“Noah” Movie Review

Noah movie

I expected the Noah movie to be a fairly careful following of the Bible story, where the fun would be in quibbling about how various verses were interpreted, but the movie was (surprisingly) more interesting than that.

It has Noah, his wife, and the three sons. There’s the enormous ark, the animals, and the flood. And then there are tangential bits that are nevertheless still in the Bible—the Nephilim, Methuselah, Tubal-Cain, and Noah the angry drunk.

But that’s about it for the Bible. The rest is Hollywood. Perhaps that’s to be expected when you must expand four Bible chapters into 138 minutes.

Spoiler alert: you’d think that everyone already knows the story of Noah (“Omigod! You mean that everyone else drowned? Wow—I didn’t see that coming!”). Not this interpretation.

The Nephilim

In the verses immediately before the Noah story (Gen. 6:1–4), the Bible introduces the Nephilim. Before the Flood, angels came to earth and fathered children with women, and these were the “heroes of old, men of renown.” It’s unclear whether “Nephilim” refers to the angels or their children, but the Bible doesn’t condemn them.

Other ancient Jewish texts do. The Nephilim taught man the secrets of metalworking and weaponry, as well as makeup and jewelry (read: adultery and killing), and one of the purposes of the flood was to get rid of them.

Noah shows these Nephilim as fallen angels and calls them “Watchers,” the term used in these ancient Jewish texts. They came to earth to help man with the gift of technology (nothing about getting frisky with their women), but were cursed by the Creator so that they became gigantic multi-armed rock monsters (duh—what else would cursed angels look like?). Since their previous contact with humans led to no good, the Watchers are ready to kill Noah and his family, but he befriends them and they help build the ark.

There’s nothing like a dozen 20-foot-tall immortal monsters to help make that tough job go a little easier.

The Others

Noah is in the line of Seth, Adam’s third son. They’re the last of their kind. But there are thousands of others living nearby who descended from Cain, Adam’s first son—the one who killed Abel. These are the bad people corrupted by the art of metalworking. They’re led by Tubal-Cain, who the Bible tells us was the first metalsmith—again, with no hint of condemnation.

This distinction between the bad men of Cain, corrupted by weapons and killing, and Noah’s noble line of Seth doesn’t hold up, however. Noah uses metal, both as tools and as weapons, and he kills people when he has to.

The Plot

This is a world of magic. There are visions, spells, incense that makes the animals on the ark hibernate (nicely solving the problem of how to feed them and their eating each other), and lots of magical plants. (The clash between those on the side of magic and those who favor technology reminded me of the 1977 movie Wizards. Technology loses in that one, too.)

The harsh terrain (it was filmed in Iceland) and the clothes (more Viking than Bedouin) made me think of Middle Earth rather than the Middle East.

The Bible says that the three sons have wives. Not so here. There is only an adopted daughter, found as an injured girl, and she and the oldest son are something of a couple. Noah tries to find wives in the Man Village, but the savagery is so extreme that he returns empty-handed and convinced that their job is simply to convey the animals safely on the ark, not to continue humanity. Humans are so inherently evil that their line must end.

On the boat, Noah passes on to his little band the seven-day creation story. Though the flood is accurate to the Bible when geysers burst from the ground, which points to the Sumerian cosmology of water beneath the earth and in a canopy above, the visuals that accompany Noah’s story would be at home in Neil deGrasse-Tyson’s Cosmos series. We see the solar system coalescing and a protoplanet crash into the young earth to form the debris that became the moon. Evolution is shown, as animals evolve from fish to amphibians to reptiles to mammals to primates. Creationists will find no support in this depiction.

Noah says that the Creator demands that humanity must end with them. This causes some friction on the boat when the son and daughter get pregnant with twin girls. It’s not enough that they ignored the sounds of the drowning multitude at the beginning of their voyage, but now Noah is determined to kill the babies. Luckily, love overcomes the wishes of the homicidal Creator in the end.

One wonders where girls will find a husband. I suppose the logical choice is the last of Noah’s sons, their uncle.

Noah the drunk

The Bible says that Noah took to drink after the ark landed (Gen. 9:18–27). Perhaps he was due a little celebration after all that work, but it got a bit out of hand, and he passed out naked in his tent. His son Ham saw his father in this embarrassing state, but the other two brothers covered him without peeking. Noah discovered this and bizarrely responded by cursing Ham’s son Canaan, presumably to support Israel’s future conquest of the land that Canaan’s tribe would occupy.

Bible scholars have woven many interpretations out of this odd curse, trying to figure out what is euphemism and what is literal, but the Noah film takes a different approach. It presents this wine scene literally, but Ham and Noah had friction that went back a long time. Before the flood, Ham had found a girlfriend, but Noah refused to help save her. On the boat with every eligible female in the world dead, Ham was angry enough that when he discovers the single stowaway—Tubal-Cain, of course—he listens to him.

Tubal-Cain says that the Creator (“God” is never mentioned in the movie) made man in his image to subdue nature. And he kinda has a point. In the creation story that Noah just told, the Bible says, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground” (Genesis 1:28). But you can imagine who wins in the fight scene.

The trailer ends with the text, “The film is inspired by the story of Noah,” which tries to placate everyone. It’s a “story,” so that doesn’t offend those who don’t follow the Bible. It’s “inspired by,” so it apologizes to Christians, Jews, and Muslims who think that it takes too much license. At the premiere, the director Darren Aronofsky said, “Anything you’re expecting, you’re f***ing wrong.”

I explore the various story strands that make up the Bible’s Noah story here.

No prophet of God hates people. . . .
“Noah” is wrong about everything.
— Glenn Beck

[Christians are] mad because this made up story
doesn’t stay true to their made up story.
— Bill Maher

(This is an update of a post that originally appeared 3/28/14.)

Photo credit: IMDb

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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • Dannorth

    So the Fundies are bashing the movie. When can we expect them to adopt the solutions to problems in the Flood narrative devised in it .

  • Kevin K

    Love the Beck quote. He must not be familiar with Lamentations.

  • Bob Jase

    I’m waiting for the movie about Lot and his travels with his daughters.

    • Michael Neville

      That’s already somewhere on the internet. After all, as we all know:

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YRgNOyCnbqg

      • Kevin K

        OK, that was weird. Avenue Q is a great play. Puppet sex, on stage!

    • Ignorant Amos
      • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

        Ah, yes. Lot sexes his two hot daughters. And Charisma magazine is bent out of shape because all that wasn’t made clear in the Noah movie??

  • epicurus

    I really enjoyed it. Yeah, I was worried that it was going to be another “Bible” movie but the turn away from most of that, combined with the rock monster/angels, violent crazy Noah, and Anthony Hopkins small part really put a great spin on it. There was even an interesting evolution of life dream sequence was was pretty cool, although it probably made creationists mad. I saw it when it came out in theaters, my memories of it have faded, definitely have to watch it again.

    • Kevin K

      So, where does Emma Watson come in? As the plucky heroine who defeats the rock monsters by making stone soup?

      • epicurus

        No she’s the injured girl who is adopted and beomes the oldest son’s girlfriend. I think there was something about Noah wanted to kill her because he didn’t think that God wanted humans to reproduce after the flood. He was just saving Noah’s family to live out their lives after the flood and then that was it – no more humans. I think there’s a scene near the end when he was chasing her trying to kill her or something like that.

        • Kevin K

          So, then she ends up being mitochondrial Eve? Mother of us all? I wonder if they were writing the script under the influence of microdoses of LSD and misjudged a batch. That would explain a lot.

  • epicurus

    Bob, have you ( or anyone) seen the movie “Risen” with Joseph Fiennes? from the extra features on the DVD I got the impression it was kind of a movie made by Christians for Christians but I really like the way the main character Fiennes- A Roman tribune who watches jesus die- is naturally shocked after seeing a risen Jesus, but doesn’t know what to make of it. He doesn’t seem to think the disciples know what they are talking about, but at the same time Jesus isn’t really telling anyone, even when Fiennes and Jesus are sitting together with no one else around. So Joseph Fiennes is following the group but not sure what to make of it all -knowing something big happened but not really trusting the people who say they know what it means. At the end of the movie he has left the group and gone off by himself. I thought it kind of broke the mould of BAM! a Resurrection and therefore everyone knows exactly what it means – or at least that’s how I interpreted it. maybe I was just seeing what I wanted to see, maybe the director of the film would be horrified to think someone interpreted it that way.

    • Ignorant Amos

      Yep…seen it. Hilarious.

      • epicurus

        What you you think. Is my take on how Fiennes viewed the situation all wrong?

        • Ignorant Amos

          Sort of, if a bit condensed…afaicr, and similarly condensed, in his search for the missing Yesuah, Clavius becomes more and more confused with the various accounts until he eventually doubts everything. Then in an epiphany moment it all seems to make sense and off comes the armour and he joins the followers as a convert and traitor to Pilate. He then helps take on the Roman’s sent after him and the Yeshua movement.

          A lot of nonsense based on a lot of nonsense to be sure…but entertaining enough if viewed with that mindset…just like the Noah movie.

          A synopsis from Wiki…. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Risen_(2016_film)

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

      No, I haven’t seen it. Sounds interesting.

      Christians will be annoyed when movies diverge from what they think the story says, ignoring the fact that every bit of it is subject to interpretation.

    • ThaneOfDrones

      At the end of the movie he has left the group and gone off by himself.

      And then he got killed by a meteorite before he could write down what he had seen. Tragic.

  • Ignorant Amos

    I got the banhammer on a Christian blog that were seriously reviewing this movie vis a vis veracity to the “real” plagiarised accurate biblical version.

    • Kevin K

      You mean other than the Epic of Gilgamesh? Or the source that those people got the story from? Or the …

      • Ignorant Amos

        Them’s the ones.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

      Well, yeah. Can’t have anyone uttering contrary words. That’d break the spell.

  • Ignorant Amos

    Found it…my comments have been deleted.

    7 of the Worst Mistakes in the Movie ‘Noah’

    https://www.charismanews.com/opinion/43454-seven-of-the-worst-mistakes-in-the-movie-noah

    Some fucked up woo-woo merchants on there.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

      You get the Charisma magazine email? Yup, so do I. That is indeed a crazy place.

      What gets me about them is that their prophecies are continually wrong, and yet the Christians keep comin’ back for more. What kind of brain chemicals does “OMG! We’re all gonna die! Any day now!” provoke?

      • Otto

        And Ken didn’t even come back after the last prophecy failed…I was so disappointed, on the other hand my prophecy came true.

        • Greg G.

          Where is Susana Gonzalez who promised the end of the world 40 days after the eclipse? Luke 21:24-25 didn’t come true for her.

          PS: I hope she isn’t disappointed.

        • Otto

          I never saw her stuff…I hate that we can’t see new comments anymore.

        • Susan

          I hate that we can’t see new comments anymore.

          I can, but only because Greg G. linked me early on (when Patheos decided to make this move)
          to a coding provision Bob S. implemented when Patheos/Disqus made it clearer that they don’t give a shit about genuine discussion.

          He gave me a link to this:

          http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined/recent-comments/

          If it doesn’t scroll down for you, scorll down to the bottom before the comments, where Bob S/ has to explain that thanks to a thoughtful reader, there’s a “recent comments” link.

          It was on the first page, when that was posted. Now, it’s somewhere on the third page

        • Otto

          Thanks…I hate to say it but 3 months in and it looks like Patheos s*** the bed on this one

        • avelworldcreator

          I don’t think it was just Patheos on this one. I was just another blog recently run by Disqus. I saw replies in my email and when I clicked the link to reply it went to the blog but the link at the top was missing the comment code and the comment wasn’t showing up. I finally tracked them down but I don’t remember how I did it. I just found myself confused until I saw this discussion.

        • Greg G.

          Bookmark this: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined/recent-comments/

          Right click and select “Open in New Tab”. Chrome does it when you click on the timestamp. Internet Explorer works with the person’s name.

        • Otto

          Thanks Greg

      • TheNuszAbides

        What kind of brain chemicals does “OMG! We’re all gonna die! Any day now!” provoke?

        well, somebody somewhere’s gotta get weary of the Fallen World Infested With Demonic Thingies and Lucifer’s-Whore-Atheists trope … stir in the idiotic adoration for flimsy martyr narratives, and “Hey, Team Us Gets The Ultimate Victory”, and what’s not to get pumped up about?

  • eric

    I thought it was pretty crappy. I don’t mind someone trying to make a biblical blockbuster, even changing the details. to make it more Hollywood. But this one jumped the shark IMO. The whole magic stone thing, the all the iron-age tech in a stone age story. It was honestly too much a departure from the original for me to enjoy.

  • Mutale

    One thing I liked in the movie is that when noah was going to kill his granddaughters he chose not to do it unlike in the Abrahamic and isaac story where if it wasn’t for the angel of the lord appearing abraham would have killed his son.

  • BeaverTales

    I wish we could discuss the real evidence-based story of human civilization and diaspora, instead of constantly rehashing a fake one. Christianity has held us back for at least a thousand years. If only people found reality as interesting as fiction, we’d have colonies on the moon by now….

    Scientific reality is infinitely better than non-scientific fiction.

  • watcher_b

    But was the movie “good” or “entertaining”. I just can’t bring myself to watch it. It doesn’t sound like an interesting interpretation of the story of Noah and it doesn’t sound entertaining. But I could be wrong there.

    • Ignorant Amos

      It entertained me.

      Just as long as you enjoy fantasy and don’t take things too seriously.

      I’m reminded of the youngsters coming out of the cinema after watching the Transformers movie. Talking about how great the movie had been, one of them was overheard to say, “it was a great movie ruined by the silliness of talking vehicles”…made me laugh anyway.

      Of course, I too, often have to catch myself on when watching military themed movies. Whether it be anachronisms, or the wrong kit, or the wrong tactics, etc., I’m prone to complain, so I guess am as guilty as the next man when it comes to nitpicking in my specialist area of expertise.

      Knowing the buybull story of The Flood, didn’t take anything away from the ‘Noah’ movie as entertainment.

  • Greg G.

    Further proof that the SMBC cartoonist reads this blog:

    http://www.smbc-comics.com/comic/perspective

  • TheNuszAbides

    i’m almost sad that i’ve put off seeing this movie for this many years.

  • avelworldcreator

    Can’t believe I’m interested in a Bible-based movie now.