As I thought, Fr. Robert Barron has some typically intelligent commentary on Noah

As I thought, Fr. Robert Barron has some typically intelligent commentary on Noah April 1, 2014

You can read it here.  Between his and SDG’s work, I’m really looking forward to it.

Also, the hysteria about it is cracking me up.  There’s the freaking out about “environmentalism” (well, yeah, the theme of sin damaging creation is a big part of the creation narrative).  There’s the panic about “veganism” (well, yeah, the Genesis account *does* specifically say that the eating of meat is not lawful till after the Flood).  There are shrieks that it’s a veiled Earth First tract because humans are made to look bad and animals innocent (in other words, just like the narrative of Genesis, in which humans are *so* wicked that they bring on a disaster that obliterates the world).  There’s the hysteria that God is called the Creator and not the Germanic “God”.  I particularly enjoyed  that a creationist named Ham hated it.  Ham. Get it?  Pretty funny for us Bible geeks.

And there are various other red meat culture war shibboleth kneejerk reactions that are stone blind to the text of Scripture but alive to Talk Radio culture war histrionics, all culminating in the vast and damning declaration from various quarters that *anybody* who appreciates the film can *only* be a sellout, a liar, a dupe, or a whore!  Wow! Makes me think that when the dust settles, people like Fr. Barron and SDG are going to come off looking pretty good and the hysterics are going to look hysterical.

Love, hate, or feel indifferent about the movie as you like.  But really: is it necessary to declare that somebody with a different take on it is either a moron or else (far more likely) a morally compromised and vicious person?  Cuz I think that’s a damn tough sell when speaking of people like Fr. Barron, Tom McDonald or Steven Greydanus.

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  • MarylandBill

    It doesn’t bother me that people complain about this movie. What blames me is how many people are condemning this movie based off of other people’s reviews. If Father Barron or SDG had given strongly negative reviews of this film, I would have at least known that they had seen the movie first.

    • chezami

      What bugs me is that people are using the film to assassinate the character of people like Barron and Greydanus. A movie is just a movie, like it or don’t. Who cares?

      • Mark S. (not for Shea)

        Now you’ve done it. You’ll never be elected head of the Catholic League now.

        • jaybird1951

          Has the Catholic League come out against the film? You imply it.

          • Mark S. (not for Shea)

            I don’t know. But they are notorious for condemning and protesting movies they haven’t even seen yet.
            And my snark was rather tongue in cheek. Don’t take it too seriously.

      • MarylandBill

        You are right. It is one thing to disagree with a movie review, but character assassination takes things to a new level.

  • abanytar

    I hope this movie doesn’t break up the Shea/Wright Mutual Admiration Society.

    • chezami

      I haven’t seen John’s review, but I seriously doubt he takes it upon himself to assassinate Steve Greydanus’ character as a liar, dupe, fool, or whore. As I say, I don’t care about differences of taste. If he hates the movie, it’s no skin off my nose.

      • I too have pretty much had to stop reading reviews before I see the film because there are too many spoilers. Thank goodness I’m seeing it tonight – then I can go hog wild and disagree with anyone I like, ’cause I will have earned it.

      • rmichaelj

        interesting linky from one of John’s commenters, in which a reviewer explains some of the movie’s stranger plot twists as being a proponent of Gnosticism.

        • JM1001

          That link is probably the best commentary on the film I’ve read so far.

        • Thank you so much for sharing that link. To me, it explains everything, even the depths of the disagreement among various Christian reviewers of the film. If the film is really a Gnostic view of Noah, there isn’t going to be much for Christians in it, and they’re going to have to reach (quite charitably) in the attempt to find it.

          • Rosemarie


            Then again, there’s this counterpoint to the charge of Gnosticism:


            He does make a point: Gnosticism teaches that the material world is evil while this movie portrays it as good.

            • I read that, Rosemarie, and what it seems to be saying is: no, Noah is not Gnostic, but it is Kabbalah with some Gnostic overtones (e.g., the hidden arcane knowledge stuff). That’s kind of a “potato, poTAHto” criticism in my book. Can Christians find good meaning in a Kabbalah-inspired film with Gnostic overtones? Sure, so long as they’re clear about the movie’s sources and inspiration.

            • rmichealj

              Read the counterpoint- I think they counterpoint doesn’t resolve the “dual god” issue at all. Mattson ascribes some elements in the move to a Good God/ Bad god duality which is very gnostic. The counterpoint seems to wash over this saying that there are parts of the movie which show God blesses the material word (Gnosticism agrees with this- they just state that the “god” which creates the material world is an evil one.
              For me, portraying Noah as believing God desires him to kill his grandchildren is just a bridge too far. To portray a righteous man having that belief would need to be very explicit (as in the story of Abraham where it is explicitly told that God commanded it- then seeing Abraham’s faith God retracted the demand).
              A holy righteous man coming to that conclusion- after having his family saved God- makes no sense. I see it for what it is- a plot device to seem edgy and fill in time for a 2 hour movie. I think the only reason a producer felt that he could pull it off is the sense of self-guilt that Western society seems to carry about itself.

              • rmichaelj

                correction- above post should start, “I read the counterpoint”

      • > I don’t care about differences of taste.

        Nice. However, apart from the critic of Wright sounding as a little more than a question of taste (“I rarely find movies morally offensive; this movie was. It was evil”), apart from this,I wonder if things are so simple. You must not be relativistic in ethics, but it’s ok (even demanded) to be so in esthetics? Moral is objective and beauty is subjective?Aren’t we drawing a line too thick between the Good and the Beauty?

        • orual’s kindred

          Considering that he takes JRR Tolkien’s work seriously, I don’t think Mark Shea is saying anything along those lines. From what I can tell, he replied to a comment by saying that he hasn’t read John C. Wright’s review yet, and followed that with a mention of differences of taste. If, once he’s read the review, and decides to comment on it, I think he can make more elaborate statements–again, if he decides to do so. I mean, I’m not sure he’s required to 🙂

    • orual’s kindred

      Oh! I doubt it would; from what I can tell, this is isn’t the first thing they’ve disagreed on 🙂

      • orual’s kindred

        this is isn’t? Sheesh. Must wake up.

  • ladycygnus

    “liar, dupe, fool, or whore” <– have you actually read a review that says this? The closest I've seen is Matt Walsh's review in which he thinks the HYPE over it was a marketing scheme and it's really just a bad movie that people are trying to find redeeming values in…because "Bible". I suppose that falls into the "dupe" category…to some extent – but more calling dupe on leaders trying to say it's a good Christian movie.

    Edit: I read this on a reader before reading it on the site and links didn't come through – so I missed the link in the last paragraph. Still, there are always people who take stupid things (like movies) way too personally. Is there really a huge movement of this?

    Me personally – I don't much care for going to the movies (no good food or pause button for potty breaks are two of the biggest downers for me) – so I'm not going to waste my money on something like this. If I'm going to spend $20 to see a movie in theater it better be good (and worth seeing on the big screen).

  • Well, as I said on my tiny blog, “de gustibus non est disputandum.” (We can still say that, right? Candy(tm)Crush(tm)Saga(tm) hasn’t copyrighted any Latin yet, right?)

    Honestly, I’ve always found movie reviews perplexing anyway. I’ll enjoy some entertaining flick (usually at home; hate theaters) only to find out that the Serious Reviewers (Christian and/or secular) hated it for a whole host of seemingly random miniscule reasons; then I’ll rent some movie based on reviewers’ lavish praise and strong recommendations and find out that I can’t get the boring and stupid out of my head for days. Which, I suspect, is a fairly common experience. But I’ve never thought the reviewers were being paid to lie about the films in some way, just that what professional movie reviewers like is as incomprehensible to everybody else as what professional literary critics or art critics or anybody else who gets paid to judge a whole lot of stuff based on criteria they’ve spent years studying and honing might like is incomprehensible to those of us who aren’t in those fields, either.

  • Rebecca Fuentes

    The vegetarian thing leads me to think that the serpent actually offered Eve bacon.

    • Alexander S Anderson

      “You won’t die. The bacon will make you like God!” But then the serpent wouldn’t be the Prince of Lies, because this is true. Bacon-ness is close to Godliness.

  • Sean P. Dailey

    I thought Noah was a beautiful, profound, deeply moving film.

  • The Deuce

    Hmm, I put a lot of weight on John C Wright’s review, since he walked into the theater expecting to like it (on SDG’s recommendation), and came out with the conclusion that it was both awful and an assault on the faith, so it’s harder to accuse him of seeing what he’d decided ahead of time to see (which seems to be the case with a lot of reviews on both sides).

    There’s the panic about “veganism” (well, yeah, the Genesis account
    *does* specifically say that the eating of meat is not lawful till after
    the Flood).

    It doesn’t *specifically* say that. It’s something that many people have inferred from the fact that it doesn’t specifically say that eating (and killing) animals is *lawful* until after the flood. But, then, it doesn’t specifically say that murder is unlawful until then either, and it never at any point calls meat-eating unlawful (as opposed to eating from the TotKoGaE). Imo, the exhortation to hold dominion and subdue the earth, and the activities of Abel and others, are meant to suggest the opposite, and the specific permission (and specific prohibition of murder) in Gen 9 is partly a literary device to parallel the previous instructions to Adam and Eve, and partly intended within the context of the end of the Deluge conditions (where the animals come to Noah and he’s supposed to rescue rather than eat or kill them, and which were brought about mainly because of murder).

    But that’s just my opinion, and I agree that the “no meat” inference is a reasonable conclusion, so I don’t have an issue with it.

    But *killing* animals is definitely not portrayed as unlawful in Genesis (eg. Abel’s sacrifice), whereas most reviewers I’ve seen say that it’s portrayed as the *primary* sin in Noah (apparently seeing a goat killed is what triggers Noah’s psychotic baby-killer episode). Also, God makes no covenant with Noah in the movie, permission to eat meat is never given nor suggestion made that killing animals is other than the highest wrong to The Creator, Noah makes no sacrifice and shows no gratitude afterward, and all the Bible quotes (specifically the ones about subduing the earth and having dominion) are put in the mouth of Tubal-cain the Big Bad.

    I think a lot also hinges on this take from Fr. Barron:

    At the emotional climax of the movie (spoiler alert), Noah moves to kill his own granddaughters, convinced that it is God’s will that the human race be obliterated, but he relents when it becomes clear to him that God in fact wills for humanity to be renewed.

    Most of the negative reviews I’ve seen say that Noah does *not* become convinced that it’s God’s will for humanity to be renewed, and that the movie nowhere makes clear that it is, but that Noah merely has a failure of nerve, and then relents upon getting a “what’s right is whatever you choose” sermon of moral relativism from his daughter-in-law, and spends the rest of the movie moping over having failed to carry out God’s will (and, again, there is apparently no sacrifice and no covenant to confirm that God intended to save Noah or that Noah is grateful for it).

    Here’s how John C Wright describes the same scene:

    Emma Watson then explains to Noah (since, this being a modern movie,
    the young women have to have all the insight and they explain things to
    the fathers and patriarchs) “The Creator did not give a rat’s anus
    whether you killed my children, and all the human race with us, or
    relented and granted us all mercy. The Creator has no rules and no sense
    of right and wrong and no plan for the universe! The choice was YOURS.
    The Creator left the choice in YOUR hands, because it is all about YOU,
    baby! Free choice! Choose abortion! Choose choice! There is no right and
    wrong in life, only choosing stuff!”

    You’re looking at two very different movies depending on which of those two is correct.

    • Evan

      With all due respect to John C. Wright, whom I normally admire a lot, I think he missed a couple crucial scenes that paint the events that offended him in a very different light. Eating animals is not even remotely the ultimate sin in NOAH; the film repeatedly cuts to Cain murdering Abel as well as Eve picking the forbidden fruit, suggesting that was those acts were the epitome of human depravity, and all subsequent depravity stems from those acts.

      It is not witnessing goat blood that sends Noah into his rampage believing even his family must die; it’s that Noah sees a vision of himself participating in rape and murder, and he realizes original sin affects everyone. Tubal-Cain quotes scripture to show that there is good in everyone, and even the most wicked villain is not completely depraved. And the end of the film clearly condemns Noah’s belief he has to kill his grandchildren, showing God never desired that, and it reveals Noah temporarily behaved worse than the villain. After all, this is a Darren Aronofsky film; no one should expect straightforward heroes and villains.

      And this from Mr. Wright’s review: “There is no mention of subduing. No mention of being fruitful and multiplying.” is completely wrong. “Be fruitful and multiply” is most emphatically stated by Noah himself, once he comes to understand that God is loving and merciful and does not desire the death of mankind.

      • The Deuce

        And the end of the film clearly condemns Noah’s belief he has to kill his grandchildren, showing God never desired that…

        I guess that’s the crux of the issue, and the main point in contention. Does the film in fact show that God never desired that, or is Noah persuaded to relent for more post-modernist reasons, and people are left to read into that what they will? One thing that bothers me is that it sounds like God goes basically silent after the Flood, so there’s no sacrifice, no permission to kill animals or eat meat, no covenant, and hence no confirmation that Noah did what God actually wanted.

        • Evan

          Warning, end of the film discussed in detail:

          As soon as Noah discovers Ila (Emma Watson) is pregnant, the rain stops, which Ila insists is a sign that God blesses her children. Noah refuses to believe that and promises to kill the child if its a girl. Ila gives birth to twin girls who will eventually be Ham’s and Japheth’s wives; Noah’s wife points out that God has supplied exactly what they needed to repopulate the world, but Noah still insists all mankind must die out. He moves to kill the girls, but as he’s raising the knife he is unable to do so.

          When the waters recede, he builds a vineyard and gets drunk, because he thinks he failed to follow God’s will. After his sons discover him, Ila asks him why he refrained from killing her children. Noah responds that when he looked down at the babies, he saw goodness, innocence, and beauty, and he was consumed with love for them. Ila responds it is the same way with God, who has been blessing all of them even before the flood. Noah then blesses his granddaughters saying “be fruitful and multiply,” – those words exactly. At that moment, God, who had been silent to Noah ever since Noah began his murderous rampage, bestows His final blessing on them and sign of His covenant: the rainbow (No, it does not occur at the end of the flood, but only after Noah learns God is merciful and loving, an artistic liberty that I thought was very appropriate.)

          • Yes, and it should be added that in that same talk with Ila at the end, she points out to him that he was given a choice, just as Adam and Eve were in the garden, a chance to choose between good and evil, and that he had chosen rightly. “You chose mercy, you chose love.” This of course, completes Noah’s identity as the New Adam, which had been hinted at by one of the Watchers, who had told him that “you have a glimmering of Adam, the man I knew.” Noah as the New Adam, also makes him, of course, a type of Christ. It’s amazing, the inescapability of the Gospel, isn’t it?

            John C. Wright horribly mischaracterizes this scene; it sounds as if he had totally tuned out of the film by that point.

  • anna lisa

    I would give the movie a B for entertainment value
    a D for theology,
    and an A for trying to get in on the cool billion “The Passion of the Christ” made.

    My biggest grievance? This movie confirms the atheist view that we Christians are the biggest dupes in the world to believe in bad, fanciful, storytelling. It perpetuates the “God as vengeful Santa Claus” myth. Noah comes off like a maniac prophet of a bloodthirsty, maniac God.

    I laughed out loud when it said that the angels fell because they took pity on the poor humans that God had punished so harshly.

    • anna lisa, you can’t take one line from a movie and say “this is what the movie means.” Or only a few lines here and there. It’s the whole story that matters. In fact, the single line about God punishing them for trying to help humanity in the wrong way (I think that was the actual line) was spoken by one of the angels themselves, because this is his understanding at that point. If you pay attention to the whole story of the Watchers (the angels), you will see a wonderful example not only of God’s justice, but of his mercy and love as well. I don’t want to give too much of a spoiler, but try reading their being kept on earth with rock bodies not only as punishing them for something, but as equipping them for something — the very thing they wanted to do in the first place. The ending of their story was a really joyful surprise for me.

      • anna lisa

        Lori, the only thing that I truly know that God actually *did* was *do* things to save us.
        He didn’t prevent a flood for a reason, but it wasn’t the end of the world, or of humanity.
        I kind of like the idea of fallen angels wanting to help us. but unfortunately I find no proof of this other than in fiction, such as what can be found in this film.–And no, I don’t believe that even fictional altruism should even compete in the most infinitesimal way with the overflowing bounty, profundity, and richness of the true God’s love and largesse.
        I admit it, the rock angels were lame in my book. But hey, so were the tree people in LOR (sorry, sometimes I’m a grouch) Let “Transformers” send out a fictional message of peace and good will. Letting Pixar effects bleed into a serious biblical story with a serious message makes the whole kit and kaboodle sound like what we’re arguing about is as serious as whether the snowman in Frozen is gay.
        I just have no affinity for films that make serious Jews and Christians look like idiots.
        The reason why this film will not touch a biblical film like The Passion of the Christ, is that it is fanciful, and not believable. It taints every other important story that can be found in scripture, making it all play out like everything can be traced to primitive man’s affinity for special mushrooms.

        • In what way did the film make serious Christians and Jews look like idiots? I don’t see that in any way at all.

          The Watchers are not a totally invented fantasy; they were, like some other elements of the film, taken from extrabiblical Jewish tradition, the book of Enoch, which is certainly taken seriously by many Jews (Aronofsky is Jewish).

          I’ve never seen any of the “Transformers” films, so I don’t have any of that imagery in my head at all, and didn’t make the association. I’ll admit that I had a hard time getting “into” the rocky imagery of the Watchers, but I was really attentive to the story being told about them, and that is what is really important.

          I think too many people have gone into the move not knowing where Aronofsky got his ideas, and thinking them totally fanciful inventions, or even that they were stolen from LOTR, which as far as I can see, is not the case.

          • anna lisa

            In that scene where hordes of foul humans are trying to swarm the ark like vermin, the Transformers, I mean rock watcher-angels are sweeping them away,and smashing them with multiple appendages like cockroaches.. Eventually the lava-rock angels are overcome and run through with spears which “kills” them. (?) For this act of heroism (smashing human vermin by the thousands) they get to go back to heaven, because they have finally repaid their debt to God.

            Don’t you see how damaging it is to the psyche, to see God with this kind of nature?

            Maybe I’m the heretic because I just don’t believe in a God who said “now go forth and slay every man, woman and child” either.

            Let’s face it, films like Noah are the closest thing to a catechism class that a lot of people get–and who wants to cuddle up with a murderous tyrant?

            • just don’t believe in a God who said “now go forth and slay every man, woman and child” either.

              The God we believe in apparently does a lot of similar things throughout the Old Testament, and has human beings do them to fulfill his plan. That’s something we have to live with.

              However, I was looking at the whole of the Watchers’ behavior when I made my comment, and was thinking of how they were uniquely equipped to help Noah build the ark as well as helping him fight for it.

              • anna lisa

                Well, I guess what we’re talking about is on two different levels. I thought that the movie earned a “B” for entertainment value. You are right to point out that ultimately the message of this movie speaks of God’s desire for man’s redemption, but that message is so weak and is surrounded by so many question marks. What I’m leery about (far more than the silly lava angels) is the stunted view of God that overwhelms that small, quiet message. One might say, “yes, but it was more authentic to tell the story through the eyes of the primitive man
                …welllll,.. that’s hard to follow with all of the big Hollywood effects popping like fireworks on the screen.

                Christians already have enough going against us. To this day we can’t shake our mistaken understanding of that God that carries a big stick. We have a difficult time being able to see Him as Father, waiting for us with open arms.

                Fundamentalists have a stunted view of God, because they just can’t get past their Bibleolatry. If you read the bible alone, without tradition you are left with a God who seems to suffer from schizophrenia or PMS, when in fact, what we’ve done is impose a thick filter of man’s fallen-ness, upon the word of God, muffling His voice.

                My problem with this film is that for your average Joe, walking in off the street, with marginal faith, such adulterated truth makes Christian faith come off as a big load of storytelling hooey. The next time one of those tired atheists with their tired jeers about religion, lobs a tired and cynical missile at Christianity, average Joe is going to chuckle, and the last wisps of his faith will dissipate like the morning mist. He might reminisce about the good old days when he could just believe in things like Santa the Easter bunny, the parting of the red sea and virgins that give birth miraculously, but he will suddenly “realize” how quaint and provincial his simple parents were to believe in something so preposterously silly…

                • You do have a point — a non-Christian or badly catechized person will have a much different reaction to the film than a Christian with some understanding will have. But no film will ever speak to everyone — people are too different. A director can only make the film that he feels called /inspired to make, not somebody else’s film. Somewhere he has to make choices.

                  I’ll admit that the storytelling in Noah could have been clearer at some points, but something of the mystery (ambiguous but also fruitful) would have been lost.

                  To me, the Creator’s love and merciful presence were palpable at many moments during the film. The special growing of the trees to make the ark, Methusaleh’s blessing of Ila, the particular moment that Aronofsky chose for the dove to appear with the olive branch — all are really important. I’ve read some user reviews on imdb. Most people missed these and many other things entirely and wildly misinterpreted others. I think it’s up to us Christians to be strive to have a proper understanding and use that when we speak to others about the film.

                  • anna lisa

                    Lori, I love your attitude of wanting to see good in as much as you can. Do what you’re doing,and explain redemption to people here and there and wherever you can, but do remember that we are dealing with a world that sees children gassed in Syria on the evening news. Just because angels don’t come down on clouds to blow the poison gas away (make forests spring up to protect them) doesn’t mean that God isn’t watching over their family too. God has all of our hairs counted. God knows when a sparrow falls. Even if a mother should forget, He does not. He watches over even His most wayward one like a mother holds the hand of her stricken baby in the intensive care unit. That earthly mother is not better than Him in the least. He loves every. single. one. of us a billion times a billion more than the best mother on earth.

        • Adolfo

          Can we please refrain from equating Darren Aronofsky with Michael Bay? Thank you.

  • Mark Wilson

    “The most annoying voices surrounding the whole ‘Noah’ con are not those who have been duped or corrupted into supporting the dumb thing. They are not even the most annoying voices after they realize they have been duped but don’t have the humility to own it. No, the most annoying voices are those people who pretend to be above it all, sneering at those who have strong feelings for and against (but mostly against) as if they are the Watchers – in the omniscient position in the culture wars. I always ask these condescending folks, “What’s it like to be so above it all?” I have always detested those who talk about the abortion struggle in this mode as if they are outside of the two camps who are down there somewhere yelling at each other while the Cognoscenti elite sit on a cloud, pooh poohing the battles and getting mani-pedis”.-Barbara Nicolosi