Saturday, March 29, 2014

Review of the Movie "Noah" (And Its Strange Connection to the Movie "God's Not Dead")

The film Son of God had a 138-minute run-time. The movie Noah is also 138 minutes. Weird. But while Son of God was an unbearably boring 138 minutesNoah was actually pretty entertaining. That's to say that if I was there for the entertainment, I'd have enjoyed the film about as much as I enjoyed sitting through something like Star Trek. (Alright, I will admit to liking Star Trek much better.)

However, we are talking about a Bible story here. We're talking about a true story that comes from a true book that contains the true words for eternal life. Changing that message for the sake of "creative liberties" can have disastrous consequences. For that reason, I can't review the movie the same way I'd review Star Trek, which has no eternal significance. Noah, the film, should be heavily scrutinized. And that is what follows.

About the Movie's Creator

Darren Aronofsky is the film's director and principal script-writer. He is also a proclaimed atheist. I say that to start this review so that you understand this movie should not be used as a tool for ministry. Aronofsky doesn't merely disbelieve in God. He outright hates God. He worships the created rather than the Creator. You wouldn't welcome such a person in your pulpit on a Sunday morning to teach you the Bible, would you? No more should you consider this movie a way to understand something about scripture.

There were enough hints in the movie, particularly in the dialogue, that suggest to me Aronofsky knows the source material of the Noah story well. Meaning he actually referenced the Bible to write his film. (I make no point of boasting when I say that I know Genesis 6 through 9 very, very well.) That makes his version of the Noah story all the more troubling because there's much of the story he's deliberately changed for his own purposes. And I don't believe those purposes were "creative liberties." Aronofsky has an agenda. To advance that agenda, he uses a story from the Bible he considers to be nothing more than myth. And myth is what we get.

In the Beginning

The movie begins by talking about nothing. Literally. That in the beginning, there was nothing. Then God created everything. The movie does give the creation story, but there's a catch, and I'll get to that later. Anyway, Adam and Eve had three sons: Cain, Abel, and Seth. As you know, Cain brutally murdered Abel, so the rest of mankind would descend from Cain and Seth. Upon Cain being cast out by God, he was protected by a group of fallen angels known as the Watchers.

Yeah, that's not in your Bible. My guess is that the Watchers are Aronofsky's version of the Nephilim, but even many Bible-believers are confused by that reference. Genesis 6 begins like this:
"When man began to multiply on the face of the land and daughters were born to them, the sons of God saw that the daughters of man were attractive. And they took as their wives any that they chose. Then the Lord said, 'My Spirit shall not abide in man forever, for he is flesh. His days shall be 120 years.' The Nephilim were on the earth in those days, and also afterward, when the sons of God came into the daughters of man and they bore children to them. These were the mighty men who were of old, the men of renowned."
The popular understanding of those first four verses is that angels came down to the earth, had sex with human women, and produced super offspring. But that's a myth, largely influenced by a misreading of the King James translation. Instead of Nephilim, the KJV says, "There were giants in the earth in those days." When you understand the story in context, along with the genealogies that are given to us in chapters 4 and 5, it will help you better understand what chapter 6 is referring to.

The sons of God were of the line of Seth. The daughters of man were of the line of Cain. God's favor was with the line of Seth and his curse was upon Cain, whose descendants were filled with wickedness. Eventually even Seth's descendants strayed from righteousness and united with Cain's descendants and their rebellious and evil paganism. So there were not "giants" in the land. The Nephilim were simply conquering, brutal men.

Aronofsky's version of these "giants" are large rock monsters with angels living inside them. Not kidding. They resemble stone versions of the Ents from the Lord of the Rings movies. Come to think of it, I remember a Tim Allen movie with a giant rock monster...

Yup, there he is. From the movie "Galaxy Quest."

These angels came down to earth to help man. As a result, the Creator cursed them to the rock beasts they had become. But hey, they're still really strong giants. So as part of the story, they get convinced to help Noah build his ark. Who else could lift giant wooden beams than giants? Plot hole solved! The Creator eventually rewards the Watchers for helping man by letting them come back to heaven.

The Good Stuff

There are some things that the movie does extremely well. It is expertly directed. All the effects are as good as you would expect them to be. In that sense, the Watchers are well-imagined characters. The acting, the costuming, and the visuals are all stunning. Personally, I love this film's depiction of the ark. Based on my understanding of scripture, that's the way I've pictured it for most of my life. It wasn't a big ship. It was a huge, rectangular, barn-like barge that sat more under the water than on top.

As for the story, the first half of the movie obviously takes some liberties -- with the Watchers, of course, but also with Noah witnessing the death of his father at the hands of the king of man, Tubal-Cain (there's nothing in scripture about that, or that Tubal-Cain was a king). Russell Crowe is Noah, that much I'm sure you know. I wondered how the film would give big names like Anthony Hopkins (Methuselah), Jennifer Connelly (Noah's wife), and Emma Watson (Shem's wife) enough to do, but to the credit of the screenwriters, they all play significant roles.

Tubal-Cain is a compelling villain. Just before he commands his army to take the ark, he looks up into the heavens and says, "I was made in your image. Why won't you speak to me? I can make life, and I can take it, just like you can. Speak to me!" He considers himself equal with God. At the same time, he's verbally defiant, quoting the curse that God gave upon man; that it was by the sweat of his brow he would work the earth, and "Damned if I don't do whatever it takes to do just that."

The Bad Stuff

The real, more serious problems with the story occur in the second act. As you may have heard, the film contains significant undertones of environmentalism. In fact, that's the point of the whole film -- that we need to take care of the environment, and the earth is better off without mankind who does nothing but destroy it. I'm not messing around or reading into the movie something that isn't there. That really is the message. And it's one that Noah himself also believes.

At one point, Noah is talking to his sons and a girl they've rescued named Ila (who will become Shem's wife). Ila is recovering from an injury so serious, it is said she will be unable to ever have children. Noah says that God has chosen them to save what he calls "the innocents." When the children ask him who the innocents are, he specifies, "The animals." He asks the children why the animals are innocent, and it's Ila who says it's because they continue on just as they were in the garden.

Not true. Romans 8:20 says that all of creation was subjected to futility because of the sin of man. Things like thorns and thistles, the pain of childbirth a woman experiences, and the refrain that "all is vanity" from the writer of Ecclesiastes were not a part of the original creation as given to us in Genesis 1 and 2. God says in Genesis 9:5 that even from an animal that spills the blood of a man, he will require a reckoning. Death itself was not present in creation until man sinned.

I don't mean to stop in the middle of the review here to offer an off-topic point. I'm going somewhere with this, so keep it in mind. After the Garden of Eden, everything changed. Even the animals were not the same as they were in the garden. Aronofsky means to insist that they are. This is not just an elemental point of the plot. It's all necessary to underline his message of environmentalism, that mankind is no more important than animals, and the world is better off without us.

And the Really Ugly Stuff

Before the flood-waters come upon the earth, Noah goes out to find wives for his sons Ham and Japheth (remember, Shem already has his). He comes into Tubal-Cain's camp and sees just a slew of wickedness. It's difficult to watch. At this point, Noah realizes wickedness is present in every single man, including himself and his family. He means not to find wives for his sons because he believes mankind should die off as soon as the task of delivering the animals through the flood is completed.

This causes a significant rift between him and Ham, who goes off to find his own wife. The "wife" Ham finds gets her leg caught in a trap, and Noah leaves her there to get trampled by Tubal-Cain's storming army. They get back to the ark just in time to avoid the violence. Yes, despite what scripture says in Genesis 6:18, 7:7, and 7:13, two of Noah's sons are wifeless on the ark. I kept waiting to see what twist would be used to reveal Ham and Japheth's wives. I didn't like the one that was used.

After the flood-waters come and the ark is lifted to safety, there's a few days where the water is rising and you hear the cries of the people outside (that's also difficult to watch). Noah's sons plead with him and say that there's enough room on the ark for more people. When Noah refuses to let the stranded aboard, his sons suggest that he drag ropes so people can grab on. Still he refuses. These suggestions are only used as plot elements to show how monstrous Noah has become.

Lo and behold, a miracle is performed in Ila and she is with child. Noah is outraged. He says that this goes against everything the Creator intended which is the complete annihilation of all mankind. He says that if Ila has a boy, he will be the last living man on the face of the earth. But if she has a girl, Noah will have to do the Creator's will and kill her. The rest of their time on the ark is tense and contains a great deal of emotional dialogue, particularly from Jennifer Connelly's character.

Ultimately, Ila has twin girls. (Yeah, get it? There's Ham and Japheth's wives! Uh, in quite a few years.) Noah looks into their faces and is unable to kill them. He tells the Creator he can't do it. He later tells Ila his heart was filled with love for them, and he failed his family, unable to carry out the Creator's will. Ila tells him it was for that reason the Creator chose him. And I guess that's how the whole Noah-was-a-righteous-man-who-walked-with-God (Genesis 6:9, 7:1) is supposed to fit -- LOOSELY -- into the story.

Ila's narration of how Noah was chosen by God accompanies pictures of the animals and the environment. We've begun brand new, she says, so that we can take care of the earth properly this time. Aronofsky conveniently skips the part of Noah sacrificing animals to God (Genesis 8:20), and that God gives every animal to Noah to eat (Genesis 9:3).

In fact, the whole concept of eating animals is left only to Tubal-Cain and other wicked men. It's a horrible thing for anyone to ever eat an animal. At one point, Tubal-Cain tells Ham that the animals were given "to serve us." That's supposed to be an evil statement. But God specifically says to Noah in Genesis 9:1-3 that the animals will fear man, and "Into your hand they are delivered. Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you. And as I gave you the green plants, I give you everything."

Oh, perhaps this is worth mentioning. Director Darren Aronofsky is not only an environmentalist, he's also a vegan. Ha! Joke's on us. It's through his worldview we're presented with this whole upending of the truth. It's the story of Noah's Ark through the eyes of an atheist environmentalist vegan. Note that 1 Timothy 4:1-5 says that anyone who requires abstinence from certain foods that God created to be received with thanksgiving is demonic. Hm!

At the conclusion, Ham, completely estranged from his father, ends up leaving the family (before his wife is old enough to be his wife, apparently). He hugs Ila and says, "Maybe we'll learn to be kind." Anyway, rainbow in the sky, the end.

Here's Another Thing

But there's another element I want to come back to. In the first nights on their arky voyage, Noah tells his family a story, the first story his father ever told him, he says. And he gives a paraphrase of the story of creation. What accompanies his narration of the creation story is a time-lapse of what that looked like. And we're visually treated to a depiction of the six-day creation, right? Nope.

Now, Noah narrates the six-day creation pretty close to what we read in Genesis, complete with references to the first day, second day, and so on. But what we see is Darwinian evolution. A "day" is just a millions-of-years process for each of the things described being created in that "day." Aronofsky takes Darwinism and squeezes it into the creation story. Noah even says that each animal came "after its own kind," as if there is a Darwinian explanation to that phrase as it appears in Genesis 1:24.

The funny thing is that there was a scene earlier in the film that depicted the Creator (the name "God" is never used in the film, nor is he ever heard) causing entire rivers and a forest of trees to sprout up instantaneously. This was to be the wood Noah would use to build the ark. So when it's elemental to the plot, the Creator can create life in a single moment. But when it comes to Aronofsky's proselytizing, the rest of life on earth took hundreds of millions of years to evolve.

Here's something I want you to consider. One week ago, an independent film hit theaters called God's Not Dead. In this Christian-themed movie, meant to defend the existence of God, an argument is made that God could have created all things through a molecules-to-man evolutionary cycle over a period of millions of years, and that's completely conducive with Genesis.

Isn't that fascinating? A Christian movie comes out arguing that Darwinian evolution and the Genesis account of creation are totally compatible. A week later, a movie made by an atheist makes the exact same argument, and even shows how that process fits the biblical narrative.

Both filmmakers are LYING.

Do you understand that? I want you to get it, because this is huge, folks. I often hear it argued that whether God created all things in six solar days or whether he did it over a process of millions of years is a tertiary issue and not at all necessary to agree upon when it comes to the fundamental doctrines of scripture. But that argument is made in ignorance.

The biblical account of creation in its full context -- and I'm talking Genesis 1 and 2, I'm talking Job 38, I'm talking John 1, Colossians 1, Hebrews 1, 2 Peter 3, and any other chapter in the Bible that discusses creation, not simply an interpretation of what you think the word "day" is supposed to mean -- is completely incompatible with molecules-to-man evolution. Let me say that again, so my words are in no way muddled. I'll even put in in bold and use all-caps, so you know I mean business...
The Bible is ABSOLUTELY CLEAR that the earth was created in six days, and the account that is given in scripture is COMPLETELY INCOMPATIBLE with the bogus process of Darwinism or any kind of molecules-to-man evolution.
Aronofsky's film is the perfect example of exactly why those two differing concepts about how all things came into existence cannot go together. Romans 5:12 says that death came into the world through sin. Romans 6:23 says that the wages of sin is death. Before Adam sinned, there was no death. If there was no death, not even the animals died and killed one another. If death existed in creation prior to sin, then there really is no true penalty for sin. Sin and death are arbitrary, and the creation story is nothing but a myth, exactly the way Aronofsky treats it.

I don't care how much this offends you, it is the truth: If you treat the creation story as being a millions-of-years process that includes death prior to the fall of man in Genesis 3, you, just like Aronofsky, treat Genesis 1 and 2 as myth, and redefine the entire gospel of Jesus Christ. If you can't believe the first two chapters of the Bible as they are given, you can be tossed on the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, craftiness, and deceitful schemes. If you know your Bible, you know exactly to what passage I am referring.

And Finally

Here's the message that wasn't present in Aronofsky's film. Through Adam's sin, death came into the world. Death is what we all deserve because all have sinned and rebelled against God. But just as God saved all of mankind through the righteousness of Noah, he's given eternity to us through the righteousness and sacrifice of his Son, Jesus Christ. Christ took our penalty upon himself on the cross, paying the price for our sin, satisfying the wrath of God that burns against unrighteousness, and rose from the grave conquering death, so that all who believe in him can have eternal life.

There is nothing that you need to accomplish in order to earn this gift of eternal life, except that you believe in Jesus Christ as the Son of God, knowing he completed the work that only he could do. It is through him we attain righteousness. We are saved by grace through faith. As I have already referenced Romans 6:23, that complete verse says, "For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord." Amen and amen.

Jesus said in Luke 17:26-27, "Just as it was in the days of Noah, so will it be in the days of the Son of Man. They were eating and drinking and marrying and being given in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark, and the flood came and destroyed them all." Jesus is coming back. It will happen again. And all the earth will be destroyed, this time by fire. The only way to be saved is to trust in Christ Jesus as Lord. Do it. And don't let another day pass before you do.

And seriously, know your Bible.

A follow-up to this article, about "Noah's" connections with gnostic mysticism, can be found here.