Noah (2014) PG-13

The first line of this movie is, “In the beginning there was nothing.”  That is a very apt description of the movie.  There is nothing of educational value, nothing of historical or biblical accuracy, and nothing of entertainment value.  Instead of being a faithful portrayal of one of the world’s best-known and loved Bible story, it is a fanciful environmentalist allegory that is sloppy and ineffective.  This film is the most radical departure from the original Bible story of any movie ever made.  The producer admitted as much in an interview in The New Yorker when he said that his movie is “the least-biblical biblical film ever made.”  It fails on every level.  It alienates its core audience by not sticking to the original story, it is historically inaccurate, and fails on an artistic and literary level for those who are not believers.  It has famous actors such as Russell Crowe and Anthony Hopkins, but they turn in miserable performances.  I can’t think of a single educational setting where this would be of value.  Sunday school would skip it because it would only confuse children trying to learn the real Bible story, history classes would not use it because it has so many anachronisms, and film studies classes would not show it because it is such bad cinema.  Perhaps a “Bible as literature” class could use it in comparison to other versions of the story in film and literature.  That is about it.

The inaccuracies in this movie start with that very first line that said, “In the beginning there was nothing.”  The book of Genesis says “In the beginning, God…” The errors only get worse from there.  The setting of the movie is not ancient Mesopotamia, but a bizarre, barren, volcanic wasteland littered with industrial wreckage and pollution.  This is explained off as the work of the children of Cain who built an advanced industrial civilization and then ruined the world with it.  One also has to wonder what Noah’s family eats.  They are clearly appalled by meat eaters, but no crops are anywhere in sight.  Only Methuselah is seen to be grubbing for berries at odd moments.  I suppose the rest of them live off of holiness alone.  The clothing the characters in the movie wear are grubby, anachronistically medieval-style tunics and pants.  The bad guys also use iron weapons in the Bronze Age.  Most bizarre of all, fallen angels turn into clumsy rock monsters called the Watchers (although it not abundantly clear what they watch) who help build the ark.  Later, they fight off hordes of angry humans who attack the ark with weapons and armor that did not exist until thousands of years after Noah.  Other anachronisms include use of serrated knives, modern boots, and weird, glowing rocks that start fires automatically.  Noah’s enemies even use flare guns!

Further errors are that the Bible makes it clear that there were no survivors from outside the ark who smuggled aboard.  In fact, Tubal-Cain, Noah’s rival in the movie, was not contemporary with Noah at all.  In the Bible, Noah’s sons already had wives before the flood and Noah treated them well.  Unlike the film, in the Bible Noah never threatened to kill their children because God said he wanted all humans dead after the flood.  Methuselah was long dead before Noah’s time and was not killed in the flood.  If he were righteous, why would God kill him?  Methuselah also had no magical powers to cause fertility or do other tricks.  Another common criticism is that Noah is shown as much too young in the film.  According to the Bible, he should be 600 years old, not 50.  The movie shows God using evolution to create man, but that is not the way it was described in the Bible either.  Furthermore, there is no mention in the Bible of anyone keeping the skin of the serpent from the Garden of Eden and using it as a magical talisman.  Instead of being a holy man, in the film Noah is shown as a half crazy person who is not sure who is good and evil.  He kills several people and almost murders his own grandchildren.  Not exactly a Bible hero.

And finally, most inexplicable of all, God, the central character of the story, is never named in the movie; he is simply referred to as ”The Creator”.  Unlike the Bible story, God never speaks directly to Noah or has any lines in the movie at all.  Noah says, “Go forth, be fruitful and multiply”, instead of God.  After the flood, the rainbow appears, but we are not told its significance.  Why trouble your audience with the moral of the story?  Another difference is that Noah’s son, Ham, goes off on his own; still angry with his father.  No explanation is given for how Ham got a wife and fathered a full continent of descendants!  I don’t know what Bible the writers were reading, but I sure don’t see any of these inaccuracies or fabrications in mine.  One has to wonder what the point of this dreary film was.  All it succeeded in doing was alternately boring or offending people.  It has little profanity, but enough senseless violence to make it unsuitable for classroom use.  Don’t punish your students by making them watch this movie or you will be sure to get a flood of complaints!