Noah, I Hardly Know Ya

Russell Crowe as Noah. (
Russell Crowe as Noah. (Paramount Pictures)

Warning: This is deluged with spoilers.

With all the Christian, Muslim – and I did see one instance of Jewish – backlash against the Darren Aronofsky film Noah, I figured I should watch it myself and provide a nonreactionary evangelical Christian perspective.

Story continues below.

I like movies, I like the Bible, and I’m not offended when people take creative license. I’m not even offended when people take theological license. At the same time, I do like to point out when they do so just in case anyone is interested.

The great thing about my pointing-outing is this: You can stop reading anytime you get tired of it. Not so in the theater in which I watched the movie last night. I had the pleasure of sitting in front of a group who never go to movies except when a Bible picture comes out. So two of the guys decided the rest of us would like to be treated to a Pentecostal Science Theater 3000 experience.

“That didn’t happen. … It’s the Holy Ghost! … And God Himself shut the door.”

Then there were the two 85-year-old grandmothers who brought a 5-year-old girl with them.

“How’d that happen? … What’s that?”

I’ll bet that little girl wished they’d bought tickets for Mr. Peabody and Sherman about the time the damned were screaming in agony as they were beaten against the rocks of the highest peak. (Of course, now that I think of it, Mr. Aronofsky and his pet project might well have used their WABAC Machine to find this improbable tale.)

But back to my own tale. I have seen the Internet inundated with folks of faith and of Fox News both for and against the movie. And I’ve seen Aronosky and Noah himself, Russell Crowe, criticizing their critics who have yet to see the movie.

Fox News analysts talk about "Noah." (Fox News)
Fox News analysts talk about Noah. (Fox News)

Among those saying it was of no account were Editor-at-Large Ben Shapiro, who has seen the movie and warned Fox News’ Sean Hannity that he will hate it because it portrays the sins of mankind as environmental destruction and not being vegetarian. Shapiro is correct – that’s exactly what the film does.

The book of Genesis, where Noah’s story is told, makes no specific mention of what deeds made God so angry that he wanted to kill of most of humanity. It says only “the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great on the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.” It doesn’t specify any specific wickedness; that’s left up to the reader to interpret.

But Aronofsky, by specifying two sins and no others, leaves viewers with no other interpretation than his own. As a writer and director he has that right, but he and his actors are saying in interviews that they only filled in the holes. They made a 2-hour and 18-minute movie about a story that takes up fewer than four pages in the Bible.

They didn’t merely plug up holes in the ship, they replaced entire bulkheads. No law against that; just admit it.

A major theme of the film is that man has wrecked earth for both plants and animals even though he has been charged by the Creator with protecting them. Saving the planet and vegetarianism/veganism are popular in culture, so they’re naturally ripe for art. If Aronofsky would just say this was the direction he decided to pursue it would quiet some of his critics. (Note that I said “some.”)

That said, the biblical narrative actually implies that everyone was a vegetarian until after the flood. Animals were God’s preferred form of sacrifice all the way back to Cain and Abel. Noah took seven, not two, of all the “clean” animals onto the ark, according to Genesis. That’s because he used some of them as a sacrifice – which God liked – as soon as the ship docked.

Fox host Ainsley Earhardt was critical that Aronofsky chose to forgo the use of “God,” opting instead for “Creator.” Earhardt searched the Scriptures and found 20 uses of “God” in the Noah story and nine uses of “Lord.”

Story continues below.

I find no reason for picking a fight over this. The Bible refers to God as creator more times than I’m interested in counting. But what I do take theological issue with is that even the wicked people in the movie call God “The Creator” and desperately desire a relationship with him. God seems to despise them simply because they eat animals and built large cities.

Story continues below.

Tubal-Cain is king of these people, and manages to stow away on the ark. That’s unbiblical, but I don’t care about that. The bothersome part is that it is Tubal-Cain who tells Noah’s son Ham that he should subdue the earth and rule over it. In Genesis, there’s nothing ungodly about this: God gives that command to Adam and Eve.

What’s worse, Noah murders three men for hunting down an animal for food, then gives the animal a burial service. These guys are living in a barren wasteland. Give them a break.

Story continues below.

Aronofsky did reportedly give in to Christian consultants who asked him to remove man from the chain of evolution and depict him as a special creation.

And then there are the giant rock people. Oh, yes: There are giant rock people. These are The Watchers – angels the Creator sent to watch over Adam and Eve. They fell from grace when they tried to keep the first couple from eating the forbidden fruit. The Creator cast them into the molten rock for their disobedience, and they’ve looked like something out of a J.R.R. Tolkien story ever since.

They are a pretty cool device, but they also go against standard theology. God is angry because angels want to help people? This story’s Creator is a Class-A jerk.

But, for some reason, the Creator changes his mind here. When the rock giants help build the ark then fight off the wicked people who want to enter, the Creator releases them. Presumably they go back to heaven, as they “die” in the fighting.

So in this version, fallen angels are redeemable. But not human beings, who crave a relationship with the Creator.

Beyond my theological differences, it’s a good movie. It’s got drama, action, love, hate, a slight amount of comedy, and its special effects don’t seem just-for-the-sake-of-it.

A couple of plot holes: All the evil people had rain slickers once it started raining. Rain hadn’t been in their seven-day forecast in forever. And in the end, Noah considers killing his newborn female grandchildren because he wants mankind to die out when those on the ark die. But he never thinks to also kill his daughter-in-law, who can presumably have more babies even if he kills those grandchildren.

Usually, Noah stories end with the rainbow and a promise God will never flood the entire world again. In Genesis, Noah plants a vineyard, gets drunk on its wine and is found by his son Ham lying naked in his tent. His sons Shem and Japheth cover their father and are blessed, while Ham’s son Canaan is cursed.

Story continues below.

I was happy to see Aronofsky include this postdiluvian postscript. He said he’s always viewed Noah as someone with survivor’s guilt. If he hadn’t made Noah, and his Creator, such colossal mean-spirited jerks, he might not have had to feel so guilty.

As the credits began and everyone headed for the exits, the Revs. Crow T. Robot and Tom Servo exclaimed, “That’s not how it happened!”

No foolin’?

Story continues below.

Aronofsky is an atheist, so I don’t think he’s really trying to proclaim “this is how it happened.” He just wants to tell a good story. In that he succeeded.