Okay, so we’ve got a new, improved Noah for those tired of the same old, same old worn out Bible story. A Noah for the Millennials. This was Moses meets Frank Herbert’s “Dune” or perhaps Tolkein’s forgotten masterpiece “Lord of the Arks.”
It’s Hollywood for cryin’ out loud. Chill a bit and straighten out your undies. It’s not supposed to be a biblically accurate retelling of the story. So relax, and try to enjoy it for what it is: Sci Fi. The question is, is it good Sci Fi? Of that, I have considerable ambivalence.
Early on I was intrigued with the unique way the epic was being narrated and I was hopeful that it would be brilliant and uplifting throughout. I’d read several positive reviews from Christianity Today as well as Becky Hunter’s Northland blog. Her husband, Pastor Joel, described it as a Rorschach test, in that folks would project their own meaning into the film.
About two-thirds of the way thru the movie my attention started to lag and I got dozy. This is the point in any good Hollywood narrative when we have a car chase scene—but nooo, the Ark was afloat and there were strange, incomprehensible family things going on, and there was a stowaway—a scallywag worthy of Long John Silver—aaarrggghhh.
Tubal-Cain, only mentioned once in Scripture, figures big in this narrative. Well, Hollywood has to have a villain, right? In Scripture he is the first blacksmith, and therefore the maker of weapons. His brother Jubal is the first musician. Or maybe it was Jubal-Cain the inventor of bad music—the first urban rapper. Or maybe it was Koch-Cain? Nah, I won’t even go there.
Anyway, Hollywood had to fill up the 150 days on the Ark with something. It had to be more than scenes of domestic tranquility and animal feeding. So maybe because of the boredom Noah goes ballistic. I dunno, but I can’t write about the goings-on without a major spoiler alert—and so I won’t. But let me tell you, it wasn’t Captain Stubing presiding over the Love Boat.
Overall, in spite of my spoofing, I was impressed with the respectful, artistic way several biblical themes are handled, and I think Darren Aronofsky succeeds in making a thought-provoking film. He balances the themes of God’s justice and God’s mercy well. And I’m again impressed with what a great actor Russell Crowe is. Throughout the movie he fleshes out a real Noah from the children’s Bible story comic book characterization we carry in our unconscious. The Noah story, being one of the first stories in Scripture, is one of the most important. God is saying, “This is really important, pay attention.” And in that spirit I reread Genesis 6 about four times in various translations attempting to wrap my mind around the Noah story. I’m certain hundreds of thousands of other believers did likewise. And that is certainly a good thing in itself.
Pastor Joel was right, it is a Rorschach Test of sorts, but beyond that it’s also a litmus test. It is worth seeing, but if your faith hinges on a literal interpretation of Scripture, be advised it may not be your cup of tea. In contemplating Hollywood’s take on a familiar but important story I’m once again struck by the fact that the Bible tells us all we NEED to know, not all there is to know. Art sometimes fills in the gaps in the Narrative, and God is the also the God of art, music and poetry. This ain’t “Paradise Lost” but it’s not too bad either.