Review by Leonard Freeman
Read the Bible story first, because it’s going to be a bumpy ride. That story is here: God, flood, humans despoiling the earth, Noah and family, animals two by two, and rainbow at the end. But lots more in between and all around.
A great deal of Darren Aaronofsky’s film introduces themes and elements that are in fact biblical, or at least biblically based — a bit like the Hobbit movies’ use of the back story of J.R.R. Tolkien’s Silmarillion to fill in blanks.
Directed by Darren Aaronofsky
Angelic, semi-fallen angel Watchers who look like Transformers made out of rock or Ents from Lord of the Rings? Yes, the Nephilim are in Scripture, albeit minimally.
Here humanity is the scourge of earth, so doing away with us all will restore the animals and creation to the edenic innocence that God the Creator intended.
We have a theology of human over-reaching as well: ejected from the garden to make our way by the sweat of our brows, we will do anything to survive, including seeing everything else as put here solely for exploitative service. Killing makes a man a man, says Jubal-Cain.
By contrast, the battle scenes of Noah fighting off those who want into the ark are nowhere near Scripture’s story. And while we may imagine that Noah stood firm amid the catcalls of those who thought he was crazy to build the ark, this also is not in the Bible. We have done a bit of extrapolating ourselves over the years.
Will you like this version? I think so. It includes an amazing visual telling of the creation story about three-quarters of the way through, perhaps the best ever committed to film. And Aaronofsky takes God, morality, love, and human failings absolutely seriously. Russell Crowe is a powerful and human Noah, as is his wife played by Jennifer Connelly, amid much other fine acting. The push and pull of human emotion is wholly believable, including the rage and fear that mold the faith of us all.
Is Noah crazy? Why does God not just talk to us when we are up against it? Are we indeed doing the Creator’s will? Is our own goodness the key?
The film has met with resistance, but not because it is a secularist version. Some Islamic countries have banned it for showing an image of a prophet; the Qur’an forbids this. Some dislike the rage of Noah, and the implication that God himself is wrathful in the face of human destruction. Some see it as pushing an environmentalist or vegetarian ideology. The straight shots at human attempts to do without God will not endear this film to atheists.
Noah offers a profound — serious, impressive, faithful — couple of hours on human life in a theological context. This is not a light afternoon at the movies; it’s rated PG-13 for good reason. I would leave the children at home, lest they run screaming from that cute little puppet ark you left for them under the tree.
The Rev. Leonard Freeman writes at the weblog poemsperday.com.