Was Noah a righteous man? How righteous was he? How righteous should our portrayals of him be?

Darren Aronofsky recently said he wants his upcoming movie Noah to “smash expectations of who Noah is”.

And Russell Crowe said last year that the title character, played by him, is “not benevolent. He’s not even nice.”

The Gospel Herald has now picked up on these quotes and combined them with Monday’s bogus Variety story to suggest that the film will contradict the Bible, which describes Noah as a “righteous man”.

But what does that mean?

Let’s start with Aronofsky’s quote.

In context, it’s clear that he was talking not necessarily about Christian perceptions of Noah, but about the general perception of Noah that everyone has grown up with — everyone, that is, who has ever stepped inside a preschool or nursery where the walls are decorated with images of a man and a boat and lots of smiling animals.

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Bible movie of the week: The Bible: In the Beginning… (1966)

The title speaks of beginnings, but the film itself marked the end of an era. The post-war Bible-movie craze — which began with Samson and Delilah (1949) and arguably peaked with Ben-Hur (1959) and its record 11 Academy Awards — petered out over the next several years, and The Bible: In the Beginning… (1966) was pretty much the last major Bible film to be produced by a Hollywood studio for the next couple of decades.

The problem was not that the film was a flop, per se, but that it cost so much to make. Reliable box-office figures are harder to find, the further back you go in time, but according to Wikipedia, at least, The Bible was the top-grossing film of 1966, with a domestic gross of $34 million. Then again, roughly half of that money would have stayed with the theatres, and the film is said to have cost as much as $18 million — and that probably doesn’t count the cost of prints and advertising. So whether the film made its money back would seem to depend on how well it performed overseas.

In any case, I recently revisited this film and noticed a few things that I thought were worth noting here. (See also my recent post on Abraham and the Three Visitors, which discusses one scene from this film that I don’t get into here.)

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Spielberg and Lucas on Ark of the Covenant traditions

It’s been up on YouTube for almost three years now, but last week, for some reason, a vintage TV special on the making of Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981) began making the rounds on the internet.

I don’t believe I had ever seen it before, though I do recall a friend at school telling me about it and describing one sequence in it, in which Steven Spielberg tries to give Harrison Ford a passionate summary of where the story is going, only to have Ford abandon him mid-story to put some mustard on his hot dog or whatever.

I mention the special here because it includes a clip of Spielberg on the set of the film’s climax, explaining to some of the extras what the supernatural concept behind that climax is — and I was intrigued to hear Spielberg suggest that the film might actually differ from the traditions surrounding the Ark as he understands them.

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The Bible / What works and what doesn’t in the ambitious mini-series

It’s common these days for each new episode of a TV series to begin with a montage that sums up all the relevant plot points from previous episodes. So it was only natural that, when the History Channel aired its five-part mini-series The Bible over the month of March, all but one of the episodes began with narrator Keith David intoning, in his deep baritone voice, “Previously, on The Bible…”

All of the show’s strengths and weaknesses are captured in that one phrase. Produced by Mark Burnett (a TV mogul best known for unscripted “reality” shows like Survivor and The Apprentice) and his wife Roma Downey (who once starred in Touched by an Angel), the mini-series rushes through the whole Bible, from Genesis to Revelation, in ten hours — though it’s more like seven, once you bracket off the commercial breaks — and it zips through the stories so quickly that you barely notice when they are compressed even further in those opening sequences. But the mini-series also makes a point of emphasizing the continuity between Bible stories in a way that is quite rare among Bible films, and in a way that sometimes allows individual stories to shed light profitably on others.

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The Bible: first episode, first impressions

I don’t get cable at home, so it took me a while to catch up with the first episode of The Bible, which premiered last Sunday. There are four more episodes to go, so it’s too early to review the series as a whole right now, but for now, these are my first impressions.

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Review: Noah’s Ark (dir. John Irvin, 1999)

Just about every kind of disaster film has appeared on screens big and small in the past few years, so it was only a matter of time before some producer turned to the Bible for inspiration. The result is Noah’s Ark, a two-part mini-series produced by Robert Halmi Sr., the renowned showman who has made it his mission to bring literary classics such as Gulliver’s Travels, The Odyssey and Moby Dick to TV sets everywhere.

Floods, volcanoes, meteors, tornadoes, shipwrecks — Noah’s Ark has it all. The film also begins with a glaring anachronism. In Genesis, the towns of Sodom and Gomorrah are not destroyed until hundreds of years after Noah’s lifetime. But in Halmi’s version, scripted by Peter Barnes, Noah (Jon Voight) is a native Sodomite, albeit a righteous one, who flees the town shortly before its destruction; his best friend Lot (F. Murray Abraham) also escapes, even though he is decidedly not righteous.

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