I have been getting a lot of feedback on my post –Noah: A Sin-Full Movie Review – so I figured that I would write up a follow up on it. However instead of responding to everybody, I figured I would point out what some other reviews are saying about this film.
It asks the big questions:
Noah is another entry in this filmography. It asks big questions: Are humans worth saving? What is the place of justice and mercy in existence? How ought people relate to both powers greater than themselves and to the world in which they dwell?
It takes the right sort of liberties:
Even the most controversial of their narrative choices—something I won’t spoil for you—has echoes of other Bible stories in it; it’s probably not what happened, but things like it happened later, so it’s not inconsistent.
It drips with God’s presence
Aronofsky and Handel rightly intuited from the Scriptural account and tradition that, ten generations out from the creation, and before God reveals his personal name to man (which is not “God,” incidentally), it would make sense for people to think of God largely as “the Creator.”
The characters in Noah—all of them, including the bad guys—believe in God. This is not a world with atheists or agnostics. This is a world where people live a very, very long time, long enough to pass stories down to their children, and where the presence of the Creator is still felt very strongly.
It has a strong theology of creation
There is what seems to me a good, balanced sense that the earth was given to man to both live in and care for. (Remember, man was not given explicit permission to eat animal flesh until after the flood, and even then with the stipulation that they should not eat blood, or the life of the flesh—a stipulation that carries into the New Covenant and seems to indicate this activity was going on before the flood.)
Instead of suggesting that the earth ought to be left alone, Noah tells his son early in the story that we only pick those plants that we’re going to use, and we leave the others to grow. That seems like good creation care to me. And when God causes the earth to grow trees so Noah has something with which to build the ark, Noah and his family are happy to cut them down and make them into a boat—because they need the boat for survival.
Brett McCracken at Converge
Its personal for the director:
“I just remember being scared… I remember thinking as a kid, ‘What if I’m not good enough to get on the boat? I have wickedness. I have sin. Would I actually get on the boat and what would it be like if I didn’t get on it?’”
Co-writer Ari Handel echoed Aronofsky and said that these questions were a starting point in their exploration of the Noah story: Who deserves to be saved? Who gets to be on the boat?
It simultaneously tells a story of mercy and justice:
As I reflect on that peaceful ark in the midst of the wails of death, I’m reminded of other biblical instances of God’s simultaneous mercy and justice. It makes me think of Moses parting the Red Sea for the Egypt-fleeing Israelites, followed by the waters crashing in on the pursuing Egyptian army. Again: horrific watery demise for many; safety for God’s chosen people. Or God’s people in Egypt during the Passover: safe inside the walls whose doorways were marked with a lamb’s blood, while outside the mothers wail over slaughtered first-borns.
Noah is a complex character:
One strength of Aronofsky’s telling of the Noah story, and Russell Crowe’s performing of it, is the complexity given to Noah’s character. Consistent with his frequent interest in characters plagued by obsession and/or mind games (see Pi, The Fountain, Black Swan), Aronofsky depicts Noah as a conflicted man faithfully endeavoring to do what he believes he is called to do, however traumatizing it may be for him and those closest to him. Crowe delivers one of his better performances as a man trying to listen for God’s direction, even if he at times misinterprets what God is doing.
It accurately portrays the fact that Noah was still a sinner, just like the rest of the human race:
After the fall, we are desperately in need of grace. All of us. Noah too. Here is Spurgeon in his famous 1863 sermon on Noah:
“There was nothing in Noah why God should make a covenant with him. He was a sinner — and proved himself to be so in a most shocking manner within a few days… He was one of the best of men; but the best of men are only men at the best, and can have no claim upon the favour of God. He was saved by faith as the rest of us must be, and we all know faith is inconsistent with any claim of merit.”
Is Aronofsky’s Noah perfect? No. On a filmmaking level it sometimes seems confused about tone and genre. On a storytelling level it occasionally feels needlessly provocative in its attempts to defy audience expectations.
But Noah gets the theological heart of the story right. It shows that God’s wrath is entirely justified and his grace all the more graceful because of it. It beautifully depicts the struggles of faith and the mercy and justice of God.
It’s a film that does what too few films do anymore: it raises profound questions and demands a discussion. As such it will invite plenty of debate, especially within the ranks of the religiously devout (as it already has). But I also believe, and hope, that Noah will pique the interest of the irreligious and get them thinking and talking about God too.
I already said what I thought about the film, but my sentiments completely echo McCracken’s words – Noah is not perfect (ironically, that is the message of the movie too!), but it gets the theological heart of the story right, and it raises important religious questions for both Christians and non-Christians.