ark and tells him he’s not alone. The way the animals come to the ark is majestic and I give glory to God as I watch this CGI reenactment. I can only imagine how beautiful the actual scene was. There’s also an imaginative retelling of the creation story. Basically, if the movie had stayed on this path, I don’t believe there would be so much controversy. But alas, this was not the case. I’ve decided Aronofsky chose to play by the rules during the first half of the movie in order to suck us in, and then destroy any semblance of the biblical story in the second half.
When a screenwriter or director adapts a property, whether it’s a book or short story or whatever, they assume poetic license. They know they don’t have to stick with the exact story, and we as the consumers know that. They can create what they want and it becomes their vision, and we usually don’t cry bloody murder. But with the Bible, that’s altogether different. Aronofsky doesn’t believe the Bible is truth, so why should he stick to the script? He saw this incredible story, a fairy tale to him, I’m sure, and chose to throw his own twist on it. What’s the harm? The second half of the movie is Aronofsky’s twist. Let’s add some drama, I’m sure he thought. Every single thing is a fabrication.
The turning point, as I see it, is when Noah is confronted with his own sin. I guess before, he didn’t think he was capable of sin, but only other people. He decides that God must want to kill off everyone, even him and his family. He’s convinced. Now, in Genesis, it does say God wants to destroy all, but He found favor in Noah. Right from the start, God was going to save Noah. There was no question. But Aronofsky asks this question and Noah thinks he’s right that God will see them die also. Noah believes they are just there to make sure the animals are saved. There are no women for his sons (remember, the young girl they found is barren), so they will eventually die off. Noah’s wife doesn’t want to go along with this plan as she wants her sons to be happy. She wants Noah to find women for her sons, but Noah refuses. God wants to kill them all, He wants no human on the earth. Why would he go find women and so his sons could procreate? Noah’s wife goes to Methuselah in hopes that he would help persuade Noah to find women. Methuselah is hesitant, because if he steps in, something tragic might happen. But for whatever reason, he chooses to help and touches the young woman, the girl now grown up, with his mystical powers and she can now have children. There’s implied premarital sex between Shem and the young woman, and after the 40 days on the ark, we learn she’s pregnant. When Noah finds out, he is LIVID. There’s no stopping his crazy. God wants them all dead. There can’t be any newborn baby! They’re directly disobeying God if they let this child be born. Noah tells them, when the baby is born, if this child is a girl, he will kill her on the spot. (This would be the tragic thing Methuselah was afraid might happen.) Noah’s news divides the ark, him against the rest of his family. There is another plot point in this with Ham and the “king,” but I can’t go into that as this already long piece would be infinite.
The family is now stuck in this ark with this crazy, delusional man. Shem and the pregnant young woman plan to get away and they’ve fashioned a raft and have a month’s supply of food. They have to escape before she gives birth! Right when they are about to leave, Noah burns the raft and basically tells them, they ain’t going nowhere. I believe Noah is mad. Aronofsky’s protagonists are often obsessed or become obsessed with something, for example, in Black Swan and The Fountain. Here, Noah is obsessed with doing God’s will, so much so that his judgment is clouded and he has tunnel vision. He can’t see what God actually wants as his own wants come into view. He’s disillusioned. I’m wondering, why would God spare Noah and his family to save the animals just to have them die out? Surely God could figure out another way to save the animals and just have Noah and his family die with all the other people in the flood.
So Noah’s burned the raft and the young woman’s water breaks, all within 5 minutes. Here we are at the climax. Is Noah going to get to the baby? Will he actually kill the child if it’s a girl? What will the family do, will Shem actually allow Noah to kill his first born? How will Noah’s wife respond if he actually kills the baby? Ahhhh!!! At this point I’m really sucked in, as it is a good movie with an interesting story and motivations. But it’s complete fabrication masquerading as truth. Even if Aronofsky never said “based on a true story,” he’s taken a story from that Bible that many believe is true, and trampled all over it.
Noah’s wife takes the young girl in a tent inside the ark, with Shem on guard outside, and she has the baby. But wait, she’s having another baby. TWINS!!?? «mind blown» She’s just had twins, and get this, they’re both girls. What ever will Noah do now? Is he capable of killing two baby girls, even if he does believe it’s God’s will? Will Shem allow him to get close to any of his girls?
There’s an elaborate fight between Noah, Shem and Ham, and all the while, the young woman sneaks off to the roof of the ark. She’s holding her babies, one in each arm. It seems she’s as far away from Noah as she can get, but Noah has gotten away from his sons and has found her. He confronts her, and there’s nowhere for her to go. She’s trapped. Noah commands her to put them down so he can kill them, but she refuses. She’ll hold them as he does it. She won’t let them go. But she stops him for a moment and sings the lullaby Noah sang to her the night he rescued her, many years ago. This touches Noah and his countenance changes. Finally the young woman yells at Noah: “Do it quickly!” The knife comes closer and closer to the babies. The tip of the knife is right above the babies, but Noah kisses their heads instead. He can’t do it. He drops the knife and the young woman cries out in relief.
In the end, once they’ve found dry land and have settled, we see the scene where Noah is drunk and his sons cover his nakedness. However, the way it’s presented in the movie is that Noah gets drunk because he feels he’s failed God. He thinks he’s weak because he didn’t kill the babies. He doesn’t think that he was actually never supposed to kill them in the first place and that’s why he couldn’t do it. Noah has separated himself from the family. He’s a mopey sad sack.
The young woman seeks out Noah and talks to him about that fateful day on the ark, when he spared her daughters. She talks to him about how he exercised mercy and that God wouldn’t have chosen him if He didn’t think Noah could handle it. (I mean, in this version, God provides wives for Ham and Japheth). She speaks life into Noah and Noah starts to come around. Noah reconciles with his wife and family, but Ham has already left to go out on his own, for other reasons. We don’t see if Ham ever comes back in the movie. Suffice it to say, Noah has made an irreversible mess with Ham, and it doesn’t really seem like he cares. Who knows, this isn’t from the Bible.
Okay, so now you know the plot. The wheels came off in the second half of the movie. I guess Aronofsky thought the biblical story was pretty boring with Noah’s righteous family and no drama happening in the ark. He had to spice it up. He decided to make a 2 1/2 hour epic when it probably only needed to be 90 minutes. But who needs all that extra drama, wasn’t the 40-day rainstorm drama enough?
Even though the movie took God’s word and ran it through a wood chipper, I still believe there is some value in Christians watching a movie like this. The day after I saw this movie, I had a discussion about it with a non-Christian friend. We talked about some differences between the movie and what’s in the Bible. He said he would re-read the story before he watched the movie. I saw on Twitter that after watching the movie, the actor Joseph Gordon-Levitt read the Noah and the ark story in Genesis. People are choosing to read the source material, and thank God it’s His Living Word. The Bible can transform a person. The Word is God. God can use atheists to draw people to Him. I’m not claiming to know what God’s plan is concerning this movie, but I know that God is bigger than anything and can use anything for His glory.
I say all this to say that, these are the spiritual movies you’ll see non-Christians going to. You’ll rarely catch them going to see Stephen Baldwin movies, or God’s Not Dead or Heaven is For Real. They’re going to see big budget movies with name actors they’ve actually heard of. This is where they are. Let’s meet them where they are.