The Noah Movie
Our mission at BioLogos is to “invite the church and the world to see the harmony between science and biblical faith as we present an evolutionary understanding of God’s creation.” That doesn’t have a lot to do with analyzing Hollywood movies. We are certainly not professional movie critics. But we’ve received a lot of requests in the last week for our take on Darren Aronofsky’s new Noah movie. So on Friday the Grand Rapids staff decided that we deserved an afternoon away from the office and went to the movies.
Someone who is looking for a close rendering of the Genesis text will be disappointed, because that’s not what Aronofsky has done (though even if he had done that, I suspect most people would be disappointed with it as a movie, because there isn’t much dialogue in the Genesis account). He drew generously from extra-biblical traditions, most notably with his adaptation of the Book of Enoch’s “Watchers,” who were fallen angels that looked and acted a lot like transformers as they helped Noah build the ark and keep away the bad guys. In a sense, though, they made the story seem less like a fairytale and more realistic, as it is difficult to see how Noah could have done all that by himself. Russell Crowe as Noah was no superhero. He was very human—perhaps too human for those who’d prefer he remain in the flannel graph world of our Sunday School stories. He had some dreams from (presumably) God, but the message wasn’t entirely clear. This wasn’t a Noah who had a direct line to the heavens; he was more like us.
Anthony Hopkins as Methuselah the cave-dwelling (and berry-craving) wizard helped with interpreting the dream message, but it seems that Noah still got some things wrong. Was the point of the ark just to save the animals and let all the humans (including his own family) die? Noah’s wife was played by the same actress who played Russell Crowe’s wife in A Beautiful Mind, and there was a bit of inter-movie déjà vu when she started looking at him like he was crazy!
All in all, the movie had a very mythological feel to it. There was a magic snakeskin handed down from generation to generation through which the birthright was passed on. Methuselah performed some mysterious fertility rite on Shem’s wife-to-be, Emma Watson (aka Hermione Granger, whom I kept expecting to utter some Latin charm... [spoiler - mouseover to view]). And we saw the importance of stories as explanations—my favorite part of the whole movie was when Noah retold the Genesis creation accounts to his sons, and we saw the evolutionary creation of the world up to some mysterious Adam and Eve figures. As mythology, I thought it would have been a nice touch if in the scene when the camera zoomed way out, instead of seeing a globe, we would have seen a picture of the earth in its ancient cosmological setting.
Anyway, remember we’re not movie critics. But we do have some other resources on the Noah of Genesis to point you to:
- Our Common Questions section has an entry, How Should we Interpret the Genesis Flood Account? with further reading resources.
- Paul Seely wrote a short series called, “The Flood: Not Global, Barely Local, Mostly Theological”.
- A series on the Shortcomings of Flood Geology by Gregg Davidson and Ken Wolgemuth.
- John Walton was filmed for the Seven Minute Seminary on the topic of Noah.
- Then of course you can find all kinds of reviews by actual movie critics and other concerned religious people. I like the variety of Christian perspectives found on Patheos. A search for “Noah review” brings up a bunch.