Although I appreciate and understand artistic license, “Noah” went beyond the original script. And although some of the movie’s disclaimers (included in some previews) claim to have stuck with the “spirit” of the story, that’s not entirely true.
With gorgeous cinematography and some imaginative artistic licenses, it’s a shame that director Darren Aronofsky and writers Aronofsky and Ari Handel didn’t stay closer to the Biblical account, which has been inspiring people for thousands of years.
The original script or story can be found in the Book of Genesis, and it accounts the story of Noah and the ark he built in obedience to God. God speaks to Noah directly. He told him what He’s going to do. He told him about the rain, the flood, the animals, and God told Noah to bring his entire family into the ark.
“Noah” stars Russell Crowe as Noah and Jennifer Connelly as Noah’s wife, Naameh (the Bible does not name Noah’s wife). Noah’s sons, Shem, Ham, and Jpaheth, are played by Douglas Booth, Logan Lerman, and Leo McHugh Carroll respectively. Emma Watson plays Ila, Shem’s wife. The Bible does not name Shem’s wife.
Ray Winstone plays the main villain, Tubal-cain. Who ends up as a castaway on the ark, bent on killing Noah and manipulating Ham, which is many moves away from the original story.
Anthony Hopkins plays Noah’s grandfather, Methuselah. He lives all by himself on a mountain. He gives Noah drugged tea to make him face his visions from The Creator - the movie’s reference to God. Through Methuselah’s intervention, Noah understands what he must do.
These wonderful actors and actresses gave a wonderful performance. But missing from the cast are Ham and Japheth’s wives, as the Bible accounts. The people that were saved from the great flood were Noah, his wife, their sons, and their sons’ wives.
“Noah” portrayed Shem’s wife as barren but made whole through the blessing of Methuselah. This is not in the Bible.
Shem, Ham, and Japheth were not teenagers or kids. The Bible accounts they were men with fertile wives. Shem’s wife did not become pregnant with twin girls on the ark, which the movie leaves the audience to speculate would become Ham and Japeth’s wives in order to repopulate the Earth. But in the movie, Ham leaves his family without a wife and all by his lonesome, leaving the audience to speculate his lonely death.
“Noah” also brings us The Watchers, this movie’s nod to the Biblical Nephilim. Nobody is sure about who the Nephilim were as the Bible is unclear about them, except to say they were giants. Though not all giants were Nephilims, as with the case of Goliath.
In the movie, The Watchers are fallen angels. They were once light, angels who came to Earth to help the humans after they were cast out of Eden. But The Creator did not like that. So the angels’ bodies melded with mud and earth and they became rock giant creatures with extra limbs and limps. They taught the humans everything they know, which apparently includes mining and metalworks. The humans, in turn, used that knowledge for violence, creating armory and weapons like knives, metal spears, and guns.
It is fantastical, for sure, but a complete stray away from the Biblical account.
Other fantastical or magical elements that made its way into “Noah” include a seed from the Eden, given by Methuselah to Noah, which he plants. It bursts into a spring that instantly creates a forest, which is where Noah gets the wood to create the ark.
There is a snakeskin, shed by the snake that tempted Adam and Eve to eat the forbidden fruit. It was passed from Adam to his son and so on as a symbol of their birthright. It glows when it is wrapped around the arm, and that glow is passed from father to child with the touch of their fingers. That is definitely not in the Bible. And though artistic license could have been beautiful in the passing of the birthright, to use a glowing snakeskin feels like we got tossed into the world of Harry Potter.
There is also the coveted Zohar. The evil men mine for this gold/light stone-like element with magical powers. It makes light. It makes fire. It is used as “bullets” and makeshift grenade. It is also used in a pregnancy test for Ila.
“Noah” also depicts Noah’s drunkenness, which is accounted in the Bible. The movie shows that Noah got drunk because he was separated from his family and was in despair. The Bible does not say if Noah was in despair or not, just that he planted a vineyard, got drunk, and passed out naked inside his tent. Ham saw him in this state. Shem and Japheth covered their father with a blanket. When Noah woke, he found out what Ham did (the Bible is unclear what he did) and cursed Ham’s lineage while blessing his other sons.
The movie had these events happening in a beach cave, and depicted the final breaking of Noah and Ham’s relationship, not the curse. From there, Ham leaves, Ila talks sense to Noah, Noah reunites with his family, there’s a birthright ceremony with the snakeskin and the twin baby girls, and a rainbow explodes from heaven.
There is so much deviation from the Bible’s account that it’s hard to enjoy a movie titled “Noah” that supposedly based on the character Noah from the Bible. The story, the plot, the characters have been set for thousands of years. They could have made just as inspiring and wonderful movie by staying true to the original story. And many problems Noah had, like whether he was to kill his twin granddaughters or not, could have been avoided by staying true to the original story.
There are added layers and layers of unnecessary elements, as if making a Bible based movie that’s actually based on the events as recorded by the Bible was not interesting enough.
This is why the spirit of the story of Noah is not really in the movie “Noah.”
“Noah” depicts a man, obedient to the Creator, but is not reliant on the Creator. The movie’s Noah is very conflicted and obsessed with his own idea of who is to be saved and who is not, especially when his sons are to board the ark without fertile wives (which, again, could have been avoided if they stuck to the original story).
The previews show Noah boldly saying, “I am not alone.” In a bait and switch fashion, Noah is not referring to God in this proclamation. He is referring to The Watchers.
The Watchers, those fallen angels, help Noah and protect the ark from invaders. In doing so, they redeem themselves and go back up to heaven as light angels when the evil men destroy them. The spirit of the Biblical Noah aligns with the spirit - the message - of the Bible, which is that nobody (not man, not angel) can redeem himself. We need God, and God, who loves us, is the one who redeems us back to himself.
But the movie Noah does not need God. He figures out the vision with the help of Methuselah’s hallucinogenic tea. He’s the one who makes decisions on who to save or not to save. He defends the ark with the help of rock like creatures. He stops himself from killing his grandchildren - a la Abraham and Isaac without the divine intervention. Noah, by Noah’s free will, chose to save those baby girls. Noah gets past his faith crisis because of Ila’s words of wisdom.
“Noah” takes God out of the story except to refer to Him as The Creator, silent and giving obscure visions and a beautiful rainbow in the end. He says he has faith in The Creator, but doesn’t act like it. That is not the spirit of the Biblical Noah. The courage it must have taken, the tension, the problems, the weight of what God was about to do to the entire world - the movie captures those. But the heart, the spirit of Noah is not capture.
For great cinematography and acting, "Noah" a good movie to watch. If you don’t know the story of the Biblical Noah, watch this movie keeping in mind that it’s far from the Biblical accounts. If you know the story of the Biblical Noah, then get ready for a trip into fantasy if you watch this movie.