Is “God” missing from Darren Aronofsky’s Noah? Please.

Reviews of Darren Aronofsky’s Noah have been trickling out for a few days now — you can read my own first impressions here — and one of the more puzzling remarks I’ve come across so far is a bit from Todd McCarthy’s review in The Hollywood Reporter.

Specifically, McCarthy, who likes the film, asserts in passing that Noah “will rile some for the complete omission of the name ‘God’ from the dialogue”.

When I first read that, I wondered who McCarthy could possibly be referring to. Who, exactly, would be so easy to offend, so eager to nitpick the smallest detail, so ready to assume the worst about this movie that they would live up to the stereotype invoked by McCarthy and actually make an issue of this?

Enter Breitbart News.

To be fair, Big Hollywood — the Breitbart website that has been hostile towards Noah ever since it published a critique of an early draft of the script in October 2012 — devotes only a few sentences to this bit from McCarthy’s review. But devote them, it does, quoting that one line and commenting that the absence of this word “might make the movie a harder sell to its intended audience–faith-friendly viewers.”

To which all I can say is: Please.

First of all, even if Big Hollywood had nothing to go by but McCarthy’s review, they would still know that Noah and his grandfather Methuselah — and presumably other characters as well — do address God, but they call him “the Creator” instead.

Second, it should be pretty obvious from everything that has been said and revealed about this film so far that God is a major part of it. Sure, maybe no one calls him “God” per se, but who else is sending the Flood, the visions and the animals?

Third, calling God “the Creator” underscores our relationship to him as part of his creation. The creation of the world is a major flashback sequence in this film, and the memory of it hangs over everything else that happens here — so calling God “the Creator” keeps that element foremost in our minds. It also has implications for our stewardship of the environment in a way that a word like “God” does not.

Fourth, I just generally like it when a movie that takes place in the distant past has the characters speak in something other than modern colloquial English. (See, e.g., how Ben-Hur screenwriter Christopher Fry changed lines like “How was your dinner?” to “Was the food not to your liking?”) Giving God a slightly different name like “the Creator” helps Noah to feel like it takes place in another time, another place.

Fifth, in the Jewish tradition at least, to avoid using the name of God directly — whether by writing “God” as “G-d” or by calling him something else like “HaShem” (which is Hebrew for “The Name”) — is actually a sign of respect.

Finally, the biggest problem with the claim that the film “completely omits” the word “God” is that the movie does not, in fact, completely omit it.

There may be other counter-examples, but the one that stands out to me, because it’s written in my notes, is a scene in which Tubal-Cain calls himself a king, and Ham replies, “My father says there can be no king. The Creator is God.”

But don’t just take my word for it. My friend Steven D. Greydanus wrote that line in his notes, too. And we saw the film at different screenings, a week apart.

So, please, enough of this meme.

March 29 update: A few sources now report that what Ham actually says is, “My father says there can be no king in the Creator’s garden.” So take my final point with a grain of salt. But even if I’m wrong on that one detail, my other points still stand.

About Peter T. Chattaway

Peter T. Chattaway was the regular film critic for BC Christian News from 1992 to 2011. In addition to his film column, which won multiple awards from the Evangelical Press Association, the Canadian Church Press and the Fellowship of Christian Newspapers, his news and opinion pieces have appeared in such publications as Books & Culture, Christianity Today, Bible Review and the Vancouver Sun. He also contributed essays to the books Re-Viewing The Passion: Mel Gibson’s Film and Its Critics (Palgrave Macmillan, 2004) and Scandalizing Jesus?: Kazantzakis’s The Last Temptation of Christ Fifty Years on (Continuum, 2005).

  • http://lnsmitheeblog.blogspot.com LN_Smithee


    Finally, the biggest problem with the claim that the film “completely
    omits” the word “God” is that the movie does not, in fact, completely
    omit it.

    There may be other counter-examples, but the one that stands out to
    me, because it’s written in my notes, is a scene in which Tubal-Cain
    calls himself a king, and Ham replies, “My father says there can be no
    king. The Creator is God.”

    Yeah, Peter. Those Breitbart people. They’re so silly, so petty, and so facts-challenged. For example, here’s a quote from a February Breitbart piece on the Total Film magazine spread on Noah including discussions with Aronofsky, Crowe, and Connelly:

    There are some other interesting tidbits in the article too, such as the fact that God is apparently never called “God” in this film but, rather, is referred to simply as “the Creator”.

    OOPS! Sorry, that wasn’t a Breitbart piece, that was a Patheos piece. Written by, let’s see…Peter Chattaway.

    “Please” yourself.

    • http://decentfilms.com/ SDG

      LN_Smithee: Please.

      Peter isn’t knocking Breitbart (and THR) simply for the neutral (if not entirely true) claim that God isn’t called “God,” but for trying to manufacture or predict some kind of absurd controversy over this, as if Christians are “so easy to offend, so eager to nitpick the smallest detail, so ready to assume the worst about this movie” that they would be outraged over calling God “the Creator” rather than God.

      Which is why your quote from Peter, completely lacking any suggestion that this choice would be controversial, doesn’t make Breitbart (or THR) look better in the slightest, in this regard.

      Also, of course, Peter is careful enough to use qualifiers like “apparently” when reporting on potentially incomplete information.

  • Mo86

    For goodness’ sake, the movie is not even OUT yet! How do I know that? Because with all the articles and counter-articles I kept seeing everywhere, I decided to check movie times in my area and learned it doesn’t come out until the end of March.

    So it’s ridiculous to keep arguing about something that few people have even SEEN yet!

    And why would anyone expect a movie made by non-Christians would be biblically accurate anyway?

    This whole thing has been ridiculous.

  • jpo321

    Every trailer I’ve heard has a disclaimer practically begging Christians not to hold the liberties in the movie against it. So why introduce this controversy?

  • http://sdavidmiller.com/ Stephen Miller

    Let’s also add that Moses won’t ask “What is [your] name?” for at least another few hundred years, so any proper name would be quite silly for the movie to use.

  • stevemeikle

    Yes indeed. The fact that the church forgets that God is in fact the Creator is a great error in churhc history, and proof that when the chuhrc faought off gnosticism in the early centuries much gnosticism rubbed off on it. As for the green emphasis, it was compatible with scripture for the Bible also says that God would destroy those who destroy the earth.

    I have already noted the nitpicking hostility of certain religiose types who do in fact breach the 9th commandment when they bear false witness against the movie

  • Moshe Z. Matitya

    In rabbinic literature, “haBoreih” (Hebrew for “the Creator”) is a commonly used term for God.

    • stevemeikle

      thanks for this. Because, well, the Most High, the Holy and Terrible well, He IS the Creator.

      When some say that the god of the movie was called the creator as he was the gnostic demi urge and not the most high they are reading something into a movie that is not there. where is their regard for the 9th commandment?


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