About those rough religious waters for the ‘Noah’ movie

About those rough religious waters for the ‘Noah’ movie March 27, 2014

A USA Today headline declares:

‘Noah’ hits rough religious waters on-screen

The top of the story:

Director Darren Aronofsky has seen his share of controversy in a body of work that has included uncompromising films such as Requiem for a Dream and Black Swan.

But there hasn’t been anything quite like the storm that has erupted over his treatment of the Old Testament tale featured in Noah, out Friday. The maelstrom has battle-tested studio heads reaching for appropriate biblical comparisons.

“It’s been a unique journey,” says Rob Moore, vice chairman of distributor Paramount Studios. “I actually feel like some combination of Noah preparing for the storm, or Joseph, where you feel like you’re in some foreign land and you’re trying to figure out how to make it all work.”

The story of Noah’s construction of a massive ark to save Earth’s animals from God’s flood-borne wrath is sacred text in the Koran and the Bible, and is one of the most popular stories with children.

Keep reading, and the concise report references concerns about the film from some Muslim-dominated nations as well as conservative radio talk show host Glenn Beck. Later, readers hear from the head of the National Religious Broadcasters:

NRB President Jerry Johnson posed the all-important question in a series of articles on the organization’s website: Should Christians organize churches to see Noah, or boycott it?

While taking issue with some of Aronofsky’s vision, Johnson wrote many would “enjoy” the “quality production.”

“Most importantly, you can have healthy gospel discussions about some of the positives, and even the negatives,” Johnson wrote. He also made clear it was not a “buy up a block of tickets” moment for churches.

But what are the positives? What are the negatives?

This vague story allows that the Koran and the Bible contain the story of Noah. Why not report what those texts say about Noah and compare those stories with the one on the big screen? (Maybe those kind of details would give the plot away, but in this case, isn’t that the point?)

In a related story, USA Today reports that Hollywood has found religion and profits at theaters.

That story provides some insight:

Analysts, however, say religious stories can be a box-office wild card.

“In recent months, Noah has generated a lot of controversy for deviating from the Old Testament story upon which it’s based,” says Ray Subers of Box Office Mojo. “Controversy drives conversation, which in turn creates awareness.” He says a $40 million debut “wouldn’t be surprising.”

Nor should Hollywood’s creative license with biblical stories shock viewers, says Peter Ellard, director of the Reinhold Niebuhr Institute of Religion and Culture at Siena College in Loudonville, N.Y.

“With regard to the biblical authenticity of these films,” Ellard says, “scholars are usually left shaking their heads.”

Has anybody come across a story on the “Noah” movie that provides specifics on the differences between the Old Testament and Hollywood versions? Or perhaps you’ve seen the movie?

In either case, feel free to share a link and/or your insight in the comments section.

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14 responses to “About those rough religious waters for the ‘Noah’ movie”

  1. I read this article at the Jewish Journal.

    From the sound of it, Noah’s director has based his movie on a combination of the bible, Jewish interpretation, and Jewish mythology: Ideas from the Talmud, Enoch, and Jubilees. Perfectly legitimate. Problem is, your average Christian or Muslim knows nothing about the Talmud, pseudepigrapha, and Jewish mythology. We Christians have our own mythology, after all (like assuming “ark,” which means treasure chest, actually means “boat”).

    It appears the kerfuffle is gonna come when Christians expect (or demand) a Christian spin on Genesis, and instead get a very unfamiliar Jewish one.

    • I always remembered the Noah story as scary, too. Is it taught differently in Protestant circles?

      • In children’s church, I recall it was taught rather benignly: It was about God rescuing Noah and the animals from the flood. Not so much judgment.

        But, as an adult, rather than teach us about it in context, the young-earth creationists sorta took over the story and made it all about why Genesis is historical, and should be interpreted literally, and how the flood made the earth look billions of years older than it “really” is. If they ever taught on the wrath of God, they tended to go with Judges or Revelation or the story of Lot and Sodom.

        That’s my experience, anyway. Other churches are much better at teaching it properly.

        • Thanks. I’m Catholic, but one summer I sent my 3 kids with other neighborhood kids to a Protestant Bible school. They did all kinds of stuff using figurines on a big table with sand. I guess that’s where the benign aspect came in with Noah and the animals on the ark – and the Jews escaping the Pharoah and wandering in the desert.

  2. As a movie reviewer, my plan for the weekend *was* to see “Noah”.

    However, the local theater just announced that they’re going to get “God’s Not Dead” this weekend, and the two films are running against each other.

    After thinking about it for a while, I have to go with the latter; I’ve made it a point to emphasize what I regard to be “sleeper” films in my reviews, and truth be told my mom’s been excited about the film since she first heard about it.

  3. As long as these ancient proto-Semites speak with 21st century southern English accents on screen (preferably quoting the ESV), I can’t possibly see a problem.

  4. For those who are curious, I’ve got some numbers from Box Office Mojo; these numbers are as of 29 March 2014 and represent estimates on their part.

    Noah: $15,238,000 (http://www.boxofficemojo.com/movies/?page=main&id=noah.htm )

    God’s Not Dead: $15,306,000 (http://www.boxofficemojo.com/movies/?page=main&id=godsnotdead.htm )

    Son Of God: $56,790,742 (http://www.boxofficemojo.com/movies/?id=sonofgod.htm )

    Sabotage: $1,825,000 (http://www.boxofficemojo.com/movies/?page=main&id=ten2014.htm )

    I admit that I had been joking about Sabotage not having a snowball’s chance against Noah, but for Noah to make nearly ten times as much on opening weekend is astounding even to me.

  5. I thought that calling God “The Great Father” was over the top. His name is God, fer cryin’ out loud. Must be a real problem for the producers/directors/writers. That’s enough to keep me away. As I understand, “God” is never used.

    • I don’t recall “The Great Father” being used, but that may just be my faulty memory. “Creator” is used rather than “God.”

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