Monday, March 31, 2014
My review of "Noah"
What I didn't like about "Noah:"
24 hours after seeing "Noah," I'm still conflicted about this movie. So here goes...
The filmmakers took a LOT of liberties with the biblical story. This doesn't surprise me. After all, it's done with practically every Bible movie ever made, aside from the "Jesus" film. For one example, think about how in "The Ten Commandments," they work in a character who is Moses' ex-girlfriend and Pharaoh's wife. Or a really terrible movie from a few years ago, "One Night With the King," which seems more like a bad soap opera than the biblical story of Esther. Here are some of the things in "Noah" that aren't mentioned in the Bible:
1) The fallen angels who are transformed into "rock monsters" and ally with a group of men.
2) The "sleeping potion" that Noah's family uses to put the animals to sleep on the ark, and other "magical" elements.
3) Noah's inability to decide what God is really calling him to do.
4) Noah's growing mental illness as the storm gets closer.
To be fair, the Bible doesn't rule any of these things out, either. It's just that they are such a huge part of the plot of this film (especially numbers 1 and 4), they seem to overshadow the biblical story.
This is a very dark story. For a significant portion of the film, we don't like Noah very much. In fact, he's a scary character for a good half hour, at least. I didn't expect that. This is a tough movie to watch in many ways; the redemptive ending is a long time in coming. Speaking of which...
It feels long. I don't usually complain about long movies, but there were times during "Noah" when I got a little restless.
What I did like about "Noah:"
This is a really, really well-made movie. I'm not used to "movies on a biblical theme" being well-made. Usually, they're thrown together on a shoestring, star some long-forgotten sitcom actor, and look like they're shot on equipment from Radio Shack. This is a big-time production, with an A-list director, some fantastic actors giving wonderful performances, and first-rate special effects.
This movie doesn't shy away from the tougher elements of the story: Some Christians expressed skepticism that an atheist director would respect the biblical story. Well, this much is true: God is a very present and active character in the film (although His audible voice is never heard). Mankind's sin is on full display. God's judgment is seen as deserved, and it is shown in all of its wrathful glory. I can't imagine a "made for Christian audiences" version of this story that would be this honest.
There are some awe-inspiring moments: When the animals are headed toward the ark; when the view pulls back, and we see from space a planet earth covered in storm clouds; when God shows grace to some characters in unexpected moments...moments like those took my breath away.
This is a thought-provoking movie. We don't usually think about Noah and his family hearing the screams of people outside the ark. And although the Bible doesn't tell us how Noah felt about his mission, I can imagine he was tormented in many ways. Again, I didn't enjoy this movie, but it did make me think...and I will be thinking about it for a long time.
So should you go see "Noah?"
Christianity Today film critic Alissa Wilkinson, who I greatly respect, says yes--you can read her review by clicking here. Frankly, she liked it more than I did. Still, I'm glad I saw the film. It gave me some stuff to chew on, and some fuel for conversations with my non-Christian friends who see it. After reading this, you probably know whether or not you'll consider this two and a half hours and ten dollars well-spent. At the very least, it's good to see serious movie makers taking on biblical stories. I hope we see more in the days to come.