Friday, March 28, 2014

Noah, On The IMAX
As I drove up to the largest IMAX theater in the world I saw on the primary Marquee listings for the movies, Noah, God's not Dead, and Jesus Son of God. Writing for Hollywood Jesus, Spirituality in Film, and The Virtual Pew as I do, I am not ignorant of the influx of Christian themed films at present. Neither am I oblivious to the controversies, both the real, perceived and imaginary. The biggest story regarding movie releases on this day, is the release of Noah. 

Word has it, and there is good indication it is true, that the director of Noah, Darren Aronofsky and the studios went back and forth with the studios recently doing a final edit to appease the Christian audience of this classic tale from the Bible. Aronofsky, according to some, isn't happy with the final results and then there are the criticisms that have come about by some that the character of Noah is too liberal, cares too much for the environment, is an animal lover and the story as portrayed on screen is an environmentalist tale. A notation here is the Biblical account in reality lasts only from Genesis 5:32-10:1. With the movie lasting approximately 2 1/2 hours, there is clearly some dramatic license.

It is likely Noah will offend many Christians, not so much other Christians or religious groups, yet, at the same time, entertain those wanting to see an action based movie. I suspect for example that what appears to be the giant rock monsters, resembling the rock monster from the classic children's movie The NeverEnding Story, in Noah (types of angels or protectors in Noah) along with all of the action, many will think this story resembles more of The Lord of the Rings than it does a Bible story. While those things didn't bother me, (I love the parts of the Bible that actually does talk about Giants, Angels, Demons, Monsters and the like) there are troubling aspects of the movie not included in the Biblical narrative, that in my opinion wasn't needed and took away from the moral themes.
Now let me be blunt, I think a huge mistake was made when the powers that be tried to adapt the final version of Noah into a film that appeased and pleased the Christian audience. The flood narrative, whether one believes in the flood histories or not, is a part of the narrative of many religions. The story of Noah as we know it, isn't just a Christian story, it is a part of the story of Islam, Judaism, and Christianity. Whether one agrees with the narrative though, the themes and lessons are valuable ones that should entice all people, despite what their religious beliefs are or aren't. 

Noah has a star studded cast with dramatic, albeit, sometimes a let down at times, special effects. The cast consists of Russell Crowe as Noah, Jennifer Connelly as Noah's wife Naameh, Ray Winstone as Tubal-cain, Anthony Hopkins as Methuselah, and others such as Ema Watson, Nick Nolte, and the list goes on. The cast is actually very good especially Connelly. The special effects as a whole are also quite good although there are lapses at times. I was disappointed in the sound in the movie, at times, blaring and overbearing the dialog.  It was also interesting to look at early history humans with the ultra dirty hands but such pristine white teeth. The editing and story is also choppy and the final product on screen leaves far too many questions and the intent of what the story is trying to tell isn't clear at all. I don't blame the director Aronofsky, I have made comment before and will again, I want to see his version of the film.

Now all of this said, don't take my comments wrong, the movie is entertaining, but I left the movie confused and still find myself confused as to its intent. I also wonder will the movie do more harm than good in regards to getting people to understand this Bible story. While there are things I liked about the movie, unfortunately, some of those are things that apparently many attempted to have either taken out of the movie, or the themes of the movie redirected all together.
Noah in the outset is clearly an individual who cares for the animals of the planet, and in fact, the planet. For those who have studied the Bible, this is often referred to as The Genesis Mandate. There is a concept or belief among many that God wants the people of this planet to care for the animals and plants of the planet, not simply abuse them for their own pleasure. While they are here for us, they are not here for us to abuse. I thought the movie in a gentle way showed this side of Noah and did not feel that it was inappropriate in anyway. The confusion comes about as Noah, primarily through dreams, and what appears to be the usage of certain drugs goes into hallucinogenic states or visions and hears from God, or what we suspect is hearing from God regarding the destruction of the earth and the building of the Ark. We are never clear on this point but it is clear, there is a God or Creator involved, we see miracles take place including ultimately the floods. All through the process Noah is troubled, what is he hearing from the Creator? What is the purpose of the flood? Those things are never really made clear, although an attempt is made to give explanation as to the objective of good and evil towards the end of the movie. 

Another aspect I liked is the inclusion of the supernatural, including what is hinted at in part, in the
first part of Genesis 6 and other places in the Old Testament. The presentation of the supernatural in the movie is a concept that I think will get more people to read about the instances in the Bible to see what is real as opposed to what is presented on a movie screen. I think many will be shocked at some of the liberties taken in the movies, yet will also be shocked at some of the realities included in the Bible.

There are components of the film that I did not like, I will be honest, I am not so sure if I dislike them because of the way they were presented, or the apparent conclusions that one can come to regarding the characters. Noah for example is not a likeable character at all.  He will do all he can to save the planet but will leave an entrapped woman fleeing for safety to be trampled to death. While many are shown to be evil in society there are also the abused, especially women who are nothing more than sex slaves, the poor who are abused, entrapped and imprisoned. Noah struggles with the message he has heard from God, which seems to be inconsistent with the Biblical account. He is even willing to sacrifice his own family, while we have a scene that resembles in some way the story of Abraham and Isaac, while the end result is the same, there seems to be no clear voice from God to move him in the direction he moves. That all said, there are also worthy questions to ask ourselves, how do any of us deal with the reality around us in times of stress or in the places where hard decisions have to be made? Do we listen to our own convictions and for those of us who pray, do we listen for the direction and voice of God in giving that direction?

www.mosaicwichita.comThere is another component that many will have issue with, that is a God who is willing to destroy the whole of the planet. Here I am not as troubled though, I have no problem personally with a God who could create the universe having standards, guidelines and expectations for that creation. It is a simple concept really that many will take offense at, but I realized a long time ago, I am not God!  I have no right, nor do I have the ability to dictate to God, the things that God would choose to do. That said, my belief is also appreciative that God would provide a provision to make it possible for all people on earth to experience the joy and hope provided by God, to be in relationship with Him through the gift of his son Jesus. Many will not see that as an answer, there are many theological discussions that one could go through here but in its simplest form, the conclusion of the story of Noah, from a Biblical narrative, is not the rainbow, but it is the ultimate sacrifice, resurrection, and eternity provided for all followers of Jesus through Jesus death on the cross. 

I was anxiously awaiting this movie, truth is, I left the theater leaving disappointed and confused. As mentioned earlier, I don't blame the director Aronofsky, I haven't seen the movie he made, I saw a movie that seemed to be from the press, chopped and edited to appease a select audience. While some are giving this film the highest of praise, I just can't do that as I have a responsibility to share my thoughts with those who read my reviews. I honestly don't know what to think and was actually very disappointed. While an enjoyable movie to watch, it is like watching an overly edited version of The Lord of the Rings, that is highly intense, (far to intense for a young child, a friend with a young daughter, around 10, had to leave the theater early on due to its intensity,) and simply put, confusing as to what the plot objectives are for the movie. If looking for an interesting take on the story of Noah, one is encouraged to read the actual Biblical narrative and discuss the themes of a just, and yet, jealous God or a discussion on how we hear from God there can be some positive aspects to the film. My final conclusion though, many Christians, Jews, and Muslims who follow and have as a part of their faith system Noah, will be disappointed. Others, who enjoy good and entertaining fantasy will like this film, not that Noah is fantasy but that is the way it comes across. It will be interesting to hear the take of others on this, and I for one, anxiously look forward to reading them.  I will say, to save you some money, I would have loved to have seen this movie in 3-D, that option isn't available. Seeing it on the IMAX is available, that said, save yourself some extra money, there is no redeeming value in my opinion of having to pay the extra price to see it on the IMAX screen.  

Over the years I have rated my films on a scale of 1 - 10.  This one, I am just not sure about, while parts I liked, there were parts I didn't like, some things were entertaining, other things were disturbing. As a story though, as a film with technical merits, I have to say on a scale of 1 - 10, for the feelings of neutrality on this one, I give a rather disappointing 5. 

To see the trailer for the movie Noah, just click on the following video, if the video doesn't appear, just click on the following link:

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