Noah as a Feature Film, an Environmentalist Movie, and the Least-Biblical Biblical Adaptation: a “NOAH” Review

A friend once told me that if there’s any topic that you should avoid arguing about with your friends, its religion and politics (discussing them though, is an entirely different story). We all have our standpoints and positions with issues regarding these matters and some of them are too personal, especially with religion, making us extra sensitive when the conversation shifts to these subjects.
Given that, I knew that writing this review is going to be a bit tricky. I am, after all, writing about a controversial film with a sensitive theme. Too controversial that I actually had to re-read the bible before writing this post.
Noah is having vivid dreams of a great flood that will end the rule of man over Earth. He believes that these visions are from The Creator, and he is telling him that man has become so corrupt that he will have put an end to them and their violence. With the protection of The Watchers, fallen angels who have been banished to Earth, Noah builds an ark that housed various forms of animals and his family in preparation for the great flood. However, Noah now has to face the wrath of a mob of desperate humans, and the guilt that tortures him for having to leave everyone behind.

Noah Trailer

The film in general received mixed reviews from audiences and movie critics – heck even religious organizations are divided about it, with some expressing support and others feeling insulted. Some of my friends were also outraged after seeing the film, but primarily because they thought that the movie is an inaccurate depiction of Noah’s story in the bible. But before we dissect the 2014 Noah film as a biblical adaptation (although the director clearly says that it is probably the “least biblical” among bible-based films), let us first examine it as a feature film exercising artistic license.

Noah as a Feature Film

The most notable element of Noah is its striking visuals – using unique graphics and well executed cinematography to deliver a visual spectacle. The beautiful graphic display is most prominent in the intro, exposition, and in Noah’s dreams which all felt so dark and vivid that you get reminded of Darren Aronofsky’s magnificent work at embedding darkness all over the “Black Swan” and how he was so good at it.

The acting performance of the cast was in no doubt outstanding. Russell Crowe was definitely a one of a kind Noah (we’ll talk about this depiction of Noah later), and he was able to portray the guilt, emotional torture, and at some point, schizophrenic tendencies that the character required of him. Next to Russell Crowe, my favourite performance was of Logan Lerman as Noah’s son Ham. He portrayed Ham as innocent, curious, and rebellious at the same time. The first time you see this character you already know that he’s going to be a pain in the ass, and indeed he was.

You can tell that this kid is a magnet for trouble

In spite of the beautiful scenes and the notable performances, the plot unfortunately, wasn’t cohesive enough for something that featured a lot of events in a single movie. It was as if the whole thing was hurriedly done and a lot of scenes were left out, leaving no more wiggle room for development of all the characters. Also, the story of Noah is a massive one – a biblical account of epic proportions. I was hoping that the climax of the movie would make me feel small, make me see the immense scale of the flood and feel the largeness of the ark given that it housed two of all the animals in the planet. The movie failed in creating this feeling of “smallness”, and it didn’t give me goosebumps on the scenes where I was hoping it would.

Noah as a Biblical Adaptation and Aronofsky’s Artistic License

Okay here we go. I believe most of the outrage about the 2014 Noah movie came from its inconsistency with the historical account of Noah’s story in the bible, and of course, the depiction of Noah himself. The people I knew who disliked the film, hated it not because of poor direction, or dull performances, or the messy plot, but primarily because it did not coincide with the historical account of Noah that they know. They ignored Russell Crowe’s outstanding performance, or the beautiful visuals, or the unique execution of the film because their perception of the movie has been clouded with its “inconsistency with the book.” But then again, who can blame them? A normal moviegoer wouldn’t watch a movie and isolate a few elements to appreciate it. You enjoy the movie by seeing it as a whole – consistency or inconsistency with a book included. A moviegoer who doesn’t know Noah’s story in the bible may be fascinated by this film, but a bible purist would most likely hate it to the core.
In this movie, Noah had a dad who lived in a cave and made hallucinogenic teas.
However, we can’t really say that this movie sucked. Personally, I thought it was creative in spite of all its flaws. Aronofosky was merely exercising his artistic freedom and license in what really felt more like a passion-film – similar to how Hollywood has been giving the classic fairytales that we know a different twist. Maleficent, for example, was depicted as a protective woodland fairy instead of an evil witch – and we thought that it was okay because of artistic license. Hansel and Gretel were depicted as badass witch-hunters – and again it was okay because of artistic license. Noah’s character has been given the same treatment, but it had a negative reception because he is a religious figure but then again, if we will talk about artistic license, this too, should be okay. But question is, how far can we let artistic license go especially when another culture is involved (some cultures for example, consider using images of their religious figures as blasphemous)?
Did Aronofsky go too far? To be fair with him, he only had four chapters of the bible to get his story from. The biblical account of Noah was plain and short – God thought mankind was overdoing things so they needed to be wiped out. The only ones who were spared were Noah and a pair of every animal species on Earth, and they were the ones who repopulated the planet, with the promise from God that such a flood would never happen again. But then again, the bible leaves out the events that happened in between the time God commanded Noah to build the ark, to the time when the Earth was flooded. I guess this is where Aronofsky got creative, getting clues from the chapters for ideas of what may have transpired. For example, it is mentioned in the bible that Noah got drunk (Genesis 9:20, Today’s New International Version), and that he had some disagreement with Ham. Aronofsky probably weaved ideas from these hints to imagine what may have happened inside the ark that led to this circumstance. The ideas that he came up with may be unheard of and unconventional but again, it goes back to artistic license.

I doubt that Aronofsky’s goal in the first place was to be consistent with the bible. The six-armed stone golems should be an obvious giveaway. Also, the bible suggests that Noah had a personal relationship with God, but in the film, God is just depicted as an omnipotent being who communicated with Noah through visions.

I guess my friends who hated the film had every right to say that the movie Noah is a misrepresentation, inaccurate, and insulting. But the same time, Aronofsky had the right to exercise his artistic freedom.

Noah as an Environmentalist Film

Apart from being the least-biblical in all bible-based movies, Aronofsky also sees his movie as an environmentalist film, describing Noah as a character as “the first environmentalist”, as someone who recognizes that nature must be taken care of since it is a gift from God and that the humans must be wiped out for abusing this gift. This was reinforced by the fact that God has always been called as “The Creator” in the film, referring to him more as someone who created everything (read: nature), instead of an omnipotent father figure.

As expected, more than a few religious organizations were uncomfortable with this environmentalist approach. Leading creationist Ken Ham for example, believes that “…the actual sins of the preflood people (which) were rebellion against God and man’s inhumanity to man” have been “Lost within the film’s extreme environmentalist message…”.
I tried to look for the part in the bible where I can find this account of “rebellion against God” and “Inhumanity to men” by the preflood people, but the closest that I found were statements of “the wickedness of the human race” (Genesis 6:5, Today’s New International Version), and that “the earth was corrupt in God’s sight and full of violence” (Genesis Chapter 6:11, Today’s New International Version). If we just base it on these verses, environmental concerns may be valid for flooding the planet. But if anyone can point out the items Ken Ham was referring to, please feel free to enlighten me.
Save the planet! Wipe out humanity!
But really, the Bible tells us that the human beings were killed in this great flood but the animals and plants were saved. Does an environmentalist message really sound that farfetched?
After everything, I still think this was a good movie. Not one that would end up in my list of favourites, but a good one nonetheless. Every movie that has been adapted from a book or novel would have its inconsistencies – just like how the Harry Potter movies weren’t exactly consistent with everything that has been said in the books. Some may be more inconsistent than the others, and the “fans” may have varying degrees of reception. I can understand my religious friends for their strong feelings against the film, but at the end of the day, it was these reactions from them that made me hurry to the cinema and buy a ticket to this movie.

Noah Cast

Russell Crowe as Noah
Jennifer Connelly as Naameh
Ray Winstone as Tubal-cain
Emma Watson as Ila
Logan Lerman as Ham
Anthony Hopkins as Methuselah
Douglas Booth as Shem
Leo McHugh Carroll as Japheth
Frank Langella as Og
Dakota Goyo as Young Noah
Marton Csokas as Lamech
Madison Davenport as Na’el
Nick Nolte as Samyaza
Mark Margolis as Magog
Kevin Durand as Rameel
Nolan Gross as Young Ham
Adam Griffith as Adam
Ariane Rinehart as Eve
Gavin Casalegno as Young Shem
Skylar Burke as Young Ila

References: American Bible Soceity,, Huffington Post, The Independent
{Images Source}

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Credits to the images and videos used in this post go to “Noah” and/or to their respective owners. I do not own these materials. No copyright infringement intended. 
by Geoffrey Ledesma


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