It’s Like the Bible…With Explosions

My husband and I have seen the Noah trailer before.  That’s why the new ending had us in tears today.

I start laughing.  Jerry, paying slightly less attention to the TV, asks why, and I tell him to replay the ad.  He gets only that last line: “We believe the film is true to the values and integrity of the story.”

“Go farther,” I encourage.

The disclaimer, formerly not in the trailer at all, is spread among three screens:

“Noah” is inspired by the biblical story.

Though artistic license has been taken,

We believe the film is true to the values and integrity of the story.

Jerry is now about to fall out of his chair laughing.  The more you read it, the more hilarious it becomes.  It is, in his words, “awesome in such a wrong way.”

When “Metaphor” and “Artistic License” Breed Monsters

Many Christians accept the story of Noah to be metaphorical, not historical: it taught lessons in language the people at the time would understand.  Thus, it’s completely legit to recreate the story in more modern imagery. I support the logic in principle. However, this particular application has a few problems:

  • The creators feel it needs a disclaimer, implying they understand their story is so far removed from the original that it needs justification in small words.
  • Modern imagery seems to have been pulled entirely from blockbuster action movies.
  • Stretching a three page story into a two hour (minimum, as I think Russel Crows has it in his contract somewhere that no movie can run shorter than that) movie goes a wee bit beyond “artistic license.”

In my copy of the Bible, the story of Noah occurs in chapters 6-9 of the Book of Genesis.  According to filmmakers, I am missing about 50 chapters, and even then only if it was written by Stephen King, who has had multiple short stories turned into successful films.

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Maybe I got the abridged edition.

Maybe I’m confused as to the author.

What the Bible Says

In my edition, God has tired of humanity’s wickedness and decides to drown them.  However, Noah and his family are still righteous, so God instructs him to build a boat in the desert.  Eventually, everyone dies because they find Noah’s plan insane.  Meanwhile, Noah has packed two of every animal into said boat so that the earth can repopulate as opposed to, you know, God just creating all the animals again like he did the first time.

What the Movie Says

In the movie edition, there are flaming meteors.

There’s also a horde…er…army of…uh…barbarians that apparently try to storm Noah’s ark.

And while not in the trailer, producer Scott Franklin tells us:

“Noah is a very short section of the Bible with a lot of gaps, so we definitely had to take some creative expression in it. But I think we stayed very true to the story and didn’t really deviate from the Bible, despite the six-armed angels.” (Source: Smith, Grady (January 25/February 1, 2013). “Hollywood Finds God (Again)”. Entertainment Weekly (New York: Time Inc.). p. 22, as quoted on Wikipedia)

Cover of the original graphic novel "Noah."

Cover of the original graphic novel “Noah,” featuring the six-armed “angels.”

Wait, what?

Seraphim, Nephilim, What-the-hell-ilim

Now, to be fair, those angels show up in the Bible…oh, wait, that’s the six winged angels, the seraphim, mentioned in the Book of Isaiah.

In the movie, these beings are called Watchers, whose territory Noah has to cross to see his grandfather, who is apparently living in a very bad part of town. (Source: Patheos, “Aronofsky’s Noah may be even stranger than you thought.”)

Watchers come primarily from the Book of Enoch, which is Jewish scripture that didn’t make it into Jewish canon and, thus, not into the Old Testament.

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In the Book of Enoch, the Watchers are angels  sent to observe humanity.  However, they end up lusting after human women and produce the nephilim. God finds them to be an abomination, and they are a prime reason why God wants to hit the reset button on Earth.  The story’s basically an extended version (the director’s cut?) of the mention of nephilim in Genesis, where they are called “sons of God,” which is generally interpreted to mean “angels.”

As an Aside: If you really get into this stuff, you can start debating whether beings like seraphim are angels or some other form of celestial messenger.  In common language, however, we call all celestial messengers “angels,” so I’m going to stick to that.

The nephilim are giants, but they have the appropriate number of arms.  Ok, I don’t think that fact is actually stated, but I presume two to be the default unless otherwise specified.  They are also men of renown, according to Genesis, but evil according to the Book of Jubilees, another non-biblical piece of scripture.

The Watchers who produced the nephilim are commonly considered the fallen angels. (Source: Wikipedia, “Nephilim.”)

In the movie version, they apparently are going to eventually join Noah’s side.  I guess we’re going to with the “men of renown” version…except, again, we’re calling them Watchers, which are arguably fallen angels.

Noah seems to be hanging out with a decidedly shady set of characters that I’m sure his mother warned him about.

Subtlety, Subtlety

Why are we calling this Noah?  Change a few names and suddenly it’s no more than a tale based on some general themes found in the Book of Genesis and other sources, just as The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe is brimming with Christian metaphor.  C.S. Lewis doesn’t actually name the lion “Jesus” for us to all understand that he’s totally a metaphorical Jesus.

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Even Immortals had the decency to invent a name for their mash-up of Greek mythology, although they used traditional names for characters bearing little resemblance to such names.

On a scale between 1 to Twilight, the chances of me seeing Noah is somewhere in the middle.  I say that because it’s possible we’ll invite friends, get lots of beer and rent it as part of a bad movie night.

This is, incidentally, also my strong recommendation for Immortals, which is stunningly awful.  They writer clearly isn’t ignorant of Greek mythology.  He has a deep, malevolent hatred for it and this is how he’s dealing with it.

Edit:  Since the writing of this review, the disclaimer has been removed from the trailers.  Apparently the only thing worse than people criticizing the accuracy a disclaimer admitting it…which is pretty much what I said at the beginning of this post.

For more insight on what cast and crew think of the movie, Check them out defending the movie.

In Other Movie News:  My cousin pleaded for me to review Pompeii.  I had to refuse on the grounds that it would require me to actually see Pompeii.  From the trailers, I suspect it will be an action-romance that occasionally involves a volcano.

 

5 comments

  • I intend to see the movie myself. Curiosity is killing me. PI is one of my favorite movies, and The Fountain is quite an interesting spiritually themed film as well. So I just have to see what Darren Aronofsky does with this story. My only hope is that it reflects a similar level of (pseudo?)profundity as these other films. (It couldn’t be worse than the NBC Noah mini-series. Could it?) I totally get the perceived need for a disclaimer – however I don’t think it will work. The people who would take offense at this movie being “inaccurate” will not be placated by a disclaimer. I personally would like a disclaimer directed toward those who share my expectations in hoping for something a little deeper than Clash of the Titans.

  • Oh… That makes me sad. I’d prefer angels with six wings (but what do I know)…

  • There is a whole Nephilim focused Christian sub-culture out there surrounding authors like Steve Quayle and Thomas Horn – T.J. was fascinated by these guys – with a kind of appreciation that bordered on obsession. It is from this stream of info that I learned that Giants are polydactyl (6 fingers – and probably the source of the 6 arm idea in the film.)They also have flat heads and two rows of teeth. 🙂

  • So I presume that Evan Almighty is closer to the actual Biblical version of Noah than this will be. LOL The writers have really mashed up a lot of the angelic information that has become popular in the recent years. Thank you for this information. I had thought the movie would be cool since the morning shows tied it together in their discussion on Son Of God; reporting on other Biblical movies coming out this year. I see I am incorrect…or they were. 🙂

  • Wow, with this many responses I pretty much HAVE to do a write-up of Immortals now…but only if Wikipedia gives a good enough summary to remind me of everything. I’m certainly not going to watch it again. I’ve done it twice: with and without alcohol.

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