Yesterday, I sat down and watched Noah. I really loved the first half. It’s incredible. I loved all the original ideas and explanations that went into the story, like where they got the wood for the ark, how the animals turned up in pairs (but not all at once!), and why the animals were docile for all the time they were in the ark.
I thought the character development was wonderful – each character has their virtues and flaws, is unique, and memorable in their own right. They felt like real people, particularly Ila. The barren girl who doesn’t think she has a place on the ark because she can’t contribute to the new life … wow, that was profound. I also liked what they did with Methuselah. I know a lot of people are claiming he uses witchcraft, but that’s not it. He merely retains some of what C.S. Lewis would call “the deep magic” from the Garden of Eden.
We’re fallen creatures, less than we were once, and we have grown less with each generation. Methuselah lived for hundreds of years! Now, we’re fortunate to make it to ninety! Isn’t it reasonable to think we lost more than longevity with time? That Adam and Eve, being the first humans made in God’s image, would better reflect Him than we do? They knew how to communicate with the animals in ways we don’t – otherwise Eve would have been startled at the serpent speaking to her. What other gifts might they have had? Is our collective yearning to be more than we are indicative of our unconscious awareness that we’re less than we ought to be? Methuselah is not a sorcerer. He is Gifted.
What the writers did with the concept of Old Testament blessings was mind-blowing. I’ve never thought about looking at the blessings in that way, as actually passing on something tangible; I always assumed it was just a prayer ritual, but it’s really neat to think that it might be an actual blessing that has real-world significance. I liked what he did with it too. God provided for all their needs.
The Watchers are a major hiccup for a lot of people and I can see why. But a lot of the objections to them go away if you choose to look at them not as “fallen angels” but as spiritual beings neither angelic nor demonic. (Then too, this raises an interesting question — could demons be redeemed if they asked for forgiveness?) However you see it, their story is important because it establishes the character of God. The Watchers reach a point where they humble themselves and ask for forgiveness. He gives it to them, just as He gives it to us. It’s one of many allusions to the gospel written into the film’s subtext.
Some people quibble over the “environmentalist slant,” but I don’t see it as contradictory to Christianity; we’re the custodians of earth and the original “greenies”! The original animal rights activists! Humans do more damage to this planet than animals do! We’re higher beings and therefore capable of much greater destruction and cruelty than animals. He forgives us, but that doesn’t mean we shirk our duty!
The only discomfort I had with the film was in the second half, but the longer I think about it, the more comfortable I am with it. It got shaky for me once Noah went off the rails in his belief that God intended for none of them to live, and thought he’d have to kill his grandchildren to end the human race. (I will add, though, that he couldn’t do it – and that builds into an incredible pro-life moment on its own terms.)
I tend to be fine with changes to a story provided it is in keeping with the spirit of the original. I’m sensitive toward misrepresenting real people so I care very much that “the truth” about them is told. Noah was a “righteous man,” not a crazy one… but he was also a sinner, and the Bible doesn’t give us very many details about him. Who can say he didn’t have periods of doubt, or survivor’s guilt? Who can say whether God answered all his questions? Deep down, I wanted to be comfortable with Noah, and that was impossible. Worse, he forced me to confront some ugly truths that I’d rather not talk about (periods of silence from God, self-doubt about purpose in life, fanaticism).
But the more I thought about it and tried to put my finger on what bothered me about this representation, the more I realized that Noah’s meltdown illustrates the point the entire movie is making – that we’re sinners who don’t deserve redemption or salvation, but we receive it anyway if we’re willing to ask for it.
Some of the sensitive points the movie raises are hard issues to talk about and deal with as believers, like when Noah and Tribal Cain both cried out to God and got no response. Like Abraham, Noah held true to what he believed was the right thing to do, and in the end, was spared having to do it – Abraham was freed, but Noah made that choice himself. It was the right one, but he still felt as if he was too weak to do God’s will. He thought he had let God down. It humbled him mightily. Maybe that was the point of his journey in the film, to remind him that he isn’t as strong as he thought he was.
I’m not either. Maybe that’s why this representation of a very human Noah made me uncomfortable. I want to think I’m strong in my faith, and strong as a person, but deep down, I question what He wants me to do. In the end, Noah reconciled with his family, built an altar, and saw the rainbow – not a rainbow over the remnants of the ark like we so often see in children’s storybooks, but colors vibrating across the entire sky. It gave me chills. I can battle through the storms of life, scream questions to the heavens and for a time, get no answers, but rest in the assurance of the promise God made of my salvation.
Here’s my official review.