On asking questions, not assuming answers, about Noah

Brian Godawa has now updated his post on the Noah serpent — twice! — in response to posts of mine in which I debunked the claim that Noah is Gnostic and tried to untangle just what the snakeskin represents, both in Judaism and within the film specifically.

Brian’s a good guy, and he’s done a lot of research into the Noah story, and I have found his posts on that subject very informative. But when it comes to his analysis of Darren Aronofsky’s film, it seems to me that he has certain blind spots, or that he insists too strongly on filtering his experience of the film through a certain worldview without fully engaging with the film on its own terms.

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Be as wise as serpents, but stay away from snakeskins!

“Temptation led to sin.”

That’s the second sentence in Darren Aronofsky’s Noah. It’s printed on the screen for all to see. It is accompanied by an image of a serpent flicking its tongue at the camera. And it is followed by images of violence and destruction.

To those who are even half-familiar with the story of the Fall, you might think that this would all seem pretty straightforward. But no. Instead, a bizarre idea has surfaced in recent days, to the effect that Aronofsky’s film espouses a kind of Gnosticism.

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Flashback: the Gnostic scifi fantasies of the late 1990s

All this talk of Gnosticism in the movies is reminding me, last Monday marked the 15th anniversary of The Matrix.

It would be impossible to overstate what a huge deal that movie was at the time. It was not the first Gnostic parable to grace the big screen by any stretch — several films that touched on similar themes had come out just the previous year — and the whole thing fizzled out when the filmmakers cranked out two bloated, underwhelming sequels just four years later. But for a while there, the movie had everyone talking about Christ-figures and philosophy and the nature of reality, etc.

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No, Noah is not Gnostic. (Say that ten times fast!)

Thanks to a lengthy blog post by Brian Mattson, a theologian with the the Center for Cultural Leadership in California, the latest meme to work its way into public discussion of Darren Aronofsky’s Noah is that the film is somehow Gnostic, and that it presents a worldview in which God is really Satan and vice versa.

Is there anything to Mattson’s claims? Not really, and here’s why.

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Review: The Island (dir. Michael Bay, 2005)

The Island is a movie about clones, and so it comes as no surprise that the movie is, itself, something of a clone. But it is also something of a chimera; that is, it seems like the sort of movie you would get if you took pieces of two very different movies and squished them together, and the result is a monstrosity.

On the one hand, we have a dystopian science-fiction movie about people who live in an artificial environment under a totalitarian regime, oblivious to the fact that they are actually clones who have been manufactured as spare parts, or “insurance policies,” for the rich and famous of the world. The all-white production design and the theme of escape, as two clones try to break out of their world, brings George Lucas’s THX 1138 to mind; but the emphasis on genetic engineering and sterile perfection recalls Andrew Niccol’s Gattaca, and the way the creators of this society use comfort and fear to discourage curiosity about the outside world — all of the inhabitants believe they are survivors of a global catastrophe — recalls Peter Weir’s The Truman Show (also written by Niccol).

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Review: The Matrix Revolutions (dir. the Wachowskis, 2003)

SO MUCH for the salvation of humanity.

When The Matrix first came out four and a half years ago, many Christians were intrigued and excited by the film’s many biblical allusions. The protagonist was a hacker named Neo (Keanu Reeves) who discovered that the entire human race was trapped within a virtual reality, and all people were living in a computer-generated dream state to hide the fact that the world had been conquered by machines that were using human beings as a power source.

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