Last night I saw Darren Aronofsky’s new movie Noah, starring Russel Crowe, with Benedictine friends: a Scripture Scholar, a Mechanical Engineer, our Director of College Ministry and a Great Books professor from Kansas University.
The Campus Minister and the Great Books Guy hated it, the Scripture Scholar had mixed feelings and the Engineer and I kind of liked it. We discussed it over a beer afterwards.
The Campus Minister worried whether the movie would be good for evangelization. “Do you think people will make light of the Catholic faith because of this movie?” he asked. He objected to the magical elements in the story — including the character we dubbed “Magic Grandpa”.
The Great Books guy compared the Genesis story to Gilgamesh and Greek flood myths, referenced the apocryphal sources the filmmaker used and wondered if “the creator” in the movie is the Gnostic demiurge.
The Scripture Scholar talked about the midrashian tradition and praised Russell Crowe’s Noah for his Abraham-like determination to do God’s will; it helped him see the patriarch in a new light, he said.
The Mechanical Engineer was the only one who came in with no knowledge of the movie whatsoever. He enjoyed the story, appreciated the ark and talked about a Scriptural ark replica that is under construction in Florida.
My take? I think this Noah gets God right — he exists and is fundamental to everything. His will matters, but he is mysterious and we need to be reverent and attentive to hear him, precisely because he is so fundamental that we stop noticing him (it is similarly difficult to study air).
Noah gets humanity right. We suffer from original sin and are at our best when we seek out and do God’s will which we slowly learn is love.
The movie’s special effects were disappointing to me — I never bought the landscape or the flood. The movie will soon feel dated; it already kind of did.
The movie’s Shem was disappointing to me — Noah’s son was an antediluvian Millennial, more a product of the hookup culture than of a righteous prophet, and he couldn’t even defend his woman properly.
And the animals were disappointing — they basically board the ark, fall asleep, and are out of the picture. But the animals are one of the reasons you see a Noah movie, from an entertainment perspective.
In the end, I can see why Noah has provoked such wildly different reactions.
If you have $7.50 of discretionary income, there are worse things you can spend it on. Just be sure to bring along a Scripture Scholar, a Campus Minister, a Great Books Guy and an Engineer and sit them down afterwards to discuss it.