I’ve always been a fan of religious mythology and action movies, so when I first heard about Noah, I was ecstatic. Add to this the fact that one of my favorite directors, Darren Aronofsky of Requiem for a Dream fame, was making the movie, and my desire to see the film reached nearly hysterical levels.
Unfortunately, Noah really just wasn’t a good movie. I sat in the theater thinking to myself that Aronofsky had decided to make a movie based on what he thought mainstream movies look like. The end result was a film full of clichéd Hollywood moments, with tedious and predictable romantic subplots, an overreliance on subpar computer-generated images, and the casting of big name actors, at least one of whom phoned in a bad performance (I’m looking at you, Emma Watson.)
What ended up being far more interesting to me was the controversy surrounding the film’s artistic interpretation of the old biblical story. As Fred Edwords pointed out in a recent article for TheHumanist.com, the National Religious Broadcasters joined with evangelical groups and got the studio to place the following disclaimer on trailers and marketing materials: ”The film is inspired by the story of Noah. While artistic license has been taken, we believe that this film is true to the essence, values, and integrity of a story that is a cornerstone of faith for millions of people worldwide. The biblical story of Noah can be found in the book of Genesis.”
Obviously, religious groups were offended that a biblical story was being retold by those godless liberals over in Hollywood and wanted to make sure that the average American wouldn’t mistake the events of the film for the actual Bible story. This was especially puzzling to me after I had seen the film, as I left with the impression that the movie was pro-religious (although not offensively so) and relatively true to the original biblical story.
Perhaps this sense of accuracy was what religious groups were concerned about, because the God of the Old Testament and of the movie Noah is exceedingly violent, judgmental, and unforgiving. In the film we see women, children, the elderly, and all sorts of people dying, often brutally, simply because God felt that the world needed a new start. The ethics of such an action by an all-powerful divine being is certainly up for debate, as I would state that killing almost every human being because of the actions of a few is horrific in the extreme, especially when that all-powerful deity could simply change the nature of man to better fit his divine plan. And this sense of pointless death and suffering is certainly captured in the film, although it is portrayed as a righteous action brought on by the sins of humankind.
Religious people have no reason to be offended by Noah, unless they too are offended by the needless deaths caused by God. Otherwise, they have no ground to object to the content of the film in relation to its depiction of the biblical story, except for a few minor artistic licenses that were taken in the retelling. Overall, Noah was underwhelming, both as a movie and as a new issue in the ongoing culture war.