While I’m delighted that anybody would be interested in my response to the film, I have no response yet… not about the movie itself. I haven’t seen it. I’ve been on an island for 10 days studying the art of creative nonfiction, pursuing an MFA in Creative Writing from Seattle Pacific University. It’s been one of the most rewarding, exciting weeks of my life and the beginning of two years of challenging work. Noah will have to wait. (If the studio had provided Seattle press with a press screening, I would’ve reviewed it for you. They didn’t. Can’t imagine why.)
But fear not — you have some other resources available to you.
In fact, you have a choice.
You could read articles about Noah in which Christians
- condemn other Christians who have found aspects of the movie to appreciate — calling them “liars,” “whores,” and “self-loathing evangelicals”;
- complain that the movie “isn’t Biblical” (when any imaginative retelling of the story would have to invent things to fill in the picture);
- seek to explain away positive reviews by implying that the critics were paid off by the studio;
- complain that the movie doesn’t mention God (my trustworthy colleagues testify that it does) (UPDATE: I saw it. It does. He’s called “The Creator” and “Him” and “He” … over and over and over again);
- complain that the film contains mystical creatures (even though the Bible includes reference to some rather mystical creatures and fallen angels and giants, just as it suggests that the “wildlife” of the ancient world was mysterious and strange in ways we’ll never understand); and
- accuse the filmmakers of being part of some Gnostic or atheist conspiracy intent on mocking Christians… when in fact the artists demonstrate enthusiasm for their subject, remarkable historical research, a rich understanding of how the myth-like tales of ancient oral tradition mean things, and an impressive respect for the religions of the world that embrace this great story as sacred tradition.
I’m not going to provide any links to such articles. Why waste anybody’s time? These writers fulfill the worst cultural caricature of the Christian whose stance toward art and culture is one of scowling and scolding, the pious authority who claims to have the only acceptable and righteous judgment of a work. As ways of engaging art, culture, and our neighbors go… that way is a dead end.
You could read explorations of the film that focus on
- what’s actually in the movie;
- weighing the pros and cons without disrespect or anger or slander or cynicism or name-calling;
- highlighting whatever is good, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable, whatever is excellent or praiseworthy;
- pointing out the weaknesses of the film with insight, grace, and respect;
- thoughtful criticism rather than condemnation and ridicule of their peers.
I’ve seen plenty of examples of both approaches to this film.
I haven’t seen the film yet, but I will, because the critics who I have come to find most trustworthy, respectable, scholarly, and gracious in their manner have been fairly enthusiastic about the film.
Here are the reviews I’ve found to be most respectable, thorough, and enlightening.
- The impressively extensive, thorough coverage by Steven Greydanus. Read it all.
- Peter Chattaway’s coverage, which includes in-depth interviews. Here are his first impressions. And here are his second impressions.
- Alissa Wilkinson’s review at Christianity Today.
UPDATED! MORE WORTHWHILE READING:
- Rebecca Florence Miller
- Rebecca Cusey
- Marty Duren on how not to talk about Noah
- Austin Gunderson at Speculative Fiction
- A remarkable review (in PDF format) available in a church newsletter from St. Mary’s Orthodox Church, by Rev. Fr. David G. Sabu
- Joe Carter of The Gospel Coalition
- A not-so-positive review from Ken Morefield. (Note: He’s able to thoughtfully criticize the film without condemning those who disagree, or politicizing anything.)
- Brett McCracken at Converge. Listen to this:
“Some have complained that Noah is mostly environmentalist propaganda, to which I say: not propaganda, but environmentalist? Absolutely. The Noah story is one of the clearest calls in Scripture to environmental stewardship. In this fantastic sermon on Noah, Tim Keller notes that the Noahic covenant calls us into three great relationships: with the earth, with all the people of the earth, and with the Lord of the earth. God is in covenant with the whole earth (Gen. 9:13), committed to renewing nature as well as man. Resurrection for all. … The creation God has made has an important role to play, after all: it declares His glory.”
- Gregory Alan Thornbury of The Gospel Coalition.
- Kevin McLenithan at Christ and Pop Culture. Wow. Just… wow. He actually brings my favorite poet, Scott Cairns, into the discussions!
- Justin Chang at Variety… knocks it out of the park.
- Patton Dodd on how Noah, imperfect as it may be, will inspire people to read the Bible.
- “The Evil God of Noah” … by David Sessions.
- “Why the Latest Hollywood Heroes Hate the World” … by Noah Gitell
- Phil Cooke’s original post that’s generated almost 800 responses; then… “The names I’ve been called since I started writing about Noah“; “Should Christians watch movies directed by an Atheist?’; and why Christians should run for the hills when the movie opens; and finally, the result of why we’ve all done this.
- Richard Brody at The New Yorker
- Jason Morefield at Opus: “Noah is hardly Gnostic. If you want a dose of cinematic Gnosticism, stick with The Matrix.”
Ask yourselves: Do these reviews appear to be written by people who were tricked into writing what they wrote? Do they sound like people who were “bought”? Do they write like sellouts?
These are the writers and moviegoers that a certain prominent Christian media voice labeled as “liars.” Are they all lying?
If you come across more examples of the latter, please share them in the comments. If you come across examples of the former, I’d encourage you to save us all from wasting our time and pay them no attention at all.