Noah is a film that is sure to make people mad. A film and the enjoyment of it is already such a subjective thing. There are people in this world who, believe it or not, have seen Captain America: The Winter Soldier and hated it. And it’s perfectly legitimate for them to do so even if I completely disagree. There are many who have seen Noah, and who loved it for various different reasons. And I would even go so far as to say that liking or loving this film is a legitimate opinion. I do not share that opinion. You might recall that before now, I considered Cloud Atlas to be the worst film I had ever seen. With Noah, there is now a new film to share company at the bottom of the list.
In order to have a proper opinion of Noah however, the film must be evaluated on two different levels. This is, in some ways, no different from any other book adaptation to film. The first level on which the film is evaluated is, “was it faithful to the book in spirit and/or actuality, and is that a good or a bad thing? And where it deviated, was that a good thing — where it stayed the same, was that a good thing?” There is a difference though. This is a film adaptation of the Bible. I think it’s safe to say that the Bible, or the scriptures in some form or other, is the most revered set of writings of all time. It may or may not be at an all-time low at this particular point in history (I don’t know those stats but I wouldn’t be surprised), but even so it is still a highly revered book. A major world religion is based on this book. Depending on your perspective, that religion has existed for thousands of years, or at the very least 2,000 years. So this film is an adaptation of a chapter or two from a story in a book that many, many people consider sacred.
Creation, The Flood, And The Reviewer
Let’s get what many of you will likely consider crazy out of the way so that you may ridicule me, close your browser, or go straight to the comments and sound off your disgust at my lack of science, my lack of common sense, and/or lose any other respect of me that you may have had.
I am one of those “crazy” Christians who believes in a literal six day creation. I also believe that the flood actually happened, that Noah and his family were real people, that man was indeed so wicked in the site of the creator that He sent the flood which covered the earth and killed everyone except the eight people on the ark and the animals, two of each kind of unclean, and seven of each kind of clean animal.
I do not believe this flood was localized, as some do, but I believe this was a global flood which completely changed the eco-system of the planet. I believe that we are therefore all descended from Noah.
I believe in a literal Adam and Eve. Before the fall, Adam and Eve were sinless and perfect — God created them, the earth, and everything, and then declared it good. But Adam sinned against God. In Adam, all mankind fell into sin, and this affected all of creation.
I believe that an actual, physical Adam, who actually fell into sin, is a very important tenant of the Christian faith. If you do not believe in a real Adam and original sin, you cannot have a proper view of the rest of life, of God, or of salvation, of Jesus Christ the savior and last Adam (as the Bible refers to him in places). If Adam was not real and did not fall into sin then you believe that God created something that was flawed and less than perfect.
So those are some of the things I believe that are relevant to this review, this story, and what I will say. An ever growing majority of people, including those who would identify themselves as Christians (Christ followers) would disagree with the majority of what I have said above. They would laugh and scoff. Many believe in the theory of evolution, many do not believe in a literal Adam. Many do not believe a flood existed. There are even some who believe that if God sent a flood then he’s a mean spirited and unjust God who killed millions of innocent people.
The Biblical Evaluation
The first level on which the film is to be evaluated for me as a Christian is its truthfulness. How faithful was it to the Holy Scriptures? Was the story, in essence, true? Did it malign the character of God if taken as a Biblical story? Did it change the character of those involved (like Noah)?
This film is based on a passage of scripture that does not give us a lot of details. And I am okay with the film taking some liberties with the story. What did Noah eat on any given day? What did a pre-flood earth look like? Details that are not explicitly defined in scripture are up for grabs.
If you have not read the Biblical account lately (or never), I recommend getting caught up, I’m about to do some comparisons. Here is the KJV version on Biblegateway for your convenience.
Many believe that fallen angels came to earth to breed with men and produce giants that were half human, half angel. I personally believe that interpretation of the passages at hand are a stretch, but many believe that and I would not have been surprised to find that element in Noah.
But what we got was far more strange. Rock people that resembled nothing so much as one of Michael Bay’s transformers, but made out of rock. These guys are supposed to be fallen angels. You see they were made of light and then they came to earth to help man when man fell into sin. But God cursed them so that when they came to earth, the earth stuck to them and encrusted them in rock.
These guys then apparently helped Noah build the ark. In fact, it looks to me that in the film, they practically just built it altogether.
Ezekiel 14:14, Hebrews 11:7, and 1 Peter 2:5 all make it clear that Noah was counted as a righteous man. In the Bible, he’s on God’s side, he’s one of the good guys. The problem is, in this film, Noah is not righteous. He does not preach righteousness, he does not act righteous. He’s left to interpret the muddy dreams “the creator” gives him and make decisions. He makes bad ones.
At one point, Ham is trying to save a girl who he obviously likes and wants to marry, and Noah essentially kills her by leaving her to die and be trampled.
Noah wants to kill his own grandsons. Noah doesn’t want anyone to be saved. He wants mankind to die out completely. None of this is in the Bible and in fact we know that Noah was a preacher of righteousness. I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that Noah called people to repentance. Ultimately, he was only able to save seven other souls. But the movie makes him out to be more or less a wicked and bloodthirsty man.
Methuselah and Magic
Noah has a muddy and unclear vision. One of the things he sees is a lush green mountain surrounded by the barren wasteland that is depicted as pre-flood earth. This is apparently a mountain that belongs to Methuselah, Noah’s grandfather. Noah interprets this to mean that he should go visit grandpa Methuselah.
Methuselah is a weird old man who can make Noah’s son sleep by touching his thumb to said son’s forehead. Then he mixes up some magic potion which puts Noah in a trance where he has a slightly less muddy but expanded version of the vision. He’s standing on a bloody earth, a flood comes, there’s an ark. So now Noah wants to build an ark to save the innocent — the animals.
Methuselah can also heal girls who are barren so that they will be able to bare children just by touching their stomach.
In the end, Methuselah finds the berries he’s been looking for since we first saw him, and is swallowed up by the flood.
A Distant God
In the Bible, it is clear that God spoke to Noah and gave him every detail he would need. He told him exactly what was going to happen. He even told him how to build the ark. In the film, we only get a vague sense of God. He’s sitting off in the distance, and he’s angry. But he might save Noah if Noah is lucky enough to figure out the muddy visions.
I think this is the problem with atheists and agnostics making a film like this. The view is either that God does not exist, or if he does, he’s just floating out there somewhere, likely angry with us for no reason, inscrutable, uncaring. And he sort of leaves us to ourselves — until in this case he just gets too angry to deal with it all anymore.
The Dominion Mandate and Tubal-cain
There is a concept in scripture we often refer to as the dominion mandate. The concept is that God gave man dominion over the earth. Fill it, subdue it, use it, take care of it.
Tubal-cain is essentially the villain in this film. But the film depicts him as evil for basically holding the dominion mandate. He spouts that he has taken dominion of the earth. He tells God that essentially, “you made me in your image, am I not doing as you have commanded?” This is a warped view of the dominion mandate, but it nevertheless seems to me to be a condemnation of it.
While inconsistently held throughout the film, there is the idea that killing is bad — whether it be killing another human, or killing an animal. Noah tells his son(s) that killing any other living creature is wrong. “Man believes killing and eating flesh will make them stronger. But they have forgotten the one who gives them strength”.
But in the Bible, what’s the first thing we read about when Noah gets off the ark? Animal sacrifices to God. This film has the issues mixed up. The wickedness of man is not the killing of animals, which in reality God specifically commands. God killed an animal in the garden right before he cast man out to take the skin and clothe Adam and Eve with it. No the issue is the wickedness and violence of man to other men and the sin and disobedience to the creator.
There Is Goodness In Us
In the end, the reason Noah spares anyone — remember, the idea is that God asked Noah to choose and make decisions about the fate of man — is that he becomes convinced that after all there is some goodness in man. There is some goodness in the grandchildren. His heart was filled with nothing but love even though all we’ve seen from Noah up to this point is hate and vengefulness.
That is really bad theology. There is none righteous, there is none good, there is none that seeks after God. God did not save man because of any goodness in men or any particular man — and in the real story it is God that save man and God that chooses — God saved man, the eight souls on the ark, because he chose to.
Not a Good or Truthful Story
So on that first basic level this film fails utterly and entirely. The film does not communicate truth, it does in fact malign the character of God and the humans involved in the story. And it has many warped views from bad or no theology, which in summary are:
- God is not a God of mercy
- God is distant and angry
- God is inscrutable and unknowable
- Noah was not a righteous man, but was blood thirsty and vengeful
- The dominion mandate is basically evil and bad for the earth
- Methuselah was a magical and good man, but he was killed in the flood
There much more that I do not have the time nor the inclination to write about.
So does the film work as a fantasy? I would argue that, no, the film is a terrible fantasy. So many critics and people in general like the film, but I would hazard a guess that were this film named, The Adventures of Gandalf, or The Adventures of Harry Potter — in other words, were this simply a fantasy not at all based on a Biblical story — that not very many would like it at all. It fails on so many levels to be a good fantasy film. It plays off as more of a soap opera than anything else.
As I have already said, the fallen angles became rock people. And they were an awful plot device. The CGI was bad, the concept was bad, their lines were cheesy. They make no sense as characters, their motivations make no sense.
Noah’s motivations make no sense, we don’t really get to know him or identify with his perspective throughout the film. And we get to know his family even less. Noah is a terrible protagonist. He’s trying to kill everyone so that the animals and the earth can be at peace with no one to disturb it. And he made terrible mistakes that cost many people their lives.
The bad guys behave cartoonishly. There’s no depth of character, there are no reasons. They just want to destroy the earth. They want to conquer everyone and everything. Oh, and they hate God. The end.
The subplot involving Tubal-cain making it onto the ark as a stow-away is completely pointless and does nothing for the story.
The melodramatic elements of the film are silly and trite and it plays like nothing so much as a bad episode of Star Trek, expect that there’s a big budget behind it (though not big enough for better CGI).
In short, on any level I can evaluate this film, I found it to be a terrible film and not worthy of my time or attention. I hated it as a Biblical film and I hated it as a fantasy. I cannot recommend enough that you not waste your time or money on this film.