What do I think about the movie Noah?
It is like Longfellow’s verse:
When it was good, it was very, very good. But when it was bad, it was horrid.
The account of Noah’s Flood in
Genesis 6-9 is one of the most enthralling and iconic historical records possessed by mankind.
It’s the account of the end of the world as man knew it at the time. The world’s most famous ocean-going mariner rescued animals and his family of eight from a world-destroying flood in a massive ship.
The historical account in Genesis is reflected in the oral traditions and histories of hundreds of people groups all over the world.
Why is Noah’s Flood still of interest and significance 4500 years after it happened?
Noah’s Flood is the pivotal geological event of all time because it utterly transformed the globe. Mountains, ravines, ocean basins, and continents probably all date from the time of the Flood—they were either formed by or drastically altered by the Flood. Most fossils were probably deposited by the Flood.
The Apostle Peter declared the Flood destroyed the world (2 Peter 3:6). The Flood caused geological damage to the earth that defies imagination. Turbulent Flood waters caused massive erosion worldwide. Churning sediments were hydraulically sorted and settled in layers, solidifying during the following decades. Geological adjustments continued for centuries after the Flood. The oceanic, atmospheric, and geologic upheavals of Noah’s Flood exceed man’s capacity to comprehend.
But people still doubt the Biblical account. More controversy, acrimony, and ridicule swirl around the Genesis record of Noah’s Flood than any other Biblical account. Yet the Apostle Peter, the author of Hebrews, and Jesus Himself believed in Noah and the Flood (1 Peter 3:20; 2 Peter 2:5; 3:6; Hebrews 11:7; Matthew 24:37-39; Luke 17:26-27).
The 2014 movie Noah draws the public eye anew to the account of Noah and the Flood. It’s a disaster movie like no other — almost the entire human race is destroyed. It’s a spell-binding adventure movie. It’s full of intense emotion and human drama. As far as gripping entertainment goes, the movie will not disappoint.
It’s good that Hollywood has focused attention on Noah. However, this movie Noah is not a Biblically faithful visual retelling of the Genesis account of Noah, son of Lamech. Rather it is an fanciful adventure movie inspired by the account of Noah in the Bible.
This distinction between an accurate Biblical representation of Noah and an imaginative story seeded by the Biblical Noah was acknowledged by Darren Aronofsky, the movie’s director, when he said,
“Noah is the least biblical biblical film ever made.”
Released March 28, 2014 by Paramount Pictures, Noah stars Oscar winners Russell Crowe as Noah and Jennifer Connelly as Mrs. Noah. Oscar winner Anthony Hopkins is marvelous as Noah’s grandfather Methuselah.
In the Bible, Noah’s wife is not named, but several names for her are given in extra-Biblical sources. The apocryphal Book of Jubilees (Chap 4) says Noah married his cousin Emzara, the daughter of Noah’s father’s brother Rake’el.
But the movie calls Mrs. Noah, Naameh, from Midrash Rabbah Genesis 23:4. Biblical Naamah was the daughter of Lamech (son of Methushael) and Zillah and sister of Tubal-cain. Tubal-cain forged bronze and iron tools and was the seventh generation after Adam through Cain (Genesis 4:19,22). Noah was the 9th generation after Adam through Seth, Adam’s son and Cain’s younger brother (Genesis 5:3-29).
In the movie, Tubal-cain (Ray Winstone) is Noah’s enemy and the movie’s “bad guy.” Scripture does not rule out this imaginative thread. However, the Bible does not record any interaction between Tubal-cain son of Lamech from the line of Cain and Noah son of Lamech from the line of Seth. (These are two different men named Lamech.)
Here is the official movie trailer:
I saw the movie the opening weekend and was displeased with its portrayal of Noah’s life and times. The many Biblical inaccuracies, including a very distorted depiction of the Biblical Noah, detract from the movie. Here are positive and negative aspects of Noah the movie.
Positives about Noah the Movie
- It’s good that Hollywood is using Biblical accounts as the basis for movies. The major elements of the Genesis record of Noah and the Flood are dramatically portrayed, although it is not a Biblically accurate retelling. The movie reflects the depravity of mankind and God’s judgment of humanity’s wickedness by a worldwide flood. It shows the ark as the means of rescue for animals and Noah’s family who will repopulate the earth. Noah depicts the major Biblical themes of sin, judgment, and salvation.
- In the movie God communicates to Noah through fragmentary visions which he struggles to understand, instead of directly by the spoken word as Genesis reports. Noah sets a good example of seeking counsel from his elders by asking his grandfather Methuselah for help interpreting his dream about a flood. Despite struggling to understand God’s message, Noah acts in faith and obeys. It’s a connection for many today who struggle to understand God’s will for their lives and obey when it is unpopular or costly.
- The movie depicts the wickedness of mankind in Noah’s day, personifying it in the villain Tubal-cain who leads a mob against Noah and the Ark. Though the Bible does not mention a specific antagonist, Noah surely faced strong opposition. Genesis reports “that the wickedness of man was great on the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually…the earth was filled with violence.” (Genesis 6:5,11) This evil is graphically depicted in the movie; its portrayal of the pervasive degradation and violence of Noah’s day is accurate and effective.
- The movie depicts the power of hope, faith, and love.
Director Darren Aronofsky said,
“At the very core of the film is this family drama. It’s about a mother and a father who are living in a very difficult time. They have to navigate their children through that and hopefully, find a better place and a better beginning for them. There’s faith, there’s hope, and there’s also takeaway about being a good, loving parent.”
Associate producer Cale Boyter said,
“The message of mercy and the power of God’s love is dramatized in this movie so beautifully. And I’d never thought about Noah’s story that way.”
- The movie Noah has some awesome scenes that facilitate imagination of what Noah’s times and the Flood were like. The movie’s visual effects company Industrial Light and Magic said that Noah required the most complex rendering they’d ever attempted. The scenes of the Ark construction and the Flood are stunning and impressive.
The movie’s ark is a huge vessel, built to the scale the Bible reports. Two non-seaworthy full-size arks were built for the movie: one on a soundstage in Brooklyn, NY, and the other in the water of Oyster Bay, Long Island, NY. The latter was in the path of Hurricane Sandy and experienced local flooding and wind gusts over 60 mph.
The film showed the arduous and uncomfortable process of heating pitch and applying the sticky black mess to the Ark. This essential feature of God’s instruction is usually omitted by even the most reverent retellings.
The movie is faithful to the Biblical text in showing the animals coming to the Ark without Noah having to round them up. God told Noah, “Of the birds after their kind, and of the animals after their kind, of every creeping thing of the ground after its kind, two of every kind shall come to you to keep them alive.” (Genesis 6:20)
The Flood is awesomely depicted as the worldwide storm of all storms with no survivors outside the Ark, as Genesis records. The movie showed not only rain as the source of the Flood but also water bursting forth from the earth in accord with “the fountains of the great deep burst open, and the floodgates of the sky were opened.” (Genesis 7:11) The picture of humanity’s last survivors clinging desperately to a rocky isle till it is overwhelmed by the Flood will sear itself in viewers’ memories, along with the echo of their desperate wailing shrieks of terror and pain.
The movie scenes can enhance the reading and understanding of Genesis just as pictures always help elucidate text.
- The quality of the production, special effects, and acting is excellent. The story line moves along briskly and is engaging.
- Christians can use the movie to generate discussions about spiritual themes. For example, the message of judgment for sin is a major Biblical theme of the movie which can lead to discussion of rescue from judgment through Jesus Christ for anyone who senses his own moral failures (sin).
- God the Creator: the movie never uses the term “God”. Instead it uses Creator. I like this very much because it identifies who God is and why He has a claim on our lives. With so many confused notions of “God” today, we should introduce God to people as The Creator, the One who made the universe, so they will be clear about Whom we are speaking.
(See God’s Business Card and Creation: Foundation for the Gospel.)
- Fill the Earth: the movie ends with the Creator instructing Noah, “Be fruitful and multiply and replenish the earth.” (Genesis 9:1) This was a refreshing contrast to today’s emphasis on limiting the earth’s population. It’s a reminder that the Creator intended man to fill the earth, which hasn’t yet been accomplished since the Flood.
Here is a second trailer for the movie, introduced by Emma Watson. She plays Ila, Noah’s adopted daughter, a non-Biblical character invented for the movie.
Negatives about Noah the Movie
The movie tries to re-invent the Biblical Noah. It includes many imaginative and unscriptural additions to the Biblical record of Noah and the Flood. Some might be considered artistic license, but others are quite disturbing and directly contrary to the Biblical record. Here are the main Biblical errors I noticed while watching the movie:
- The movie opens with this single line on the screen:
“In the beginning, there was nothing.”
This is false. It begins the movie with a blatant statement of the atheistic worldview. If there were nothing in the beginning, then there would still be nothing now. The movie would never have been made, and you would not be reading this review.
From nothing, nothing comes.
The Bible, on the other hand, begins with
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. (Genesis 1:1)
Yahweh the Creator was there at the beginning, and He is the ultimate source of everything else that exists.
- Noah – The character of the man Noah as portrayed in the movie is not consistent with the Biblical record. Genesis describes Noah as a man who “found favor in the eyes of the LORD” and as “a righteous man, blameless in his time; Noah walked with God.” (Genesis 6:8-9) The New Testament book of Hebrews reports: “By faith Noah, being warned by God about things not yet seen, in reverence prepared an ark for the salvation of his household, by which he condemned the world, and became an heir of the righteousness which is according to faith.” (Hebrews 11:7) The Apostle Peter describes Noah as a “preacher of righteousness” (2 Peter 2:5). In speaking to Ezekiel, the Lord mentions Noah as one of three men in history renowned for righteousness, along with Job and Daniel (Ezekiel 14:12-20).
Yet the movie depicts Noah as a dark malevolent figure who thinks the human race should not survive because of its evil. Noah thinks the point of his family’s existence is to build the Ark to save the “innocent” animals. Noah repeatedly tells his family that they are the last generation and are not to reproduce. In an extended scene, intense and disturbing, the movie shows Noah determined to murder his infant twin granddaughters to prevent the continuation of the human race. He eventually changes his mind, but later he rues not killing the babies.
This is not the picture of the righteous, blameless Noah of the Bible. The movie’s representation of Noah is a serious fault with the movie.
Russell Crowe, the actor playing Noah, says this about the movie’s portrayal of Noah:
“The funny thing with people, they consider Noah to be a benevolent figure because he looked after the animals: ‘Awww, Noah. Noah and the animals.’ It’s like, are you kidding me? This is the dude that stood by and watched the entire population of the planet perish. He’s not benevolent. He’s not even nice. At one point in the story his son says, ‘I thought you were chosen because you were good?’ And he goes, ‘I was chosen because I can get the job done, mate.’ … I think they’re going to be quite surprised what Noah actually means; what it means to be in that position.”
(From Russell Crowe: People Will be Surprised by ‘Noah’)
Crowe is correct about the movie Noah. However, the Biblical Noah was NOT chosen because he could get the job done, but rather because of his character. And Scripture records Noah scrupulously, meticulously carrying out God’s detailed commands.
Christians, Jews, and Muslims will not recognize Noah of the movie as the Noah of Scripture. When a movie is named for a character in the Bible, the movie should accurately depict the Biblical character. Distressingly, the movie Noah fails to do that.
- Evolutionism – When Noah relates to his family how creation occurred, he gives an account that is a merger of the Biblical creation account and the theory of evolution. While Noah’s voice gives a verbal account of the Six Creation Days from Genesis 1, visual scenes show a single-cell morphing into two cells and then into sea creatures. Fish grow feet and walk onto the land as amphibians. Primitive creatures morph over and over into more advanced creatures leading to an ape swinging through vines. The ape leaps into a clearing, the screen flashes bright and fades, and then Adam and Eve appear clothed in light.
This portrays Noah as presenting a version of theistic evolution. >:( Yet Genesis 1 reports Yahweh created animal kinds from scratch in two regular days, not over eons through evolution. Later the movie shows men hunting a “lizard-dog,” an obvious attempt to legitimize a “missing link” or “transitional form” which has never existed.
In the movie, Noah’s description of Creation places the sun and moon before the appearance of dry land. This contradicts Genesis 1 which reports the appearance of dry land on Day 3 and the creation of the sun and moon on Day 4.
- Environmentalism – The cause of Yahweh’s Flood judgment of the earth was that the LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great on the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. … Now the earth was corrupt in the sight of God, and the earth was filled with violence. And God looked on the earth, and behold, it was corrupt; for all flesh had corrupted their way upon the earth. (Genesis 6:5,11-12) Yet the movie focuses on environmental abuse (through mining and industrialization) and killing animals (hunting and eating) as the distinctive causes of the Flood.
Director Aronofsky sees Noah as the “first environmentalist”, and Noah in the movie sees his main task as saving the animal kingdom. Instead of cooperating with God to save humanity, Noah is shown actively seeking to ensure its extinction. Concerning the screenplay for Noah, Director Aronofsky said in a 2008 interview with movie critic Peter Sciretta,
“I think it’s really timely because it’s about environmental apocalypse which is the biggest theme, for me, right now for what’s going on on this planet. So I think it’s got these big, big themes that connect with us. Noah was the first environmentalist.”
The movie shows the earth as a desolate wasteland prior to the Flood. I think this is highly unlikely. The tremendous deposits of coal and oil worldwide suggest the earth was a lush and verdant paradise before the Flood. Coal and oil are the remains of the pre-Flood vegetation that covered the earth.
- Angelology – The Watchers in the movie are fallen angels who have been exiled from heaven to earth and imprisoned in massive rock-encrusted bodies. Each rock-giant has four arms and stomps around clumsily. In the film, they help build the Ark and defend it against Tubal-cain’s army. When they are “killed” in battle, they ascend to heaven. There’s no indication in Genesis of such creatures helping Noah. This idea was stimulated by “There were giants in the earth in those days; and also after that, when the sons of God came in unto the daughters of men, and they bare children to them, the same became mighty men which were of old, men of renown.” (Genesis 6:4)
- Magic – Noah’s grandfather Methuselah seems to be a kind of sorcerer. With magic he puts Noah’s son Shem to sleep instantly and later heals Ila instantly. He gives Noah a magic seed which when planted erupts into a fountain of water which spreads and sprouts an instant forest to supply building materials for the Ark. Flowers instantly grow and blossom from water drops.
- Yahweh instructed Noah to take two of every kind of animal on the Ark (Genesis 6:19-20; 7:14-15). Yet moviegoers gasp and shudder when scores of snakes slither toward the Ark. Two of every Biblical kind was needed, not two of every variety and species.
I did not see dinosaurs entering the Ark in the movie, even though they would have been on Noah’s Ark in obedience to God’s command.
In the movie, the heavy rains of the Flood started before Noah entered the Ark. In Genesis, the 40 days of Flood rains started after all had entered the Ark and God Himself had shut the door. (Genesis 7:4-17)
- Noah’s family on the Ark actually consisted of Noah, his wife, and his three sons and their wives for a total of eight (Genesis 7:13). In the movie, Noah’s sons Japheth and Ham do not have wives on the Ark. The film’s Noah dismisses wives as unnecessary and endorses the expectation that mankind will die out. Ila, Noah’s adopted daughter in the movie, is Shem’s wife. She bears twin girls on the Ark, so in the movie two more exit the Ark than originally entered. This is contrary to Genesis.
In Genesis, Ham is Noah’s youngest son (Genesis 9:24). In the movie, Japheth is the youngest and Ham is the middle son. Japheth is the one who sends out birds for the Ark in the movie instead of Noah. Shem is shown as a teen or young man at the time of the Flood, but according to the Bible, Shem was 98 years old when the Flood came (Genesis 11:10). Noah had his first son at age 500 and the Flood came at age 600, so the eldest son was age 100 at the Flood. This was Japheth, the elder brother of Shem (Genesis 10:21). The birth order of Noah’s sons in Genesis is Japheth, Shem, Ham. In the movie it is Shem, Ham, Japheth.
Noah was 595 years old when his father Lamech died at age 777, five years before the Flood (Genesis 5:30; 7:11). However, the movie incorrectly shows Lamech dying when Noah was around 10 years old. In truth, Lamech may very well have been a significant help in the construction of the Ark prior to his death.
- Tubal-cain‘s army attacks and tries to destroy the Ark. But Scripture portrays the people of Noah’s day as oblivious, indifferent to the project and the message of impending doom. “For as in those days before the Flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and they did not understand until the Flood came and took them all away.” (Matthew 24:38-39)
Scripture is clear that God actively supervised which creatures entered the ark and He Himself shut the door; by divine management only Noah’s family was permitted. In the movie Tubal-cain furtively chops his way into the Ark and stows away, eating some hibernating animals raw to survive. He persuades Ham to lure Noah to his hideaway as revenge for not getting to bring a wife on the Ark. Tubal-cain tries to murder Noah, but Ham changes his mind and helps Noah kill Tubal-cain.
Tubal-cain implores the Creator to speak to him, His image-bearer, but he hears nothing. This fabrication contains serious error, for the Bible assures that the Lord hears when we call to Him, that He is not unresponsive to a man who seeks Him. (Romans 10:12-13) Those who died in the Flood were spiritually antagonistic to the Creator.
Interestingly, the movie puts some foundational true theology into the mouth of the movie’s villain. Tubal-cain says that man was made in God’s image and given dominion over the animals and the earth. He hunts animals for food and believes in private property rights. Eating meat is portrayed in the movie as the most disgusting and barbaric of acts, which it was before the Flood. Man was only given permission to eat meat after the Flood (Genesis 9:3-4).
Was it by intent that religiously and politically conservative positions were ascribed to the movie’s bad guy?
Evaluation & Recommendation
Noah has powerful visual effects that show the mammoth Ark and the Flood. But the Flood scenes are quite brief, and the Ark scenes show what seems to be a ramshackle structure. Many of the interior Ark scenes are too dark to see the intricate interior organization the Ark must have had. So the visual effects, while interesting, are not in themselves justification for seeing the movie.
A potential side benefit of Noah doing well as a movie is that more Biblical epics will make their way to the screen. This will provide more opportunities to talk about Bible truth with unbelievers and doubters. On the other hand, this movie ruins for decades the chance of making a truly outstanding epic Noah movie.
Noah will be the subject of numerous casual conversations at work, home, and play. The movie is opening serious public discussion about a Biblical account that is often ridiculed and disbelieved. Christians need to be ready to participate in the conversation with Biblical truth, whether one sees the movie or not. Use Noah as an opportunity to engage in meaningful conversation with unbelievers. The movie can naturally lead to deep conversations about God’s holy standard and the plan of salvation by drawing the Scriptural parallel to the “Ark of Jesus” that rescues men from sin. That’s a blessing Hollywood did not intend.
Here are some questions that believers can use (with or without watching the movie) to engage people about Noah. Direct people to the true account of Noah and the Flood in Genesis 6-9:
- What kind of man was the Noah of the movie? How does he compare with the Noah of Genesis?
- How did Noah know what the Creator wanted him to do?
- What was the reason for the Flood in the movie?
- What was Noah’s goal in building the Ark?
- What about the evil we see around us today?
- Will we have another apocalypse? Will it be like the one in Noah’s day, or will it be different?
To prevent the movie’s imaginative additions and historical errors from infecting one’s mind, I encourage the careful reading of the true record of Noah and the Flood in Genesis 6-9 both before and after seeing the movie. I urge families to discuss the discrepancies with Scripture.
There is a danger in watching this movie that false ideas about Noah and the Flood will stick in people’s minds due to the engaging visual presentation. And errors which are so powerfully visualized tend to stick in people’s minds better than the accurate history of Scripture. That’s why I think it’s especially important to review the true historical account in Genesis 6-9 both before and after watching the movie. Dig into the true story of Noah recorded in Genesis 6-9 and inculcate its truth.
So what’s the bottom line? Do I recommend the movie or not?
I certainly do not recommend the movie for children under 12. Some very disturbing scenes in the movie may traumatize children. The movie shows graphic evil and violence, including hand-to-hand fighting and killing and the trampling of a girl to death. It shows people swept away by the Flood, and those in the Ark hear the screams of the dying. Noah’s sudden change to irrational cruelty, and his near-murder in the movie of his two infant granddaughters is quite distressing. An adult who attended with me found the film extremely upsetting, and I know several who walked out of the movie.
My bottom line is that I do not recommend this movie, because I think its negatives significantly outweigh its positives. I give Noah 2 stars out of 5.
Read the Book. Skip the movie.
See my next blog post for The Truth about Noah.
Soli Deo Gloria.
See these related articles I’ve written on Noah’s Flood and/or Noah’s Ark:
Noah’s Flood—Key to the Past
Noah’s Flood—A Global Event
Noah’s Ark Replicas
Noah’s Ark Found?
Earthquakes, Tsunamis, Volcanoes, & Noah’s Flood
Rebuilding Noah’s Ark
Ark Encounter Park
Noah’s Ark Model in Holland
Noah’s Ark Found? (with video)
1. Rebuilding Noah’s Ark – Intro
2. Rebuilding Noah’s Ark – Kentucky Governor (with YouTube videos)
3. Rebuilding Noah’s Ark – How Big?
4. Rebuilding Noah’s Ark – Ark Encounter video
5. Rebuilding Noah’s Ark – Ark Encounter Park
6. Rebuilding Noah’s Ark – Location (with maps)
7. Rebuilding Noah’s Ark – Funding
8. Rebuilding Noah’s Ark – Facing Opposition
9. Rebuilding Noah’s Ark – Ham Debates Lynn (with video)
10. Rebuilding Noah’s Ark – What Would Noah Think?
11. Rebuilding Noah’s Ark – Tour the Dutch Ark (with video)
Dinosaurs on the Ark?
Tsunami Videos and Noah’s Flood
Earthquakes, Tsunamis, Volcanoes, & Noah’s Flood
USA TODAY features Noah’s Ark
Marilyn Monroe and the Age of the Earth
Wallenda, Niagara, & Noah’s Flood (with video)
Mystery of Noah’s Flood (with videos)
Leftover from Noah’s Flood?
The Truth about Noah
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©William T. Pelletier, Ph.D.
“contending earnestly for the faith”
“destroying speculations against the knowledge of God”
(Jude 1:3; 2 Cor 10:4)
Wednesday April 2, 2014 A.D.
In the six hundredth year of Noah’s life, in the second month, on the seventeenth day of the month, on the same day all the fountains of the great deep burst open, and the floodgates of the sky were opened. And the rain fell upon the earth for forty days and forty nights. On the very same day Noah and Shem and Ham and Japheth, the sons of Noah, and Noah’s wife and the three wives of his sons with them, entered the ark, they and every beast after its kind, and all the cattle after their kind, and every creeping thing that creeps on the earth after its kind, and every bird after its kind, all sorts of birds. So they went into the ark to Noah, by twos of all flesh in which was the breath of life. And those that entered, male and female of all flesh, entered as God had commanded him; and the LORD closed it behind him. Then the flood came upon the earth for forty days; and the water increased and lifted up the ark, so that it rose above the earth. And the water prevailed and increased greatly upon the earth; and the ark floated on the surface of the water. And the water prevailed more and more upon the earth, so that all the high mountains everywhere under the heavens were covered. The water prevailed fifteen cubits higher, and the mountains were covered. And all flesh that moved on the earth perished, birds and cattle and beasts and every swarming thing that swarms upon the earth, and all mankind; of all that was on the dry land, all in whose nostrils was the breath of the spirit of life, died. Thus He blotted out every living thing that was upon the face of the land, from man to animals to creeping things and to birds of the sky, and they were blotted out from the earth; and only Noah was left, together with those that were with him in the ark. And the water prevailed upon the earth one hundred and fifty days. (Genesis 7:11-24)