Noah?s Flood, The Ark, and Hollywood

April 10, 2014

Reviews

by Bill Crouse

You can­not over­es­ti­mate the seri­ous­ness of the Bib­li­cal Flood as described in Gen­e­sis 6 – 8. Some­thing occurred, some behav­ior of mankind, which caused the Cre­ator-God to destroy all life on the plan­et and start all over again. What exact­ly that sin was is a great mys­tery, but it had some­thing to do with the mix­ing of seeds, and it cer­tain­ly was not unequal­ly yoked mar­riages between the ?sons of god? (Sethites) and the Cainites! Some­thing hap­pened in the angel­ic realm, some­thing so seri­ous that it affect­ed human life as God cre­at­ed it (maybe even ani­mal life). It was so seri­ous it pro­voked the Cre­ator to utter­ly destroy His Cre­ation, one that He was very pleased with at the begin­ning. The fall­en angels who pre­cip­i­tat­ed this sin, accord­ing to Jude, the half-broth­er of Jesus, are being kept in chains until the final judg­ment (Jude 6). It was appar­ent­ly sig­nif­i­cant for Jesus, for after his death on the cross, He descend­ed to their place of con­fine­ment and made a procla­ma­tion of vic­to­ry to these same angel­ic beings (I Pet. 3:19 – 20). Noah and his fam­i­ly were appar­ent­ly not affect­ed by this mix­ing and found ?favor? in the eyes of the Lord (Gen. 6:8). Noah is described as a right­eous man, and in the New Tes­ta­ment he is list­ed as a great man of faith. The Apos­tle Peter informs us that Noah was a great preach­er of right­eous­ness (II Pet. 2:4 – 5). What we learn from the bib­li­cal account is that God, after announc­ing His intent to destroy the world, gives mankind a grace peri­od of 120 years. It was dur­ing this time peri­od that Noah was to con­struct an Ark while preach­ing on the side. Amaz­ing­ly, he had nary a con­vert as a result of his preach­ing!

The Flood that God brought about on the world at that time was so cat­a­stroph­ic that it altered the world?s geol­o­gy for­ev­er, and prob­a­bly caused the land mass to breakup into the con­ti­nents we now know. Today, for the most part, when we dig into the earth?s sed­i­ments we have a clear tes­ti­mo­ny of this cat­a­stroph­ic and trag­ic event. There is a bright side how­ev­er; God made a covenant with Noah nev­er to judge the world in this man­ner again sig­ni­fied by the rain­bow. It is also obvi­ous, though not explic­it­ly stat­ed in Scrip­ture, that the Ark of Noah is a beau­ti­ful type of Christ in that it illus­trates how today we are saved by being in Christ.

The Ark itself not only tes­ti­fies of God?s grace but is also a great tes­ti­mo­ny of the utter reli­a­bil­i­ty of the Scrip­tur­al account of the Flood. How? Ancient Mesopotami­an flood sto­ries have inter­est­ing par­al­lels to the bib­li­cal account indi­cat­ing there was a col­lec­tive mem­o­ry in the mind of ancient men of this trag­ic event. But there is one prob­lem: sev­er­al of these extra-bib­li­cal accounts (Atra­ha­sis, and Gil­gamesh) describe an ark that is either a cube or one that is cir­cu­lar (a cor­a­cle). Nei­ther would be sea­wor­thy in the kind of flood the bible describes. On the oth­er hand, the phys­i­cal dimen­sions of the Ark as described in the bible are the max­i­mum ratios (30 length, 3 height 5 width), you would need to ride out a storm involv­ing great tidal waves and earth upheaval. Tell me how can this be? If the bib­li­cal sto­ry of the Noah had a mytho­log­i­cal ori­gin, how would Moses have known this? It?s not an option to not answer the ques­tion! It can?t be an acci­dent that the writer of Gen­e­sis knew (or was told) how to build a boat that would have the max­i­mum sta­bil­i­ty in vio­lent seas! This was no riv­er flood. If it were just a riv­er flood, why would you need an ark 475 feet long with a capac­i­ty of over 500 rail­road cars? Or, why would you need an ark at all? Why not just have the ani­mals and man migrate to high­er ground? Yes, you need to answer the ques­tion. Now, some, call­ing them­selves Evan­gel­i­cals, are assign­ing the flood sto­ry to some lev­el of myth sta­tus. Oh real­ly! You mean you can pick and choose which is true his­to­ry? Well then, what about the Res­ur­rec­tion? Is that myth, too? That?s pret­ty hard to believe as well!

Now Hol­ly­wood is ful­ly aware of the pop­u­lar­i­ty and inter­est in the sto­ry of Noah?s Ark. Through­out the year for the last sev­er­al decades a pletho­ra of sto­ries about the dis­cov­ery of Noah?s Ark have appeared in the tabloids. It seems it is dis­cov­ered every sum­mer! This is not to men­tion the many doc­u­men­taries on the sub­ject on the cable chan­nels (and some­times the major net­works) all of which must make mon­ey or they would not con­tin­ue to make them. They also know that the first bib­li­cal sto­ry the child of a Chris­t­ian fam­i­ly is exposed to in Sun­day School, is the sto­ry of Noah, the ark and the ani­mals. So, why not take this great dra­mat­ic tale and make it into a movie? I applaud the move. How­ev­er, know­ing the ani­mos­i­ty Hol­ly­wood has toward any­thing Chris­t­ian I would be amiss by not hav­ing my doubts about how they would treat such a film.

Months ago, before the release of the film, Noah, (3/28/2014), I start­ed col­lect­ing reviews by peo­ple (most­ly Chris­t­ian lead­ers) who were shown var­i­ous ver­sions of the movie. Hol­ly­wood want­ed to appear to be open mind­ed about sug­ges­tions for how to treat this bib­li­cal dra­ma. Most of the reviews were mixed in their appraisal. Hol­ly­wood, i.e., Para­mount Stud­ies, sens­ing it would be con­tro­ver­sial, made fre­quent use of focus groups, along with much polling and con­sult­ing with these same influ­en­tial Chris­t­ian lead­ers. After all, much is at stake when you have a $130 mil­lion bud­get movie. This does not include anoth­er $50 – 60 mil­lion spent to pro­mote it!

So, unchar­ac­ter­is­tic of me, I was there to view the movie on open­ing night. I was cer­tain­ly pre­pared after read­ing through a three-inch thick file of reviews. One thing is obvi­ous, this movie sets a record for the num­ber of reviews, and they are still com­ing. I hope you can endure one more.

The movie was about what I expect­ed. The sto­ry line only vague­ly resem­bled the bib­li­cal account: there was a flood, and a fam­i­ly was saved by enter­ing an ark. What Hol­ly­wood loves to do, espe­cial­ly with bib­li­cal sto­ries, is to emp­ty them of bib­li­cal val­ues and replace them with their own mate­ri­al­ist, pagan, and or, new age val­ues. This movie was a prime exam­ple. Aronof­sky long ago saw the pos­si­bil­i­ties of the Noah sto­ry as vehi­cle for his own envi­ron­men­tal and Gaia reli­gion. This movie is not about a cat­a­stroph­ic judg­ment brought about by God because of man?s sin (as described above) but because man is destroy­ing the envi­ron­ment. Noah was cho­sen to build an ark pri­mar­i­ly to save the ani­mals because the Cre­ator saw that he cared and would get the job done. Mankind, accord­ing to Noah in the movie, and accord­ing to the movie?s cre­ator, is a virus that is destroy­ing what was once a pris­tine plan­et. Aronof­sky says his movie por­tends anoth­er flood that is com­ing if we do not stop glob­al warm­ing (New York­er, May 17, 2014, p48).

In the movie, Noah is not a preach­er of right­eous­ness who is untaint­ed by the wicked­ness of the ante­dilu­vian world, but rather a veg­e­tar­i­an and the world?s first envi­ron­men­tal­ist who is desirous of all human life being destroyed includ­ing his own fam­i­ly. He con­sents to build­ing an ark when he receives some sort of a rev­e­la­tion via a dream from ?the Cre­ator.? The main pur­pose of the ark is to deliv­er the ani­mals and not save man (Earth First!). Well, this is what I would have expect­ed from Aronof­sky who was asked about his belief in God and his world­view. This is how he replied: ?The Big Bang hap­pened, and all this star mate­r­i­al turned into stars, and stars turned into plan­ets, and plan­ets turned into life. We?re all just bor­row­ing this mat­ter and ener­gy for a lit­tle bit, while we?re here, until it goes back into every­thing else, and that con­nects us all.? He went on to say: ?The messed up thing is how dis­tract­ed we are and dis­con­nect­ed from that con­nec­tion, and the result of it is what we?re doing to this plan­et and to ourselves…What are we doing to our­selves? It?s a com­plete dis­con­nect. To me, that where the spir­i­tu­al­i­ty is. What­ev­er you want to call that connection?some peo­ple would use that term God. That to me, is what I think is holy.? (From The Chris­t­ian Post).

So, in the movie, many ele­ments of the orig­i­nal bib­li­cal sto­ry are turned on its head. The Nephilim, i.e., the rock mon­sters, turn out to be good in that they help Noah build the Ark and defend it from the Cainites (the meat eaters). In anoth­er major diver­gence, Noah did not want any child-bear­ing women to be on the ark. The wife of Shem was a young girl (Ilya) adopt­ed by Noah?s fam­i­ly as a child, and as a result of pre­vi­ous abuse, she is bar­ren. Methuse­lah, the grand­fa­ther of Noah, heals her, how­ev­er. The lat­ter is depict­ed as a Shaman­is­tic her­mit liv­ing in a cave who seems a quart low on the dip­stick! When Shem?s wife gets preg­nant Noah vows to kill the baby if it hap­pens to be a girl. Lat­er on the ark she gives birth to twin girls. Noah imme­di­ate­ly moves to kill them, but upon look­ing at their faces he finds he can­not do it. He then apol­o­gizes to the cre­ator and tells him he just couldn?t do it. You are left with the impres­sion that he did not car­ry out the Creator?s wish.

Now all art is some­what sub­ver­sive. Your orig­i­nal atten­tion is sup­posed to be attract­ed to the beau­ty and the cre­ativ­i­ty of the work. How­ev­er, the artist, who has a world­view, makes all art bio­graph­i­cal. He wants to, and works hard to get his mes­sage across in a latent rather than a bla­tant man­ner. Aronofsky?s movie is cer­tain­ly no excep­tion; his envi­ron­men­tal reli­gion is not so latent, how­ev­er, but there are oth­er ele­ments that you may only pick up after mul­ti­ple view­ing. The Shaman­ism, as men­tioned above, mag­ic, occultism, and the Jew­ish mys­ti­cism (The Kab­bal­ah) are ever so sub­tle. The snake­skin even seems, dare I say, Lucifer­ian!

Do I believe a movie mak­er artist should have cre­ative license? Of course! We know very lit­tle about Noah?s char­ac­ter and the oth­er char­ac­ters in the bib­li­cal account. What Aronof­sky does how­ev­er, is far more than license. He him­self said: This is the least bib­li­cal film ever made. I?m sor­ry, but I?m not over­ly impressed with Aronofsky?s end prod­uct. For me, the film is not a bib­li­cal epic at all; it fits more into the cat­e­go­ry of a dis­as­ter film with ele­ments of a car­toon (the rock beings) and a hor­ror flick. Hol­ly­wood has come a long way in devel­op­ing its art form. I refer to the qual­i­ty of the act­ing and tech­ni­cal aspects. In this film, you nev­er real­ly latch on to any of the char­ac­ters. Rus­sell Crowe, as Noah, has a good rep­u­ta­tion (Acad­e­my Award) for his art. Here, how­ev­er, he seems uncom­fort­able in his role. I found his dia­log at times hard to dis­cern; his voice seemed raspy and indis­tinct. The reviews I read (sev­er­al dozen), for the most part, raved about the spe­cial effects. I?m not one of them. These com­put­er gen­er­at­ed sce­nar­ios are fake and they looked that way (the ball of snakes, etc.). It would be inter­est­ing to know exact­ly what per­cent­age of the movie was com­put­er gen­er­at­ed.

All in all, I can?t give this movie a very high grade. See­ing it once is enough. This isn?t true if a movie is a great work of art, and it is not one you would want your chil­dren to see. Iron­i­cal­ly, it is a preachy movie. No one cat­er­wauls more than Hol­ly­wood when some Chris­t­ian orga­ni­za­tion (Sher­wood Bap­tist Church, Water­mark, etc.) makes a film with a mes­sage. For me this is a mes­sage movie: ?If we take care of plan­et earth, per­haps we will be spared future destruc­tion.? Noah says as much in the movie: ?If we work to save it, maybe He will save us.? (Not exact word­ing).

From the sev­er­al dozen reviews I’ve read, here are sev­er­al that I thought were quite provoca­tive. Also, note that some of those list­ed below have writ­ten mul­ti­ple reviews. And for more insight into the mind of Dar­ren Aronof­sky, I rec­om­mend the arti­cle ?Heavy Weath­er,? from the March 17, 2014 issue of The New York­er.

Click the links below to read their reviews.

Matt Walsh
Erick Erick­son
Mark Zoller Seitz
Bri­an Godawa
Bri­an Matt­son
Albert Mohler

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About Bill

Bill Crouse is a graduate of Dallas Theological Seminary and has done graduate studies at the U. of Texas at Dallas in the History of Ideas. The ministry of C.I.M. is dedicated to defending the historic faith in a postmodern world.

View all posts by Bill

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