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Movies, Reviews, Theology and Apologetics

Movie Review: ‘Noah’ (Major Spoilers)

I don’t usually do full blown reviews, but I would like to give others my perspective on this movie because I think it was extremely nuanced, and from what I’ve heard, people are missing out on a lot of what I saw in the film. I was grateful to see the movie with a group of Christians who watched it with an open mind and gathered all this and more, shared in wonderful discussion afterwards.

Noah: 5 out of 5. This movie was one of the best I’ve seen in recent years. I want to first applaud the cast and writers, who took what is a very short, un-detailed passage of the Bible and turned into something so extremely human. I was brought to tears and my mind was racing with thought. Bravo.

It started off somewhat awkward and had its share of slow moments, but it kept the pace of the story well. This is a hard balance to achieve and I didn’t feel as if any time was lost by the end of the movie.

The cinematography was very well done for the most part as well. A couple cheesy shots here and there, but overall, my attention was completely focused.

I really want to focus on the themes I took from the different characters in the movie.

Humans don’t always understand God, no matter how hard they try.

Noah was the prime host of this theme in the movie. Noah had nothing but a strong desire to follow God and do righteousness. The movie showed this Biblical description as a grief-borne zeal in Noah. He never questioned his faith and did what he understood to be right frequently and passed this knowledge on to his sons.

But Noah was also misguided in the movie. He had two major misconceptions of God’s will. First, that man, who was evil and flawed, was meant to serve creation, which was perfect. Second, that God’s intention behind the flood was to remove humanity from the world completely.

His desire to do right and his misunderstanding of God culminated in the scene where he is crying out to God, begging God to show him that he doesn’t need to kill Illia’s newborn children. He didn’t have the Jewish law or any scripture by which to understand God. When love overcame him and he was unable to carry out what he thought God wanted, he believed himself to be a failure, and further descended into pain and grief. This is not what God wished for Noah, but it is what Noah believed.

This depiction of Noah is beautiful to me because it is so human. We all have misconceptions of God, which lead us to misconceptions of right and wrong. And it tears at us. It leads us sometimes to do things that hurt us and the people around us because of what we believe about God.

Different conceptions of God lead to radically different ways of living.

Noah and the King showed completely different perspectives of God. The King believes that God does not really care about what happens to them and that everything in the earth belongs to humans. He believes his is the ultimate authority over his surroundings. The scene where Noah visits the King’s camp at night and sees how people treat each other and treat creation was so disturbing and so different from Noah’s intense care to treat creation with care and desire to teach others to do the same.

Noah’s conception of humanity as being wicked and condemned by God leads him to zealously fight for this, even to the point of rejecting his family and himself. He does not understand that God’s love for humanity is greater than that for any of the rest of creation.

Ham views God through the lens of his father’s interpretation, and when his father’s interpretation begins to spoil in his eyes, his understanding of God begins to spoil. He is angry that he cannot have a wife (which is un-Biblical, he was already married, but that wouldn’t very well contribute to this theme. Take it as you will.), he is angry with his father for believing his nieces need to die, and the influence of the King begins to take hold in him.

Then there is, of course, the mass body of people who are only concerned about their well-being, and are therefore very prone to the influence of strong, even evil men, like the King. Their idea of God is even more distant than that of the King’s. Their culture is shaped by their immediate needs and women are treated as commodities to be traded.

The entirety of the Old Testament can be read through this theme. Different concepts of God lead to radically different ways of living. It is amazing the director of this film could capture such a nuanced lens by which to read the Old Testament in this movie.

The abuse of God’s creation is evil.

This is a theme that is somewhat obvious, but also very controversial for some reason. Somehow, many people think that it is wrong for Noah to be portrayed as an environmentalist. Why is that?

I believe it’s because we here in America love our stuff too much and we generally associate environmentalism with the impairment of our material prosperity, so we condemn environmentalism. If that comment offends you, I would think harder about it. We are charged in the Bible to take care of God’s creation. We should all be staunch environmentalists.

The terrible and disturbing images of what the descendants of Cain did to the world struck a nerve. We should appalled by that. As we mentioned earlier, this does not mean the purpose of man is for creation, but it is our responsibility.

Also, I think that the scene that showed the King’s camp proved that this whole thing wasn’t just about environmentalism. The destruction of the environment was something Noah was super sensitive to, but in reality, the destruction of creation was a symptom of the deep wickedness of the descendants of Cain, as we discussed their total misconception of God. Whether destruction of creation is the greatest evil, as in Noah’s eyes, or not, it is an evil we should be on guard against. And this sensitivity only gives a great humanity to Noah, as we are all sensitive to certain sins (to be real, mine are substance abuse and sexual promiscuity, but there are worse things).

The toughest line in the movie, for me, was when the King accused Noah (to Ham) of saving all the animals he could while letting every child on earth drown. It is a typical dilemma for me, when considering environmental effects of economic activity, to see how withholding certain environmental resources can harm poor populations.

But it is the wickedness in man that has condemned him to die, not his abuse of the environment, which is a fruit of his wickedness. And the concept of corporate responsibility, that an entire group of people can be responsible for the actions of just one of its members, is not something that we modern westerners hold very often. But it exists and the story of Noah is a great example.

The Old Testament doesn’t describe every detail of history.

Ok, let’s all be honest here for a minute. The Bible is not exhaustive in its record of history. That should be obvious. Granted it’s pretty inconsistent with scripture that fallen angels were cursed with a form of earth and taught humans how to manipulate creation. I would say the movie as a whole is only 65% Biblically accurate. I certainly didn’t like that some things got left out and the fallen angel plot was a little odd, but I still found value in it. I especially loved the element of redemption for the angels who begged for God’s forgiveness and served him until death.

The spaces in the Bible that were filled in this movie were phenomenal. The whole plot with Noah’s adopted daughter was so touching. Emma Watson provides a moving performance and is the element that finally breaks though to Noah, shoving love in the way of his misconceptions of God.

The father-son struggle between Ham and Noah was another human, realistic detail added to the story. Ham, who desperately wanted someone and was tired of being alone, fighting against his father’s will to become his own man. And in the end doing just that, having to find his own way.

Even the character of the King was a detailed, powerful description of a man who lived in opposition to righteousness.

Methuselah, being a man of incredible power, blessed by God, was only mentioned in genealogy in the Bible as living to 965 years old. The details of his personality, the powers accompanying immense age, Anthony Hopkins’ portrayal, this was all wonderful detail added that would not have been covered in the Bible.

The fact that all the added details provided a consistent, powerful, and human theme to a very un-detailed story in the Bible is something to be praised.

The story of Genesis can be interpreted partially figuratively.

There is a completely legitimate exegetical school of thought that says Genesis is a spiritual description of an incomprehensible physical event. Therefore, when we read Genesis, one can understand that every part of it is important. But since the creation story is told in two different ways in Genesis, one can understand that it might not be 100% literal. It might be that it was described in the way that we need to understand it in, but not described in scientific detail (obviously).

The fact that Noah didn’t take a fully figurative approach shows further understanding of how to read the scripture. It still claims that God raised up Adam from the dust, to be different from the rest of creation. And it still claims God raised up Eve as well and they both were tempted and fell to sin.

This is how, as a long time believer with extensive formal study of Genesis, have interpreted Genesis for many years: partially literal.

It is wonderful that this theme exists in Noah too.

 

Overall, I think this movie showed more understanding of the Old Testament than most Christians do, despite the artistic license it took in picking and choosing elements to change. I consider it as accurate a representation of the story of Noah as 300 was about Thermopylae (Which was a really cool film that Christians didn’t bother about).

I believe this movie has and will continue to minister to many and show a great understanding of these themes that I talked about above. These are things God can use to speak to our culture.

So you can condemn it or do your best to understand and talk about Noah in a healthy way with people, encourage dialogue and understand with fellow Christians and unbelievers alike. I know what I’ll be doing. You might even learn something!

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About Josh Poland

Worship Leader, Economist, Musician, Martial Artist

Discussion

3 thoughts on “Movie Review: ‘Noah’ (Major Spoilers)

  1. Josh, you never fail to give wonderful inspiring insight!

    Posted by Darcy Phillipa | April 11, 2014, 11:13 pm

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  1. Pingback: Thinking About ‘Noah’ | Josh Poland - March 31, 2014

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