We all get excited every time a movie comes out to supposedly satisfy our supposedly sanctified viewing pleasure. For this year, there are at least three that I know of: “Son of God” (the edited-down version of History Channel’s TV mini-series “The Bible”), “Left Behind” (a reboot of the 2000 movie, now starring Nicolas Cage), and “Noah”.
So far “Noah” is the one getting the most hype and media attention. Maybe because a titanic movie production company is behind it, maybe because Oscar winners and nominees are acting in it and directing it, and maybe because the account of the biblical Noah is as interesting as it is controversial. Whatever the reason, one thing is surely bound to happen: Noah will rake in millions of revenues in the box office. Sino ba namang magpapalampas sa pelikulang may budget na $125 million at may ganitong trailer:
O ‘di ba kapana-panabik?!?! But before we jump into the bandwagon of jubilation for the movie adaptation of a Sunday school story we have grown to love, let us hold our horses!
There are at least three reasons I can think of why the Christian community shouldn’t get so worked up with director Darren Aronofsky’s “Noah”.
Reason No. 1: “Noah” is based on a graphic novel—not the Bible
In 2011, publisher Le Lombard released the four-volume French graphic novel “Noé: Pour la Cruauté des Hommes” (Noah: For the Cruelty of Men). It was created by Aronofsky, in collaboration with Ari Handel and Canadian artist Niko Henrichon. The movie will be based on that. I’ve read two of the four volumes and to say that the story departs from the Scriptural narrative would be an understatement.
I’m not an Old Testament scholar but it doesn’t take strenuous brainwork to understand the basic storyline of the Biblical Noah and its context. Genesis 5-9 reveals that God was actively involved in calling Noah and that He was very clear with His motivations for bringing about the deluge. In the comic book, however, these aspects of the Biblical narrative are smudged by plot and creative directions that deviate from the ancient version.
The graphic novel shows Noah building the Ark only because He receives visions from a God who is impersonal and distant at best.
This is nowhere near Gen. 6:13 which puts God’s method of communication in this manner: “So God said to Noah…” Reading that gives you a sense of intelligible and direct communication. I don’t know what happens in Volumes 3 and 4 of the graphic novel but I hope Noah is shown there to be a man who “walked with God” (6:9), “did everything just as God commanded him” (6:22), and “did all that the Lord commanded him” (7:5) while enjoying a personal relationship with the God of love. The first two volumes I’ve read, however, paints a picture of a Noah who is insecure about His relationship with God and unsure about his mission. The visions are given by God in a way that is haunting and impersonal, devoid of any hint of familiar intimacy with Noah.
Another area of concern in the graphic novel is its apocryphal theorizing on the origins and nature of the giants or Nephilim referred to in Gen. 6:1-4.
The comic book calls them “Guardians” and, apparently, they are subjects of myths and legends passed on to children.
A robust body of Biblical scholarship supports the explanation that “sons of God” (Gen. 6:1) is a common Semitic phrase for angels. In this case they are fallen angels, as in Job 1:6 and Job 2:1. Second Peter 2:4 and Jude 6 also refer to a point in time when fallen angels sinned. Jude compares the violation to that of which Sodom and Gomorrah were found guilty: sexual immorality. This points back to the Genesis account of demons finding a way to commit sexual sins with the daughters of men. This unnatural activity that violated the order of creation and resulted in the unnatural reproduction of demonic beings is positioned in Genesis as a proof of mankind’s wickedness that warranted the flood.
The comic book, however, presents these beings as originally coming to earth with the intention of helping and educating humanity.
Apparently, too, these giants are stuck in the belief that they’re better than mankind and that they have been betrayed and abused by the Adamic race in a backstory unbeknownst even to Madam Auring.
What’s more shocking is that one of them befriends Noah and becomes some sort of a Jimmy Santos sidekick.
As if it weren’t enough, Aronofsky pushes the envelope further by showing that the giants actually helped Noah build the Ark.
In fact, they did not volunteer. Noah begged them to help!
Kagulat ‘di ba? May pinaglalaban pala ang mga giants, hahahaha.
Another character in the story that deserves a raised eyebrow is Methuselah. The moment he wakes up, this is how he puts on his make-up:
I never imagined Methuselah to have a sense of humor but there you go. Haha! In the comic book, he’s a sagacious hermit who has shamanic powers and a New Age-ispired wallpaper in his meditation corner.
Of course regarding these details of the Patriarchs’ lives, the Bible is silent. And the general rule for all things about which Scripture is silent is that we shouldn’t conclude anything about them beyond what is revealed.
Reason No. 2: “Noah” is directed by Darren Aronofsky
Aronofsky is the same man who directed “Pi”, “Requiem for a Dream”, “The Fountain”, “The Wrestler”, and “Black Swan”. Among them, I’ve seen “Pi”, “The Fountain”, and “Black Swan”. I can tell you that Aronofsky is not exactly the type of artist who might show reverence for the Bible. As my points in Reason No. 1 indicate, the source material of the “Noah” movie presents a story of Noah that is heavily processed and injected with extra-Biblical imaginings. Aronofsky, no doubt, doesn’t hesitate to treat the movie adaptation similarly
He has made it clear in interviews that his vision of Noah is that he was the “first environmentalist” and that he had bouts with survivor’s guilt. These things are not consistent with the Bible’s characterization of Noah.
Reason No. 3: “Noah” is skewed in its definition of “wickedness”
This, I think, is the most revolting unscriptural feature in the “Noah” comic book. The “wickedness” referred to as the cause of God’s wrath is not the same wickedness that infuriated the God of the Bible.
One of the opening panels of the graphic novel quotes Genesis.
Immediately after this, the character of Noah is set in stark contrast against the nature of wickedness Aronofsky purports to have angered God.
From here on, “wickedness” is developed as cruelty mainly pertaining to mankind’s violence against nature and wildlife. In the scene above, Noah heroically opposes wicked poachers and attempts to rescue the poor creatures.
After saving the day and championing the welfare of the beastly ones, Aronofsky declares Noah a righteous man.
This theme goes on throughout the book. The primary concern of Noah is the salvation of plant and animal life.
According to the panel above, repentance (“change”) for Noah means “treating the world with compassion”—more specifically the natural world. This is alien to the type of repentance the biblical Noah pleaded for the people of his time to experience. In the Bible, Noah is a preacher of spiritual righteousness (2 Peter 2:5). In Aronofsky’s world, Noah is a preacher of environmental righteousness whose overwhelming concern is the Earth’s flora and fauna.
In fact, when it was finally clear to him what God wanted him to do…
…it was all about the “innocent” “victims” called “animals”.
Pang-PETA commercial ‘di ba? Hehe :D And Noah’s passion for nature is so uncontainable it even gets the better of him.
Si Ham, lagi na lang si Ham, si Ham na walang malay.
Anyway, this environmentalist Noah motif is so powerful it makes Noah doubt the love of God for mankind right inside the very Ark He commanded him to build.
As he builds the Ark, Noah remains insecure and unsure of the purposes of his impersonal God.
Let me just be clear that I am for creativity. I respect every artist’s freedom to expand or edit the universe of the stories they re-imagine. Darren Aronofsky is a talented filmmaker and he never promises for his works to adhere to any belief system, and I respect that.
However, it is our duty as Christians to guard the truths of Scripture and protect its integrity from any force that may influence people to think inaccurately of it. My main concern is that the cinematic grandeur of “Noah” might enchant an entire generation of moviegoers into perpetually believing that the Genesis account is mainly concerned with environmental woes. While they are definitely God’s concern, the main agenda of the flood was to restore the entire creation’s worship-relationship with God. Sexual lust, self-centered avarice, and man-exalting pride—all throughout the Bible, these are the core offenses that provoke the wrath of God. Unfortunately, Aronofsky’s movie would not seem to be bothered by this thought.
My purpose for pointing out the scriptural deviations above is simply to inform Christians that “Noah” is not solely based on the Bible and that we shouldn’t expect it to be. Personally, I feel that no one among us should be hyping it up because this is a film that could potentially contribute to massive misinformation and misdirection about the true message of Noah’s story. I fear that the misplaced emphasis on environmental protection would encourage gross misreading of the biblical text.
I just hope that the deviations I’ve mentioned wouldn’t be reflected much in the movie. I hope that the disputations between Aronofsky and Paramount would result in a storyline that highlights more of the pure, loving, and holy motivations of the self-revealing God of the Bible. If not, it would be a waste of millions of money and the monumental opportunity to produce a biblical story that could inspire generations toward the original message of Noah: God’s tireless effort to redeem humanity and creation from the clutches of sin and eternal separation from Him.
If you’re interested in a more exhaustive discussion on this topic, visit this website. I won’t stop you. :-D