Noah is an engaging and entertaining Hollywood film that is very loosely based on the biblical story of Noah and the ark. You can find the story of Noah here. I had previously read a number of reviews and watched a few promotions so I went to the movies with the expectation that this movie was going to take significant artistic license with the biblical text, which is exactly what happened. Had I been anticipating a film that was rigidly faithful to the text and completely biblically accurate than I would have been incredibly disappointed. To be fair, however, a film like that would be incredibly boring and very short. The biblical testimony to the story of Noah is only three short chapters, less than 2500 words in English, many of which are dealing with technical specifications of the ark or details about the animals. The biblical story has almost no dialogue, very little action and very little character development. From that regard, it would be silly to try to expect anyone to be able to produce a Hollywood film that would entertain audiences without any artistic license.
I will start with the positives and then discuss what were, in my opinion, some of the problems with the film from a conservative Christian perspective.
In terms of entertainment value, this film was very well done. It was artistically pleasing with a captivating storyline, excellent character development, quality acting, and above average special effects. It was a good movie as far as movies go; I felt like I got my money’s worth.
The biblical story leaves much to the imagination; such as how did one family build such a big boat? How did they gather and care for all of the animals? What were the rest of the people on earth doing during this time? How did so much water fill the earth so quickly? I thought that the film’s answers to these questions were quite imaginative and I had no problem recognizing that they were just that, imagination. From a spiritual perspective, I think the film did an excellent job portraying the depravity that humans (especially humans who have forsaken God) are capable of. I remember seeing an interview in which the director said that he wanted to portray the seriousness of human sin and I think he did that very well. Finally, I think the film is a great conversation starter. It has the potential to get people thinking and talking about God and the Bible and I don’t think that is ever a bad thing.
There were several things that I found problematic with this film from my perspective as a conservative Christian. I recognize, however, that the film was made neither by nor for conservative Christians and so I take all of these with a grain of salt.
First, the makers of the movie clearly treated the story of Noah as if it were an ancient myth. I unapologetically believe the story of Noah to be a real historical event, but again, it’s just a movie.
One of the most “unrealistic” artistic adaptations to the story, in my opinion, were the fallen-angel-trapped-inside-of-a-rock characters. According to the movie, after Adam and Eve sinned and Cain killed Abel, some of the angels in heaven decided to come down to earth and try to help humankind get things figured out. The Creator (this is how they refer to God, the word “God” is never used) considered this to be an act of rebellion on the part of the angels, and so he trapped their spiritual bodies of light in rock, producing talking rock monsters, which are perhaps intended to represent the Nephilim in the Bible (or are likely intended to represent the Watchers in the apocryphal works). These talking rock monsters, called the Watchers, were helpers of the descendants of Cain until they realized just how rotten humans really are. In an effort to redeem themselves with the Creator, they help Noah build the ark (so that’s how he did it!) as well as defend him against the other humans who try to attack him. These talking rock monsters, which are wholly absent in the biblical story, are vitally important in the film’s telling of the story and I could have done just as well without them.
Environmentalism is clearly a major theme in this movie, which, on its own isn’t a problem. I actually think Bible-believers should take stewarding the environment more seriously. The environmentalism in this movie, however, is borderline, if not explicitly, nature worship. About halfway through we film we realize that Noah believes that his job is only to save “the innocents,” the animals. Humans have destroyed the earth, the animals did nothing wrong, and therefore the Creator is going to restart the Earth with only the animals. Noah decides that his family is not to produce any offspring, but instead they will all die since humankind already had their chance. In essence, the sole reason for the ark is the preservation of the animals, Noah and his family are only temporarily spared to accomplish that purpose. In light of this, Noah does not find wives for his two youngest sons to marry and his oldest son has a wife whom everyone believes to be barren. Not only is this a direct contradiction to the biblical story, which states explicitly that Noah’s sons brought their wives onto the ark, but I believe it is a direct affront to the heart of the biblical story which is about a man and his relationship with God and a God who shows mercy to humankind. In the Bible, the animals are a minor sub-plot, in this movie, they are a central focus.
Finally, I think the film made God seem much more distant and aloof than the biblical story. Again, I think the heart of the Biblical story is Noah’s relationship with God, which is almost non-existent in this film.
My recommendation: Go see the movie. It’s well made, thought provoking, and a good basis for discussion. Just don’t expect it to be exactly like the Bible.