Noah, a film about the Biblical deluge starring Russell Crowe, is creating waves of controversy well in advance of its March 28 opening. After an advance viewing, here’s why the Christian world should give the movie a chance:
1. Director Darren Aronofsky and his co-writer Ari Handel know the Bible better than you do.
Quick: How many generations are listed in genealogies between Adam and Noah? When did Adam die in relation to Noah? What are the Noahic laws? Who is Tubal-Cain and what distinguishes him? What Bible story happens next after Noah’s flood? If you don’t know the answers to these questions off the top of your head, you’re way behind Aronofsky and Handel, who rattle them off from memory.
2. Darren Aronofsky has been wrestling with the story of Noah for literally decades.
As a little Jewish guy growing up in Brooklyn, he saw an ark painting and was scared he wouldn’t make it on the boat. At 13, he wrote a poem about Noah’s dove that won a United Nations prize. In 2000, he started pitching the idea of a Noah movie to studios and by 2003, he and Handel had started writing the screenplay. But it wasn’t until after the success of Black Swan, which won an Oscar for leading lady Natalie Portman, that he had the cache in Hollywood to get a Biblical movie made.
3. Darren Aronofsky and Ari Handel really, really care about the Biblical text.
They did more than adapt the text. They lived it and breathed it. They thought about all its implications, both practically and theologically. They consulted experts and ancient traditions and classic art, then wove those images and themes into the film.
4. You don’t know what you think you know about Noah.
There’s a lot left unexplained in the text. What did Noah look like? What did being 600 years old mean in those days? Who were the wives? What was the wickedness and violence that filled the earth, causing God to want to destroy it? These are things that, in a dramatization, someone has to answer. There may be a picture in your mind, but most of that was created by someone interpreting the text himself, an illustrator on a Children’s Bible perhaps, or a pastor.
5. Some of the things you’ve heard about the film are wrong.
Is the wickedness of man portrayed as merely harming the environment, making this a hippy-dippy environmental message movie? Nope. The film is deeper than that. Creation is violated and abused, desolate and barren as part of the image of the fall of mankind and its devastating aftermath. The mistreatment of creation is a result of man’s wickedness, not the source of it.
6. They’ve made a Bible movie that secular people will want to see.
Action? Yes. Romance? Sure. Good acting? You betcha. It’s all there: good special effects, a well-written script, beautiful images, and universal themes. When was the last time someone made a Bible movie your neighbor might actually experience?
7. The good guy isn’t all good and the bad guy isn’t all bad.
You know, like in real life and Bible stories. Like David the adulterer, Jacob the conniver, and Peter the denier, Noah has a dark side. He wrestles with God’s intent. He even gets drunk and falls out with his son Ham. That’s all there in the stories. Good filmmakers, like good theologians, know that the weak and dark side of a hero only makes his victory more compelling.
8. If you can get over “That’s not what my Sunday School teacher taught” reaction, you will see the film has deep, resonating themes that line up with Biblical truths.
It’s time to take Noah down off the nursery wall. The story is a lot richer than just a nursery story of absolute faith versus absolute evil. Even bad characters have a relationship with the Creator, however broken. The questions of original sin, overwhelming grace, justice and mercy wash through the film. Isn’t that the kind of story we want to see in the theater?