For all its flaws, ‘Noah’ raises important questions

Churches must be willing and able to answer them.

By Michael Parnell

Darren Aronofsky joins the line of directors that have taken on bringing biblical stories to the screen. His Noah is not a literal rendering of the story of great flood, but it contains both interesting and poor choices in story telling.

The movie begins with God creating the world. It moves up to the point where Adam and Eve sin and Cain kills Abel. These two acts are at the center of the story.

How Aronofsky transitions into the story of Noah is based on the fact that after Cain killed Abel, there remained only two sons of Adam and Eve: Cain and Seth. Cain creates a technologically based society, which lays waste to the world God created. Cain’s descendents are aided by a group of fallen angels called the Watchers.

These Watchers share the secrets of technology with Cain’s family, which grows in power and might. Before long they cover the earth with wastelands from using all the resources of the planet.

Seth’s family follows God’s way. At the beginning of the movie there is only one son left from the line of Seth — Noah. His father, Lamech, gives him the blessing to walk upright before God. But before he can give all that he has to Noah, Lamech is murdered by Tubal-cain.

As we move further in time, Noah (Russell Crowe) is married to Naameh (Jennifer Connelly). They have three sons, Shem (Douglas Booth), Ham (Logan Lerman) and Japheth (Leo McHugh Carroll). They spend their days taking what they can from the almost barren earth to live, while hiding from other men. The family of Noah exists apart, for men are ruthless and live without concern for others.

One night, Noah has a vision from God, who shows him that God is going to destroy the world because of the wickedness of men. This stirs Noah to seek interpretation from his grandfather, Methuselah (Anthony Perkins).

As Noah’s family journeys to the place his grandfather lives, they come upon a group of people slaughtered by Tubal-cain’s followers. In the rubble they discover an injured girl, who has been struck in the stomach. Ila (Emma Watson) joins the family.

Methuselah describes how his father, Enoch, predicted the time would come when God would destroy the world because of human sin. He asks Noah how God might destroy the world. Noah replies by water. Then he is asked how God is going to save creation? Noah declares by an ark.

What follows is the building of the ark. This leads me to a criticism of the story told in the movie.

Directors and screenwriters have to use creations and devices in storytelling to move the narrative forward. The story of Noah presents problems. One is, how does Noah build an ark large enough to contain two of every animal with only himself and his three young sons?

Aronofsky turns to the Watchers. These fallen angels are portrayed as rocklike creatures. They help Noah build the ark and protect his family. The way these figures are constructed and how they function in the story did not work for me.

When the ark is nearly completed, Tubal-cain (Ray Winstone) lays claim to it. Noah resists, telling him there is nothing for him there. This sets up a battle which is launched just as the rain begins. This great battle underscores the trouble that Noah and his family have in beginning the journey from death to life.

This movie is flawed. Some of the devices used to tell the story got in the way of my enjoyment of it and some of the points Aronofsky wanted to make.

One interpretation was valuable. Aronofsky presents Noah as a good man, a righteous man, but still a man with flaws. One of the largest is that he becomes overzealous about what God wants done. That zeal drives a wedge between himself and his family.

Noah feels justified in taking any action because he believes he is doing God’s will. If that ends with him destroying his family, then he will do just that.

With all its problems, Noah is a noteworthy film. It will cause those outside the confines of our churches to raise questions we should be willing and able to answer. Those of us in the church should use the as a point of engagement with those outside.

That engagement should not be about what is wrong with the film, but what it is saying about how we live out our faith and our determination to do God’s will. It forces us to deal with the issue of overzealous believers. What do we say about those that use God’s will as motivation for their behaviors?


Rated PG-13 for violence, disturbing images and brief suggestive content

Directed by Darren Aronofsky. Written by Darren Aronofsky and Ari Handel

With: Russell Crowe (Noah), Jennifer Connelly (Naameh), Anthony Hopkins (Methusaleh), Ray Winstone (Tubal-cain), Emma Watson (Ila)

OPINION: Views expressed in Baptist News Global columns and commentaries are solely those of the authors.