Noah

moah

REVIEW: Darren Aronofsky’s ‘Noah’ only works for audiences who don’t believe the biblical story

March 31, 2014
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When I checked out the official Facebook page for Noah to post some photos from their premiere, I noticed the comments. The majority were from Christian people who were angry about how Darren Aronofsky had handled the transfer of the biblical story from page to screen – not just a little bit angry, actually furious. I knew that if we reviewed the film we’d have to come at it from two angles: religious, and non-religious. I am not religious but one of our administrators, Natasha, is an evangelical Christian – so we thought we’d both see it and do a dual-review. As we expected…Natasha couldn’t get past the blatant changes to the story and message. However, since I am coming in without any frame of reference and don’t hold the story close to my heart in a religious way, I was able to watch it just as a fantasy film. I really enjoyed it!

After this exercise, we’ve decided that Noah is an entertaining and well-made movie. It’s just not for Christian audiences who truly believe in the story of Noah. I always say that you shouldn’t read a book right before you see the movie because you’ll be obsessively nit-picking all the details. However, if that book is the Bible, and you study it (as Natasha does) to learn about the truth of your existence, then this Noah is just not going to work for you. Read our dual review, below, and be sure to share your opinions in the comments.


Religious Perspective by Natasha Polis

Screen Shot 2014-03-31 at 2.52.46 PMMuch controversy has surrounded this film from the very beginning with the news of the visionary filmmaker, Darren Aronofsky, selected to direct Noah. It shocked me to find out that Aronofsky was an Atheist. The man bringing a very biblical story, which most children and adults know by heart, to the big screen, was not a believer himself. I am a Christian; I’ve grown up in an evangelical Free Church, and still practice my religion, even though I’ve become a bit laid back as I transitioned into adulthood. It takes a lot of guts to do what Aronofsky set out to do, and I was very excited to see this huge Hollywood production, of The Bible no less, come to life onscreen. I had heard murmurings of the film not staying true to the story, but I was open minded and trying not to be pessimistic about the film. Unfortunately, all the good wishing and praying for a faithful adaptation flew out the window with the sci-fi aspects added.

As Page To Premiere, we follow the process of adapting a book into a movie, and review said adaptations on how faithful and entertaining the movie itself was. Noah’s story only has three chapters in the book of Genesis, but it’s a story that spans years with much heartache and destruction to fill a two-hour movie. As a so called “fan” of The Bible, and a girl that spent the whole of 2013 studying the book of Genesis, I feel very qualified to say that Noah was an utter disaster as a true and faithful adaptation. Not only was it not faithful, but also the theology behind the story was upsetting and insulting to a person of faith.

As I mentioned, I was thrilled to hear Hollywood was putting forth a big-budget movie, solely based on a biblical story, with big named actors such as Russell Crowe, Emma Watson, Jennifer Connelly, and Anthony Hopkins. In the past, most Christian films are pretty low-budget or just corny, aside from Mel Gibson’s Passion of The Christ. Noah didn’t fit into either of those categories, it was entertaining, but the skewed theology and bogus advances in the storyline screamed bastardization! All excitement for a movie that everyone could enjoy and believe in dwindled as the film progressed. At first, I let some of the changes slide, but as situations kept escalating, and huge parts of the story were changed or left out. My mind could not get past the blatant changes made. The fact that Noah was wrong in his beliefs, that God made animals to be worshipped, his family were to be the last humans on Earth, and that Anthony Hopkin’s character had the power to heal, disturbed me. All I could do was laugh away my utter horror.

Noah could be a very entertaining movie, from a perspective of a non-religious individual, all the amazing special effects, and the phenomenal acting made for a stunning film. I sadly couldn’t focus on that with the real story always in the back of my mind. With all book-to-movie adaptations, I usually push what’s in the book out of my head while watching what the filmmakers created for moviegoers. Books and movies are two different medias, and they will never be the same. If you go into an adaptation expecting every word to be translated into the film, you will make yourself go nuts nit picking the details. I tried so hard to enjoy the movie, and not think about the story that has been read to me since I was an infant. However, I could not get past all the allowances. The added paranormal elements, huge rock creatures reminiscent the Ents in Lord of The Rings, Noah playing God himself, and the noticeable absences of the word God or Lord grated on my every Christian fiber.

It kills me to think non-religious people will come out of this movie thinking, so that’s how it really happened. Or to think Noah’s rampage set out to kill those two twin baby girls actually happened, and God made him do it. Because unlike Abraham and Isaac’s sacrifice, I did not see one ounce of a forgiving and righteous “Creator.” That’s the real problem with this film, even though it was an entertaining and stunning movie, the message people come out with is very far off from it’s biblical text. You want to talk about whitewashing in Hollywood, how about Hollywood whitewashing The Bible.


Non-Religious Perspective by Kimmy West

Screen Shot 2014-03-31 at 12.35.31 PMI went into Noah not sure what I should be expecting, knowing that there was a ton of backlash in the religious community. In the end, though, I ended up really enjoying it! However, I should be clear about the perspective I’m coming from as I watch this movie. I was raised as a Unitarian Universalist, meaning, at church we learn about all different religions and talk about life and spirituality as a whole each Sunday. Until a few years in junior high and high school when I tried out a Christian youth group, I had never even read the Bible. Today, after a lot of soul-searching, I’m an agnostic atheist (I don’t believe in God myself, but I’m not really in the position to state that that as fact – I’m only human after all). The only experience I’ve had with the story of Noah is the children’s book version that I’ve been told many times. In this version the only information you are given is that there was a great flood, so Noah saved two of every animal in order to re-build the world. That’s literally all I knew about this story, and to me the bible and this story are just that, stories. They are not part of the structure to which I live my life – so I knew that any changes from the source material wouldn’t cause me discomfort.

Starting out, Noah was sort of jarring with the opening titles and introduction. I must admit I sort of side-eyed the rock creatures, even as a non-believer, because I know this is a bible adaptation. I was thinking…”Wait? Were there rock transformers in the bible? I really don’t think so, but I’ll just take that as it is.” The moment I saw the rock-watchers, it solidified my angle of watching the movie – this is a fantasy film, it is not the bible. It’s taking the story of Noah and turning it into an art piece from the perspective of a man who is not actually religious. He turned it into something that can be appreciated by everyone – except, apparently, folks who are actually Christians. I suppose he didn’t really see that one coming.

Screen Shot 2014-03-31 at 12.45.35 PM

I really appreciated the messages this film gave, including the importance of being true to yourself, and that there is good and evil in us all. I know from my limited readings of the Bible that there are a few messages that conflict with that message (in this film it seems that you are allowed to go against God’s will, which I don’t think is actually encouraged) which is why I can see why believers are upset. However, as someone who is trying to learn to respect myself and trust my own judgement, it was satisfying. Especially the line where Logan Lerman’s character Ham called out the injustice of it all. He explains that the girl that he wanted to bring on board as his wife was also kind and good just like his family, and that he believed that what Noah was doing did not entirely make sense.

The film started off rather slow when the children were young, but when the older actors came in as the characters aged (Logan Lerman, Emma Watson, and Douglas Booth) everything became much more fast paced. The performances were all incredibly well done, I can’t even single out one person as a stand-out! Jennifer Connelly was absolutely on fire in her role and even made me cry when she was shouting at Russell Crowe. I really admired her personality and spirit. The motives and personalities of all the characters were expertly put together – I loved following the stories of Ham (Logan Lerman) and Ila (Emma Watson), since they had such strong desires for what they needed and how the plot played out toyed with their motives and it was all so…complex. I loved how in the beginning the audience is completely compassionate to Noah, and by the end, you are almost (or I was, anyway) hoping that he’ll fail. I really felt my blood pressure rising throughout the whole main plot and climax after the rains began.

The entire lesson of good vs. evil, and how good and evil is in all of us, really resonated with me. I loved how the evil character, Tubal-cain (Ray Winstone), wasn’t even entirely bad. He was pretty evil at times, but he had some good messages about standing up for yourself as an individual and not letting anything walk all over you – and he becomes like a mentor for Logan Lerman’s character. I really love movies that make me confused about who I should be rooting for – and Noah did this extremely well.

Since everyone isn’t religious, I appreciated that the movie could resonate with me even though it was a biblical story. It was gripping, had fantastic acting, amazing special effects, and a well-formed plot. I can say, from a non-religous perspective, that I thought it was a very good movie. However for me it’s just that – a fantasy film.

When I checked out the official Facebook page for Noah to post some photos from their premiere, I noticed the comments. The majority were from Christian people who were angry about how Darren Aronofsky had handled the transfer of the biblical story from page to screen - not just a little bit angry, actually furious. I knew that if we reviewed the film we'd have to come at it from two angles: religious, and non-religious. I am not religious but one of our administrators, Natasha, is an evangelical Christian - so we thought we'd both see it and do a dual-review. As we expected...Natasha couldn't get past the blatant changes to the story and message. However, since I am coming in without any frame of reference and don't hold the story close to my heart in a religious way, I was able to watch it just as a fantasy film. I really enjoyed it! After this exercise, we've decided that Noah is an entertaining and well-made movie. It's just not for Christian audiences who truly believe in the story of Noah. I always say that you shouldn't read a book right before you see the movie because you'll be obsessively nit-picking all the details. However, if that book is the Bible, and you study it (as Natasha does) to learn about the truth of your existence, then this Noah is just not going to work for you. Read our dual review, below, and be sure to share your opinions in the comments. Religious Perspective by Natasha Polis Much controversy has surrounded this film from the very beginning with the news of the visionary filmmaker, Darren Aronofsky, selected to direct Noah. It shocked me to find out that Aronofsky was an Atheist. The man bringing a very biblical story, which most children and adults know by heart, to the big screen, was not a believer himself. I am a Christian; I’ve grown up in an evangelical Free Church, and still practice my religion, even though I’ve become a bit laid back as I transitioned into adulthood. It takes a lot of guts to do what Aronofsky set out to do, and I was very excited to see this huge Hollywood production, of The Bible no less, come to life onscreen. I had heard murmurings of the film not staying true to the story, but I was open minded and trying not to be pessimistic about the film. Unfortunately, all the good wishing and praying for a faithful adaptation flew out the window with the sci-fi aspects added. As Page To Premiere, we follow the process of adapting a book into a movie, and review said adaptations on how faithful and entertaining the movie itself was. Noah’s story only has three chapters in the book of Genesis, but it’s a story that spans years with much heartache and destruction to fill a two-hour movie. As a so called “fan” of The Bible, and a girl that spent the whole of 2013 studying…

62%

Falls Flat for Believers

NOAH

Overall, Noah is a well-made film that will entertain people who do not believe the story in the Bible. It has fantastic special effects, talented actors, and a expertly woven plot. However, Christians who believe in the stories written in this religious text will likely be frustrated by the way Darren Aronofsky's movie strays from the biblical source material.

Religious Perspective

35%

Non-Religious Perspective

88%

62


Did you enjoy Noah?


Kimmy is a 21 year old nerdfighter who is the founder and editor-in-chief of Page to Premiere. When she's not writing about books and movies here or on her Hunger Games site called Mockingjay.net, she loves Tumblr-ing, eating sushi, drinking Thai iced tea, and being lazy with her cat Rue! She hopes to be a published author one day. You can follow her on Twitter at @kimmymary.


  • Lauren

    There is a Seth in the Bible, he’s born after Abel is dead. (Gen. 4) With that aside, I really appreciate this review. Having both is a handy thing, and really helps get a good perspective for the film.

  • http://www.jabberjays.net/author/phil/ Phil Barrett-Turner

    Your review makes me want to see it! I was born in a Christian family but I’m not really a believer and the movie sounds great! I love Logan and Emma, too!

  • Kimmy West

    I’ll let Natasha know!

  • http://twitter.com/nyappypwns nikkienyappy

    Great article, I enjoyed reading the two perspectives! I’m an agnostic atheist myself, so I don’t particularly mind if it follows the Bible or not. I’m interested in watching it for its stellar cast and hopefully awesome special effects.

  • Kimmy West

    Logan and Emma were AMAZING!

  • Amelie

    I haven’t seen the movie yet. Am christian though and yes there is indeed a Set in the Bible. After Kain killed Abel, well Abel was dead and Kain… Not appreciated very much. This is when Eva gets pregnant again and Set is born, who btw. is the ancester of Noah (thus every important character that follows including Abraham, Isaak, later on Daniel and since that’s someone connected with him also Jesus). It’s kinda funny that you argue with that xDDD
    Sorry. Mistakes happen ;) Am looking forward to the movie though. Since the literal meaning is NOT the way to interpret that story anyway (It has a LOT of logical errors), I’m especially looking forward to seeing, what you mean by the theological issues, because that’s where the whole problem would lie for me personally. Not having the name Lord or God is kinda weird for that story, but since Esther e.g. doesn’t have that, too, I hope that the theological meaning is still there, somewhere. Though I never got, what in the world that story should tell us. FEAR GOD! Yeah. Makes me love him SO MUCH. Not. Same goes for most of the old testament… Also it kinda interferes with the whole “You have free will and I’ll let you do anything you want to do”-Thing in my opinion. Well, I probably don’t get the meaning because I didn’t study the text close enough including it’s original Hebrew form.

    Sorry. Just some thoughts on the story of Noah in general xD

  • Kimmy West

    Thanks for letting me know! I removed that part from our review and I’ll ask Natasha about it. Now I’m very curious to chat with her about it and learn about how Seth is portrayed in the bible.

    Yeah, and I agree. I feel like all people can learn from parts of the bible – and you don’t have to take them literally to learn.

  • Kimmy West

    Yeah the cast really is brilliant, and the special effects were amazing. I actually really liked the rock-creatures after I solidified the POV in my head that this is a fantasy film, its not a literal bible movie! They were pretty great, and like Natasha said – sort of l like Ents from LOTR.

  • Alexandra

    As a Christian, I think I’d be interested in watching this film as a fantasy, completely divorced from the original story in my head. I don’t know if I’d be able to do it successfully, and I find it especially odd that the words God/Lord are never used in the film, but I’d like to give it a try!
    Thank you for both sides, it made for a very good review provoking a lot of thought!

  • Taylor

    You should do more side by side reviews! Anyway, as far as a book-to-movie film goes, if you completely change the reason the main character does something (something that happens to be part of the main plot), then it fails to become a film adaptation, and simply, “based on ___”. If Katniss volunteered for the Hunger Games, just because it sounded like fun, I doubt the movie would have been as popular .

    How to Train Your Dragon may have gotten away with it, but then again, I didn’t know HTTYD was based on a book. I doubt that many people would not know Noah was based on a book. However, I think it would be more “Epic of Gilgamesh” then the Bible’s “Noah”.

  • TeamEdward_Bella4ever

    I’m not overly religious and, the movie was an utter mess from being to end.

  • TeamEdward_Bella4ever

    All I could do when the rock watchers came in was laugh. Shades of Parallax going through my head.

  • Kimmy West

    I think that if you can go into the film viewing it as a fantasy, it’s awesome. Just the idea of a story in which the world is ending due to a giant flood and there are rock monsters, and a TON of conflict…it’s just a good story! The acting is great, the special effects are awesome. I don’t have the religious perspective so I could look at it that way, but it may be pretty difficult to do so if you hold the story close to your heart as truth.

  • Kimmy West

    I thought the plot was well-woven and the acting was amazing – so if you look at it from a non-religious POV then I don’t think it’s a mess. However yes, as an adaptation, it’s a mess. Except I think Darren Aronofsky was just taking inspiration from the story to create a movie about the good and evil in us all.

  • Kimmy West

    There are giants in the book of Genesis – but yeah, from a religious perspective they were rather strange! However, I was watching it just as a fantasy movie and I found them rather cool. I liked their backstory.

  • Danielle Lowry

    I am agnostic and I feel more inclined to see this film now actually. I don’t like being slapped in the face with religion or being slapped with atheism either, so it sounds like a good in-between. I used to be devout, but a lot of my young adult life changed that going into adulthood.
    I love Arronofsky’s work. Especially his beautiful adaptation of Requiem for a Dream. So this definitely makes me want to see it more. I also like that it sounds like he is more like giving his audience the decision of how they feel about God and religion.

  • http://matthewkenealy.com/ Matthew Kenealy

    Something that many people seem to ignore is that this Biblical Epic isn’t based on the Bible. Which is one of the main reasons for all its changes. It is based on The Book of Enok which is a Jewish book not found in the bible and has a different account on the events. This is some of the reason there are so many changes, but the other is that the Director admitted he wanted to make a film that is all about preserving the environment.

    I guess Hollywood knew it would make them a boat load of cash and it did.

  • Emily

    I had actually been excited to see this film. I’m not a nitpicker when it comes to adaptations. I loved the Percy Jackson films as seperate entities from the books. I enjoyed others that were bashed by the fanbases. After viewing Noah, however, I feel like non-Christians do not fully understand why we are upset. The outrageous part is that the movie is not the story of Noah. It’s a slap in the face to Christians. The message of the story is that we can make better choices than God can and that God doesn’t make any sense and is evil. It isn’t an acceptable deviation from the source material. I can take the period change. I can take the rock creatures. I really was prepared to take almost anything. But a complete 180 from “God is good” to “God is evil–do what you want” is just not okay if you’re still going to say it’s a version of the original story. They try and get away with it by calling the god “Creator”, but most people are still going to come out of the theater with a reinforced idea of how wrong and malicious the Christian God is because it is “based on” one of our stories. It’s honestly just extremely saddening. If they had called it something else and not tried to milk the biblical aspect, I’d be down. But basically they decided it was okay to rip off the Bible and insult Christians for money.

  • Anom

    Its not just Christianity, Prophet Noah and the story of his ark holds great significance in Islam as well. When I first watched the trailer, I was thrilled. I thought, despite being a Muslim, I could enjoy this film if considered it just another fantasy instead of a Prophet’s tale. And of course I wanted to watch it because of Emma Watson. But with the final theatrical trailer, I cancelled my plan. I knew I couldn’t just ignore the background and watch it for entertainment. Just my POV.