I went to see Noah last Thursday. Count me controversial but I was excited the few hours before the movie after buying tickets. I am no stranger to digesting awkward Biblical "accounts." I've enjoyed reading Jose Saramago. I've stomached Rob Bell. I've learned a few things from Marcus Borg but I've learned more from Markus Barth. I've digested N.T. Wright and I've reveled in Karl Barth. I'm well acquainted with "spitting out the bones." Noah was no different. I'm not accustomed to reviewing movies but I'm going to make a go about it.
This movie was a spectacular demonstration of Hollywood CGI. This isn't too surprising but it also wasn't just normal CGI. There were some interesting scenes at the start of the movie and throughout as the story of creation and the fall were told (and retold) in brief fast cut scenes. In a similar vein, the "visions" of Noah and impressive "growth scenes" brought to life some fascinating and interesting elements of the story of Noah.
This was a standard Hollywood entertainment job. Clothing was interesting but not distracting. The colors were well orchestrated and beautiful. The scenes (all of which occur outdoors essentially) were beautiful, well cut and the movie flowed. There was nothing visually that distracted from the movie. There were some interesting elements in the presentation of creation and the fall in an altered color and graphic sense (perhaps indicating allegory?) but I found them entertaining and overall quite attractive.
Okay. This is where my major frustrations lie. And no it has nothing to do with "Biblical accuracy." This is a movie produced by Hollywood. If I wanted the most accurate description I could have opened one of my many Bibles. Instead, I went looking for a Milton-like portrayal of Noah. One that adds the necessary dimensions to make the story of Noah come alive in my imagination and send me back to the Scriptures. The first half of the film did this. It was excellent. The post-apocalyptic world of Noah existing pre-flood was an outstanding portrayal of the utter depravity of mankind. I didn't even mind the so-called "pagan environmentalism" (any review that hangs on this should be discarded) that so many people are picking up. The fact of the matter is God set Adam up to be the gardener of His world (Gen 2). Dominion without regard for creation is offensive to God and that's what this movie highlighted.
The truth is that the early portions of Genesis still have me asking serious theological questions. Why does Cain's line seem to be the ones taking dominion of the world (re-read Genesis 4)? And why are they the ones who are the developers of cities and nations while Seth's line seems almost complacent in the Biblical text? The movie provides an answer. And it is one that I found intriguing and worthy of consideration. It also isn't that unlike the Orthodox consideration of Joel McDurmon in his book Noah: The True Story.
But for as good as the first half of the movie was the second half was dramatically worse. Again, Biblical accuracy aside the story was just stretching itself places it couldn't go. Perhaps I need to re-watched it as a knowledgeable viewer (aka I know what weird turns are coming) but I just couldn't buy into the ultimate climax and resolution of the movie. Some of the setup that gets Noah to its breaking point is enjoyable but once they get on the ark all bets are off and a feint semi-palagian spells break forth that just didn't work for me. This was close to Milton, in dramatic personification, but it just worked too hard against the Biblical witness and common sense. I did think characters were well developed and responded/acted accordingly but ultimately it went to hard against the grain to make a point.
This is Hollywood. God is expressly deemed to be the creator of the whole earth. He even does seem to be the one who shuts the ark for the final time. Both general checks. The world is wicked beyond wicked. Check. What's not to like here? Well there is a decent list. For some reason Methuselah is still alive and dies during the flood. This is a minor oversight. Noah's sons go on the ark wife-less. Again this is a bending of the rules (the wives are born on the ark) that I'm willing to squint at to make acceptable. But the reality is both of these decisions were made to serve the plot in a way that led to its eventual flop.
Rock people. Lets discuss this and never hear of it again. Angels encrusted in rocks because they fell to earth trying to help Adam's seed. People don't like this. That's fine. Its not Biblically accurate. I agree. But I thoroughly enjoyed it. I enjoyed what was a weird interpretation of Genesis 6. I thought it was one of the better parts of the movie from an artistic license perspective. That's that.
If you're looking for a well acted, decent story movie this is for you. There is no profanity. There are no obscene sexual scenes. There is no graphical violence. Three for three this movie is better than 90% of what Hollywood puts out. It will keep your attention and introduce things to think talk about at work as a witnessing tool. I recommend it for grown teens and adults who are well read in the Scriptures and balanced enough to shared to the real story with the people around them.