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Review: Darren Aronofsky’s ‘Noah’

Russell Crowe's Noah bears little semblance to the Bible's
Russell Crowe's Noah bears little semblance to the Bible's
ticket stub Carmike Theater

Noah the movie


A plague is once again being visited upon the land. Unlike the ones God sent to convince Pharaoh to let His people go during the Egyptian captivity, this one has nothing to do with locusts, frogs, flies, or a river turning to blood. This time the plague is manifesting itself upon movie screens all across America. Its name is “Noah” and that is almost the extent of its fidelity to the narrative in the Holy Bible.

Having been encouraged by friends and readers I acquiesced and shelled out the $9.00 for a matinee ticket yesterday at a Dover, DE. movie theater to watch Darren Aronofsky’s “Noah.” The only thing as painful as watching the movie was the fact that I was paying to see it, adding to whatever financial success it ultimately enjoys.

In view of the images upon the big screen, it seemed appropriate that here in the First State there were torrential downpours throughout the day. Starring New Zealand born veteran actor Russell Crowe, of “Gladiator,” “Beautiful Mind,” and “Cinderella Man” fame, amongst numerous others, in the title role, “Noah’ is an ambitiously unbiblical mishmash of hyper-environmentalist propaganda, peppered with mystic eastern religion, with a subtle hint of scriptural “Twister” thrown in for good measure.

Darren Aronofsky, the man behind the movie, is an intriguing individual to say the least. Creator (no pun intended) of such other films as “The Fountain,” and the absolutely pornographic “Black Swan,” Aronofsky seems at times equal parts politician and filmmaker. In a one-on-one with the Washington Post, explaining the impetus for making “Noah,” he tells interviewer Sarah Pulliam Bailey:

I was raised Jewish in Brooklyn. I can’t really remember my first exposure to the Noah story, to be honest. It’s one of those things we’re all taught very, very young.

The word disingenuous is bandied about with little regard for its true meaning these days, but in light of the fact that Mr. Aronofsky is also quoted as saying:

…I’m Godless. And so I’ve had to make my god, and my god is narrative filmmaking, which is -- ultimately what my god becomes, which is what my mantra becomes…

it does savor utterly disingenuous that he would invoke his Jewish heritage at a time it was expedient to do so. But I digress.

There are various points of contention between the Noahic global flood account in the Bible and the story told by Aronofsky and the players in the film. Ironically the writer-director is quoted, on one hand, as saying that “Noah” is:

…the least biblical biblical film ever made

and on the other hand the Washington Post interview contradicts this statement as he contends:

…every part of the story fits the biblical narrative

I have difficulty knowing exactly what to do with all that dichotomous blather, but it’s evident there was practically no regard given for the historical-biblical account of the great flood in the making of the photoplay.

As justification for the license he uses in “Noah,” Aronofsky says:

Of course there’s [sic] liberties, I mean, we’re making a movie here. If you read the four chapters that the Noah story takes place in, Noah doesn’t even speak. How are you going to cast Russell Crowe and not have him talk? Noah’s wife and his sons’ three wives aren’t even named in the Bible.

It is true that Noah is not directly quoted in the SIX, not FOUR chapters Genesis 5:32-10:1 (also eight references in the New Testament) where one finds his story. Of the fellow movie-goers I spoke with after, no one took exception to the fact that Russell Crowe’s character spoke in the film. However, there was a great deal of contention about the words he spoke and the development of Aronofsky’s Noah which were deeply unharmonious with Scripture.

There are so many false representations it is difficult to focus on them all and absolutely impossible to list each one in this forum. But for instance:

  • Noah in the Bible is described as “a just man and perfect in his generations, [who] walked with God (Genesis 6:9 KJV) and a “preacher of righteousness.” (2 Peter 2:5)
  • Hollywood’s Noah is a brooding, obsessive environmentalist, and a cold-hearted, infanticidal zealot, who despises mankind for its destruction of the planet, above all. Even more disturbing, is the fact that it’s the “Creator” who Noah is supposedly slavishly loyal to that is making him that way.

Other glaring contradictions include –

  • The movie Noah is vaguely warned by God in a dream about the flood. He fails to understand the magnitude of this night-vision until he drinks a hallucinogenic “tea” given to him by his cave-dwelling grandfather Methuselah, played by Anthony Hopkins.

The biblical Noah is simply told by God:

The end of all flesh is come before me; for the earth is filled with violence through them; and, behold, I will destroy them with the earth. Make thee an ark of gopher wood; rooms shalt thou make in the ark, and shalt pitch it within and without with pitch. And, behold, I, even I, do bring a flood of waters upon the earth, to destroy all flesh, wherein is the breath of life, from under heaven; and every thing that is in the earth shall die. (Genesis 6:13-14, 17 KJV)

  • In addition to the divinely anesthetized critters on board the ark, the movie version includes Noah, his wife, his sons Shem, Ham, and Japheth, Shem’s wife “Ila” and stow-away evil king nemesis of Noah’s named “Tubal-cain.”
  • The shipmates on board the actual ark were the aforementioned animals – which came by twos and/or sevens, depending upon whether or not they were considered “clean” or “unclean” – Noah, his wife, his three sons and their wives. (See Genesis 6:18, 7:2-3)
  • In opposition to the Bible, Noah’s son Ham is portrayed as a lustful teenager in search of a wife to take into the ark before the flood comes to satiate his hormonal impulses.
  • Also, the Bible does NOT indicate that Noah’s father Lamech was murdered when Noah was a small boy. Lamech lives long after Noah is born. (Genesis 5:30)
  • Methuselah does NOT die being swallowed up by a giant tidal wave.
  • No one gives birth on the ark. Not to a single child or twins as Ila is shown doing in the movie.
  • Tubalcain, a prominent figure in the film, is mentioned once in the Bible (Genesis 4:22) and never interacts with Noah.
  • In the Bible, fallen angels do NOT become beneficent, Tolkien-esque creatures of stone called Watchers, intent upon helping mankind and in particular Noah in his erection of the ark.

In fairness to the filmmakers there were actually a few scenes presented with a tiny modicum of consistency. For example:

  • God sent the animals into the ark by divine fiat. Many falsely believe that Noah went out with whips and lassos and “herded” them in.
  • The movie shows that when the rains came the “fountains of the great deep” were also “broken up” to accelerate the progress of the flood.
  • Additionally, Russell Crowe’s character does read text from the first chapter of Genesis, although throughout his recitation and the entire movie in fact, God is always referred to as the “Creator” rather than God.

I suppose this bothered some folks more than it did me personally. God the Almighty IS after all the Creator of heaven and earth and every organic and inorganic thing within. Although I hasten to add that I understand the contempt for the use of the term by a self-professing atheist. “Creator” also smacks of the deist ideology of a supreme being that formed the cosmos and created life, but then simply sat back in a sort of disinterested manner watching all the events unfold.

Furthermore after the flood waters begin to recede Noah is indeed found drunk and naked by his son Ham as shown in the movie. But the point of that detail in the Bible is that Ham is cursed for breaking God’s (as of then implicit) moral law to honor his father since he summoned his brothers to come and see the state Noah was in, instead of covering him up as Shem and Japheth do. Of course the writers place no value upon God’s commandments so one wouldn’t reasonably expect them to highlight this idea.

In conclusion, a point that might not jump out prominently at the viewer, but one that I have understood to be true for some time, is the implication of Aronofsky’s pluralistic approach to religion in general. In “Noah” and in a previous film “The Fountain,” both of which he co-wrote with fellow Jew-turned-atheist Ari Handel, the idea is presented that all religions have absolutely equal merit.

To an atheist, pluralism is the ultimate argument against the existence of the God of the Bible. And to an extent they make a case. After all if every “religious viewpoint” has equal merit, then none has any. THIS is the point that Aronofsky strives to make in his films, the one now playing in theaters everywhere definitely included.

The fact that he prostitutes one of the most compelling narratives in the Old Testament – one which is both literal in that it actually happened AND allegoric as a type or foreshadow of salvation in Christ in its symbolism – to advance his own nefarious is in a word “contemptible.”

For anyone planning to see “Noah” I apologize for the spoilers in this review. But this unentertaining drivel-fest of a rotten tomato was spoiled at its inception anyway.

On the bright side though, the popcorn was really good.


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