Friday, March 28, 2014

Review: "Noah" lives up to fundamentalists' worst expectations

After spending the better part of my afternoon viewing the highly touted Noah movie, I am inclined to agree with my old friend Ken Schenck. I wanted to like what I saw but, unfortunately, it turned out to be every bit as bad as those raving fundamentalists warned us it would be.

From the start, the film throws biblical caution to the wind, even managing to take extreme liberties with the non-canonical Pseudepigrapha writings attributed to Enoch. "The Watchers," fallen angels who are said to have protected the murderer Cain after he went into exile, are portrayed as rock-like creatures who look very much like a stone-age version of the Transformers. In one particularly theologically aberrant scene, they are released from their imprisonment and taken back into heaven after helping Noah build the ark and then warding off an invading army of Cain's descendants, despite the fact that Tubal-Cain, the leader of the line of Cain who had murdered Noah's father Lamech at the beginning of the film, manages to slip through and stow away on the ark.

As the plot unfolds, any resemblance to the actual biblical account is strictly coincidental. God is referred to throughout as "the Creator," a rather generic and aloof deity who apparently chose Noah to build the ark not to save a remnant of humanity to repopulate the earth after the flood, but to save only "the innocent," that is "the animals," who still live as they did in the Garden (another serious theological aberration, as the Fall affected all of creation, not just humanity).

Noah sees it as his mission to make sure the human race, including his own family (sons Ham and Japheth are without wives, a total departure from the biblical account), is wiped out so that the animals can repopulate a pristine new earth uncontaminated by the presence of man. "The Creator," it seems, is quite capricious. Only Tubal-Cain seems to have a grasp on the idea of man being created in God's image, even though he grossly misinterprets it for his own evil ends.

Things come to a head when the wife of Noah's son Shem, who was barren until given a special blessing by the elderly Methuselah, gives birth to twin daughters. Noah, not wishing them to grow up to become mothers themselves, prepares to kill them, in obedience, so he thinks, to "the Creator." It is a test of faith which he fails, as he instead lays down his dagger and kisses his granddaughters. Thus, we are left to think that Noah preserved the human race in defiance of the will of "the Creator." The conclusion of the film makes this more nuanced, but Noah's lapse into drunken nakedness after the flood is presented as though it were the result of his inability to fulfill his mission.

So, as much as I had hoped the anti-hype by some of the more stringent among the faithful would turn out to be another false alarm, I came out of the theater feeling very disappointed and, dare I say it, somewhat defiled. I cannot recommend Noah as a serious biblical film. It is a Hollywood production which borrows names for characters from biblical sources, but it is not a work done in any way, shape, or form to give honor to the one true and everliving God whom we encounter in the Scriptures.