A. O. Scott’s review of “Noah” in the New York Times starts with a nice headline:
And, contrary to what I expected of the movie (I should have known better given that the director was Darren Aronofsky), Scott gives the movie a thumbs-up:
But Darren Aronofsky, in his ambitious fusion of Old Testament awe with modern blockbuster spectacle, dwells on the dark and troubling implications of Noah’s experience. “Noah,” Mr. Aronofsky’s earnest, uneven, intermittently powerful film, is both a psychological case study and a parable of hubris and humility. At its best, it shares some its namesake’s ferocious conviction, and not a little of his madness.
. . . “Noah” is less an epic than a horror movie. There are some big, noisy battle scenes and some whiz-bang computer-generated images, but the dominant moods are claustrophobia and incipient panic. The most potent special effects are Mr. Crowe’s eyes and the swelling, discordant strains of Clint Mansell’s score. Once the waters have covered the earth and the ark is afloat, a clammy fear sets in, for both the audience and the members of Noah’s family: We’re stuck on a boat full of snakes, rats and insects, and Dad’s gone crazy.
Noah’s instability — he walks up to the boundary that separates faith from fanaticism, and then leaps across it — is not, strictly speaking, in the source material, and I will hardly be the first or last to note that Mr. Aronofsky, who wrote the screenplay with Ari Handel, has taken some liberties with the text.
Scott especially praises the acting of Russell Crowe and Jennifer Connelly, and concludes with this:
“Noah” is occasionally clumsy, ridiculous and unconvincing, but it is almost never dull, and very little of it has the careful, by-the-numbers quality that characterizes big-studio action-fantasy entertainment. The riskiest thing about this movie is its sincerity: Mr. Aronofsky, while not exactly pious, takes the narrative and its implications seriously. He tries not only to explore what the story of the flood might mean in the present age of environmental anxiety and apocalyptic religion, but also, more radically, to imagine what it might have felt like to live in a newly created, already-ruined world, and to scan the skies for clues about what its creator might be thinking.
On March 16, megachurch pastor Rick Warren tweeted this message to his 1.3 million Twitter followers:
Director of new “Noah” movie calls it “The LEAST biblical film ever made” then uses F word referring to those wanting Bible-based [films]
. . . Count conservative broadcaster Glenn Beck among the unimpressed.
Before he even saw the movie, Beck, who is Mormon, called “Noah” a “slap in the face” to religious people.
“It’s dangerous disinformation,” he told his 10 million radio listeners.
After Paramount screened “Noah” for Beck last weekend, he acknowledged that blasting the film sight unseen was “kind of a dirtball” move.
Then he blasted the movie again, calling it a “$100 million disaster.”
Beck’s biggest problem with “Noah” was Noah himself, whom Mormons believe is the angel Gabriel in human form.
“I always thought of Noah as more of a nice, gentle guy, prophet of God,” Beck said, “and not the raving lunatic Paramount found in the Bible.”
I’m glad Beck is so sure about what Noah was like. But the God who drowned everyone but Noah and his family surely wasn’t a nice, gentle guy (or “ground of being’); he was a murderous bully. And there’s one more objection:
Jerry Johnson, president of the National Religious Broadcasters, said he has the same problem with Aronofsky’s depiction of Noah.
The Bible calls Noah a “righteous man,” Johnson said. In the movie, his character is much more complex.
Noah begins the film as a rugged environmentalist who teaches his family to respect the Creator and all of creation. As he becomes increasingly zealous, Noah seems bent on destroying life rather than saving it.
“I understand that the writers want to create tension and resolve it, but they push it to a spot where if you haven’t read Genesis, you wouldn’t know whether Noah is really a man of faith or not.”
You know, in the face of this kind of stuff I’d have a lot of sympathy for the director, who was forced to add a disclaimer to the movie stating that “the film is ‘inspired’ by the Bible and true to its values but takes certain liberties with the story.”
But Aronofsky lost me at this:
Ultimately, though, the director has little patience with literalists on either side of the believer-atheist divide.
It’s ungenerous to insist, as some Christians do, that there is only one way to interpret Genesis, according to Aronofsky. But it’s also ridiculous to argue, as some atheists have, that no ark could possibly hold all the animals.
Really? Does Aronofsky think that the Ark held every species (about 7+ million), in pair or sevens, or only the “kinds,” whose number, of course, is unclear. But even the kinds would have to include elephants, whales (who couldn’t survive in hot, silty water), and predators and their prey, much less parasites and insects. All that on a wooden boat that was 450 feet long 75 feet wide, and 45 feet high, with just a few windows at the top?! Does Aronofsky also know that no wooden boat that large could possibly survive in a normal sea, much less a turbulent one. No, the atheists are right here: no matter how you construe the word “kinds”, or the number of species put on the ark, the idea won’t float. And that neglects the formidable problem of getting the penguins to Antarctica from Mount Ararat, or the marsupials and giant earthworms to Australia.
For a secular Jew to give this story any credibility at all, except as a kind of horror movie, is reprehensible.
Here’s a Paramount clip about the making of “Noah.” That Ark is ludicrous; it is a fricking box in the movie, and could never have been seaworthy.