Sunday, March 30, 2014

"Noah" all wet

One of the pieces of Noah art that hangs on the wall
of my office.
I don't think I've yet reviewed a movie on this blog. But, after watching "Noah" last night, I feel compelled to try my hand at it.

A couple of things first: 1) I was VERY excited about seeing this movie. I am a huge Noah buff (that is, a fan of this extremely powerful story). I spent five years in my 20s writing a fantasy novel ("Fountains of the Deep") which swirled around the edges of this historic, globe-changing event. My office at home is decorated with Noah wallpaper, paintings, etc. I was thrilled with the previews. So, it really was something I was looking forward to. The reviews were mixed, but even though I read a few sour ones, I still couldn't miss it.

2) I wasn't expecting biblical accuracy, per se. Actually, I was happy to read in one of the reviews (and I used this fact on Facebook to respond to those who expressed doubt about the movie) that while the movie "filled in the blanks" left by the scriptural account, it didn't actually contradict Scripture.

And, even if it did, I was prepared to live with that if they did a good job telling a good story and didn't totally screw it up. It's Hollywood, after all. The director is an atheist. My expectations were not high.

Yet in spite of all this, I was bitterly disappointed. Now let me try to express why. (And, be warned, this will contain spoilers.)

I felt the movie started out fairly strong. It depicted creation and the fall with a fair degree of reasonable accuracy. When Noah came on the scene, one felt how precarious it must have been to carry the light of a relationship with the Creator in such a dark world.

The depiction of earth as an industrial wasteland, spoiled by humanity's sin, reminiscent in some ways of a prediluvian Mad Max, I could live with. I was expecting a creative approach, and this didn't disappoint.

But, my first major disappointment was in the depiction of the creatures labeled as "Nephilim." In the Bible, the Nephilim are some sort of mysterious union between "the sons of God" and "the daughters of men." They were a race of giants, physically speaking. (One of the great biblical mysteries, to me, is how descendants from the Nephilim race came to exist in the antediluvian world. My novel provided a proposed solution to this mystery.)

But, in the movie, the Nephilim are actually angels who have fallen to earth. It's implied their motives were pure for falling: they wanted to come "help humanity" overcome the temptation of Adam and Eve! (That's rich, isn't it!) But God had forbidden it, supposedly, so when they reached earth they were turned into funky rock creatures, with the angelic light of their spiritual being somehow shining through the cracks and manifesting in their glowing eyes. They reminded me of Ents. I couldn't decide whether it was creepy, or just plain silly.

These "Nephilim" end up redeeming themselves, later in the movie, by allying with Noah and protecting the Ark from the hordes of barbarians who are trying to take it over to save themselves from the Flood. And of course Noah also uses the Ents (er, Nephilim) to do the heavy lifting on the actual building of this magnificent vessel. Hence it looks like it takes about a week to complete, rather than the full century Scripture assures us it actually took.

So, of course when raindrops start falling the evil humans rush the Nephilim to get at the Ark, and while the rock creatures are able to hammer many of them into dust, they are eventually overcome. As they are overcome, their angelic spirits are freed from their rock prisons and they are able to soar back up to God. How pretty.

(This was probably the most noble depiction of demons that one could imagine!)

And that's just a start of the movie's problems. The sin of godless humanity around Noah is depicted as being a combination of disrespect for women (trading them as sex slaves) ... and eating meat. (Which is worse? I'm torn.) Noah and his family are, of course, vegetarians. Because only a true sinner could eat meat.

Which brings us to the purpose of the Ark. Noah seems convinced that it's to save the animals, so that God can start over again with a much simpler and nobler world. Noah realizes (rightly enough) that sin is inherent in all of us, and the dilemma of repopulating the world with sinful humanity strikes him hard. As a result he assumes that it is his responsibility before God to ensure this is never allowed to happen. When his only daughter-in-law miraculously becomes pregnant (and bears twin girls, conveniently enough one for each of his remaining, wifeless sons) he is convinced God wants him to kill the newborns, and almost does.

This is all a very complicated set-up for the end of his movie, and the all-important "drunk and naked in the tent" scene. Actually, it wasn't in the tent, but in a cave on the beach. Of course Noah is making wine out of nice table grapes (not wine grapes) and somehow manages to become smashed. The reason, we realize, is his depression at his failure before God to extinguish humanity and hence save the world for animals. Plus his pretty wife is pissed off at him. (Noah, a frumpy version of Russell Crowe who might have passed for 60, should have been like 600 years old at this point, so having a pretty wife was a definite bonus.)

But of course, love wins in the end.

I'm sorry, does this all sound as ridiculous to you as it does to me? It left me crying out for even a small ounce of the power of the real story.

The beauty of the Ark, of course, is that it's a metaphor for Jesus. The metaphor was repeated, hundreds of years later, when Moses' sister places the baby in his own little Ark and sets it afloat on the Nile. The Ark is the salvation that God has provided you and me from a fate worse than death. Sin is the disease and a holy God has to judge it, elsewise none of us will survive. He created all this for a reason beyond our ability to imagine, but whatever it is, it's worth the pain of a sinful and decaying creation. It's worth Him going to great lengths (like the Ark ... and like His Son, dying on a cross) to save it. To save us.

Yes, all Creation groans and longs for that day, and no doubt in some wonderful sense all Creation will be saved (a seed must "die" and be planted before it can be born again into a magnicent tree). But it's not just about Creation. The Ark is there to save you and me!

It was Noah's simple obedience that made this possible, but it was God's doing. The Ark is a symbol of His grace, carrying us high above the waters of sin and death.

And another Ark is coming!

Okay, sorry about the soapbox. Back to my review. Watch "Noah" if you want to, but be warned. You might want to save it for a Redbox coupon night.

Did you see it? What did you think? Am I all washed up?

1 comment:

Heather Day Gilbert said...

Thanks for this thoughtful review. I'm disappointed the wickedness of humanity wasn't expounded upon more and the Nephilim showed up...like THAT. I've decided not to plop down bucks to see this in the theater, and not sure I want to see it, period. Thanks for your honest review.