Sunday, April 13, 2014

NOAH- A Review

The Tidal wave of praise and criticism for “NOAH”, Darren Aronofsky’s Biblical (?) epic has died down now that “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” has taken the silver screen. I waited nearly a full week to sneak into a theater (lest my fundamental, independent Baptist brethren see me and excommunicate me…) and watch what many in Christendom are ridiculing, condemning, and declaring heresy.

This review will NOT focus entirely on the Doctrinal errors which abound in NOAH. I took extensive notes on my dimmed, held low iPhone so I wouldn’t incur the wrath of those around me, though the theater was nearly 90% empty.

So let’s get the doctrinal issues out of the way:

Yes, the movie promotes Environmentalism and Veganism, declaring that God was flooding the earth to punish man for what he had done to the earth, not necessarily for his sinfulness. It fails to show God allowing the eating of meat after the flood, instead showing men eating meat before the flood, inferring that the sin of being a carnivore contributed to God’s wrath. Evolution is mixed with Creationism, as a fish grows legs and crawls out of the water, growing hair and evolving. Man’s dominion of the earth is shown as evil, as the villain of the movie, Tubal-Cain quotes Genesis 1:28’s command to subdue the earth as his birthright.

Also, the movie has quite a bit of mysticism. Methuselah is shown as a mystic with healing powers. Noah concocts a magical smoke that puts all the animals on the ark asleep, supposedly for a year. There is some kind of magic rock coveted by the earth’s inhabitants, it’s apparently the only way they can make fire. Adam and Eve, on the positive side are shown clothed in the Shekinah Glory of God. On the negative, their appearance is similar to the hairless aliens we have seen in countless other movies.

Then of course there are the Rock Angels. Fallen Angels who are cast out of Heaven by God because He wanted to punish man, but the Angels wanted to help man. Now they are encased in rock and look like the mountain giants in The Hobbit movie.

The greatest offense of the movie though, and its greatest failure, is literary. It’s disregard for the personality and character of its title subject is it’s singular problem, and the reason I don’t recommend the movie to Christians. It will just make you furious, and you have better ways to spend your time.

Noah, as imagined by Aronofsky and portrayed by Russell Crowe, is a nihilistic, depraved sociopath with infanticide and genocide on his mind.

The movie’s Biblical Consultant Josh Snowden, a youth pastor from California, defends Noah’s homicidal rage by appealing to the fact that God commanded Abraham to sacrifice Isaac, Jonah’s desire to see all of Nineveh destroyed, David’s Murderous adultery. But the Biblical account does not indicate that Noah had such desires. Noah is described as being the one man in all of creation who found grace in the eyes of the LORD. Unlike the movie, the Biblical account shows NOAH clearly hearing the voice of God, instructed clearly that God was making a covenant with him personally (Genesis 6:18). Noah was not confused as to the intentions of the LORD in the source material.

And this is why NOAH fails.

My disappointment with the movie is the same disappointment I have with most literature-to-silver screen adaptations: Little to no respect for the source material. Holly wood has a long and inglorious history of marketing by committee, adding and subtracting from great literary works because they want the best demographic, the best Q score. In doing so they often destroy the very mood, moment, or message that made the novel, play or epic poem beloved by so many.

The most recent example are the movies based on J.R.R. Tolkien’s novels. I do like the Lord of the Rings Trilogy by Peter Jackson, but with the exception of the first movie, they diverged wildly from the tone and intent of the novels. The romance between Aragon and Arwen does not appear in the original text, but is a supplemental story Tolkien added in the appendix. The moviemakers took it and ran with a subtext to entice young ladies into watching the movies. They even added the pendant Evenstar, a gift to Aragon from Arwen, which was the creation of Marion Zimmer Bradley in a short story she wrote based on Tolkien’s work, though in Bradley’s story the necklace was given to Frodo.

In Jackson’s The Hobbit trilogy the additions are so overwhelming, only the skeletal frame of the original story resembles Tolkien’s work. To please audiences this children’s book is made much darker, more action oriented, and cast members from the LOTR movies make several cameo’s, even though LOTR is a sequel to The Hobbit.

Though these movies are fine, and I enjoy them, they cannot be said to be faithful to the text.

Last year’s The Man of Steel Superman reboot included Superman doing the ONE THING he has never don in over 76 years of comic, radio, television and movie history. He kills. Because Christopher Nolan (the producer and co-writer) seemed to think there was no other solution to the General Zod problem. But in doing so, he took away the core moral attribute that makes Superman the Hero we have loved for so long.

There are many other examples I could quote, from Robert Redford in the terrible 1972 adaptation of The Great Gatsby to the utter mess John Huston made of Raymond Chandler’s masterful storyline in the Bogart and Bacall starring The Big Sleep, (which was saved only by masterful cinematography and Bogie and Bacall’s natural chemistry). How about the last two adaptations of  Richard Matheson’s I Am Legend, Charlton Heston’s The Omega Man and Will Smith’s recent movie keeping the original title? Both versions make Robert Neville the hero, when the book clearly ends with Neville shown as the actual villain of the story.  Also, ANY live movie adaptation of a Dr. Seuss book (and even most animated ones as well), especially the train wreck Mike Meyers made of The Cat in The Hat. And do we have to mention Jack Black in Gulliver’s Travels?

Obviously movies are a different medium from literature, with pacing, dialogue and structure requirements that make a adaptation from a literary source difficult at best.

I don’t have qualms with some of the additions Aranofsky imposed on NOAH, as much as I am troubled by the changes to the central character’s motivation, moral center, and character development.

The original text tells us of only one fault in the life of Noah, his drunkenness after the flood. Before the Flood, and during the time on the Ark, the Biblical Record shows Noah as the only truly righteous man left on the earth, the only one God is willing to save with the hope of restarting the line of mankind.

To turn Noah into a depressed, psychotic sociopath intent on killing his own granddaughters, a man who is not really certain of God’s intentions through the flood but who decides for himself that mankind has absolutely no hope and needs to be exterminated, that violates the core motivation of the character as presented in the original text.

Doctrinal errors were bound to happen in a production like this. What surprises me is how Evangelicals bought The Passion of The Christ by Mel Gibson whole cloth, ignoring the glaring doctrinal errors, but a few years later went on the attack against NOAH before the movie was ever seen. That’s why I waited until I saw the movie, and digested it for a week or so, before weighing in. I didn’t like the movie, but I had to give it a fair shake.

Don’t tell your unsaved friends to avoid the movie, let them see it, then talk to them, ask questions, show them how the Biblical account is different, and let the discussion wander into the Gospel.  In the 3 days after the opening of the movie, The You Version bible App reported a 300% increase in people reading the 6th through 9th chapters of Genesis. In actual numbers it was around 130,000 times per day. That’s a lot of people who might just be reading the Bible for the first time.

We have an open door with NOAH. We may not approve of the movie, but we can certainly take advantage of the opportunity it provides to share the Gospel.

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