Christians are pretty worked up about the movie “Noah.”
There are complaints about its biblical inaccuracies—such as the fallen angels being portrayed as rock monsters who are actually on the side of Noah and not evil humanity, the number of people on the ark and details about what actually happens before and during the flood.
But in the midst of releases of movies like “God’s Not Dead” and “Son of God,” which are not receiving the crowds or ratings to qualify them as being successful hits, “Noah” is truly a breath of fresh air. It was created by a world-class director. It stars well-known actors who are loved and respected. It’s a good movie.
Does it accurately portray the exact details of the Bible story? Not exactly. But is it just a total blasphemous piece of work like Andres Serrano’s depiction of the crucifix in a vat of urine? No. In fact, I’d argue that perhaps the creative liberties taken by the writers and directors of this film are what make it intriguing, relatable and understandable from a human perspective.
Noah is one of those stories in the Bible that is amazing and awe-inspiring when you get the happy elephant/pretty rainbow/dove with the olive branch version of it as a child. But looking at it as a narrative as an adult, it’s quite a different portrait. Evil has consumed the hearts and minds of everyone on Earth. The world has become a sick, depraved place full of violence and wickedness. There is not one righteous person. Except Noah.
Noah is the only righteous man left. And he follows God’s commands, till the bitter end, no matter what happens (and really we don’t know all that happens; those details are just not provided). All we know is that he was righteous, he did what God asked of him, repeatedly, and when he finally made it to dry land, he planted a vineyard. And one day his sons found him passed out on the beach drunk.
What’s the story? We have the major elements, but most of the details are a guessing game. Surely Noah was righteous, God-fearing and obedient, but he was also human. I don’t know about you, but this is a part of the story I hadn’t entertained before. If Noah was human, then he was also fallen, and therefore imperfect. He was blameless before God, as he was not giving in to wicked thoughts and actions like the rest of the world, but that doesn’t mean he wasn’t without personality flaws.
As the only righteous person left among a world full of violent, evil people, it makes sense that Noah would feel burdened with the task God gave him. The details created by director Darren Aronofsky concerning the very realistic human elements of the famous story make this even more believable. What if Noah had to protect the ark from evil people who wanted to invade it? What if, on that ship with the only creatures who were going to survive the flood, Noah heard the screams and cries of the drowning children just outside the ark? And what if the tender-hearted women aboard pleaded with Noah to allow them on, to save those just outside the walls of the ark whose piercing cries sent chills down their spines? Noah was righteous, but he wasn’t necessarily perfect. He felt. As did the seven others on the ark with him. And who knows what kind of dynamics existed during those long 40 days and 40 nights?
One of the more controversial details of the movie (small spoiler alert) is Noah’s belief that God wants him to start the world over without humanity, which is evil and has corrupted the Earth. This leads Noah to some very disturbing decisions, which actually serve to turn the audience against him for a time. How could Noah be righteous and yet so merciless and cold?
It’s here that I’m reminded of the Abraham story. God asks Abraham to do the unthinkable: to sacrifice Isaac, his son, his most precious and most long-awaited gift. The story makes any parent sick to her stomach. But Abraham doesn’t revolt against God—he obeys, no matter the cost, because he is a righteous man with whom God has made his covenant. Of course, God does not make Abraham kill his son, but the fact that Abraham is willing to do so is both incredible and terrifying. God also does not ask Noah to end the human race, but what if he had? What does it take to follow God, no matter what, to the bitter end?
What makes God God is that he is at once righteous and merciful, simultaneously just and gracious. This is the miracle, the wonder, the deity of God. But Noah was not God. He was righteous, but was he merciful? We don’t know the answer to that. So what Aronofsky has done by painting Noah this way is, in my opinion, not only fair but sensible. Noah had to have the stamina to continue to build an ark to save himself, knowing that everyone else was going to perish. He had to put the will of God before any inkling he may have had to save his fellow man. However wicked they were, this couldn’t have been an easy task. Perhaps the weight of it all was so much to bear that he could hardly cope when it was finally over, and so he got drunk off the wine from his vineyard. Who knows?
The moments between stepping into the ark and stepping out of it onto dry land are largely unknown, and developing a story within those walls is not only good storytelling but important for creating characters that are realistic, emotional, human—reachable to an audience that is desperate for biblical heroes who are relatable.
Film is a huge area where Christians have the opportunity to break down barriers and show people the love of Jesus—and currently it’s an area we are simply not harnessing. No, “Noah” is not Biblically accurate in many ways (in fact, it’s even directed by an atheist) but it’s a well-done film that, despite its inaccuracies and creative liberties, shares the message of God’s love for the world and actually teaches a very crucial lesson about mercy and redemption.
Compared to the Christian movies made by Christians that are in theaters right now, “Noah” is a film that actually has potential to introduce non-Christians to the story of a biblical hero and the message of love and redemption. It certainly does it in an unconventional way (rock monsters as fallen angels and crazy live-animal-eating soldiers as depraved humanity), but people are actually showing up to the theater to watch it, and that’s half the battle.