Let me get this off my chest – “Noah” is a blockbuster film which is in no way the straightforward biblical epic that its trailers would suggest. I am not referring so much to what is added to the story (which is a lot!) as to significant things left out of it. Like these two biggies:
Gone is a loving God who gives clear and direct revelation in order to save the human race; in His place is a distant, petty, and silent Creator.
Gone is a prophet who preaches repentance in a desperate attempt to save humanity; in his place is an environmentalist who wouldn’t hurt a fly but considers killing babies out of a belief that the human race doesn’t deserve to continue.
It seemed to me that at almost every turn, “Noah” took whatever the Bible account said and did the opposite.
“But what did you expect?” some may counter, “after all it is a theatrical release big budget movie.” Fair enough. Theology aside, “Noah” fails as entertainment due largely to its preachiness about the environment. While much of the acting is superb the film’s tone is all over the place. It simply can’t decide what it wants to be. Early on the film plays like a mythological fantasy a-la Lord of the Rings, with fallen angel rock monsters, snake-dogs, and wizard-like magic dominating the scene. It gradually morphs into an action film, then morphs again into disaster epic, before settling on psychological thriller by having the character of Noah become more Jack Nicholson in The Shining than righteous prophet . Some films skillfully straddle the line between genres. This isn’t one of them.
There were things I liked about “Noah”. It had striking visuals and the sets, wardrobe design, and cast are impressive. I was very impressed with the full size ark used as a set.
Theology aside “Noah” committed the cardinal sin of failing to make me care about its characters. Let me explain. Noah is a complex protagonist and his moral dilemmas were well-defined, but I couldn’t connect with him. It’s not Russell Crowe’s fault; he’s a phenomenal actor, one of my favorites, and he is a true profession who delivers exactly what the script calls for (I think I just identified my connection problem). To me the supporting characters are underwritten, underdeveloped, and mostly one-dimensional. Much of the dialogue is melodramatic and heavy-handed (the kind that often elicits unintentional laughter). I can sum up all of the antagonist Tubel-Cain’s dialogue in three phrases: “Kill monsters, kill Noah, take Ark”. The story is just too dark and disturbing for the few worthwhile moments to leave a lasting impression or for scenes of real impact to shine through.
The biblical story of Noah is a story of redemption, of the remnant being saved from destruction, as it is about the wrath of God. The film “Noah” does finally arrive at a redemptive message: mercy and love are as important as justice, and the human race deserves a second chance. Those are beautiful principles, ones worth crafting a story around.
But “Noah” got there too little, too late to redeem itself.