Wednesday, April 2, 2014

A View of Noah

OK, as stated, I saw the movie "Noah" Tuesday night and I wanted to spend a few minutes offering some comprehensive thoughts on the movie.

If you've heard anything about the movie at all, no doubt you've heard that it is "controversial." Supposedly there have been many Christians who have spoke out against the film.

(To be truthful, I haven't seen much of that at all. What I have seen is a lot of non-Christians who have been claiming that Christians have spoken out against the film, but that's not one of the points I'd like to offer here.)

This post will contain plenty of spoilers, so avert your eyes now if you don't want to know about them.
  1. The Story of Creation: The film provides an expedited view of the Biblical account of creation by means of a rapid series of images as a narrator recounts the tale of Genesis 1 and 2. Some people will view this and find no fault in it. Those people would be called "Theistic Evolutionists". To me, and others like me, the tale being told and the imagery that runs across the screen have very little to do with one another for one is the Biblical account of six day creation being told aloud and the other is an abridged junior high school science film on the process of evolution. Given the increasing failure of the church to adhere to the Biblical account of six days of creation, I suspect this little criticism will be lost within a sea of other larger problems.
  2. The Name of God: The word "God" is never spoken in this movie. Instead, Noah and everyone else calls Him "The Creator." I keep hearing that there is a body of people who have a major problem with that. I don't think I do. I've not studied this rather fine point to speak with full confidence on this matter, but prior to God's revelation to Moses that His name was YHWH, it seems that God kept His name rather obscured from man. I believe the term(s) "Lord" and "Elohim" was used prior to this declaration. At any rate, without getting into a theological discussion that will take me all night to study up on and voice my thoughts, let me just suggest two things. One, people who find the use of "The Creator" a problem likely do so because the ambiguity of the term might open the door for others to simply insert the name of their own deity into the story. For some this Creator may be Allah and to others it may be the Flying Spaghetti Monster. Perhaps this is so. However, I think the intellectually honest person will recognize that this is supposed to be the tale of the Judeo-Christian God and His judgment upon wicked men. (Although that too, as you will see, is debatable.) Second, when I try to envision myself living in the antediluvian world removed by fewer than ten generations from the very first man to ever live, the notion of calling the Supreme Being "The Creator" seems very apropos since creation is still a very new place.
  3. The Watchers: The sudden introduction of a race of beings known as the Watchers is where the wheels come off of this thing. It is this clarion call that echoes over the hi-tech speaker system of the IMAX theatre that makes it abundantly clear that the film that you are about to see bears about as much resemblance to the Biblical account of Noah as Blade Runner does to the novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? from which it was adapted. We could camp here all night, but I want to get this blog posted so I'll be terse.
    The Watchers are explained as fallen angels who were cursed by God and thrown out of heaven because of their desire to help mankind. That's right. This movie attempts to portray at least some number of the angels that God banished from heaven as being thrown out because of their desire to help humanity after the fall in the Garden of Eden. If this is the case, let's call them what they are. These demons come to Noah's aid and help him to build the ark. Demons. They did the heavy lifting in building the ark. Demons did. Only in this story, these demons are kind-hearted, misunderstood spirits that God rejects because of their compassion on man. They also protected Noah and his family when those outside the ark recognize their impending doom and try to break into the ark as the rain falls. In this climactic battle to give Noah time to escape, as each Watcher is slain, its spirit is forgiven and it is allowed to return to heaven.
    It was right about here that I realized that I wasn't watching a Bible movie, I was watching a science fiction.
    Incidentally, there is some potential Biblical support for demons interacting with mankind in the antediluvian world (this is not a universally held position). However, far from being a race of spirit creatures who attempt to aid mankind, these "Sons of God" were something more akin to incubuses who were having sex with women and attempting to corrupt the genetics of the human race. Among those who hold to this theory for the identity of these "Sons of God" who were having sex with the "daughters of men", are those who believe that these specific demons were actually removed from the eternal game altogether and imprisoned in hell -- well in advance of Satan and the rest of the fallen angels.
    Big difference between the two stories. I rather think that the director included these characters in the story because, in his heart, he always wished that Tolkien's Ents had been made of stone.

  4. The Antediluvian World: Now here is where I think the movie scored points. Two things have always interested my Biblical imagination: What will the world be like during the Millennium Kingdom and what was it like during the Antediluvian Period? This movie paints an intriguing picture of what the latter may have been like. Strange and unexplained technologies are seen. Odd looking, crudely designed machines that serve purposes that have been lost to the ages are seen in the cities of the wicked men. A corruption of the very landscape itself is clearly apparent. Where things take a less admirable tact is when various characters employ what we might well interpret as "magic". I could have done without that, but I suppose even this could be justified as a movie' attempt to make this ancient and forgotten world seem strange and foreign to us.
  5. Methuselah: Yes, Methuselah was Noah's grandfather and yes, Methuselah did outlive his son Lamech (Noah's father). Yes, Methuselah died in the same year that the flood waters came. However, there is nothing to substantiate the film's depiction of Methuselah as dying in the flood with the rest of the unrighteous. This is a major departure from the opinion that Methuselah's teachings might have been at least partially responsible for keeping Noah and his family in God's favor and also from the traditions that history brings to us.
  6. The Wives of Noah's Sons: The film included the characters Shem, Ham, and Japheth, Noah's sons. However, what the film removed and indeed relied upon to create conflict was the wives of Noah's sons. The Bible clearly states that the Ark saved "eight persons". That would have been Noah, his wife, his three sons, and his sons' wives. Eight. However, fully half of the movie's tension and conflicts are based upon the depiction that Shem's wife to be is infertile and that Ham and Japheth have no wives. I suspect I don't need to explain why this might be a problem for the family once they disembark from the vessel. Ham in particular is incensed at his father's lack of concern for his plight. When Ham almost manages to obtain a woman for himself in the last moments prior to the flood, Noah fails to help him.
  7. Noah's Misguided Mission: Things go from bad to worse when Shem's wife is revealed to have been miraculously cured from her infertility by Methuselah and is found to be pregnant with twins. What seems as though it should be the solution to the family's director-manufactured-problem actually becomes a nightmare as Noah declares that he believes that the Creator's purpose behind this entire event is the TOTAL destruction of mankind. In other words, Noah believes that God wants them all to die. The birth of more children is abominable to him and he declares that they must be killed. For the final chapters of the film, let's just say that Mr. Noah isn't a very nice man at all. Instead of being the man chosen by God to save mankind, he is convinced that he must be the mankind's final executioner. Fortunately for Noah's sons (and for all the rest of us waiting around to be born), as Noah is about to bring down the knife upon the two newborn sisters, he has an Alec Guinness Bridge Over the River Kwai moment and realizes he has been working for the wrong side. The children are spared and apparently live to become mothers themselves.
There are a hundred other small details that might be worth discussing, but I'm simply running out of electrons to address them with, so let me conclude with this bottom line: Criticizing a movie makes about as much sense as listening to someone share a dream they had with you and then telling them that they dreamed it wrong.

Directors are going to do what directors are going to do. We've all suffered these effects any time we've had a favorite book translated into a movie. To some degree or another, the story changes, very often dramatically. Can we honestly expect this film adaptation of the written account of Noah to be any different?

Well... yes. I think we can. And I can give the most practical reason as to why. Money.

Why was this movie made?


To. Make. Money.

The director and Paramount studies agreed to make the movie because the movie would in turn make them money. Logic would dictate that they made the movie which they thought would make the most amount of money.

But it is this premise that I'd like to challenge. This story is at its essence a Bible story. As such, it makes sense that those who are interested in the Bible would also be a large segment of those who would be interested in the movie.

So why piss them off?

Doesn't Hollywood stand to make more money by befriending any population of people and giving them what they want? Why not partner with religious folks and show that we can trust you to represent our interests and beliefs with integrity? We have money. We spend it just like anyone else. Why not encourage us to spend it on your product? Why push us away?