Posted: March 30, 2014 in Movie Reviews

Russell Crowe_Noah

We live in a world where artistic license is a heralded thing in the realm of filmmaking. Book-to-film adaptations need not always be completely accurate to the source material. Similarly, a biopic of a person’s life or of particular historical events aren’t necessarily meant to be a history lesson, but rather a way to tell millions a remarkable story that might otherwise have been unknown to them; or even a way to simply entertain. But artistic license has limits. When you change a story so drastically that you lose its very essence, you’ve no longer created a faithful adaptation.



Noah is a film loosely (and I mean loosely) based on the Biblical account found in Genesis. In a world overrun with wickedness and immorality, Noah (Russell Crowe—–Gladiator, A Beautiful Mind) and his family are the only righteous people left on earth. When Noah receives post-apocalyptic visions of an earth consumed by water, presumably from the Creator himself, Noah commissions his wife (Jennifer Connelly——Hulk, A Beautiful Mind) and his three sons to build an enormous vessel that will protect them all from the floods.


 Where to begin. Let’s start with perhaps the film’s most laughable liberties it takes. Building a boat the size of a football field is a daunting enough task for a mere half-dozen people. But imagine how quickly you could get it done with rock giants. Yes . . . rock giants. Fortunately for Noah—–and for the sake of convenient plot devices—–Transformers-size rocks, who used to be angels but have since become cursed, are quite good at construction.

Of course, this guy called Tubal-Cain (Ray Winstone—–The Departed, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull) thinks he’s in charge and that the ark belongs to him. Good thing Noah has some beefy body guards to protect him and his family instead of relying on God—–you know, the one who told Noah to build a boat to shield him from certain death in the first place.

Logic 101: if everyone dies on earth, then Noah’s sons are going to need some wives to reproduce and repopulate the earth after the waters recede. There’s one wife (Emma Watson—–Harry Potter) for Noah’s eldest, but she can’t have children. Drat, that’s inconvenient. When Noah’s middle son inquires about this little predicament, Noah informs him that God doesn’t intend for humanity to continue on after the flood. Again, keep in mind that this is from the same God who just saved them all from certain death.

But, luckily, Noah’s grandfather Methuselah (Anthony Hopkins—–The Elephant Man, Thor) has the powers to heal her, and she becomes pregnant. When Noah learns this, however, he comes irate, telling them that if a girl is born then the bloodline could potentially continue and she’ll have to be killed. But this is a movie, where conflict abounds, and they give birth to twin girls—–very fortunate for Noah’s two other sons. Except for the fact that they’ll have to marry their nieces . . . Oh well. Not everything works out like it’s supposed to, I guess. (FYI, all of Noah’s sons had wives in real life.)

Jennifer Connely, Emma Watson_Noah

Everything else in the film is just obscured reality. The name “God” is never once mentioned in the entire film; He’s simply referred to as “the Creator.” Minor quibbles, however; we all know who they’re talking about. But then the film delves into the creation of the earth. It accurately depicts God creating the universe and the earth and the little amoebas that inhabit the waters, but then the film suggests that those little cells spontaneously turned into fish, which crawled onto land and turned into salamanders, which formed into otters, which turned into elk, which turned into bears, and thus suggests a creation-evolution hybrid. The land forms and evolves over “seven days,” elusively criticizing the concept that the world was created over the course of seven actual days instead of millions of years.

Noah also makes subtle nods towards environmentalism. The “big bad people” of the earth aren’t wicked because they’ve turned their back against God and have indulged in drunken revelry and sinful immorality like the Bible tells us. They’re bad because they’ve chopped down the trees and eat animals. They’ve harvested and mined, leaving the land a desolate landscape. When the time comes for Noah to build the ark, a well of water issues from beneath the earth and spreads across the land, causing forests of trees to spring up within seconds.

Please don’t assume I’m belittling this film simply because it takes minor liberties. Peter Jackson took minor liberties with The Hobbit. Darren Arronofsky changed the meaning of the story of Noah. My all-time favorite Biblical film The Ten Commandments  took minor liberties such as adding supporting characters or putting a slight spin on the events described in Exodus. But that kind of story telling technique is completely different since, quite frankly, the Bible is very vague when it comes to the little details and nuances. It’s one thing to say that Moses was interested romantically in an Egyptian princess, even though the Bible doesn’t acknowledge this fact. It’s completely different, however, to claim that stone giants assisted in the building of the ark.

But despite its shortcomings, there are things to be liked in Noah. I personally enjoyed seeing the construction of the ark (minus the rock giants) and the herds of animals migrating towards it. That in and of itself was a spectacle to behold. “Epic” is certainly an adequate word to describe it all. But, ultimately, these brief enjoyable aspects are simply the mere details the Bible provides. Everything else is filler. Again, I understand the concept of artistic license, but it goes to a point.

Russell Crowe, Logan Lerman_Noah

But above all, the Russell Crowe Noah is far removed from the Biblical Noah. The real Noah was a moral man in tune with God, with real understanding as to what his mission was. He wasn’t a man who made his decisions based on his own faulty discernment, only later realizing how utterly wrong (and how much of an idiot) he was. Noah’s disconnection with God in the film points to how disconnected God is from the film. All measures are taken in preventing His name from being mentioned; to debunk the notion of total creation; and to portray God as some far away deity who has little to no involvement in the story, instead of being one of its key components.

In a nutshell:

It’s a shame that the first real Noah film we’ve seen (not counting Even Almighty) was such a poor effort, because Noah had the opportunity to be a truly amazing story with accurate conflict and depiction. It ultimately fell flat in the narration, but overall the translation. While it was truly epic in scope and imagination, the glaring inaccuracy and gross misinterpretation—–not to mention its pushing of environmental propaganda—–demean the film so very much that they cause you to wonder if the filmmakers actually read the Old Testament story.


5 stars

  1. nativepride says:

    I don’t know, I personally enjoyed the film quite alot even though it was not accurate. The plot worked well for the way the film was supposed to be viewed as a non-literal translation of the Noah story. Some elements were out of place but I liked the film as art and not as a Biblical story just like Son of God was a great movie for the Biblical side and not the artistic side.

    • davidc1776 says:

      Yes, I won’t argue that it would be enjoyable from a non-literal side. But I personally didn’t feel that the filmmakers had the respect for the story that it should have had. It felt more like a modern incarnation of the story than a period piece dealing with ultimate redemption and survival.
      I understand that most people don’t give the Bible much credence, and I don’t want to start a religious debate or anything, but as one who respects it very much I just found the overall film a bit on the offensive and absurd side. I wanted to like to this film so much…in fact it was on my Top 10 Most Anticipated…and there were things I truly liked about it, but overall it was just disappointing. I liked “The Lone Ranger” and a lot of people didn’t, so it just goes to show how subjective film really is.

  2. […] of Noah earlier this year, my faith in this Biblical-based film was weakened exponentially. My disappointments with the film weren’t so much my dismay with the exercise of artistic license as much as several key components […]

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