Noah Movie: Worth Seeing, Despite the Errors

Even before its opening March 28 the film Noah starring Russell Crowe as the man commissioned by God to build an ark, stirred controversy among Christians. A number of Christian reviewers have praised the movie. But Noah has its significant detractors, many of whom have condemn its unbiblical mounting of the Genesis story. This reviewer was sent numerous emails warning of the film’s secular exploitation of Sacred Scripture.  Many without seeing the movie, condemn it because its director Darren Aronofsky is an atheist, and assume the movie is anti-Christian because it does not use the name “God,” takes liberties with the biblical text, turns Noah into a radical environmentalist, does not seem to have considered that incest for the sake of continuing the human race presents a moral dilemma, and fallen angels get saved. Some believe that the overall message of the film is that the world would be better off if every member of the human race was annihilated. One reviewer even labeled the movie as “brilliantly sinister anti-Christian filmmaking.”

The fact is Noah is a provocative, complex piece of filmmaking that is pro-God, pro-religion and ultimately pro-life.  In other words, some Christian critics have it wrong.

The movie, while approaching the biblical Noah story seriously, does take liberties with the text. The film begins with a division between Noah’s family—descended from Seth—who are faithful to God, and the evil descendents of Cain. Yes, Noah is very much the protector of God’s earth, while Cain’s clan, led by Tubal-cain, rape the earth for whatever they want.  Contrary to vegan Noah, who admonishes his son for picking a flower just because it was pretty, the Tubal-cainers are miners and meat-eaters, whose environmentally unfriendly policies have created a barren, lifeless land in which tribes turn to violence over food.  God seeks to annihilate the world because the human race has treated it so badly.

This is one of the flaws of the movie. God will wipe out mankind almost exclusively for sins committed against the earth and animals, while man’s immoral behavior in other areas is of little to no consequence, as if man’s inhumanity to man didn’t matter to God at least as much as man’s ill-treatment of His planet.  The movie can be faulted as a lopped-sided morality tale in which the environmentalist theme is dominant.

Consistent with this theme God is only referred to as “the Creator.”  While such a term for God is not theologically in error it is nonetheless doctrinally and spiritually narrow and a one-dimensional view of God’s relation to his people.

Noah-Movie-posterChristians may find the conservationist theme more than annoying, yet the film is faithful to the real issue raised by the biblical episode. Gen. 6 :5 states God sought to destroy humanity because every desire of his heart was evil and the world filled with corruption. The heart of this movie is not sustainability, but has to do with the value of the human race and whether God wills, after all, that the human race continue in Noah’s family saved from the flood.  Scripture immediately provides the answer, yes. The Noah movie also says yes—but as a film it takes a much more tortured route to the affirmation and this provides the story with its primary source of dramatic tension and interest.

Unlike the biblical text, at least two of Noah’ sons enter the ark without wives. The elder son Shem has a love interest in an orphan girl Ila, played by Emma Watson, adopted by Noah and his wife, but she is sterile due to a wound received in childhood. Thus the continuance of the human race proves something of a problem.  Noah’s middle son Ham is desperate to find a wife by which he may found a family. This prompts Noah to find him one among the violent neighboring Tubal-cain tribe. Noah arrives at their camp where women are brutally forced into slavery in exchange for food and helpless animals are torn to pieces. He suddenly sees in the face of one of the vicious tribesmen the face of the Evil One in the form of the ancient serpent of the Garden.

Noah is now driven by what he believes to be the will of God—the complete destruction of humanity through the flood. Thus the ark is not built to save mankind through the survival of Noah’s family, but strictly to ensure the preservation of animal species.  The human race will die out with the death of Noah’s youngest son Japheth as Noah has concluded that not even his sons are good and worthy human beings. All men are evil-doers and under the wrath of God.

Noah is so committed to ensuring God’s death sentence on the human race that, in a very disturbing scene, he even allows a woman Ham has rescued, and intends for his wife, to be trampled to death when he possibly could have saved her. However, lla has been miraculously cured of her sterility by Methuselah. She becomes Seth’s wife and, to Noah’s horror, conceives a child contrary to what Noah believes is the will of God.  If the baby turns out to be a boy—Noah will allow him to live—but if the child is a girl he vows, to everyone else’s horror, that upon the infant’s birth he will kill the baby.  Noah is so intent on this act of infanticide he even sabotages Seth and Ila’s attempt to escape the ark.

You might ask, what does any of this have to do with the biblical Noah? Despite the dominance of the environmentalist message, Aronofsky’s film is ultimately focused on biblical ideas and important theological questions. Rather than denying Genesis and its teaching that the human race should go on, the film is largely faithful to it. The movie begins with the Fall of man, affirming Original Sin through the menacing depiction of the serpent in Eden and the disobedience of Adam and Eve which leads directly to Cain’s murder of Abel. Contrary to God’s plan, man’s fall from grace is the source of injustice and the dissolution of human unity.

When Noah tells his sons the creation story it is essentially consistent with Genesis chapters One and Two. The film is very clear: Creation is not an accident, God is its author—He wills it to exist and the creation of earth, man, and the animals is good and beautiful. Man and Woman are in Paradise prior to the Fall. Man’s rebellion against God in the eating of the fruit of the tree from which they were forbidden to eat is again emphasized. Furthermore, there are spiritual consequences to mankind’s disobedience to God which causes God to send the flood to cleanse the earth.

The movie may be faulted for its ambiguity on the teaching of Genesis that man is created in the image of God and has dominion over creation. This doctrine is not articulated by Noah, the hero of the film. It is announced by its villain Tubal-cain, who has managed to stowaway just before the ark is swamp by the deluge. He proves his disrespect for creation when, for the sake of keeping up his own strength, he bites the head off a lizard—an endangered species now rendered extinct by human selfishness. This depraved character then repeats the words of Genesis that man is created in the image of God, offers the biblical teaching that “animals serve us” and God gave man the prerogative to “subdue the earth.” Does Noah intend to challenge the biblical view that human beings are unique and given the right to make use of the earth or is Tubal-cain’s view of dominion over the earth meant to be taken by the film-goer as a perversion of the Genesis teaching? The authentic concept of dominion over creation does not mean, as Tubal-cain proclaims toward the start of Noah, “I take what I want”—even if it means ruining the earth, but the film deliberately lacks clarity on these essential anthropological issues.

Core Message Revealed at the End (Spoiler Alert)
The challenge for the viewer of Noah is whether the ark-builder has properly interpreted the will of God in the annihilation of the human race or, driven by his own pessimism, gone off the deep end. After all, is infanticide really sanctioned by God?

The answer is no. Indeed, in spite of its own doctrinal biases, Noah is a movie with a pro-life message. First, Ila, regardless of her sterility, is tenderly affirmed by Noah as a person in her own right. He tells her that at first he thought she would be a burden, but instead her life is a gift. She births not just one daughter, but twin daughters and Noah cannot kill them after all.  Instead of lowering the knife, he lowers his head to kiss them. When asked why he spared them Noah says, “all I felt was love.” Noah believes, however that he has failed to do the will of God in not bringing an end to the human race. And this is where the pro-life message is found. Because Noah in his freedom made a choice to honor life he actually wound up doing the will of God as Ila points out to Noah that through him God “gave us another chance.”  Noah’s mercy reflected God.

Despite the disturbing features of the biblical Noah story, it is ultimately about cleansing, renewal and that God-willed “second chance.” The Noah film is ultimately focused on the mercy of God and the re-creation of life with images of male and female animal pairs nurturing their offspring and young Seth and Ila caring for theirs.

Noah affirms the importance, indeed the absolute necessity of marriage and procreation and the continuance of the human race. This statement could have been stronger, considering the exaggerated focus on the “innocence of animals” and man’s disrespect for creation, but whether or not Aronofsky intended this ultimately pro-life message, it is inescapable. The Noah film is not completely satisfying in terms of doctrinal/biblical faithfulness, but the errors and ambiguities are balanced in such a way that Christians should go see and can support this movie.

Monica Migliorino Miller

By

Monica Migliorino Miller is the Director of Citizens for a Pro-life Society and Associate Professor of Theology at Madonna University in Michigan. She holds a degree in Theatre Arts from Southern Illinois University and graduate degrees in Theology from Loyola University and Marquette University. She is the author of several books including The Theology of the Passion of the Christ (Alba House) and, most recently, The Authority of Women in the Catholic Church (Emmaus Road).

  • Rock St. Elvis

    I rather enjoyed it and found it pro-life and wonderfully hetero-centric!

  • Arriero

    The author says: «The fact is Noah is a provocative, complex piece of filmmaking that is pro-God, pro-religion and ultimately pro-life. In other words, some Christian critics have it wrong.»

    I agree. Many Christian critics have it wrong more than necessary. Many still have not learned how to read the Bible.

    We should distinguish between non-Catholics and anti-Catholics. There are many non-Catholics – even some atheists – who are not anti-Catholics. Yet there are many Christians who are profoundly anti-Catholic. We should know those with us, and those against us.

    From the movie perspective, I dare to say the director is non-Catholic, but he is not anti-Catholic.

    I enjoy whatever movie that praises and extols the history of European «Faith» Empires, the Church and, ultimately, the history of the Faith. More has to be done. There is no powerful and respected Church without real power, and that power is cultural too.

  • Edward Radler Rice

    In the end, what Aronofsky intended to portray in Noah is obscure. Better yet, it’s a smorgasbord. But it’s a smorgasbord of a story that relates directly to Christ Jesus. I suppose that Jesus Christ might be nothing other than a smorgasbord for Aronofsky, too.

    On the ark, Tubal-Cain’s carnivorous attitude and attack on the poor little lizard reminded me (at just this point) of Christ’s attitude towards the Sabbath: It is not that man is made for the Sabbath, but the Sabbath is made for man.

    “He proves his disrespect for creation when, for the sake of keeping up his own strength, he bites the head off a lizard—an endangered species now rendered extinct by human selfishness.”

    Seriously?

  • uncle max

    FYI – I am a practicing conservative Catholic. I am retired and so I can go to Mass a few times a week, which I do. (I live 30 miles from my church.) Whenever I can I go to Latin Mass.

    + The tech tricks were sensational, as would be expected, the lead actors were top-notch, especially Anthony Hopkins, who always seems to be 2 effortless steps ahead of everyone else.

    – Tubal-Cain’s getting on the boat unnoticed and hiding for whatever length of time was beyond unbelievable.

    At this point I must confess – periodically throughout the movie I would remember Bill Cosby’s 1968 skit about Noah.

    Overall grade – 85. Good escapist entertainment, some major holes in the plot such as Tubal Cain’s getting on the boat unnoticed and eating cooked meat without being found, the popcorn wasn’t hot enough.

    Recommended reading – Confronting the Language Empowering the Culture of Death. Sapientia Press of Ave Maria University.

    I would be glad to spread even more enlightenment but I have to take the dog to day-care.

    • fredx2

      I thought of Bill Cosby’s Noah on the way home tool. It was better than the movie.

      • uncle max

        I wouldn’t go that far, but I DID think about it first, so there.

        In any case – it wasn’t as good as the book, but that’s usually the case anyway.

  • I still won’t be letting my son see this movie. The pro-life message at the end is entirely overshadowed by the obvious influence of the Chinese Malthusian Eugenicists- that girls should be killed because of course, only women can have children. Glossing over the incest and the elimination of the other two wives is extremely problematic as well.

    • Leslie Andry

      I agree…for me, the pro-life message was overshadowed by the portrayal of Noah in the middle of the film as a lunatic. When I was a child, I was taught that Noah was THE definition of a righteous man- picked by God because of his outstanding character, holiness, and radical obedience. The twist on Noah’s character that the movie portrayed left me with a bad taste. My kids won’t see it, either.

      • Angel

        This is the stupidest Gnostic movie ever made. Read this article about the movie Noah:

        “The world of Aronofsky’s Noah is a thoroughly GNOSTIC one: a graded universe of “higher” and “lower.” The “spiritual” is good, and way, way, way “up there” where the ineffable, unspeaking god dwells, and the “material” is bad, and way, way down here where our spirits are encased in material flesh. This is not only true of the fallen sons and daughters of Adam and Eve, but of fallen angels, who are explicitly depicted as being spirits trapped inside a material “body” of cooled molten lava.

        Admittedly, they make pretty nifty movie characters, but they’re also notorious in Gnostic speculation. Gnostics call them Archons, lesser divine beings or angels who aid “The Creator” in forming the visible universe. And Kabbalah has a pantheon of angelic beings of its own all up and down the ladder of “divine being.” And fallen angels are never totally fallen in this brand of mysticism. To quote the Zohar again, a centralKabbalah text: “All things of which this world consists, the spirit as well as the body, will return to the principle and the root from which they came.” Funny. That’s exactly what happens to Aronofsky’s Lava Monsters. They redeem themselves, shed their outer material skin, and fly back to the heavens. Incidentally, I noticed that in the film, as the family is traveling through a desolate wasteland, Shem asks his father: “Is this a Zoharmine?” Yep. That’s the name of Kabbalah’s sacred text.” – Dr. Brian Mattson

        • Angel

          Oh by the way, Aronofsky also made the movie The Fountain. In this lame movie, the Aztec priest was guarding the Tree of Life and Buddha shows up to confront the Aztec priest!?!?!?!?
          Lovely, this Aronofsky is pushing Buddhism and Gnosticism on us Christians. MR. HOLLYWOOD is interpreting the Bible for us stupid Christians!
          And Christian leaders are promoting his films????
          I guess Christian leaders don’t know Christian Theology anymore!

          • Lou R

            Just reading the review makes my head spin – how convoluted. Sitting through the movie would make me sick. You couldn’t pay me to watch it.

          • tired of idiots

            normally id complain but i was once a Christian and from all this hate accursed bigotry and selfish condemnation id rather let you be consumed by your stones your moxie
            how would Jesus act if he was upon the side of this debate this is why i left the holy bs as it was THIS sour taste from the community of self righteous morons 1 Jesus was ethnic spoke Ethiopian language (Aramaic) was a Arab and a Jew BLACK BROWN Not Caucasian yet each and every imbecile went to the “Passion” to see a white Christ he died in December and rose up in December as the false Christ you follow a book ordained unto man put in place by God Methuselah and the holy spirit and Rome Ruined every chapter the same people who denied the people who (a good %of the holy see have financed Hollywood films and propaganda) did you not learn the origins of Eden and the tree are Norse the Great deluge is in multiple religions and texts you bash what skulls you like and eat the heart of the meaning of Christ like cannibalism and break the bones of others like bread .. this is why i left this silly belief system i believe there is a God a Devil Karma Mano many things a Christ a Antichrist as should be balance for man to have choice life and death

            • Angel

              What ever, nutty!

        • fredx2

          yes, there were too many odd things in this movie that are inexplicable, except for the Gnostic interpretation. I think he has it right. I was wondering what that snakeskin that lit up was all about.

    • uncle max

      Noah swore to kill the babies before he knew their gender – as soon as he was told that the girl was not barren as previously thought but pregnant.

      What two other wives?

      • In the original form of the story, all three of Noah’s sons were married *before* the flood. Their wives went with them on the boat.

        In addition, the later threatened infanticide was gender based.

  • Dick Prudlo

    I think it is a sad state we find ourselves when we need to parse a movie and come up with an excuse to pay more money to be insulted by all the wise men.

  • First and foremost, I have to thank God for this space and Crisis Magazine, because it one of the halls where truth can still find a place.
    I must say that in general I find the articles in Crisis very well balanced and supported by our Church’s doctrine, however, I find this one upsetting for several reasons; it seems to justify the Relativistic culture we live in, by allowing the mix of truths and lies in a movie, and then having to carve into the story to find the good in it. The problem is that trained people might do that, but most people takes it at face value, and this is dangerous for most catholics who are not exposed to the truth on regular basis. We have to remember that the most successful biblical / epic movies have also been the most biblically accurate, p.e. The passion (Mel Gibson), that even received a tacit support from Pope John Paul II eventhough it was also a very controversial movie (for the right reason, as opposed to Noah’s) as a catholic that deeply desires to live its religion in freedom, and knowing that freedom is not free, I stand for what our church teaches without ambiguity, even if at time this appears to be extremist under this days standards.
    Please remember that even Pope Francis only gave a personal blessing to Russell Crowe and NOT TO THE MOVIE, furthermore, he WILL NOT WATCH THE MOVIE (See March 19 general audience information). I guess he does not want to give place to yet another misinterpretation of his acts and sayings. If Pope Francis is taking a stand, and he is viewed as a very open person, I do not understand how Ms. Migliorino can pretend to know better.

    • Back 20 years ago, I was active on usenet debating religion, with Seventh Day Adventists who were claiming that meat eating was only “emergency food after the flood”, and that in the Garden of Eden, everybody was Vegetarian. I laughed at them too.

    • fredx2

      I think it is fair to say that Hollywood is perfectly happy to muddy the waters about Christianity and religion. The more they can highlight the supposed “evil” God that would destroy the earth, the more fodder they give to the young impressionables, who are their target anyway. For the vast bulk of people that know little about the bible, they only know what Aronofsky tells them and Hollywood is fine with that..

    • Mark Wilson

      The fact that Pope Francis is not seeing the movie doesn’t mean he is taking a stand against it. I don’t think he sees many films in general. Also It was only after the flood that they were allowed to eat meat. Based on serveral reviews including Fr. Barron, Al Kresta, Patrick Coffin and Steven Greydanus the movie sounds very biblical and have supported their views with sound argumentation and you can now include Ms. Miller among those. Great Job with your critic.

  • Greg Fazzari

    I thoroughly enjoyed the movie. I found the either/or of Noah’s perspective on man (man is a blight on creation) and Tubal-Cain’s (man is the master of creation) a fascinating part of the movie.

    • Rock St. Elvis

      Same here. It was like a case study in how heresies develop and flourish. Both Noah and Tubalcain took an “either/or” view of matters when they should have taken a “both/and” view.

      Noah, not completely clued in to what God had in mind, followed his own logic from an erroneous premise to conclude that man is thoroughly bad and must be destroyed. He became a fanatic, in short. An environmentalist wacko. Tubalcain’s diametrically opposite conclusion was that, because God commanded man to subdue creation, anything he does is permissible.

      We in the audience can see that each is wrong for magnifying one piece of the truth to the distortion of the whole truth, like looking at something through a carnival mirror. Or at least, some in the audience pick up on it. The rest actually think the film endorses Noah’s errors.

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  • ColdStanding
  • wc4mitt

    Errors regarding Scripture do not contribute to anyone’s knowledge. Errors are simply that – things which are wrong. Truth is what is relevant always in every situation. W/o truth we are living in an unreal world. IS that what you want for yourself; for your children; for you nation. We are already on the slide in that direction. To recommend anything filled w/errors, which may be indeed deliberate as this was produced by an atheist and/or other people who have no association w/the Truth, is a grave sin, when the recommendation is given by a person or persons (like EWTN) who in deed know the Truth but rather obscure it for the sake of readers/listeners or grandiose pitch for being “cool’.

  • adrienne p

    Reviewer above should be ashamed. Everyone should read this by Barbara Nicolosi. There is no justification for these heresies, occasions of sin — and especially the bad movie making. Based on some of the early reviews and seeing the interview with Raymond Arroyo, I might have recommended this movie to my Catechism class students. That would have created a mortal sin for me. I am glad to have found this first.
    And the worst is that good Christians think they have to pay money to be so abused.
    http://www.patheos.com/blogs/churchofthemasses/2014/03/the-utter-embarrassing-mess-of-noah-and-why-everybody-is-lying-about-it/

    • Mark Wilson

      http://www.ncregister.com/blog/steven-greydanus/fr-barron-on-noah I think this is a more intelligent assessment of the film and everyone who reads Barbara should read this as well.

    • Rock St. Elvis

      No one commits a mortal sin by mistake. Such a sin requires not only grave matter and full assent of the will.

      And labeling those of us who liked the movie – despite its flaws – as mortal sinners is obnoxiously sanctimonious.

  • cestusdei

    The main thing I did not like is how God and Noah were portrayed as almost insane. However, I did not expect orthodoxy from Hollywood.

    • fredx2

      Ah, but there was no God in the movie. Only “The Creator” which was odd

      • cestusdei

        It’s Hollywood, so not odd at all.

  • Mechelle

    I don’t understand why the writer of this article didn’t address the gnostic influence.

  • Allison Grace

    …because men called righteous in the Scriptures never did anything wrong or had screwy ideas… except Abraham who offered his wife to a harem to save his own skin. And lying Rebekah and Jacob.Oh, and King David’s lust, murder, adultery, and causation of his own child’s death. It’s absolutely biblically plausible in the (something like) 100 years it took Noah to build the ark, to get weird, have doubts, be bad, etc.

  • mbrumley

    Thanks for the thoughtful analysis of the film NOAH.

    You write: “God will wipe out mankind almost exclusively for sins committed against
    the earth and animals, while man’s immoral behavior in other areas is of little to no consequence, as if man’s inhumanity to man didn’t matter to God at least as much as man’s ill-treatment of His planet.”

    While the film gives the Flood story an ecological emphasis, I don’t think it is correct to say that God is wiping out mankind almost exclusively for sins against the earth and animals and man’s sins in other areas are of little or no consequence. That’s a bit of an overstatement, it seems to me.

    “The Noah film is ultimately focused on the mercy of God and the re-creation of life with images of male and female animal pairs nurturing their offspring and young Seth [sic: Shem] and Ila caring for theirs.”

    I think this gets it right.

    On the environmentalist theme, I think the film encourages us to strike a balance. One can see in the film a conflict between a radically humanist view of the world and a radical environmentalist view. The resolution is, arguably, the biblical vision of stewardship dominion. In the radical humanist view, man claims a kind of exploitive dominion over everything else. That dominion is limited only by the bounds of will and desire, and it claims justification in the human drive to survive and conquer. We are permitted to do what we want with the world because we’re the smartest and the most willful. That attitude may be short-sighted because ultimately counter-productive–it may lead to a barren world in which we can’t survive and there’s nothing left to conquer. But it is not wrong in the ethical sense of offending against some inherent value, purpose, or meaning to existence.

    The radical environmentalist view, expressed in the film by Noah when he falls into substituting his ideas about the creation for the Creator’s will, sees man as a plague to be eradicated. Creation is “innocent” and man is irredeemably “guilty”. Justice requires mankind’s complete destruction, with no room for mercy. The creation without man is the truly good. In the context of the film’s story, Noah sets out to save both the animals and his family, but he comes to believe that the Creator’s purpose for his family is more or less to preserve the animals during the flood. When that mission is accomplished humanity will die out. Creation will be safe from lawless, rebellious, destructive mankind. And Noah is ready to do what it takes to ensure that outcome, including, when he discovers his daughter-in-law’s pregnancy, to kill her offspring, should she give birth to a daughter who could give birth to other human beings.

    Noah’s desire for human destruction is expressed in religious terms: he believe it’s the Creator’s will to end humanity. No doubt, we can see therein a criticism of radical religion’s taking otherwise good things too far and substituting a claim to absolute and all-encompassing knowledge of God’s will for man’s finite understanding of it. Noah prays for guidance and shortly thereafter learns his daughter-in-law is pregnant. He doesn’t take the hint that perhaps the end of the human race isn’t God’s plan. When the daughter-in-law gives birth, it’s to twin girls–again, Noah misreads the situation, thinking it is God’s will to kill them and thus prevent humanity from continuing. Only when his love overcomes his mistaken discernment of God’s will can he be brought to hear God’s voice in his love for the children.

    One might, as I say, interpret the film as chiding an overconfidence in knowing exactly what the Creator wills. At the same time, there is a criticism of an environmentalism that makes concern for nature an absolute (divine?) value, one in which the radical environmentalist is willing to sacrifice all human life for the sake of the environment.

    It is a mistake to read the biblical texts about man’s dominion as an exploitative dominion rather than a stewardship dominion. Unfortunately, man often has understood his dominion precisely in that way.

  • Randall Ward

    I am sorry you recommend the film. Satan doesn’t want to turn us 180 degrees away from the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit; he wants to turn us 2 or 3 degrees away. This film is one of the best tools of the devil to accomplish that goal.

  • Monica Miller

    I can see that my film review of Noah has generated strong reactions, with the majority thus far critical of my having concluded that Noah, despite its more than imperfect telling of the biblical flood episode, may still be supported by Christians. Let me try and respond to at least some of the comments that have been registered here. The movie certainly does not endorse “Chinese Malthusian Eugenics.” Indeed, if anything Noah rejects this attack on life and can even be seen as a real polemic against the barbaric practice of killing female infants that still is hideously practiced in some countries today.

    Some have accused the film of being gnostic in its view of God and the world. Such paganism is not supported by this movie’s view of God or His creation. As Father Robert Barron in his positive Noah critique points out “this Creator God is not presented as a distant force, nor is he blandly identified with Nature. Rather, he is personal, active, provident, and intimately involved in the affairs of the world that he has made,” hardly a theology consistent with Gnosticism.
    I did not need to “carve into the story to find the good” in this film. This movie is very overt in its ultimate confirmation of the value of the human race and God’s mercy.
    A agree that certain aspects of Aronofsky’s take on biblical truths are obscure–and I agree that for this reason the film can be faulted–and I say that quite clearly in my review. But just because a book or movie doesn’t satisfy every Christian doctrine, or promote an absolute Christian perspective in all that it does, doesn’t mean that a reviewer like me, a faithful theologian and veteran pro-life leader should be accused of supporting “relativism” especially when I point out the movies serious weaknesses.
    Noah, despite its errors, comes out ahead, it plainly has a pro-life perspective on the human race, even advocates heterosexuality and marriage in a age when all those truths are being trashed and thus my take on Noah is that Christians can come away from this movie with a sense of edification. This is NOT an anti-Christian film.
    Many who have responded to my review treat Noah as if it were blasphemously the equal of a film such as “The Last Temptation of Christ.” Which it is not. That film deserves the kind of condemnation directed at Noah–while Noah deserves an honest critique, objective critique. God be with you.
    ,

    • john

      horrible movie

      • john

        If you want a fair Catholic review that just lays out the facts objectively see here http://www.catholicnews.com/data/movies/14mv040.htm

      • Angel

        Agree, we must FEED MR. HOLLYWOOD so that he can make more $$$$$ MISINTERPRETING the Bible, because the BIBLE SHOULD NOT get the HONOR that it deserves. Because MR. HOLLYWOOD has spoken and stupid Christians DESERVE TO LOSE THEIR FAITH, because Mr. Hollywood said so.

    • John

      Common Monica, If someone made film mocking your parents, and misleading others about your parents life work and messages (which is actually important here as most “Christians” have little biblical knowledge and are likely to take items in the film as fact – ie a resent poll showed 60% thought Noah’s wife was Joan of Arc) and just puts in one or two good messages in all the trash would you honestly advise ppl to see the movie. God is my Father, He is our Father, lets have some respect for him (and our Church fathers like Noah) and you are not showing respect in encouraging a movie that in places it UNARGUABLY distorts God (andminimizes him), in other places mocks Him (makes him petty and vindictive etc) and about that “prolife message” you seem to hang everything on – with the film reasons for the flood it is a lot more like Modern environmentalists that what to CONTINUE abortion to reduce human carbon footprint – same logic AND that is NOT prolife logic.

      “Noah is a major Hollywood blockbuster, made by an atheist director best known for his previous flick where a mentally disturbed lesbian ballerina goes insane and bleeds to death on stage.

      If you’re looking for a movie more obviously inspired by Biblical precepts, go see anything else. Go see The Lego Movie. I’m sure even that will bear a closer resemblance to Scripture than emo Noah and his gang of Boulder Creatures.

      But what if you don’t care about the Bible and you just want to see a good movie? The critics seem to love this film, don’t they?

      Yes, they do. They love it because they’re a herd of politically correct cattle and this is a movie that they’re ‘supposed’ to like. It’s made by an ‘important’ director. It’s ‘controversial.’ It’s upsetting a bunch of Tea Party types.

      They came up with a way to make millions while exploiting the various sensibilities of different audience demographics.

      That was their first and primary intention, and in it they succeeded wildly.

      As an adaptation or retelling of Judeo-Christian theology, it’s a blatant mockery.

      But, as a money-making ploy, it’s a downright masterpiece.” -http://themattwalshblog.com/2014/03/29/im-a-christian-and-i-think-noah-deserves-a-four-star-review/

      Glad you swallowed the ploy Hook line and sinker Monica, not only enough to feed them your money but enough to abuse the name of “Christian” film reviewer by recommending to other good Christians to throw there money away here.
      AND, Lastly, keep in mind the more money you get sent this way the more likely we are to get OTHER biblical stories made in this manner and more likely the directors will TAKE EVEN MORE LIBERTIES as you not only do not hold them accountable (at the pocket book which is the greatest thing Hollywood respects) but you encouraged them. Next time please please consider that before you give something your endorsement. If they did this to Noah just imagine how they’ll portray Jesus when they find some even more anti-Christian atheist director and know you do have the Gut the early Apostles showed to give a care.

      • john

        “A scraggly band of Bad Guys soon show up with the wicked intentions of devouring the animal’s flesh, because, in this story, the Height of Evil is to stave off your imminent starvation by hunting wild game. (If only they’d developed Noah’s ability to be a strict vegetarian in an environment almost entirely devoid of vegetation.)

        The Bad Guys attack Noah, not realizing that he’s a vegan Martial Arts master. Noah proceeds to kick some serious butt, leaving all of the Bad Guys bleeding on the ground.

        One of them looks up at him in awe and terror. “What do you want?”

        “Justice,” Noah growls with a determined gaze

        I was expecting him to then whisper, “I’m Batman,” and disappear, but I realized that superhero movies wouldn’t have dialogue nearly so clichéd as this embarrassing farce.

        At any rate, Noah wants justice. Of course, this is coming from the same dude who will spend the rest of the movie contemplating murder-suicide and threatening to stab babies in the face.

        But, hey, nobody’s perfect.”

        Here is an example from the review I linked to above of just how twistedly they twisted Noah.

        And while I am also glad he did not kill the Babies, Noah did want that girl to be left for dead (not that prolife there) and HONESTLY, saying the movie is supportable are should be supported b/c of the one “prolife” baby part is like saying we should support a drug trafficker (or human trafficker) cause he gives a small portion of his gains to a prolife charity. Not Happening.

      • Craig Truglia

        If that is your criteria for what is acceptable in a movie, you won’t be able to enjoy any movie made ever, FYI.

  • hombre111

    Excellent. Something sometimes missing in Crisis articles: nuance and the big picture.

  • tteague

    Monica, thank you for this review. I think it is fair and balanced, and does a good job of getting at the film’s core themes. I do not think NOAH is a great film, but it is provocative, interesting, and clearly the work of an artist trying to think deeply about very human struggles. I am generally somewhat taken aback by some of the more extremely negative reactions to the film, or to your review. I don’t think they are warranted, either from an aesthetic or from a moral perspective. Artistically the film works at times, and doesn’t at others. There is some really profound moments in the film, and frankly some silly moments as well. Some of the artistic choices are excellent, others are confusing. I have been reading a lot of the reviews, and following some of the debates that have been raging around this film since it came out. What each person will think about it, and whether they think it’s “okay” to see it or recommend it will be up to each. Christians are called to be wise, and that’s not an easy thing to do. For the most part I don’t think it is unwise to see the film, if one is willing to think about it and engage in dialogue. In fact, it might be a very wise choice to make to see it.

    My general response to a number of reactions I’ve read by Christians who either say they’ll never see the movie NOAH, or that they saw it and wished they had not wasted their money, and perhaps even calling it blasphemous, etc. At this point I have no real interest in making an argument for NOAH being artistically good or bad, and I certainly am not trying to convince anyone to like the film, but it might be a good thing for Christians to consider watching this film.

    Three (maybe not the best) reasons for a Christian to see NOAH:

    1. Aronofsky is a major artist of our time. He has made a work of art based on a story that has haunted him since he was a young boy. It is a good thing to consider serious works of art and, perhaps attend closely to them, and then wisely judging them for their merits and their faults. This is a good thing for Christians to do. It is arguable we are, in fact, called to do this (which, of course, does not mean all Christians are called to watch this film). NOAH is not a great film, but it is a good film, and it is not without its artistic flaws, but it is worthy of our consideration and evaluation. Christians should know what is going on in the culture, apart from the predictable and comfortable “voices” they gather around themselves. How each of us does this requires wisdom, but we should not turn entirely away. Seeing NOAH could be a way for a Christian to continue developing his/her ability to wisely judge works of art.

    2. The film is likely based on ancient Jewish mystical writings, in particular the Kabbalah, as well as on the Bible. Some have argued it is not based on the Bible at all, I’m not so sure. Some have argued it is Gnostic. This is currently a raging debate among some. For some Christians this might be troubling, but the ancient flood “myth” is common throughout the world with many different examples. Thus Christians should not be surprised to see a story of the flood that does not conform to what they believe actually happened. And as for what actually happened, the biblical text is very scant on details, thus almost calling for a Midrash on the story. It is arguable this film is a Midrash, and thus never intended to convey historical/documentary truth, but to meditate on the meaning of the story, which it does. As for that, is it not interesting the Noah is a righteous man who knows everyone but himself and his family is going to die? Would that not present a dilemma for any righteous man? That is arguably the theme of the film, and worthy of a Christian’s consideration. Seeing NOAH could be a way for a Christian to more closely examine his/her faith, grow in an understanding of God through comparison, and ponder themes of justice and mercy.

    3. This film has made a lot of money and is fairly popular, but more importantly it is a very controversial film. Why, because it touches a nerve. But we should be careful in having opinions about works of art that we have not personally seen and judged for ourselves. This is not to say all should see this film. But it is a worthy thing for Christians to engage intelligently with the broader culture, and this requires some level of knowledge and judgment. Seeing the film allows one to enter into that conversation – not unlike reading any great book or work of philosophy. That this film is what it is culturally, economically, artistically, and theologically, Christians should pull themselves up to the table and join the conversation. Seeing NOAH could be a way for a Christian to more wisely bring the gospel to the culture by more fully understanding the language of that culture.

  • Elena Maria Vidal

    Thank you for the balanced review, Monica. People are really overreacting when they say this film is gnostic and blasphemous. Environmentalism is not all bad; Pope BenedictXVI encouraged us to be responsible stewards of Creation. So did God, for that matter. The vegetarianism is Scriptural, in that before the Flood mankind did not have permission from God to eat meat. Many traditional Catholic religious orders still practice perpetual abstinence from meat. I could write several essays on the
    Gnostic elements in Star Wars and The Wizard of Oz. If people have
    such weak faith that they think the film is going to corrupt them
    and make them Gnostic then they should stay away from films
    completely and live a cloistered life. Seriously. As for people
    who have no faith, they might see the film and be inspired to read
    the Bible.

    • Clare Krishan

      Well said Ms Vidal – from an author of historical fiction well versed in man’s fascination with his own follies. May I add that I see the early place given to Noah in Divine Writ as a precursor to the other Wisdom literature, a germ if you will of a syncresis with classical rational ideas of virtue achieved in Job where the four corners of his house represent the 4 cardinal virtues of pagan societies, the three daughters represent the 3 theological virtues of faith hope and love according to Gregory via Aquinas http://www.newadvent.org/summa/2068.htm Prima Secundae Partis, Q. 68 “I answer that, If we speak of gift and virtue with regard to the notion conveyed by the words themselves, there is no opposition between them. Because the word “virtue” conveys the notion that it perfects man in relation to well-doing, while the word “gift” refers to the cause from which it proceeds.”

      Noadites revere the mystical number seven as containing all Wisdom (falling short of the Decalog, the triadic deficit corresponding to faith’s “love of God” as precondition to reason’s “love of self”) I like to think that the 4 transcendentals beauty, goodness, truth and unity can be parsed to cover invincible ignorance: that if a man of good will of Noah’s era was ‘righteous’ he probably was practicing humanism to the best of his ability by revering revelation resplendent in the created things he was privy to. Artistic license in the movie implies varieties of magical enchanted physical matter that might require a suspension of disbelief, until we are reminded of Moses and supernatural (or not – in Persia a nougat-like sweet is made from the gelatinous sap of a marshmallow-like plant) gift the manna in the desert).

      His conception of truth and goodness had no problem with justice and temperance, but his conception of beauty could not encompass the vastness of God’s mercy. Perhaps the book was a written record of oral recollections by early monotheists with this end in mind – to preserve in memory the history of the discovery of man’s need for, capacity to receive and thus obligation (ie memory and identity) to extend, mercy in the face of the chthonic forces of death and destruction unleashed via natural catastrophes?

      Dualism’s ‘matter is evil’ and ‘spirit is good’ cannot fully account for beauty or mercy. Our Trinitarian faith can. For that we should be enormously grateful and be ready to do more to evangelize the culture as emeritus Pope Benedict reminds us “the First Letter of Peter exhorts Christians to be always ready to give an answer concerning the logos—the meaning and the reason—of their hope (cf. 3:15) … Paul reminds the Ephesians that before their encounter with Christ they were “without hope and without God in the world” (Eph 2:12)… their gods had proved questionable, and no hope emerged from their contradictory myths… the Christian message was not only “informative” but “performative”. That means: the Gospel is not merely a communication of things that can be known—it is one that makes things happen and is life-changing. The dark door of time, of the future, has been thrown open. The one who has hope lives differently; the one who hopes has been granted the gift of a new life.” in Spe Salvi §2 (my emphasis).

  • Lynda

    Monica, you are a wonderful theologian. I will be seeing Noah with my husband. Your work has been a life-saver to me in understanding women and the Church. Films often fly loose here and there but the drama, the visuals, it does make the drama of salvation history impact in a way generations have never known. Sometimes it doesn’t work. But who was not moved by the Passion. I expect some tremors in the soul region with Noah…it was a type of pre-history….so why should we expect so much…times unknown almost…almost prelapsian. A little flexibility isn’t out of order….it is the words of the text which can’t ever be conveyed. It is the text which holds in time the power to convert.

    • iggram

      DUMB!

  • Phil Steinacker

    Frankly, I remain appallled at the error-ridden Catholic commentary making excuses for this deceitful movie. The article above and even the esteemed Father Barron are prime examples of that Catholic failure. The comments similarly supportive but equally ignorant of the truth behind “Noah” found in this thread are excusable only because the rest of us have no credentials requiring us to do better. Of course, there are many non-Catholic Christian “authorities” who also missed the truth behind the deceit underpinning this movie.

    All except an obscure Evangelical theologian familiar with the Kabbalist background because he’d done a little digging into Aronofsky’s past films. Dr. Mattson, obscure no longer, wrote a detailed analysis which takes apart any notion that Noah deserves the support of any Catholic or other Christian authority.

    Frankly, Dr. Mattson stole a march on EVERYBODY by providing the ONLY comprehensive interpretation of this fraudulent film which explains everything in it which others have correctly identified as unbiblical, especailly the director.

    It is based on the Kabbalah, and any complete understanding of what Aronofsky is up to requires viewing it through a Gnostic lens.

    Mattson takes to task what he calls Christian “thought leaders” who failed to recognize what is before them, accusing them of committing spiritual malpractice for neglecting to alert Christians that we are being used to advance ideas diametrically opposed to core Christian beliefs.

    You can read Dr. Mattson’s post, “Sympathy for the Devil,” here: http://drbrianmattson.com/journal/2014/3/31/sympathy-for-the-devil
    I’m very glad he’s done this. It is a spash of cold water in the face for Fr. Barron, the author of the above article, and dozens of others. However, we need this sort of awakening to stand up to the encroachment upon Christianity on so many levels and from so many quarters.

    Archbishop Sheen would have recognized the Gnostic influences as well.

    • Rock St. Elvis

      Thanks for the scolding.

      If you’d actually seen the movie, you’d know that much of what “Dr.” Mattson (doctor of what?) claims is in it is not there. Mattson’s downright invention of offending elements to support his (pre-)fabricated point is worse than the liberties Aranofsky took with the biblical story.

      The film does not portray Adam and Eve as fleshless before the Fall. Nor does it portray Cain and Abel as the children of anyone but Adam and Eve. Nor does it portray the spiritual as all good and the material as all bad. At first it appears to take the viewpoint that animals are nobler than humans and that the earth would be better off without us, but the second half of the movie soundly repudiates that view. Even if “animals = good, man = bad” were the film’s true message, that wouldn’t make it gnostic, as the movie would still value 99.99999999% of the material universe.

      Nor does it portray the Creator (so-called quite obviously because the film is a mediation on creation) as some lesser deity out to kill everyone. What it portrays concerning God’s purpose is the diametrically opposite misunderstandings on the part of both Noah and Tubalcain of God’s will. The film very clearly does not endorse either character’s view, but gives the audience enough credit (mistakenly it seems) to understand that both are exemplars of fanaticism. The audience’s sympathies are steered to the two women and their pleas on behalf of life and of faith – particularly the faith that God will provide, no matter how much it may appear otherwise.

  • Another very good, thoughtful take. So tired of Christians kvetching ourselves to irrelevance.

  • John Byde

    Why all this fuss about a stupid film? It changes nothing important. See it, don’t see it, but please stop going on about it!

  • To be counted as worthy of notice it is crucial that Christian Catholics reward the wealthy for distorting truth for there can be no art worthy of the name if it treats the Bible as truth.

    As to the claim that the Director + the Arms-smuggling-spy-Producer took the Bible seriously; well, so what?

    Stalin took the Kulaks seriously.

  • Monica Miller

    I have read Dr. Mattson’s negative critique of the Noah
    movie and I still must conclude that his view regarding the so-called gnostic
    themes is in many respects a false interpretation of Aronofsky’s film. If
    Aronofsky intended to present us with a gnostic view of reality then he simply
    didn’t know what he was doing in the long run. There is no way that the
    God Creator in this movie is a gnostic God– impersonal spirit who has nothing
    to do with the world of matter except to stay as far away from it as possible.
    There is absolutely no blurring of the distinction between the souls of men and
    the deity and no gnostic deity would dare save even a remnant of the material
    world–as is clearly God’s goal in the Noah film. Creation is real, it is good,
    it is willed by God in the Beginning and the fleeting depictions of Adam and
    Eve prior to the Fall, while their bodies are luminous — they are depicted as
    having real flesh–and if the film maker hoped his audience came to a different
    conclusion he failed terribly.

    I also disagree with Mattson that the Noah movie is not based on Genesis. YES– as I have many times pointed out, there are departures from the biblical text all over the place–BUT, the biblical themes are there, taken from Genesis so much so, those themes provide the philosophical thrust of the movie, that one cannot say, as does
    Mattson, that absolutely nothing in this film is based on the biblical
    text insofar as that text provides the building blocks for issues raised in
    this movie and its conclusions regarding the value of mankind and the beauty of
    creation.

  • donna

    My husband and I went to see the movie and was shock, at what we saw, my aunt is a true Cristian and I really don’t want her to see it, Im afraid she would not fine it a story in our bibles. We went to see it Sat the 5 and there was only a hand full of people in the seats, Im sorry to say I did not like it. Shame on the directors for changing a wonderful loving story we know,,, and changed it because they could,,, Im so disappointed, Im a 60 year old women and I pray my gran kids wont want to see it. Donna from Va

  • Tweaker

    I just saw the movie and I can only think of the zillions of people who are very ignorant of scripture and will come away with a false understanding of the person of God, His word and religion in general because of this very warped and distorted rendering of this story from sacred scripture.

  • Mack

    The reviews lost me at “rock people.”

  • John Albertson

    This film is like a poorly done version of Lord of the Rings directed by Al Gore.

  • I saw the movie last night and really liked it. It’s not a perfect movie, but I find so much of the criticism of it does not ring true to what I saw. No one is trying to hide the fact that Aronofsky is a Jewish atheist who is into Kabbalah, and no one should expect the movie to be 100% orthodox. Considering Aronofsky’s beliefs, I’m more amazed by how much genuine Christianity is in the film, rather than by what deviates from it.

  • Benjamin

    Monica, I found this to be a very brave, thoughtful and serious-minded article. Thanks for posting!!!

  • Craig Truglia

    This was the conclusion I came to about the film and I am grateful you appreciated it for the same reasons.

  • Barbara R. L.

    Thanks for the insightful analysis of Noah, Monica. What a
    refreshing film review—it is intelligently written, impressively supported, and
    excellently reasoned. Unfortunately,
    several of the previous responses were written by readers who have not yet
    viewed the film. Some responders
    admitted that they relied on childhood memories of the Noah “story” for a basis
    of comparison. Discussion and debate is
    welcomed and necessary in healthy Catholic discourse—however, attacking the
    reviewer and writing with anger and disdain instead of what John Paul II called
    us to—Faith and Reason—is
    disappointing and impedes productive, respectful dialogue on Catholic
    perspectives in the Arts and media. Keep
    up the great work, Monica! We need more
    Catholic voices that embrace both Faith and Reason—within the unique purview of
    film, music, television, books, etc.

  • Clare Krishan

    I have tried to give the benefit of the doubt to those who critique the movie’s treatment of the Noah trope. My sense is that they see signs that signify a darker undercurrent than the superficial verities we take for granted in such a familiar story, rather like turn-of-the century French society was offended by the despondent retelling of Jesus’ parable in Le Retour de l’Enfant Prodigue by lapsed Calvinist Andre Gide where hope as a God-given mighty balm for present sufferings is reduced to an assertion of personal ‘progress’ under self-willed power ruled by the older brother “the returning son insists that the House is not the Father (La Maison, ce n’est pas Vous, mon Père.)” and encites a putative younger brother to escape (ie a dualist alter-ego for the returned prodigal’s conflicted conscience), negating the contingent certainty of the abundant mercy metaphor. Any feminine domestic principle (ie the bride of Christ the Church) associated with Wisdom has negligible voice in the French cri du couer. The Noah movie doesn’t insult our intellects in that way: the feminine domestic principle follows natural law even as one son does leave to pursue his own interests. Certain esoteric interpretations could be seen to advance a more nihilist POV however, positing the act of storytelling per se as oral fable; that God is a fiction dreamt up and handed on (depicted in imaginary full-technicolor animation, a la Plato’s cave) by a failed patriarchy to retain some semblance of dignity in the face of chaos. NEWSFLASH: even the Vatican teaches that these early passages of Genesis aren’t to be taken as literal eye-witness recountings of the events described but as oral histories of the pre-Davidic culture from which they sprung. Etymologically Noah as patronymic is a very interesting primitive participle present in many other pre-literate myth stories associated with vanquishing winter, water, death, left or northerly orientations facing sunrise in the East (ie direction shadows are cast from). If folks do nothing more than explore these themes for themselves even if they never see the movie then the movie is a creative undertaking that solicited good despite itself. And if the movie’s producer mined deeper transcendent metaphysical view of human existence only to spoof them he is to be commended for being faithful to the traditions for his perceptions are beautifully rendered particularly the feminine receptive nature of all such wisdom, that the soul is forever changed by the encounter. I thank him for that. That suffices IMHO. For the religious amongst us, the soul’s response to the encounter is paramount to the successful consummation of the dramatic story arc. The lyrical conclusion “Mercy is as mercy does” of the movie is more explicit than the graphical novel upon which it is based: three generations of the family celebrate their establishment of Noahide civilization in a tribal ritual that evokes the Peaceable Kingdom of Isaiah 11 “But a shoot shall sprout from the stump* of Jesse, and from his roots a bud shall blossom.
    … Not by appearance shall he judge, nor by hearsay shall he decide,
    …The baby shall play by the viper’s den, and the child lay his hand on the adder’s lair.
    … for the earth shall be filled with knowledge of the LORD, as water covers the sea.”
    that for me renders the much-derided plot point of the early scene with the plucked wildflower (and its miraculous regeneration) much more poignant. Isaiah’s summation of the spiritual gift as “וְלֹֽא־לְמַרְאֵה עֵינָיו יִשְׁפֹּוט וְלֹֽא־לְמִשְׁמַע אָזְנָיו יֹוכִֽיחַ׃” echos in our hymn’s “Eye has not seen, ear has not heard what God has ready for those who love him” taken from the concluding verses of Isaiah. We all should take care to presume how a particular artistic work illumines the soul of another, for each is unique in what they bring to the table by way of spiritual formation, and unfortunately Christian confidence in the Resurrection promise that verges on hubris can render us blind and tone-deaf to those who do not share such existential certainty, especially those of other faith traditions or none who have suffered for their convictions however imperfect they may be.

  • Grant M

    I’d like to see this movie and make up my own mind but it’s banned here in Indonesia. I know the producers were hoping to challenge Christians’ understanding of the Bible, but they also challenged Muslims’ understanding of the Koran, which is always fun to do…hands up all those who knew Noah was a prophet of Islam, mentioned in the 11th chapter of the Koran…

  • Drew McLean

    i agree with the review, but there is absolutely nothing “exaggerate” in the innocence of animals, even less in the brutality directed towards all of them by human race. humans in the movie are very similar to today’s humans in their treatment of animals.

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