Hollywood reconstructs Noah’s ark
The year 2014 has brought the Bible to the box office with a bang. The most recent of these Bible-based epic releases was director Darren Aronofsky’s “Noah,” starring Russell Crowe and Jennifer Connelly.
Even before “Noah” hit theaters, it received a flood of controversy and reviews from both mainstream and Christian sources. The numerous blogs, social media posts and commentaries — most of them criticizing the movie’s departure from accurate biblical portrayal — made the movie a must see in my mind.
Wanting to join in on the conversation, I did my research and bought my ticket, excited to see how Hollywood would tackle one of the Old Testament’s best-known and most dramatic stories.
What I found was a movie that was refreshingly unpredictable — a feat difficult to accomplish with a story as recognized, and oftentimes trivialized, as Noah. Was the movie an exact biblical representation? No, absolutely not. In fact, there were numerous extra-biblical elements in the film. But was it a movie worth watching? Yes, I believe that it was.
Despite the non-biblical elements of the film, Aronofsky captured a visual picture of the flood that has never before been brought to audiences via such a widespread and powerful platform as the big screen. More importantly, audiences were given a glimpse of the powerful thematic elements of justice and mercy.
Aronofsky and writer Ari Handel worked diligently and extensively — 16 years in fact — to create a thoroughly researched script. Great lengths were taken to build the ark to exact biblical proportions, and Paramount Studios was respectfully willing to post a disclaimer that “the film is inspired by the story of Noah” in order to inform audiences that artistic license was indeed taken while still attempting to retain the value and integrity of the original story.
Rather than the typical, Sunday school version of the story, filmmakers created complex characters that challenged audience members to take a second look at the story in a whole new light. With this movie, I saw possibilities I had never before considered.
While these possibilities may indeed be subjective, and there is no way to ever prove their accuracy either biblically or historically, the movie highlighted the grotesqueness of humanity and the depravity of a fallen, sinful world.
For the first time in a long time, a Bible-based film took a spectacularly fearsome and unabashed look at sin. This adaptation was audacious, and in the end, audiences were reminded of the extraordinary saving grace of God and the greater ideas of mercy, forgiveness and basic goodness.
Whatever extra-biblical elements may be present in the film, it does not overcome the fact that Hollywood spent hundreds of millions of dollars to produce and promote a Bible story.
There is evidently something extremely compelling and captivating about the Bible, and by avoiding a predictable retelling of the story, Aronofsky was able to combine grandeur with grace in an ambitious, visionary motion picture that showed millions its irresistible power.
Paramount Pictures is first and foremost a business, and a secular film business at that. Should we as Christians really expect for the movie to be 100 percent accurate?
Rather than being hostile toward the inaccuracies, Christians ought to recognize the opportunity we have to participate in what will be a national conversation for the next few months. Rarely do cultural events emerge that allow Christians to present their side of the story. And yet, with this incredible opportunity placed before us, Christians stand to waste the opportunity if we are not willing to watch and engage with those who are watching.
Instead of withdrawing from the discussion, we should seize the opportunity and use this film to our advantage. Instead of making Hollywood the enemy, we should look at it as a mission field and strive to lead and direct the emerging conversations.
When we attack and petition against biblical films in the box office, we damage the powerful opportunity we have to share our faith in a hostile culture, and we stifle the effort of those who seek to produce films based on the Bible when, instead, we should be supporting it.
Nothing has been detracted from the power of God’s word through the release of this film. Biblical truths remain as absolute as they did before this film, and they will continue to stand despite any of society’s attempts to alter or distort them.
Separate the motion picture and the pulpit. Recognize the powerful medium of film and applaud the efforts of those who seek to expose millions to a piece of the greatest story ever told. Enjoy “Noah” for what it is and have intentional conversations with those around you about the heart of the story: Christ’s redemption.