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 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
I 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.
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.