It’s pretty amazing that a movie like Noah even exists. A big budget retelling of a Bible story with big name actors and a special effects budget that would make a film student drool, directed by a guy best known for his quirky, arty films. Surely this is going to be a disaster. The Bible crowd will either love it or hate it and it’s going to be a tough sell to get anyone else even interested.
As an epic fantasy movie with Biblical allusions, Noah is a great film. As a Biblically faithful account of the life of Noah… Well it makes a good fantasy movie.
Here’s what you need to be aware of before rocking up to the cinema: the film makers haven’t just taken some liberties with the account of Noah – they’ve thrown the book of Genesis into a blender, added a generous serving of Lord of the Rings, a splash of Manichean philosophy, and a pinch of mysticism, switch it on to full speed and then poured it into a cup labeled “Heavy-Handed Environmental Message. That’s Noah.
It doesn’t take a degree in theology to notice this story doesn’t really match up to the Biblical account. The descendants of Cain grown into an industrial superpower and plundered the earth of all its resources. They have destroyed the earth through their greed and wickedness. Noah, the descendant of Seth, alongside giant stone creatures (who are former angels), is charged by the Creator to build an ark to protect the innocents (the animals of the world) from the coming great disaster that will cleanse the world from the evil of mankind.
If this movie had been called something else… If this movie had been a little less heavy-handed with the talk of what happened in Eden… If this movie had a better handle on the nature and consequence of sin… This would have been a better movie. I would have preferred to watch a fantasy movie with Biblical themes and allusions than a Biblical story with fantastical elements awkwardly grafted on. Because as fantasy movies go, I enjoyed this one. The special effects were great, the story compelling, and some engaging themes. Sure, the makers of this film seemed more concerned with the theme of rampant greed and consumerism leading to our destruction than the theme of salvation, but I can live with that.
Noah is a great tool for evangelism. Here we have a big name movie in the public consciousness that both points to the Bible and the over-whelming sin of mankind. People are going to be talking about this movie. And the opportunities to turn the conversation towards Jesus are right in front of you. The wickedness of everyone on the planet is the reason given for the great flood. No one in this movie is without sin. There could be a danger here in thinking that Noah and his family are different – that they alone are “good” while everyone else is “evil”. After all, Noah seems to be following the Creator’s commands and looking after the earth, while everyone else is engaging in all kinds of debauchery. (Side note: am I right in thinking the tribes gathering outside Noah’s camp were engaging in cannibalism or am I misunderstanding what was happening there?) But as we later see, Noah and his family are dealing with their own sin and are just as worthy of punishment. This is especially true of Noah late in the film, who engages in acts that are clearly wicked, yet he is meant to be the “hero” of this story. Noah deals with the need for punishment for sin, but leaves the question open about the need for a saviour. There is no indication that things will be better for mankind now that they have a fresh start. No indication that the descendants of Noah won’t fall into wickedness. The Creator needs to do something to deal with this problem because flooding the earth is not a viable solution. The root cause of wickedness needs to be fixed. Sin needs to be obliterated at the source. That’s why we need Jesus – the only one who never sinned. Who though his death and resurrection defeated sin and promises a New Creation, free from sin and wickedness, for those who believe in him.
There’s one other danger with watching Noah – by adding in all of the fantasy stuff, this becomes the story of another place, another people. It’s no longer our story. Russell Crowe’s Noah is dealing with a problem somewhere far away from us. But the Noah of the Bible lived in our world. He faced the same problem of sin that we face because it is the same sin. Noah’s story is part of our story. The movie Noah creates a distance between us and the flood, which may lead to people feeling safe in their sin – because that’s what happened to people in fantasy land and I’m not as bad as them and the same consequences aren’t heading my way. But that’s wrong. God will punish wickedness. And it’s only through Jesus we can be rescued.
Go see Noah because of the great special effects and the evangelistic opportunities it will open up. But don’t go to see it because it’s a faithful retelling of the Biblical account. If you do that, you’ll only be disappointed.