Okay, before you get all excited about what you hope is or is not in Darren Aronofsky’s Noah, let me crush your dreams. First, there is no Bill Cosby cameo and at no time does Noah ask God, “What’s a cubit?” Secondly, I suspect that, to make up for his Javert, Crowe must now sing in every subsequent movie, so be prepared for a wee bit of crooning. And finally, while the acting is very good, if you like your Biblical epics flavored with some serious eye-candy, you will not be disappointed as everyone, except for the bad guys — just beautiful.
Okay, I’m done being a wisenheimer.
Before I get into the review, I want to thank the folks from Different Drummer who, from time to time, invite me to attend special movie screenings. In all honestly, when I received the invite, my first reaction was NOT to accept. I am not a huge Russell Crowe fan and I tend to shy away from Biblical epics and religious statement movies. But, since Glenn Beck panned it, my oppositional behavior muscle could not resist and I agreed to view and write a review of Darren Aronofsky’s Noah.
In short, I ended up enjoying Noah far more than I thought I would. The Biblical accuracy debate aside, Noah draws the audience into a place where we are forced to think about important life questions: the nature of God, the presence of good and evil and to what extent we will go to live out our convictions.
I am no Biblical scholar, but I did study the Hebrew Bible in seminary, but when it comes to Biblical “accuracy,” I do not expect any film to be able to get everything right. Biblical scholars and religions pundits can’t agree on much, so I have no delusions about the ability for any blockbuster to be able to present an indisputable interpretation of any Biblical narrative. Expectating these movies to effectively teach the nuances and practicalities of the Bible would be like telling my teenage daughter that she should learn how to drive by taking in any of the Fast and Furious movies . . . especially Tokyo Drift. I am also comfortable with directors taking creative liberty in order to express their interpretation of sacred texts in order to open up conversations about faith, God and the Bible. So, did they get everything “right,” certainly not, but in the case of a Hollywood interpretation, does it matter, not really.
If you would like to dive in a little deeper, I suggest heading over the www.floodofnoah.com, where there are some interesting conversations happening; you will find some great resources on the weekly preaching help, www.textweek.com; and if you want to explore the fuller context of Genesis, I suggest Genesis: Interpretation: A Bible Commentary for Teaching and Preaching by Walter Brueggemann.
Noah as a Movie…
Overall Noah was a visually and emotionally satisfying movie. Aronofsky showed great restraint in using CGI and, except for a few style choices that I didn’t care for, I thought it was a pretty stunning movie. I particularly enjoyed the expansive scenes of the animals moving towards the ark and the waters scenes were done just big enough. One of my favorite visual effects was during the telling of how life came to be — and that’s all I’ll say about that.
As far as how the acting was, suspending historical accuracy of the people being White with English or Australian accents, I thought the casting was pretty good. Yes, they were all beautiful, but don’t hold it against them. Jennifer Connelly, Emma Watson and Russell Crowe each gave inspiring performances. Deftly supporting them were Logan Lerman, Douglas Booth and Ray Winstone, and Anthony Hopkins, as Methuselah, was good as always.
Finally, word about the violence and harrowing nature. While Noah is pretty violent and borderline PG-13, it did not seem gratuitous to me. While it certainly was not at Gladiator levels, viewers should be aware that there is a constant presence of violence and harrowing situations that run throughout the movie. This is not just punching and fist-fighting, there are swinging axes, big battles, and blood spatter throughout. Every kid is different, but I would exercise extreme caution when deciding who goes to see Noah maybe even waiting until Kids-In-Mind comes out with their review.
Why you should go see Noah…
Without spoiling the movie’s particular interpretations of this widely known Biblical narratives, I will say that there were many compelling scenes that raise important questions. As I sat watching Noah, I found myself pondering theological tension after theological tension. Noah is fueled by the constant wrestling with the relationship between the created and the Creator and offers timeless questions that people must work through no matter their faith tradition or belief system.
- There is a beautiful scene between Ila (Watson) and Noah (Crowe) that raises questions of one’s worth, both perceived and experienced.
- The interpretations of how the earth and human beings (“Man” was used throughout the film) were created provided some nuance and texture to those who might want to dive into the creationism and evolution conversation.
- Over and over again Noah struggles with the nature of evil and good in humanity — Where does evil come from and what does judgement look like?
- Naameh (Connelly) challenges Noah on the ramifications of the choices he makes in the name of the Creator which begs the question, “To what end would you follow God?”
- Noah’s and other’s constant attempts to speak to the Creator lifts up questions about, not only how we speak to the Creator, but how we listen for and interpret any response.
- Noah’s constant interpretations of the tasks he believes he is called to undertake also forces the question, “How much would God ask of those who believe?”
- And finally, the biggest questions for me is the nature of new beginnings. Do we have to experience death in order to experience new life and what does that look like today?
These are, of course, only some of the questions raised by Noah, but I will say compared to some other movies I have seen in this genre, that’s pretty good. For a blockbuster, big effect, epic film, it does a good job at being both entertaining and thought provoking, so if you are looking for a good flick to jump start some good conversations and delight the senses, you will not be disappointed by Noah.