Review: ‘The Amazing Spider-Man 2′ is a Teenage Dream

Oh to be Peter Parker and Gwen Stacy as The Amazing Spider-Man 2 opens.

They’re young. They’re beautiful and/or handsome. They have keen minds and bright futures ahead of them, one in a career in science and the other as a secret web-slinger.

And they’re in love. Sweetly, innocently, desperately, consumingly in love.

The chemistry between Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone, real life sweethearts playing onscreen sweethearts, makes the movie work. You just can’t help but root for them.

It’s the kind of love that blooms at 19, in the first blush of adulthood.  Beyond it, this Peter Parker just oozes superhero teen angst, a lighter, younger Spider-Man than Tobey Magurire’s turn ten years ago.

He longs for his deceased parents and frets about the safety of his girl, but not enough to mute his wise-cracks or temper his sheer physical joy at swooping and swinging around New York City high-rises. He doesn’t sit in remote webs brooding or carry the weight of the world on his shoulders. He just wants to thwart criminals and take Gwen to the mall, not necessarily in that order.

The film exults with him, using the full force of 3D CGI to plunge with him through city canyons, skim the roofs of yellow cabs, and swoop up on his silken thread to dizzying heights. The only thing missing is the wind in our hair.

But alas! Life, as we all discover eventually, is never that simple. Parker is frantically worried that his crime-fighting ways will endanger Gwen, a possibility that becomes reality when not one but two villains arise: Electro (Jamie Foxx) and the Green Goblin (Dane DeHaan).

The Green Goblin is your average diseased lonely heir whose early friendship with Parker, which he considers betrayed, turns him sour on Spider-Man, although DeHaan is excellent as always in the role.

Electro is something much, much more interesting. In Foxx’s hands, with help from a powerful script, Electro is a villain that embodies black rage, more Malcolm X than mutant.

The parallels aren’t subtle. He begins as an invisible man, a nobody, an unnamed, unthanked worker in the power grid. He builds the foundations of power but has none on his own. Suddenly empowered, he becomes dangerous to the eye of the authorities, even though he himself has not as yet used his power to hurt anyone. He is automatically a threat. But once he realizes that the general world will never accept him, he grows into his power. And then, watch out. He wants nothing more than to shut the system down.

Electro’s whole being is a metaphor.

It’s a fantastic performance by Jamie Foxx and the most interesting part of the movie. In a movie that was more concerned with ideas, it could have been a fascinating and illuminating (excuse the pun) look at racial identity. This is not the Dark Knight trilogy, however, and the movie never fully steps into the promise of this thread.

What it is, however, is fun and frothy, something you could share with a child. Rated PG-13, the rating comes from sci-fi violence and action along with a storyline involving deep loss. The rest is squeaky-clean. The language is clear, the romance chaste. Better yet, Garfield’s Peter Parker and Stone’s Gwen Stacy are the type of recent high school grads we’d all like our kids to be: earnest, hopeful, sincere, kind, and self-sacrificial.

It may not be the most meaty treatment of the comic subject matter, but we already have Batman and Wolverine for dark heroes. There’s nothing wrong with lightening it up a bit, for the kiddos or for the sometimes overly-serious adults who accompany them.


Released from Paramount Contract, ‘Noah’ Bible Guru John Snowden Responds to Ken Ham, Ray Comfort, Brian Godawa

Editor’s note: John Snowden was a youth pastor in the Los Angeles area when Rob Moore of Paramount approached him about a project. Snowden came aboard Noah as Biblical advisor and we know the rest. As of April 1, Snowden is no longer under contract with Paramount pictures and now gives his full reaction to the controversies swirling around Darren Aronofsky’s film.

John Snowden on the set of NOAH.
photo: Niko Tavernise. (c) 2012 Paramount Pictures. All Rights Reserved.

I knew some wouldn’t appreciate Noah’s liberties, for sure, but I didn’t expect the level of ire I’ve heard about the now apparently controversial Bible movie. Ken Ham, along with Ray Comfort, and similar disagreement from Brian Godawa, have led an all-out assault on the film. Here is my response to a few of their thoughts, which hopefully will also be an opportunity shed more light on what I firmly believe is very positive theology in the film. (Warning: There may be spoilers if you haven’t seen the film!)

Objection: Humanism!

Godawa in particular focuses on the fact that Aronofsky is allegedly a “humanist.” I put that in quotes because I don’t actually know that Darren is such. He might be. He may even “probably” be. But Godawa presumes that Aronofsky’s worldview has compelled him to tell a subversive story undermining God, and the proof is not what is in the film, but that Aronofsky is a humanist. This cynical view (and cyclical argument) assumes no person can tell any story that they don’t wholeheartedly embrace. So a humanist, for example, could never put into his film critical Christian theology such as that man was created in God’s image, because that would undermine his humanist agenda.

The only problem with this is that the film clearly holds this very important piece of theology front and center, that God created people in His image. Despite Godawa’s clearly false claim, the film repeats it many times from many characters. It is said by Noah twice, The Watchers said it once, Lamech said it, and it is perverted by Tubal-Cain. Throw in the bonus that Noah clearly says “we get our power from The Creator” and the whole humanism thesis quickly dissolves.

Objection: Veganism!

In an ongoing criticism of the film, Godawa vents that the depicted sin of humanity is all about meat eating in the film. When one reads through Genesis, there are two ways to read it regarding meat eating. First, the most literal way is that God never blessed eating anything but plants until after the flood – thus meat eating is a sin to Noah in scripture for the timing of most of the film. Or there’s the more “nuanced” way – which we’d naturally assume is Hollywood’s tendency: “Nuance it” to justify an agenda, right? Well, the nuanced way is: Sure, God never really gave permission to eat meat until after the flood, but since God did kill animals for Adam and Eve (but did He?), and since He gave Noah instruction to bring 7 of each clean animal onto the ark, and since we can read into that statement the Torah’s definition (that Noah hadn’t heard) of “clean” certainly implies kosher food laws it must mean that those animals were for eating, therefore Noah eats meat in Genesis.

For what it’s worth, I think both are actually viable ways to read the text. And since there are two ways to read into vegetarianism in Genesis, maybe we can give “Hollywood” a pass on taking the more literal interpretation as their own.

Objection: Creation From Nothing!

Creationism in the film was allegedly subverted too – because it starts with “In the beginning there was nothing.” That’s Pagan, they say! Atheists believe that!

So do I. I’ve taught the Bible plenty. My favorite part is creation and Genesis 1:1 – 12:3. The Hebrew verb for “created” in Genesis 1 is a word that is only used with God as the subject and it means to create from nothing. And in the creation sequence the film follows that very line with God speaking light into existence on “the first day and it was good.” The creation narrative in the film then goes on to name the six days one by one (albeit with an evolving-animals sequence), yet then on the sixth day, God distinctly creates humanity in his image. While I wish it said it was “very good” at that point, the fact that God created us in his image on the sixth day is very clearly in the film. Adam and Eve didn’t just passively evolve in the film. How can an atheist tell an atheistic version of creation with “The Creator” as the creator and still be pushing an atheist’s agenda?

Objection: No Rebellion Against God!

In the most head scratching criticism from Ken Ham, he suggests that the film doesn’t depict “rebellion against God.” It’s head scratching for two reasons. First, never are those words a part of Genesis 6 – 9. Second, more importantly, Tubal-Cain’s speech as the rain starts is so so overtly personifying rebellion against God: Tubal-Cain’s arrogant comparison of himself to god, giving and taking life, that men united are invincible, or that Tubal-Cain cries that he will build a new society in his own image are all manifestations of rebellion against God. Even just yelling at God to do what Tubal-Cain wants God to do images such rebellion. Tubal-Cain says to Ham “A man is not ruled by the heavens but by his will.” These are the same themes of Biblical rebellion against God that we find throughout scripture including at the Tower of Babel, which the story of Noah (and the lineage of Ham) feeds.

Ham got on the boat. Ken Ham missed it.

Objection: Environmentalism!

But the most important sin in this film is supposedly the environmental “agenda.” It’s pretty much unanimous after all, since almost every American right-wing Christian who’s seen the film has completely objected to the environmental undertones in it. It’s honestly not my favorite part either, but this is where grace (and not even that much is needed) toward a non-Christian director has to come into play.

But even with such grace, and to be clear, I’m a right-wing homeschooling Ken Ham-VBS-curriculum-teaching conservative-talk-radio-listening Christian myself (I really am), I defend the fact that the film clearly depicts primary sin as the violent arrogance of man time and again. It doesn’t depict “property rights advocates” in a bad way like Godawa claims, it depicts a bad guy subjugating his fellow man and taking the land that others are living on. It’s man’s inhumanity to man – the very thing Ken Ham alleges the film didn’t depict. And it most certainly doesn’t explain the flood as anything but man’s wickedness – which is partly environmental as depicted but is so overwhelmingly shown as violence (threatening, intimidating, killing, selling women in the mob scene, stealing, and people fighting over, yes, natural resources). You’d think from the reviews Tubal-Cain is the non-violent CEO of the Exxon corporation (yet carrying a “gun”).

But then even looking closer we can find that it would undermine its own ostensible “environmental agenda.” For example Noah scolds young Ham (played by a pastor’s kid, no less) for picking a flower, he uses environmental jargon to teach his son a lesson. An environmentalist “agenda” would leave that flower dead, destroyed, and irreplaceable. It would be the final action that sets in motion the ball rolling that will actually clinch the destruction of the entire planet – right? But that’s not the story told in that scene nor in the film as a whole. What happens in that scene is that God immediately and miraculously replaces that flower, clearly demonstrating that God is going to take care of things – just like he does in the end of this film, and in the end of Revelation 21-22. True story – an executive for one of those environmental organizations saw the film and was not happy with it. Why? Because the film showed that the “Almighty” (his word) fixed the environmental problems in the end, which is contrary to environmentalist’s messaging. There you have it.

Naameh says in the film to Noah, “We are surrounded by darkness, yet beauty survives even in this barren ground. Maybe it is a sign he comes to heal.”

God makes all things new. God restores the broken, grows gardens from deserts, and brings fertility from bareness. That is good theology, and that is in the film.

Objection: Unrighteous!

Nearly every rejection I’ve read mentions that Noah was righteous yet the film allegedly depicts Noah as anything but. Instead of being righteous he was sinful, mean, and focused on killing his grandchildren believing that God wanted him to kill off humanity. While I wouldn’t make the theological case that the Biblical Noah was blind to God saving humanity through him (nobody is claiming that’s the Bible’s position – it’s simply a movie’s dramatization of God wanting to wipe out humanity which IS in the Bible), and probably in a million years wouldn’t have dreamed up that plot for my own Noah’s Ark movie, it is clearly a choice they made in the film. But it doesn’t make Noah not righteous. Hold on, you say? You object? Let’s think it through – how can a person who almost kills children thinking it’s God’s will be righteous? Well, you can ask Abraham. How can a person be a prophet of God when he doesn’t obey God and wants people to die? Ask Jonah. How can a person be after God’s own heart but also be a murdering adulterer? Ask David. Why do we protect Noah as proto-Jesus by assuming righteous means anything other than Noah trusted God? In the film, Noah wasn’t taking pleasure in the idea of killing humanity, he was angry about it, and he was assuming it was God’s plan just like it says in Genesis 6:5-8. I also, for the record, believe that in the end the film does not communicate that it’s God’s will for Noah to kill the babies, but it is God’s will (as Ila explains) to help Noah learn God’s mercy in contrast to the stark justice he just witnessed.

Abraham believed God and it was credited to him as righteousness. Where does Noah’s come from?

Objection: Paganism!

But all of these aren’t the real issue. No, as I see it, the core of the criticisms I read boil down to the fact that a person who is not of the Christian worldview is making a Bible film. Or perhaps if Christendom allowed this, why on Earth did they let him have any ability to have any creative control over his own film? Either way, I’m reading between the lines that this is what is truly and fundamentally intolerable. How could a non-Christian possibly get it right? Is there a line that would have been “right enough?” No, I don’t believe we would allow it. Rather any creative choice that strays too far from the text (if from a non-believer’s mind) should be rejected. The text stands alone – and I believe it does. Maybe that means we should actually reject any depictions of a Bible character? Or maybe only if it’s done by a non-believer. This is all sounding awfully similar to a fatwa, and it grieves me.


Let’s wrap this up. ”Love your neighbor” is our charge. That is expected of us even if we think he’s a secular liberal vegan pagan atheist humanist environmental whacko Hollywood director. Vilifying him (and effectively his whole team) will not get us any closer to God. And to me, he was personally quite a kind, thoughtful, creative, hyper-intelligent colleague with whom I had incredibly fruitful conversations. I’m thankful that he took a huge risk to tell a Bible story in a very creative way, and did it quite impressively. You don’t have to like the movie, love the movie, or see the movie. But we really need to respond better than this when we have objections.

John Snowden served as the Biblical Consultant on Noah from April 2012 until March 31, 2014. After six years of vocational youth ministry in West Los Angeles, John moved with his family to Kathmandu, Nepal, where he is a Vice President of CloudFactory, a tech company seeking to connect a million people in the developing world to basic computer work while raising them up as leaders to address poverty in their own communities. He is not related to Edward.

Read More:

Rebecca Cusey on An Invitation to Listen: How the Church Should Think about Noah

Rebecca Cusey’s Review: A Bible Movie That Doesn’t Preach or Browbeat

Rebecca Cusey’s Interview with Aronofsky and Handel

Peter Chattaway’s Extensive Noah Coverage

Barbara Nicolosi Accuses Me of Selling My Soul to ‘Noah’ Marketers – For a Stale Bagel

Apparently my colleague Barbara Nicolosi is going to blow the cover off the scandalous secret of Christian film marketing.

I want to be very clear that I have a lot of respect for Barbara. She was instrumental in helping me start thinking about movies specifically and culture in general. She taught at the Act One writing program at the time, a screenwriting school that takes the business of Hollywood seriously and trains Christians to hone their craft so they are able to professionally and artistically speak into the moviemaking and TV business.

Barbara was never soft with her students. You have to make a career of Hollywood, she taught, not a hobby. You have to respect the craft. You have to actually work hard, very hard, and maybe in decades you’ll be at a point where you can make a difference.

It was tough love, tough love that the Christian culture needed and she helped shape Christian thinking at that time and I’m grateful for her voice back a decade ago.

That’s why it bothers me so much, though, that in the case of Noah, Barbara will not concede that other Christians may have a valid different opinion on the movie (here’s my positive review). She has said that those of us who like it don’t really like it, but are lying and have received some shady, yet undefined, payout from the studio.

Because we have the temerity to disagree with her.

This is insulting at best, slanderous at worst.

I certainly don’t get paid much for being a movie critic. If I were selling my soul, I’d expect it to pay better.

Barbara has taken what was a friendly debate among various Christian critics and turned it into something ugly and personal. Us versus them. The righteous versus the evildoers. The godly versus the diabolical. Over a movie. Over, let’s repeat again, a movie. Not human trafficking or homelessness or war theory or abortion. A movie.

This was not necessary. And it’s not right.

Yes, marketing firms focus on the Christian market. This is not news either. We can’t have it both ways, saying that Hollywood ignores people of faith on one hand and demanding products (i.e. movies) that we want to see, and then turn around and complain that we’re treated as a market.

So you can peek behind the curtain here, let me tell you how I came to review Noah early and interview the directors.

By the way, separately from my screening and interview, the advertising department at Patheos made a deal to advertise the film on our site. Many other sites advertised the film as well. One had nothing to do with the other. This is an age-old dilemma in news, from the early days of newspapers. Like all reputable sites, we have a firm line between editorial and advertising, which is why what Barbara says about the Entertainment Channel at Patheos, which I run, being undisclosed paid advertising is patently untrue.

The stories I ran were selected for their news value and nothing else. With all the worldwide press this film has generated, I hardly have to argue it was a news-worthy story.

Peter Chattaway here at Patheos was covering Noah and other Bible stories in more depth than anyone else long before he was offered an interview. He continues to do fine work. And Steven Greydanus’ work on Noah has been extremely valuable and insightful as well.

By the way, Barbara will receive a decent sized check for her post, paid for in part by the advertising she so denounces.

Anyway, Paramount and Grace Hill Media, who have always treated me well and with integrity, offered me an advance screening and an exclusive interview on a movie with a lot of buzz, especially to my faith-based readership. I jumped at it.

That’s called journalism.

I know “journalism” is a lofty word to throw around about movie criticism, but ultimately that’s what I aspire to. Like Jake Tapper scoring an interview with the President or Barbara Walters interviewing Bono, we all scramble for content that will bring eyeballs to our writing and serve the public. We want the big story, the scoop.

I do many interviews a year, some of them pitched by Grace Hill Media, most via other contacts. I turn down quite a few pitches from GHM and others as well. Some interviewees are big names, others you wouldn’t recognize but have big talent. Here’s the interview I did recently with Jason Bateman about the extremely R-rated Bad Words, an interview I also very much enjoyed, and which, frankly, should be WAY more controversial than my work on Noah. 

Of course I jumped at Aronofsky. I would be crazy to turn down an advance screening and interview with the hottest movie of the year so far and a story that was making waves not only in religious circles, but worldwide secular circles.  It has nothing to do with the pride of meeting famous people or stoking my ego, except in the sense I would like to be an excellent journalist. It has everything to do with scooping the story and serving my readers. This is what journalists do.

I agreed to an embargo until a certain date – standard operating procedure in many beats of journalism – and nothing else. It was clear that the studio hoped I’d like the film. It was clear that I might not and that was the risk they were taking. We discussed that ahead of time.

Paramount tried to set up the screening and interview here where I live in DC. Darren Aronofsky was still editing some aspects of the film and could not take time for an entire day trip to DC. So I accepted a flight up to New York paid for by the studio. Patheos does not have a budget for travel, at least not yet, something not unusual in the tightened financial arena of current media.

The plane was just a rickety puddle jumper. More dubious than luxurious. I flew there and back the same day. I watched the film in a screening room and missed lunch time doing it. Someone brought me tea in a styrofoam cup (which I spilled all over the floor and myself like a dork but at least it helped me identify with the characters in the flood scene).

I liked the film very much, immediately. Paramount reps rushed me to make my window with Darren Aronofsky and Ari Handel. I talked with them for 25 minutes and found them both fascinating, intelligent, respectful, and well-thought. This is not always the case with Hollywood types, but it was here. (Read my entire interview here.)

I confess that in a moment of weakness brought on by low blood sugar, I did accept an abandoned stale bagel that was laying around the Paramount break room.

Ah the glamour of show business!

I then went home, paying for my own crappy overpriced airport dinner, which I scarfed down like an orphan in a Charles Dickens novel, and wrote an honest review and interview feature. Oh, I bought myself a nine-dollar beer too. I might buy myself another one after finishing this post.

All in all, I would rather have stayed in DC that day if it weren’t for the story I was chasing. I went through a long day of travel for a story that I thought, and still think, was valuable to my readers. The travel about as much fun as a root canal. The story itself was great fun. I do not appreciate Barbara or anyone implying I have done anything scandalous, immoral, or unprofessional here.

Barbara’s reasoning goes: These critics disagree with me, therefore they are lying. If they are lying, they must have a reason to lie. If they have a reason, they must be bought. It’s the worst kind of ad hominem attack and betrays a shocking arrogance about the presumed correctness of her own point of view.

She’s so right that anyone who disagrees with her is not only wrong, but evil.

My salvation hardly rests on whether I agree with Barbara on how many stars a movie should get.

I mean, I agree with Rotten Tomatoes’s Tomatometer 76% of the time, but I don’t expect that to get me into heaven.

I liked Noah. I’m not going to apologize for that or be bullied into changing my mind. I liked having a scoop. I’m not going to apologize for that either.

But I would much rather engage Barbara, learn from her, and enjoy her usually insightful analysis than fight her. I hope she’ll be willing.

Exclusive: Darren Aronofsky: ‘Everyone Believes in God’ in ‘Noah’

There has been some talk about whether or not God appears in the movie Noah.

When I talked to Darren Aronofsky, he could not have been more clear. Speaking of the villain Tubal-Cain, he said:

What’s interesting is most of the time when you make a bad guy in a movie, if it’s a religious movie, you make the guy a nonbeliever or something. But that’s not the case. Everyone believes in God in this movie because God is ten generations ago. Adam is ten generations ago, creation was just ten generations ago.

Co-writer Ari Handel added:

In his genealogy, Noah is the first person born after Adam died. So the idea that God doesn’t exist in the universe, it nonsense. So Tubal-Cain has a relationship with God, it’s just a negative relationship with God. He’s angry but he’s also, in that scene, he’s also looking for more. It’s complicated.

Read the full transcript (with some spoilers, so beware) of our conversation here. 

Read my review of the film.

Read my letter to Christians: An Invitation to Listen, How Christians Should Think About Noah

Transcript: Darren Aronofsky and Ari Handel on ‘Noah’


Darren Aronofsky, Director, co-writer Noah

Ari Handel, co-writer, Noah

March 14, 2014

New York Paramount Offices

Warning: Some spoilers in the conversation.

Patheos: Tell me about your personal relationship with this story. How did it come about?

DA: It started probably when I was 13, I was a public school kid in Brooklyn. I had a really great teacher who asked us all to take out a piece of paper and pen and write something about peace. I ended up writing a poem called Dove about Noah. It turned out it was a contest for the UN. I ended up winning it and having to recite it in front of the UN a few weeks later. And so, Noah has sort of been a patron saint of mine, in setting me down the path of creativity. When I eventually made the film Pi and was thinking about future films, I thought it was so weird no one has ever done the Noah story as a movie. In fact, it’s a little weird that the Bible epic as a genre has been dead for 50 years. There seems to be this new frontier there. Back in 2000 I started pitching it. In 2003 we started writing a draft. And then 2006 we set it up somewhere but it didn’t happen. And then after Black Swan, suddenly a lot of doors were open and my representation was like, you know you might be able to get that made. It’s kind of been a life long passion and adventure so far.

AH: I came to it when Darren, around 2003, said let’s do this.

DA: We were college roommates, Ari and me, Ari actually has a PhD in neuroscience. After college, he also got

Patheos: Was that at Harvard?

DA: We were roommates in college and then he got a PhD at ..(audio unclear)

DA: And then when he got his PhD, he was kind of wondering what he was going to do with his doctorate. Over those seven or eight years you were in training, I would always pick on Ari’s brain because he’s a neuroscientist and he’s really really smart. And he would always help us and I was like hey do you want to write something together and that’s how it all began between us as a collaboration.

Patheos: So let’s talk, the controversy, one of the controversies, is the environmental issue, and so what’s your reaction to people saying oh well the sin of Noah is not that he wasn’t an environmentalist.

DA: The sin of man was not that they were destroying the world.

Patheos: The sin of man. I misspoke, you’re right.

DA: That they weren’t destroying the earth.

DA: You just saw the film so you can see that surely there are issues about man’s violence against man, that’s really outlined in that war montage, there’s definitely man destroying, killing animals, brutally, that’s a part of it. And there’s also the sin of murder with Cain and Abel, I mean what happened is we looked at the Bible really really closely for clues and if you look at tradition, the Noahic laws, the seven laws of Noahic laws, which were the laws that came before the ten commandments, were set up after the flood. But before that, what were the laws? And there’s only kind of three rules we could find. The first rule was don’t eat from that tree, which we broke, and there was probably don’t kill, even though that wasn’t a rule before it happened, after Cain kills Abel, God was clearly upset with it. And there was a third rule which was all the green things in this garden are for you to eat. It’s in tradition that Noah and his family were vegetarians and didn’t eat from animals until after the Noahic laws. In fact, one of the Noahic laws is an interesting one, which is you can eat animals now but don’t eat live animals. Which made us go, what does that mean don’t eat live animals? That’s disgusting. It must have to do that before the flood, they were somehow brutally you know destroying animals. When you look at the story of Noah, he’s saving the animals. That’s what he’s entrusted to do. It’s not saving all the good people or trying to find the good people to put on the ark.  He’s saving the animals, all two by two, he’s saving God’s creation. And like Pope Frances is now talking about, he was a steward of creation. And you know I think people are putting this political agenda on it, which isn’t really part of what we’re doing. We’re just trying to represent what is in Genesis.

AH: If you look, at what it literally says in the Noah story, of what the wickedness of man is, cuz, Obviously we went right there to figure out what’s going on, it doesn’t say very much, it says they corrupted the earth and filled it with violence, so obviously if they’re going to corrupt the earth, it has to be something that is pure in order to be corrupted. So the idea of corrupting a pure earth and the idea of filling it with violence, and we tried to very much show that violence, which I’m sure you saw the man on man violence, we see a corruption of pure earth. We’re just trying to find what is the story telling us actually happened.

Patheos: How important – I’m getting a sense of this – but how important was it to you to stay with the text and do you, is there anywhere in your knowledge where you went, where you feel like you didn’t adhere to the text?

DA: We, not making a joke now, the text was paramount, not talking about the studio, it was the final word on everything. We worked very hard not to contradict anything in the actual text. And if you go through the film, you can see there’s nothing that contradicts the text, but the text is four chapters long. There’s no way a two hour movie in those four chapters. In fact, Noah never even speaks in the entire, up till the flood is over, he doesn’t speak. How can you cast Russell Crowe, you can’t really make a silent movie with him. But there were clues, there were really interesting clues. The second thing that Noah does after the flood is he gets drunk. A lot of people forget that, but it’s the first mention of wine in the entire bible, and he’s naked and he doesn’t get covered by Ham. For us, it’s like, well that’s really interesting, maybe that’s not just one event, maybe something led to that.

AH: A relationship story

DA: A relationship. What type of relationship led to it. If you look at our movie, it’s a pretty well-woven thing. You follow Ham’s story back to him plucking the flower in that opening scene. A kid, you know, who’s curious. And where that leads in a situation that’s very difficult, where that relationship falls apart even though it’s a very loving relationship. We wanted to bring that to life. And we wanted to show, that when Ham goes off and is cursed and his descendants, you know, end up Nimrod and Babel, that this idea that yes, the first story after the flood is the tower of Babel, so it goes from restarting everything to the wickedness of man again. So for us, there’s this idea, it was like ok, clearly there’s this idea of what is good and what is wicked and how we go through these waves. So clearly Noah and his family was carrying the idea of wickedness. They had original sin in them. How do you portray that as a story? How do you bring that to life?

AH: And find a way to treat that mercifully as opposed to judgmentally, which at the beginning of the story, has this, you know, people are going to be punished for what they’ve done, and by the end there’s this notion that yes there’s still wickedness and also you have those temptations, but there’s mercy for that. And we’re not gonna punish the world, so you know,

DA: We were always coming back to the text and grounding in the text and looking for clues in the text. Whenever we got stuck, we looked for clues in the text.

Patheos: I was like, but he didn’t bring the wives on the ark, and then you got me. I was, like, I’m obviously not going to reveal, I was thinking, oh man they really deviated here, but you didn’t.

DA: It’s funny. We talked to a lot of religious people and I’m like ok tell me where we contradicted the text, directly contradicted the text. And there are a few things, a few lines, but basically, it’s very truthful and honorable of the original text. If you go through it, we did dramatize it.

AH: It is the way people have preconceived notions themselves of what the text may mean, you know, like with the wives.

DA: One guy was like, what about the fact he wasn’t 940 years old? And so you know we tried to sort of say, first of all, how are you ever going to do that? Everyone is going to be in age makeup? It’s silly, you know, to create a film like that. So we decided to say it predeluvian times, who knows how time was and what that aging was? And maybe they were that old, we don’t really know, but you know, we basically took the length of his life and divided it to a hundred year old man. And basically said at this point he’s 40 and at this point he’s 50.

AH: Noah died when he was 930, so he’s 500 years old when he has his children and the flood comes when he’s 600 years old. And maybe over a thousand years, that’s middle aged. And that seemed actually more realistic actually to being longlived, to just you know, the first 80 years you’re kind of young and then you become just kind of old.

Patheos: What about the …so this is, at least in my world, this is being discussed in religious circles, and but I’m almost wondering if the fact that it’s being in kind of the Christian right and Bible movie circles, do you want a broader audience, do you think the broader audience will be interested, do you think they’ll be turned away because it’s been “How Noah was blah blah blah.”

DA: For us, the film’s for everyone. It’s for believers and nonbelievers. And I hope it creates conversation between both sides. One thing I’ve noticed is how much anger there is out there between those two sides, just seeing some of the articles written on the internet and seeing comments, there’s a big battle, and I hope this film can actually make the conversation civil, it can bring people together to talk about these ideas. Because I think believers are not, if they let go of their expectations that this isn’t exactly how they imagined it, but actually look a little bit beneath the surface and look at the themes of this story, they’re going to see the same themes of hope, second chances, survival, family, they’re all values that I think believers find in the story and that definitely preachers and pastors can talk about it and relate it back to ideas that they’re trying to discuss. The exciting thing is that nonbelievers are going to get a film that ‘s an action filled exciting great, hopeful, warm top-notch actors in the world right now, bring these character to life, so that it’s, so they’re going to have a very deep entertainment that’s a family drama about a man who has an impossible task ahead of him and has to sort of accomplish it. It’s a superhero film in many ways, um so…

AH: And they can have the feeling that just because a story is in the Bible, doesn’t mean it’s a not story that they’re interested in, and those same themes that we’re talking about, they don’t have to have a religious stance to being completely invested in those themes as human beings because they’re universal themes.

DA: I do think we do want it to go to everyone.

Patheos: So talk to me a little bit about the Tubal-Cain character. He was a big surprise for me. Almost his laying out of theology. Where did that come from, his view of God, and man’s role in the universe?

DA: I think um, he’s a character named in the Bible, he’s a, if you follow the genealogies, he was alive at the same time as Noah, he’s described as the first worker of metal and weapons, and so he seemed like the right guy to sort of create a personification of the wickedness of man. But I think once again what was important to us is that we’re all descendants of original sin. You know, Adam and Eve are all of our distant ancestor. And so that original sin is in everyone and so we didn’t want to paint just a purely evil guy and a purely good guy. We wanted to discuss how all of us have temptations and how all of us have to make choices to do the right thing in our lives. What’s interesting is most of the time when you make a bad guy in a movie, if it’s a religious movie, you make the guy a nonbeliever or something. But that’s not the case. Everyone believes in God in this movie because god is ten generations ago. Adam is ten generations ago, creation was just ten generations ago.

AH: In his genealogy, Noah is the first person born after Adam died. So the idea that God doesn’t exist in the universe, it nonsense. So Tubal-Cain has a relationship with God, it’s just a negative relationship with God. He’s angry but he’s also, in that scene, he’s also looking for more. It’s complicated.

DA: There’s a lot of father son relationships going on here. Throughout the film, Noah and his sons and between the Creator and Noah, there’s a father son relationship but also between Tubal-Cain and his Creator, there’s  relationship. But what was interesting to us is that God is not mentioned in the Bible in those ten generations after Cain. The last thing God does is he marks Cain and then you don’t hear about it until his heart is grieved because of the wickedness of man. For us that was a really interesting thing. There’s a big gap here of God’s presence. So how would a character who didn’t have God for ten generations feel? It’s interesting because Ray Winston would talk about it, as I was describing this relationship, he would say it’s kind of being a latch key kid who’s like left alone and burns down the kitchen and then the parent comes home and is really upset and the kid is like what did you want me to do I was here all alone. And that’s how he feels is that God has abandoned us and now he comes back and wants justice, that’s not fair, which for us was kind of a really cool theological idea. And just you know because people can look at this time now and go where is God in this world and what is our responsibility to God, so it relates to a lot of ideas that people are thinking about now.

Patheos: So I felt like –I’m trying to think – you left it open whether Noah had failed or not. Whether or not he was supposed to, or at least in his mind, it seems like he never really settled that, is that something you want people to wrestle with, kind of the sin, how dark humanity is?

DA: Well, I think, it is second chances, is kind of for me, what it is. There is an ambiguous end to the story if you think about it the next story is the story of Babel as I said, so we go right back to wickedness.

Patheos: You had it even on the ark they’re fighting, trying to kill each other, father against son.

DA: Yeah yeah yeah. We were just trying to play out that conflict. But for me, I think, what Eula says on the rock, maybe don’t print this, just for your own take, I think she’s sort of explaining that you were tested and you went through a test and maybe this is what you want. And I think with second chance comes responsibility and I think that’s kind of how Russell played it, sort of hope and responsibility and then that kind of rainbow cosmic image at the end is a new pact, like ok we’re going to try a second chance

AH: When you look at the Noahic laws and you look at the covenant that comes, theirs is an added responsibility, it’s that people are supposed to have courts, they’re supposed to judge themselves, they’re supposed to take a little responsibility for how they behave and for enforcing it. So I think there’s an ambiguity there but I think the solution of the ambiguity for Noah is, oh, maybe we don’t know, we’re not all good, we have dark tendencies within us but we can do a better job, we can do better, we have to better ourselves.

DA: See this is what we want, we want conversation, exactly what’s going, because I think there’s a lot of ways to think about the film and I think there’s a lot of nervousness about Hollywood but this is not a “Hollywood” movie, this is something that I’ve been passionate about my entire life and this is something Ari and I spent a decade studying and thinking about and trying to think about a way to bring it to life. There is no, like, agenda of some you know people trying to make money off of Bible stories.

AH: The only agenda is like these themes you’re bringing up, the relationship between man and God, the relationship between goodness and wickedness, mercy and judgment, We went to the story to find those themes of what those stories are about, what questions is it asking, why is Babel next? Is wickedness and goodness between people or in every person? Those are the questions we saw there and that’s what we were trying to bring forth into the film and dramatize and that’s what we’d love people to be talking about and not whether, you know….

Patheos: That’s what makes it challenging too.

DA: It is challenging. You know, it’s interesting because people have a lot of preconceptions about Noah, they think he’s all good, a good old man, but it doesn’t actually say that he’s good, it says that he was righteous in his generation. And there’s been a lot of Jewish thought for centuries about what that means, righteousness in his generation and what we sort of came away with is that righteousness is a good balance of justice and mercy. As a parent you may be able to understand that if you’re too just you destroy your child through strictness and if you’re too merciful you destroy your child through leniency. So being a good parent is about balancing justice and mercy, which is what Noah is. And at the beginning of the story of Noah, God is purely, purely vengeful and wants justice. And so we decided to sort of align Noah with that, that he is upset and wants justice for the world, and like the rainbow at the end, where god basically finds mercy and grace for mankind, Noah too finds mercy and grace, so we kind of gave him a similar emotional journey and then with the balance of mercy and justice, he actually is righteous in his generation.

Patheos: You took it down off the nursery wall, which I think needed to be done How much did you go back to older versions of the story. In the scene where the water first comes and they’re all on that rock of that reminded me of

DA: Doré

Patheos: Is that the woodcutting?

DA: Yes, exactly, that’s good you’re the first person to pick up on that.

DA: That’s called the Doré shot, actually, it’s named after, that’s what we called it.

Patheos: When the drop fell, it reminded me of the passion of the Christ.

DA: I don’t think I was referencing that. I..

Patheos: Were there other shout outs?

DA: We looked at every piece of art that’s ever been done on the Noah story that we could find. And it was really interesting it’s like, for instance the white dove is maybe four or five hundred years old. Before that the dove is different colors and stuff.

AH: It doesn’t say it was white and there’s lots of different kinds of doves.

DA: Like the ark is a perfect example. Most people picture this houseboat but if you actually look at this description in genesis, it describes a box, it tells you this many cubits long, and if you really think about it, it didn’t need to steer anywhere, it doesn’t need a keel. It was basically a storage device three levels big. That’s how it was described. If you look at our vision of what the ark looked like, it’s probably the most accurate of what’s been done according to Genesis. We tried to find a lot of artwork to help us but there’s very very few that sort of captured the magnitude of it because it’s been turned for a very long time into something comedic and for children and I think it’s because of the animals, it’s because of man saving the animals and that’s something kids can relate to

AH: I even think it’s something deeper than that, I think there’s something really scary in the story which is that God would think about killing all of the people. That ‘s a really dark thought and I think the reactions to that really dark thought is to put it under the rug a little bit and not think about that. There’s a way there’s a part of the story that people have turned away from by sanitizing it.

DA: You just gave me a flashback of my childhood, of hearing the story early on as a kid and being scared that that could happen again and I could not get on the boat. I just actually felt that for a second. Sorry I haven’t felt that for a long time.

I’ve long thought it was bizarre we put it up on children’s walls.

DA: It’s a very intense story. We wanted to capture the spirit of that and bring it to life because I think actually there’s a lot to get from that story. There’s a lot there. It’s a lot richer than just a nursery story, absolute faith, there’s lots of interpretations but it doesn’t usually get into the whole idea of wickedness and sin and goodness and grace, which is the stuff we were attracted to talking about.


Review: ‘Noah’ a Rare Bible Movie that Never Preaches, Never Browbeats

If you look closely at the image of God bringing life to Adam in the Sistine Chapel ceiling painting by Michelangelo, you’ll see the iconic work of art is not Biblically accurate.

Then the Lord God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being. – Genesis 2:7

And yet, the image of God reaching down to touch Adam, rather than breathe into his nostrils, is beautiful and true and touches the soul.

Nor was Rembrandt there at the raising of Jesus’s cross, although he painted himself into the scene in Raising of the Cross, as Jonathan Merritt points out over at RNS. His painting is not merely a retelling of the factual story but a theological statement.

Which brings us to Darren Aronofsky’s Noah, a work of art in film and a theological exploration of the ways of God and man, the likes of which have not been seen on the big screen since No Country for Old Men or The Tree of Life.

Anyone hoping to see merely an accurate portrayal of the few verses in Genesis is thinking too small. The movie is much bigger, much richer, and much more exciting than that.

It’s the kind of movie that Christians, indeed everyone, should want Hollywood to make.

Darren Aronofsky has breathed fresh life into a treasured story and made it a story everyone can enjoy and everyone can ponder.

The action starts in a predeluvian world, somewhere between the Garden of Eden and present day. In style, it’s a little bit Braveheart and a little bit Lord of the Rings. Noah, his wife, and his sons live gentle lives, at peace with man and nature. They take what they need and do their best to avoid the rest of mankind, those who would take not only what they need, but take from others as well, by force.

There’s a mystical quality to this early earth: Anthony Hopkins plays Methuselah, Noah’s grandfather and the oldest recorded man in the Bible. He is wise, very wise, and a conduit for the Creator’s mystical power. Other beings also roam this early earth. They are the nephilim, heavenly creatures entrapped on the barren planet.

The family of Noah stand alone in a humanity that has horribly, terribly lost its way. They value life. Mankind considers it cheap. They value kindness and respect. Mankind honors only strength and power.

It’s not so different, at its core, than our world now.

Except that Noah has disturbing visions. He knows the Creator is speaking to him, and the message is anything but gentle: Mankind has contaminated creation. Mankind has violated everything: Earth, animals, spiritual beings, each other.

It’s time to put a stop to it. God is going to send a flood. And Noah had better get ready. He is to build a refuge for the innocents, the animals. How can he restore the earth when he can’t perfect his love of his own family, especially his son Ham (Logan Lerman)?

Russell Crowe does a wonderful job as Noah, a decent man tasked with a huge burden. He is tortured, yes, but resolute. Jennifer Connelly, equally resolute, becomes a lovely voice of mercy in an increasingly dark story. Emma Watson, as Noah’s adopted daughter, has a surprisingly large role. She is occasionally overwrought, but still a fine actor.

Darren Aronofsky has proven himself a lyrical director in the past and this movie is no different. The images are stunning at times: when the Creator provides a forest in a wasteland with which to build the ark it not only moves the plot along but conjures images of life versus desolation, renewal versus devastation, the water of life. When the rain pours and the deeps open and the waves crash, the film recalls great art such as the woodcarvings of Gustave Doré: dark, desperate bodies writing on rocks.

For all the grief that has preceded this movie, there is no softening of the central story as often happens in Christian depictions of it. The flood is not regional, not muted, not filled with smiling animals and sunny skies. It is a cataclysmic event. It is exciting and dreadful and total.

The biggest surprise of the movie, besides Noah’s dark inner conflict, comes in the person of Tubal-Cain (Ray Winstone), a tribal leader determined to survive the flood by force of will. “I am man made in Your image,” he cries to the Creator as he sharpens a sword for battle, “Why do you not converse with me?”

He goes on: “I give life. I take life away. I am like You, am I not?” This man, this personification of the wickedness of humanity, believes in the Creator but will have his own way. He will control his own destiny.

He is not unlike Satan in Paradise Lost. 

This is heady stuff for an action movie, and action movie it is, what with all the crashing waves and clanging swords.

I was never bored in this film. I was never embarrassed because it became too corny or trite or simplistic or unprofessional. Both those happen in Christian subculture movies. But this isn’t a Christian subculture movie. It’s a mainstream movie with deep theological themes.

It is just a good movie, a good movie made for everyone, that happens to be based on a Bible story.

Rated PG-13, the film has clean language and no overt sexuality, although one storyline does involve a pregnancy. The violence is not gory. The hardest thing about this film for kids is the dark thematic material: God destroying humanity. There are plenty of images of death, both in visions and in the action. This may be very disturbing for some youngsters and is a good reason to limit the viewing to teens.

The film differs from religious movies we all know in that the viewer doesn’t feel browbeaten at the end, forced to either accept or reject some theological point of contention. Rather, it opens questions and lets them linger. For all its talk of Creator, creation, and sin, it never preaches.

Ultimately, the movie explores hope versus despair, mercy in tension with justice, second beginnings. It is dark, but the darkness makes the clearing skies all the more lovely. It is a work of art and one that I recommend seeing, for believers and nonbelievers alike.

An Invitation to Listen: How Christians Should Think about ‘Noah’

Imagine it’s Thanksgiving. You’re gathered with extended family: your organic, hippy-dippy sister and her vegan kid, your two-tours-in-Iraq Marine Corps cousin, your Boomer peacenik aunt and your Korean War vet, hard-drinking grandfather.

History with this bunch reaches back decades, some of it from before you came on the scene. There are tender spots of emotional wounds and intellectual points of disagreement. Sometimes the emotional and intellectual are woven so closely you don’t know where one starts and the other ends.

Everyone disagrees with each other, strongly. Everyone thinks the other is a little kooky.  And when you all look at each other, you sometimes shake your head.

But under it, you love your sister, your cousin, your aunt, and your grandfather. Deeply, richly, with something that goes beyond those points of hurt.

And then your artsy-fartsy nephew says “I’ve been thinking a lot about the story of Noah. It’s been kind of consuming my mind. What would make God do that? What would it be like to be Noah? Are people good with a little bad or are they bad through and through?”

Suddenly, in this charged, uncomfortable but loving context, a real conversation starts.

How do you react?

Do you know all the answers and give a lecture? How would that go over? Would people listen to you?

Do you get angry because this person is asking questions and not listening to you? Stinging your pride?

Or do you realize that, even if you did have all the answers – you don’t, but even if you did – they have to discover it and wrestle with it for themselves?

This is the opportunity we, as faithful folk have been given with the movie Noah.

When you love someone, you listen. Not pretending to listen while you’re formulating your argument. Really listen.

You listen especially to their heart, to the cry of their heart.

When you love the culture, you listen to it. You try to hear it, to understand it, to hold it close.

Listening is not agreeing, not condoning. It is merely saying, “Hearing you express the deep, inner murmurings of your heart is an honor for me. Thank you for sharing yourself with me.”

The movie Noah, even if it were blasphemous – it’s not, but even if it were – is not a threat. It is not a threat to you or to me. It is a movie, made honestly by a person who thought about and wrestled with the story. It is an offering, an invitation, an opening of heart.

It is a chance.

So who are we going to be? The loud, unkind know-it-all at Thanksgiving dinner?  Are we going to be the people that no one would even approach because they know the reaction will be painful?

Or the one relative people trust enough to open up to?

Patient, kind. Not boastful, not proud.

It’s hard but it’s right.

These are all things we can apply to cultural dialog, ways we can be in cultural dialog. We can approach Noah this way. We should approach Noah this way.

If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.  If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.  If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.

And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

-1 Corinthians 13

Video: How They Made an Ark From Biblical Specifications in ‘Noah’

How do you make a ship to save animals in a massive flood? The Bible has specific instructions, which Darren Aronofsky followed in making his ark for Noah. Take a look:


Interview: Roma Downey and Mark Burnett Talk ‘Son of God’ and Future Projects

Plenty of people want to make movies about the Bible. I hear pitches constantly to draw attention to this Bible project or that faith movie. But only a few have the experience to create a professional result and the connections to distribute them on a wide scale. Roma Downey and Mark Burnett are just such a couple, trading on their decades of success in Hollywood to create The Bible miniseries that astonished Hollywood with its high ratings and the new Son of God movie hitting theaters this week. And they’ve got more projects in the works.

I sat down with Downey and Burnett, with two other reporters, in a hotel in Washington, DC. Literally as the first question was asked, a fire alarm forced us into the snowy January day.

They could not have been better sports. Burnett led us to a bagel shop across the street, offering bagels to everyone, and they both chatted there in the booth like old friends meeting for lunch. One thing was very clear: They both love The Bible project and feel lucky to be able to work on it. They brim with excitement about it. It’s a passion project, one they’re delighted is having the success it is enjoying.

Here’s our conversation:

When did you first decide to turn the footage from the miniseries into a feature film?

RD: We had an editor on set with us, each week we’d look at rough assemblies. As the Jesus narrative was unfolding on the screen, I said to Mark, I wish we had been making a film because this is so beautiful. It’s spectacular and really deserves to be on the big screen. We decided there and then we would to that as well.

MB: With no clue of how we would possibly get the thing in the movie theaters. But we just knew….we’re very blessed with our careers, so we knew we could afford to get the movie made and somehow we’d certainly get it in a couple of theaters.

RD: At the very least we could do special event screenings. Not even really daring to dream that it would become what it has become with 20th Century Fox.

So you were filming with both a miniseries and a feature film in mind.

MB: Yes. Just because we thought it looked so great and Roma said it should be on the big screen. It took us a year in edits to figure out how to do this in only two hours. When we saw it, we realized this is really emotionally connecting. It just flies by with the pacing. Of course, it came true. It’s literally coming out 2/28 in three thousand theaters. What’s great, people who are seeing this who have gone to church their whole lives, pastors, theologians, who say, “I’ve never thought of these details.” These moments, you know, when Peter gets out of the boat, when Jesus walks on water, what are the other disciples thinking? “Peter, what are you doing? What are you doing? You’re going to drown!”

RD: We just decided to tell the story with drama, with the occupying Roman forces at that time, Pharisees led by Caiaphis, the disciples led by Jesus, on this collision course…On one hand I think the film plays like a political thriller. On the other, I know it plays like a love story. The greatest love story there ever was.

Please tell us about filming the crucifixion scene.

RD: It was the most intense scene in the entire picture. It took us three days to film it. It was challenging not just physically, but emotionally and spiritually. And I think that everybody who was present was deeply impacted by the scene. The challenges that we had to put an actor up on a cross and we needed to make sure the cross is bolted to the ground. There were high winds one afternoon. There was intense sunshine on the second day. We had to figure out how we were going to get him up and down off the cross. We had to build a platform. How long could we keep him on the cross? How could he balance on the cross? There were many many rehearsals and we had different people up on the cross. It was the most moving thing for all of us was just to imagine what the whole experience must have been… I have have considered the cross my whole life but I never fully considered what his mother must have been. To be the mother of Jesus, to see your son so brutally murdered in such a way. I know that she was the mother of the Son of God, but she was also the mother of a son. So, yeah, all I could do was to bring a heart of a mother to it. I’m a mother myself.  We know all the disciples except for John were not present so the courage of his mother and of Mary to remain with him, to be there for him, you know? We also know Jesus only said seven things from the cross and one of those was to take time to look after his mother and make sure she was ok. Which of course says so much about him as well.

Did you imagine as you started out in Hollywood that you would do this? What does it take to get to the place to be able to do a project like this?

MB: Roma had intended to come here to act with National Theater of Ireland, and took a job to pay the rent as a coat check girl in Manhattan. My first job was as a housekeeper slash nanny in Beverly Hills, as a servant for $125 a week. So, cut to where we are now, it’s America. If you think of what we are doing now, only in America is this possible. In terms of making this film and the series, if it wouldn’t have been for Touched by an Angel and The Voice and Survivor and The Apprentice and Shark Tank, I don’t think we would have the leverage to have gotten this made. I know that’s true. It’s certainly gave us an entry point to getting it made so therefore you can look at things happen for a reason. It’s for such a time as this that we met and two careers.

If you also think back, interestingly enough, we both had huge success on CBS, so the only show that was really beating Survivor? 

Touched by an Angel.

Does that come up a lot in your house?

MB (laughing): Beaten by Roma.

What can you tell us about your upcoming projects, AD and The Dovekeepers?

MB: We absolutely had thought to write the outline for AD while in Morocco [as they filmed The Bible] because we’re living in the environment and thinking, boy, how did 12 guys take down Rome? Because really, wouldn’t it have been obvious that Jesus crucified, resurrects, there starts to become problems around the growing of realizing the son of god has been on earth … strange they didn’t just kill them all and just get rid of it that way.They weren’t exactly above killing everybody, were they? They crucified 500 people a day at one point. But it’s amazing you look at the four groups, the disciples, the Herod family who were insane, literally insane, the Romans who just wanted to keep peace and collect taxes, and the temple authorities who were literally battling against the people of the way and Rome at one time, it led to 40 years later, the temple finally falls, right? So that’s AD, AD is really through the line of Acts through Revelation, built around a huge drama about what was going on. By the way, it’s an amazing amount of church leaders who said to us, well, that’s a really important story because no one has really considered that much what they really went through.

And then Dovekeepers takes place actually, it starts, at the destruction (of the temple).

RD: Clearly we love this period of time and stories that show the triumph of human spirit in spite of the terrible times they were living through. And both stories have that as the heartbeat. Dovekeepers is a beautiful novel written by Alice Hoffman. In fact we’ve just gotten our first draft outline of the screenplay today, so we’re eager to get to read that, we’ll probably do that on the flight back. And it’s a great story that’s going to be a four hour miniseries, a special event miniseries on screen 2015 on CBS. And AD, we have a 12 hour commitment from NBC to make that series and we’re hoping that will be an ongoing series, that it won’t just be a one-off.

Is it through Revelation or does it go past, does it go into the early church fathers?

MB: Revelation is 95, ok? around 80, 90, 95  [AD]. We planned to get to 70 as the temple falls, however, like with everything on TV, I’m about to make season 29 and 30 of Survivor.


MB: If people are watching, it could absolutely go on. We’ve really thought of taking it to AD 337. You know what happens then, right?


MB (Laughing): You passed. Your teacher would be so happy.

I gotta tell you, I’m fascinated by the early church history. I would love to see that.

MB: You’d have passed that test.

I was in Italy this summer, so I had a little cheat.

RD: Did you see the Pietá?


RD: You know the moment when we have Jesus dropped, lowered down from the cross, we wanted to pay homage to Michelangelo’s Pietá, the camera lingers for just a moment when Jesus is placed in his mother’s arms. It’s a beautiful statue that’s in Rome that is Mary holding the dead Jesus in her arms and Michelangelo, it’s the only statue he ever signed. He signed it  because he really felt it was inspired by God.

What We Talk About When We Talk About Noah

The Flood with Noah’s Ark, one of the most famous Renaissance-High Oil Paintings painted by artist Jan Brueghel il Vecchio.

On Sunday, December 26, 2004 – you probably remember – a powerful earthquake caused a tsunami that, suddenly and without warning, ended the lives of 230,000 people in a few minutes. Before that, a cyclone whiped out 500,000 in Bangladesh. After, the Haiti earthquake killed 139,000. And so it goes, all the way back to Pompeii, to Noah.

We think we have control of our destiny, but our lives can end in a second, with an earthquake or a sinkhole or a misstep on the sidewalk.

This is the story of Noah. It is dark and horrifying.

Noah is the story of judgement, of a God who exterminated all but a tiny fragment of humanity in a devastating flood.

People wonder how a loving God could do such a thing, but as I learn more of the world, I marvel that He holds back his hand. When I think of a nine year old girl chained to a bed and forced into sexual slavery in Thailand, when I think of the suffering in North Korea, of little boys forced to carry guns and kill in Sudan, I think maybe a mass judgement isn’t such a bad idea.

Judgement carries the promise of justice, of freedom for that girl, of justice for that boy. Things being set straight.

When we think of Noah, though, we frame it as a story of redemption.

Why do we Christians usually place ourselves on the ark, as God’s faithful servant escaping His wrath as he brings judgement on the world?

We’re on God’s side. We, rightly, escape. Such assurance in our own righteousness.

But we are more likely to be the people who mock, who carry on with our lives, who scoff at the idea of getting on the ship, who wonder what those odd animals are doing but not enough to truly search, and who writhe in the water as it covers our heads.

“Noah’s Ark Cycle: 3. The Flood” Kaspar Memberger

We are all under judgement. We all live under the crest of the tsunami, ten seconds prior to the earthquake, the week before the flood.

The Biblical story we paint in cute sunshiny rainbows on nursery walls and teach to our children in sing-song.

The Lord told Noah there’s going to be a floody, floody.

Get those animals out of the muddy, muddy.

This is a story we would rather fit on a nursery wall than consider in its rawness. It is a story we would rather clap our hand to than hold our hands over our eyes weeping. Safer that way.

It is a story of our own death, our own peril under the inevitable hand of justice, the unrelenting hand of judgement, the hand that will come whether we die in our beds at a ripe age or on a normal September Tuesday in the Twin Towers.

This is what we cavalierly talk about when we talk about Noah.

It is also a story of a surviving. We frame this as victory, and it is, but it is a hard and heavy victory. When you speak to the ones who clung to a balcony as the water swirled around and claimed others, who walked out of the towers just before they fell, who sat on the right side of the airplane, they say, they know two things.

One, there was no particular reason they survived. They were not faster or smarter or stronger or better or more worthy.

Secondly, there was a reason they survived. God had a plan. A purpose for saving them.

They generally say this with a sense of heaviness, a Saving Private Ryan sense of burden. Even a touch of PTSD. When you carry the weight of those who died, you carry it forever. You carry it uneasily. We once knew this in the aftermath of World Wars, but most of us have forgotten.

This is also what we talk about when we talk about Noah. Responsibility that is unbearable. Memories that are searing. Trauma that is unexplainable. Carrying on after the unimaginable. No reason to boast. Only to fall on our knees.

“Drunkeness of Noah” by Bellini

No wonder the man drank. He was only human, which is to say weak and inadequate.

I am glad a director with the insight and dark vision of Darren Aronofsky has taken on this story. It needs to be removed from nursery walls. It needs to be de-stuffed-animalized. It needs to be woken up.

I trust the vision of a director of Black Swan, somehow, more than those of us who sing:

The sun came out and dried up the landy landy….

Everything was fine and dandy, dandy.

It was not fine. It was not dandy.

This is what we talk about. This is Noah.