Will Hollywood’s Upcoming Noah Epic Offend Christians?
[Editor’s Note: Be sure to read my review of Aronofsky’s Noah film from March 2014 to see a thorough and thoughtful breakdown of the film’s controversial content and to learn about an excellent alternative to the film: the novel Noah Primeval by Hollywood screenwriter and Christian author Brian Godawa.]
I am a big Russell Crowe fan. In my opinion, he’s one of Hollywood’s most skilled dramatic actors and, although I know little about his spiritual beliefs, I have often prayed that he would know the grace of Christ and that God would use his talents for His glory.
When Paramount Pictures announced the film Noah—about the Biblical story of Noah and the Ark—starring Russell Crowe for a 2014 release, I was more than excited. When Hollywood’s best and brightest collaborate to faithfully tell a Biblical story onscreen, the result can be immensely powerful, as with successful epics like The Ten Commandments and The Passion of the Christ.
And then I saw the trailer for Noah, and it looked amazing. My excitement rose to another level.
But then, my heart sank. As details began to leak out about the script, it became clear that the trailer was concealing some of the film’s wild contradictions with Scripture — assuming, of course, these reports being leaked out were true.
Apparently, the source material for the film is not the Bible directly, but a graphic novel by Ari Handel, which embarks on a savage, Mad Max-like reimagined vision of the Biblical account with some bizarre add-ons and changes to the Bible’s text.
The director, Darren Aronofsky, an indie filmmaker best known for his Oscar-winning thriller/horror movie The Black Swan, set out to make Noah a depiction of “the first environmentalist,” according to reports. In an interview with IFC, the director summed up his view of the Biblical account of the Flood: “I don’t think it’s a very religious story… I think it’s a great fable that’s part of so many different religions and spiritual practices. I just think it’s a great story that’s never been on film.”
Although Aronofsky and any Christian would agree that the Biblical account is powerful and deserves to be on screen, the common ground would end there, unfortunately. It seems that Aronofsky does not consider the Bible to be the inspired Word of God or even a true account of history. It shouldn’t be too shocking then if he veers dramatically away from the Biblical facts.
Before I dive into the specific problems with the preview version of the film that was showed to audiences in 2013 (which might not even be the version that ends up on-screen), I’d like to point readers to a recent article called “Everybody Chill Out about the Noah Movie” by Steven D. Greydanus, a Christian who thinks we should all calm down and maybe cut Aronofsky a little slack. I’m still debating whether or not I agree with every point he makes, but his article at least adds another layer of thoughtful debate and discussion to the analysis of Noah.
However, Ken Ham, the founder of the world’s largest apologetics ministry and the site Answers in Genesis, might disagree with Greydanus. He attended an advanced screening in 2013 that featured a rough cut of Noah. In a recent article, Ham lists some of the bizarre contradictions that the film has with the Bible, including the following oddities (quoted verbatim from Ken Ham’s blog):
* “In the film, Noah was robbed of his birthright by Tubal-Cain. The serpent’s body (i.e., Satan), which was shed in Eden, was their ‘birthright reminder.’ It also doubled with magical power that they would wrap around their arm. So weird!”
* “Noah’s family only consists of his wife, three sons, and one daughter-in-law, contrary to the Bible.”
* “It appears as if every species was crammed in the Ark instead of just the kinds of animals, thus mocking the Ark account the same way secularists do today.”
* “‘Rocks’ (that seem to be fallen angels) build the Ark with Noah!”
* “Methuselah (Noah’s grandfather) is a type of witch-doctor, whose mental health is questionable.”
* “Noah repeatedly tells his family that they were the last generation and were never to procreate. So when his daughter-in-law becomes pregnant, he vows to murder his own grandchild. But he finally has a change of heart.”
* “Noah does not have a relationship with God but rather with circumstances and has deadly visions of the Flood.”
* “The Ark lands on a cliff next to a beach.”
To read more details of the film’s content, read Ken Ham’s full article where he warns readers not to be taken in by the trailer’s cleverly spliced scenes that seem to depict a Biblically based film.
Ham, however, does acknowledge that what he saw was only the rough cut and, even if the final version still contains the unbiblical content, he believes God can still use the film for His purposes (with which I definitely agree). Ham writes:
“Again, we don’t know what will be in the final cut of the film. But this list we have presented should be enough for Christians to understand that this movie is unbiblical! Now, I do recognize that God is Sovereign and He can even use this Hollywood production to cause people be directed to His Word. Let’s pray that despite the unbiblical nature of this movie, that God will move hearts to seek Him.”
Other reports confirm the uncertainty about what version of Noah will actually end up on the big screen on March 28, 2014, with Paramount showing as many as three different cuts to test audiences.
If what Ken Ham viewed ends up being the final version, it will be unfortunate that Aronofsky did not follow in the footsteps of Steven Spielberg, whose company Dream Works produced a faithful account of Moses and the Exodus in Prince of Egypt and found great success with it. Spielberg is Jewish, though certainly not Orthodox, and he has never made any statements that he believes the Bible is the inspired Word of God, yet he saw merit in staying faithful to the Biblical text. I’m not saying that Aronofsky had to do some happy-smiley kid’s version of the Noah story like a Sunday School lesson; but why couldn’t have Aronofsky followed Spielberg’s example? Maybe it just wasn’t interesting to him as an artist. Perhaps he wanted to do something more creative. However, from all accounts thus far, it seems that Aronofsky was more interested in making an artistic statement about environmentalism. It’s a free country, so he should have the right to create whatever he chooses; but the question is, is the film worth seeing?
I gotta admit, some of the shots in the Noah trailer are absolutely breathtaking, and Russell Crowe’s acting chops make an incredible Noah. Aronofsky truly has a remarkable talent as a filmmaker. Unfortunately, it is probably wishful thinking to believe that Aronofsky will change the vision for his film and cut out everything contrary to Scripture. According to Ken Ham, if the director did make these alterations, there might not be any movie left to watch!
I think the verdict is still out about the movie, but if Ken Ham is right, then Noah will likely be an epic movie of unbiblical proportions — assuming, of course, the studio uses the cut that preview audiences saw in 2013. Even if the movie does slice and dice the Biblical account, should Christians blast Aronofsky for showing a genuine interest in the Bible? Does the adage “there’s no such thing as bad publicity” apply here? Won’t this film at least accomplish the feat of getting the public thinking and talking about the Bible? These are all questions that Christians have been debating since Noah was announced. But ultimately, we won’t know what we’re dealing with until the film comes out. Stay tuned for my review of the Aronofsky epic in late March!