Long before its release, Noah was deluged in controversy. Some Christians praise the film for its themes of redemption and love winning out over malevolence, others revile it for taking so many liberties with the biblical account.
Director Darren Aronofsky offers a spectacular and often moving story, but it's obviously not the story of Noah. There's more Tolkien than Torah here, really, and more of Aronofsky himself than both of those. Perhaps this director made the Creator in his own image—full of mercy, magic and environmental sobriety. If you uncouple the movie from the Bible and take Noah as imaginative, fantastic fiction, it can begin to work. But hooked as it is to such a sacred narrative, well, let's just say it'll be hard for some Christians to swallow whole this fractious fable.
Harry Potter fans expect Harry Potter movies to stay mostly true to the book. History buffs are known to require historical dramas to follow actual history. I think it's reasonable, then, for Christians to ask that the stories most precious to them be treated with faithfulness—and that movies based on them would, y'know, stay at least in the ballpark. But Mr. Aronofsky has chosen a different tack, and so the ancient truth about Noah becomes more of a pretext for Middle-earth rock monsters and a tormented, half-mad Noah ready to kill his own kin.
Still, Jim Daly, president of Focus on the Family, believes there is redemption to be found. "Darren Aronofsky is not a theologian, nor does he claim to be," Daly says. "He is a filmmaker and a storyteller, and in Noah, he has told a compelling story. The film expresses biblical themes of good and evil; sin and redemption; justice and mercy. It is a creative interpretation of the scriptural account that allows us to imagine the deep struggles Noah may have wrestled with as he answered God's call on his life. This cinematic vision of Noah's story gives Christians a great opportunity to engage our culture with the biblical Noah, and to have conversations with friends and family about matters of eternal significance."
What kind of conversation might that be? Well, possibly one exploring just who God really is. We see glimpses of His character in Noah: His beautiful design, His sorrow that humanity ran away from Him, His righteous anger and determination to wipe the slate clean and start again. He chose Noah—whom the Bible calls "the last righteous man"—because he's the guy who best understands God's sorrow and anger and justice. Or, as Noah himself puts it, "He knew I would complete the task, nothing more."
And sometimes it's even in the things the film changes that spiritual lessons emerge. One example: As Noah drifts into the idea that he's been tasked with ending all human life on earth, he comes to believe that the Creator is calling on him to kill his own granddaughters. He's desperately determined to follow through … until it comes time to actually complete the terrible charge.
"I looked down at those two little girls," he confesses, "and all I had in my heart was love."
It's poignant that Noah, the last righteous man, felt such love in that moment. Because that's what God feels when He looks down on us. We are sinners. We constantly fail Him. We deserve death, He tells us. But in His eyes, we're also beautiful. And God's love for us—His mercy and grace—ends up saving us.