Deluge as Earthday

Aronofsky’s NOAH would be a fine movie for Earthday, or as a source for ideas for a Dungeons and Dragons campaign.

Aside from this, the movie was bad, and bad, and bad.

First, it was bad in my eyes for reasons which are simply a matter of my expectations and tastes, which I would not necessarily expect anyone else to share.

On that basis, I can only warn away men who share my particular tastes and quirks, which may be no one. I thought the look of the movie was colorless, unappealing, unmemorable. It was drab.

Second, it was bad as story, bad for reasons which even judges who like the movie for other reasons will agree are bad as story telling: bad on technical grounds.

On that basis, I can warn away anyone who likes a well-crafted story, or even a poorly-crafted story trying to tell a story. The story-telling sank during the second half of the film, and the plot snarled into a knot of nonsense. It was bad.

Third, it was bad as a Bible story, bad for reasons which only Christians, or Conservatives, or both would consider bad, but which tree-hugging misanthropic miscreants on the Left would like.

On that basis, I can warn away anyone who is Christian as a well as any non-Christians who do not bow the knee in pious reverence at the ugly Leftist altars of man-hating Gaea-worship. Vegetarians yearning for the destruction of mankind might like this movie; and also vehement anti-Christians and anti-Semites who want to see Bible stories mocked and deconstructed. The movie was a sneer against God and Man and everything good in life. I rarely find movies morally offensive; this movie was. It was evil.

Let us give the devil his due: I would not hate this movie so much if it had been entirely bad, bad through and through, bad like STARSHIP TROOPERS or PLAN NINE FROM OUTER SPACE. There were some good things in the first half of the film.

No, I will say that more strongly: there were some great, some wonderful moments in the first half of the film, things that made me want to doff my hat and salute the film maker.

But these good things, some of which were brilliant, were entirely undermined by the second half.

So some of you who read these words might like the film. For you, the good might outweigh the bad. I cannot condemn the film wholly.

But I can condemn it halfly, if that is a word:  If you go, please walk out of the theater once it starts raining.

Because the Deluge that follows is a flood of bad writing. Better yet, stuff popcorn in your ears, and ignore the dialog, once they get on the Ark. Maybe pull the popcorn out to hear the retelling of the Creation story by Noah to his kids.

Let us start, as all fair-minded reviews should start, with the good, and move on to the drab, the bad, and the evil.

Let me also defend the devil from unfair attacks, even attacks from critics as pure of heart as Michael the Archangel. There are criticisms I have heard from critics which are frankly unmerited.

You may have heard that there is no mention of God in this film. Not true. God is here called ‘The Creator’ throughout, and every character, antihero and villain alike, knows exactly who the Creator is. It is a logical and reasonable speculation that the Antediluvian world would have no controversy and no ambiguity about the existence of the Creator, since Creation was recent: the death and burial of Adam and Eve is still within living memory.

You may have heard that the glimpse seen of Adam and Eve in flashback, where they are seen clothed in white light, makes them look like space aliens. Personally, I thought this was a bold and wise bit of artistic license, since nude figures cannot be shown to an audience of fallen men without eliciting a reaction of lust, or of clinical objectivity. Light is an apt visual metaphor for purity. Also, our First Parents no doubt wore the glorified bodies which the faithful one day shall wear in the New Jerusalem, and glorified bodies possess clarity, they are clothed in light.

You may have heard that the Grigori, the Watchers, fallen angels trapped in awkward bodies of rock, are unbiblical or absurd additions. That criticism is unfounded and untrue. There is an eerie passage in Genesis which speaks of the Sons of God, creatures that might be demigods or giants or miscegenation between the children of Seth an the children of Cain. The Watchers are not an invention of the film maker, but from the Book of Enoch.

Myself, I admired the addition of the rock monsters. I thought that it showed an acute, even a scholarly, knowledge of the nuances of Genesis and of Apocryphal or rabbinical traditions on the part of the film maker, and a willingness to take the needed artistic license to make an epic film from the mute and sparse Biblical text.

I am not a purist when it comes to Bible epics. In Cecil B Demille’s THE TEN COMMANDMENTS, he added much Hollywood hoopla and spectacle, historical inaccuracies, and subplots not even remotely found in the Bible or in the surrounding traditional stories or apocrypha. No one can blame a film maker for this: the Bible is so terse in its language, that wide artistic license must be granted the story teller trying to bring the bare events to life. BEN HUR is entirely invented material, as is any number of other Bible-and-Sandal epics we have seen through the years. So, likewise here, I do not consider the criticisms of the purists to be valid. None of my criticisms fall into this category.

To discuss the good, and move on to the drab, the bad, and the evil, I fully intend to spoil the plot as much as I can, hoping that readers will have their interest ruined by hearing too much about the film. It is that bad: I do not with to extend to this putrid movie the normal courtesy of a reviewer toward a work of art or entertainment. This was neither.

So, no spoiler warnings from me! I give away the surprise ending! Mankind lives! Please read onward so the surprise ending will be ruined for you.

First, the pleasant part of this review: allow me to discuss the good things. You know there were good things in it, otherwise some reviewers who judgment is normally sound would not have praised it. Like the atrocious ‘His Dark Materials’ trilogy by Philip Pullman, the atheistic and God-hating theme of the film  is hidden at the beginning, and the beginning shows great artistic skill at first, even genius.

One good thing is the acting. While the actors were told to deliver their lines in grunts and monosyllables, interrupted by the occasional screech, and given utterly forgettable lines to say, the actors were able to take this sparse, bare-bones dialog and breathe convincing life into it.  Anthony Hopkins as Methuselah deserves special recognition here, but the whole cast, from Ray Winstone as Tubalcain, to Emma Watson as Ila, Jennifer Connelly as Naameh, Noah’s wife, also did an excellent job with what little they were given to do.

Russel Crowe, alas, did such an excellent job of portraying Pearly Soames in WINTER’S TALE, a character full of tics and nuances and little realistic touches, that the comparison to the flat and frowning slablike Noah, who is given no emotions to emote aside from grim determination and dark scowls, was below that actor’s normally stellar performance. He did turn in a good performance, considering the material he was given, but the character never came to life in this viewer’s imagination.

Anthony Hopkins as Methuselah stole every scene he was in, and the film invested his role with air of an ancient magician or (oddly enough) with the air of a Biblical prophet.

Another good thing were those few moments when the movie maker used some unexpected but realistic detail to give weight and realism to the antediluvian world. I recall three of them.

There are characters not named in the Bible, such as Noah’s wife Naamah, and events not described, which appear in non-canonical books and traditions which this movie took inspiration. Again, as Philip Pullman did when he introduced Metatron in his ‘Dark Materials’ trilogy, the film maker here took details from several under-explored corners of Tradition.

Myself, I am something of a fan of such corners, so I happened to know before walking in to the film precisely who Tubalcain was, and Naamah. I had read the extrabiblical story that says Methuselah was sent from Adam’s sickbed to plead with the Seraph barring the way back to Eden for a leaf from the Tree of Life to save the dying Adam. Turned away, but told that Adam would one day return to the heaven of the Creator, Methuselah returns and buries Adam. The traditional story is that God held off the Deluge until the peaceful death of Methuselah, so that there were no more just men found anywhere on the face of the Earth. I appreciated that the film maker included some of this ancient and traditional material.

Adding up the ages given in Genesis for the Antediluvians, it was in keeping with Biblical lore to portray Methuselah as living at the time of the onset of the Deluge.

The first good moment in the film was Methuselah breathing on Shem to cast him instantly into sleep. It was not done with any flashy special effects, but it effortlessly showed that the oldest man in the world commanded some power granted him by God.

Methuselah could grant Noah a shamanistic vision with his hallucinogenic tea, but not help him beyond that. That all was cleverly done, because it is difficult to have a prophet or a wizard or wise man on stage without having him solve all the plot’s problems. The film overcame this difficulty in a plot twist that was sound story-telling: the ancient wizard arms the hero with what he needs to fight, but does not solve the problem nor fight the fight. In this case, Methuselah hands over the last seed of Eden, the one seed surviving of all the ancient and lost world out from which Adam was exiled.

The idea of the last seed of Eden is wonderful. I shall certainly steal it (the idea, not the seed) for one of my own stories.

There is an innate difficulty that dogs the steps of any story teller telling a Biblical story, or, indeed, those lesser copies and shadows of Bible stories we see in myths and fairy tales. The difficulty is that if God can solve all the problems in the plot, why has He not? Why does He not?

One answer to this question is to establish that any angels, fairy-godmothers or wise wizards aiding the hero have a limit on their powers. Obviously this cannot bind a character who is omnipotent. So a second answer, and much more difficult for the storyteller to weave into his tale, is to establish that the all-powerful Creator has done everything needed to solve the problem, provided the hero also does his part, keeps faith, and obeys his instructions. The cleverness is needed by the writer to have unexpected and indeed miraculous acts intrude into the plotline in ways that seem like divine intervention, a wonder, a marvel — but marvels which still leave the hero free to fail.

The hero has to be told to expect a miracle, but then the hero, and the audience, has to be utterly surprised when it happens. More to the point, the miracle can help but cannot solve the problem or remove the results of the character’s freely willed decisions. This is hard to do and only two movies I have ever seen have done it correctly: the aforementioned WINTER’S TALE and the old classic IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE.

This movie almost carried the trick off. Aronofsky gets points in my book for trying.

A sudden fountain of water and the trees of Eden spring up about the wasteland of Noah’s camp, all springing from the last seed of Eden, was exactly just such a wonder, and it occurred at just the right point in the plot to achieve the effect of lasting wonder.

Noah was being menaced by Watchers (who, naturally enough, blame mankind for the fall of the world) who did not believe that Noah was sent by the Creator to save the remnant of the innocent from the evils of a world so soon to be be destroyed. As commonly happens with prophets, they did not want to hear the message, but to kill him. The seed he had planted earlier chose that moment to sprout, and trees soared aloft like green skyrockets.

The sudden growth of the trees does not physically halt the rock monsters, but now they have undeniable evidence that the Creator favors Noah and did indeed send him. The fallen angels use their great strength to hew lumber and help build the Ark — so the movie maker cleverly does not show us Noah building so huge a structure by himself.

It was a great scene. If the rest of the film had been like this, it would be among my favorite films.

Another good thing in the film was one other viewers might find puzzling or even problematical, which is why the shed snakeskin of the serpent who first tempted Eve is kept as a relic of the Patriarchs, and used to pass the blessing from father to son down the generations? I suggest the symbolism is clear and powerful, and shows an unexpected theological subtlety on the part of the filmmaker.

All things were created good at the beginning, even Lucifer, even the serpent. The serpent chooses sin rather than obedience, and sheds his original unstained goodness. The serpent is shown on screen in a flashback slithering out of his white old skin to reveal the new black skin of sin beneath. The papery and withered snakeskin is a symbol and a relic of the lost innocence of Eden.

What other holy things, what other relics, could the Antediluvians have, save some few traces saved from the exile from Eden?

The third thing was the fall of the Watchers. Not out of rebellion, as the angels of Hell, did these angels fall, but out of compassion for man. They instructed man in all arts and magic they could, to aid the Sons of Adam laboring under the Curse of laboring for their daily bread.

In the film, this is beautifully and memorably depicted as a shower of meteors. When the disobedient beings of light strike the Earth, the Earth for whom they abandoned the joys of heaven becomes, with terrifying Old Testament irony, their living prisons, for they are coated in a material shell of earth and mud that hardens, giving them a crust as ugly and ungainly as that of Ben Grim from the Fantastic Four. No more flight for them.

In the climactic battlescene between Noah and Tubalcain, the final heir of Cain, the rock-cursed and rock-crusted fallen angels wade into the fray like Ents or Giants, shattering dozens of foes at each blow.

Tubalcain, like Methuselah, is indeed a Biblical character, named as the first artificer of bronze and brass, which is indeed how he is portrayed here. In the film his men are armed in dull gray scale and carry lances, knives and warhammers of metal, and some sort of fire-arm like an harquebus or blunderbuss.

Tubalcain, in a magnificent show of courage, runs up the chest of the giant Watcher and stabs it through its rocky integument. The wound is mortal. The giant falls, and, staring up into the heavens from which the wrath of God in the form of rain is pouring, whispers a prayer, asking for forgiveness.

The forgiveness is instantly granted, and the creature of fire, huge as a Jinn released from a bottle, explodes from his heavy husk, and, rejoicing, the freed spirit soars to heaven in a fountain of glorious light, while Sons of Cain are flung like burning puppets through the air.

We then see the angelic being in space, still soaring upward, and below the world is covered with one vast storm system from pole to pole, with all the swirled eyes of countless hurricanes and tornadoes smothering all glimpse of land and sea.

Do you see why I scoff at the reviewers who say God is not in this film? God is central.

To put onstage such a vivid and spectacular story-event as the fallen angels being forgiven the minute, nay, the very second they first ask, is powerfully moving. Had the movie not betrayed this theme later, it would have been a bad, but forgivable, movie, just because of this scene.

Whether you think the story of Noah is history, myth, or even nonsense, I submit that the intellectual exercise of trying to imagine the strange world before the Deluge is no different from the speculations of science fiction and fantasy writers imagining worlds that may someday exist or may never exist, but which differ from our own. One thing I admired deeply about this film is that the film maker engaged in such speculations. He was trying to bring to life in our imaginations a world not like our own.

Consider, dear reader, that whether you believe in a literal Flood of Noah or not, the picture of the world before the Flood is one to provoke the speculative imagination. What would it be like to live in a world newly curse by God, where expulsion from the Garden of Eden happened but recently? What would it be like to live in a world where the lifespan of Man could reach nine hundred years or more? The permission given by God to allow man to eat meat is expressly stated in the Noah story, leading some scholars to speculate that antediluvian man was entirely vegetarian. And there were giants in the Earth in those days.

It should also provoke the speculative theologian. What was antediluvian man’s relationship to God, before the advent of Christ, before the Law of Moses, before the promises made to Abraham? This movie attempted (I believe it was a dishonest attempt, but I might be wrong on that point) to imagine God as He might appear before any covenant with the Sons of Adam was attempted. Aside from His promise that no man would slay Cain, there is no record in the Bible that God had spoken to Man since the exile of Eden, until He speaks to Noah.

What would a Silent God be like? There are many psalms or passages in the Bible which lament the silence of God, not the least of which is the cry of despair by the Savior on the cross itself. To introduce this as a theme is not unchristian, nor inappropriate in a film concerning the most violent act of divine wrath depicted in the Old Testament.

Once theme in the movie I liked was the moral conflict of Noah trying to decide whether to have faith in the vision he received from the Creator, and to have faith in the justice of a Creator who condemns all but a remnant of His fallen creation to death by water. The Creator did not answer questions shouted at the sky, neither when Noah did it, nor when Tubalcain did it.

So much for the good in the film. On to the drab, the bad, and the evil.

Fans of dull-colored sepia-toned films with curt, dull-colored monotonous dialog might like the film, but do not expect any lavish Biblical epic, or to see anything fair or fine. As I said above, this is merely a personal preference, but I prefer epics to have visions of splendor.

There was no trace of hue, no trace of humor, no trace of lightness nor light anywhere in this film.

I would never walk into a movie about Atlantis before it sank, or Pompeii before it burned, and expect to see nothing but rocky landscapes, one after another after another, dull and gray and barren.

The movie said that the Sons of Cain had built a worldwide civilization spanning all the continents, using ancient technologies taught by fallen angels and long since lost — what a wonderful, what a breathtaking conception!

That was what the movie said. So I was expecting the cities of the Sons of Cain to look lavish, huge, dark, and demon-haunted — something like this:

Desperate-LamentationsOr this

Glazyrin_003I was expecting, in other words, the lavish spectacle of a world so sunk into idolatry, harlotry, warfare and murder, that it would dazzle the eye.

What I got was this:

Dead-Land-Noah-Movie-Screencaps-WallpaperAnd this

NOAHNote the copious mud. Please notice how dark, dull, gritty, bland and, well, forgettable the barren land and the boxlike Ark happen to be.

In sum, the narration said this was a world that was supposed to be overpopulated and covered in ancient and malignant cities. The movie showed us one drab and dun-colored wasteland after another. Not a single city, not a single army, not a statue nor an idol nor even a brightly colored striped tent ever was shown on the screen. Tubalcain should have looked like Xerxes from the movie 300, or like Pharaoh from THE TEN COMMANDMENTS. Instead he looked sort of like Riff from WEST SIDE STORY, and his ‘army’ consisted of a gang of thugs about as numerous as the Sharks or the Jets, but not as good at dancing.

It was the smallness of the movie that I disliked. Instead of the world being destroyed before our eyes, we see one small mob of bad guys and Noah’s family, which is even smaller than in the Bible.

(Shem and Ham have no wives in this version, so only Asia will be populated, not Europe nor Africa.)

There was no spectacle to this movie, aside from the occasional flashback where Methuselah destroys an army with a flaming sword, or the Watchers fall to Earth. The sets did not look like anything.

The same complaint applies to the costumes. Usually costume dramas have, you know, costumes. Like this:

Susan-Hayward-BathshebaOr these:   Immortals1

centurion

samson_delilah_2 What is the first thing you notice about the garb and gear? They do not dress like us.

Now look at this:

noah1What is the first thing you notice about the garb and gear? They dress very much like us.

The first moment when Noah the Patriarch came onstage, I thought he was wearing jeans and a hooded sweatshirt. Only looking closely do you see that they are wearing what might be homespun trousers and tunics. They look vaguely like frontiersmen, but without any particular cut or coloration to distinguish them. The garb is as generic as possible, and as dull as possible. Unlike every race of man since the dawn of time, these characters in this film have no ornaments at all, not a ring, not a spot of paint, not a feather.

What about the spectacle of fight scenes? Compare this:

Alexander the Great 1With this:

Russell Crowe as NoahNor horses, no chariots, no swords. Looks like they are wearing raincoats.

Overall, the movie looked as drab and boring as possible.

Emotionally, the movie was also drab. Noah saves all the animals, but he does not pet nor feed a single one, not that we see. The parade of animals forms an impressive vision as they are gathered into the Ark, but there is no close-ups of them, no emotion. Perhaps Noah loves his wife and family, but we do not see it. Perhaps he reveres and loves the Creator, but we do not see it. We see his obedience.

Now, this critique about the look of the film is a matter of personal taste. Perhaps the director wanted to make the landscape, sets, and costume as dull and generic as possible, so that the Antediluvian world would seem to us to be like our world at this year, or at any year. Perhaps the audience did not want to see fantasy and spectacle. Or perhaps the modern Liberal mind is naturally drawn to think ugly things are real.

So much for the drab. On to the bad.

No doubt you have been told your whole life that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. This is untrue. Part of beauty is in the beholder’s eye, that part that speaks to you personally. Part is seen no matter who looks, provided he looks honestly. That is the craftsmanship, which any man can judge, whether the tale is to his taste or not. Those who say and repeat that beauty is in the eye of the beholder no doubt wish to dismiss criticisms of the second type, factual criticisms, for criticisms of the first type, matters of taste.

I emphasize this distinction here because I judge this movie to be bad from a standpoint of craftsmanship, that is, the writer did not use the art of how to put a story together correctly. The plot is a tangled and confused mess where it should have been simple and clear. The theme should have been consistent throughout.

As a matter of story telling, the story should have been about something. Preferably, in a Bible epic, the theme of man’s relationship to God should have come up, and handled in a coherent way, or had a point. That theme did indeed come up, but it was not handled in any coherent way.

The whole point of this (or, really, any) version of the story of Noah is that the Antediluvians gave themselves over to evil, and were wiped out to the last man, with Noah’s family alone being spared. There are only two possible interpretations of this story. The first is that God is an insanely sadistic mass-murdering tyrant, who slays the innocent along with the guilty; the second is that God is just, and that therefore the Antediluvians to a man were not only stained with guilt, not one of them asked for forgiveness.

Hence there is only one of two choices for a theme, given the subject matter: one is to show God as filled with mercy and justice, despite the world-destroying brutality of the punishment; the second is to show is to show God to be an evil sadist, despite the claim that He is just.

No matter which theme is chosen, the character arc must follow it. In order for the plot to have plot-tension, the character of Noah must end up elsewhere from where he starts.

Naturally, if the writer decided to write the  first theme, the Biblical theme, if the story is to have the ending in the Bible, where the human race lives through Noah and his family, must start from doubts and end in trust.

Contrariwise, the character arc of the second theme, let us call it ‘The Philip Pullman theme’ then the doubt about theodicy would have to be resolved not in favor of God. The hero would have to start in trusting the evil Demiurge called God, and end up, his eyes opened, sadder but wiser, and realizing that the evil Demiurge is a mass-murdering sadist, not divine at all.

I mention this again to emphasize that I am not here criticizing the film maker’s choice of what theme to take, only to say that once the filmmaker makes the choice, the logic of storytelling requires him, if he is not to cheat his audience, to carry through with the required plot logic and character arc. Here it simply did not happen.

When telling the story of a world destroyed by God, the writer must decide the one theme or the other: either God is right and the world is wrong, or the world is right and God is wrong. You cannot have both. You cannot have a compromise. They cannot be both half-right.

In the first case, God is just and Noah is His chosen savior of the righteous remnant of man, the only surviving Sons of Seth. In the second case, God is unjust, and Noah is no better or worse than the Sons of Cain.

In the first case, if Noah is to be a character different from the Sons of Cain, he must be shown to be holier, nobler, or better in some way. If he is not shown in this way, it is an error in the art of story telling.

Whichever theme the writer decides, he must decide why mankind is being wiped out.  This is central thing the movie fumbled, and badly. In the Bible,the matter is stated with admirable clarity :

And God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.

Without this being put onstage, and without this being presented convincingly to the audience, then God’s ways are not justified, not to Noah, and not to the audience.

Ah, but the filmmaker did condemn mankind for something. It was just not for man’s wickedness.

In the first scene, Noah’s son, Ham, plucks a flower smaller than his fingernail because is it pretty. Noah upbraids him, saying that everything in nature has its place, and we can only take what we need.

What was the point of that? Ham was not pulling the wings off of flies just to see them die, nor was his hunting elephants and taking only the tusks and letting the rest of the beast go to waste. He plucked a flower so tiny and pale as to be almost invisible. I cannot imagine the film maker expect us to take Noah seriously at this point. Even the most extreme of Buddhist ascetics do not carry the principle of respect for all life to this extreme, nor do the most extreme of Greenpeace environmentalists.

Noah then comes across three men hunting a scaly looking dog critter, apparently one of the races the Creator did not see fit to preserve. A fight ensues, and Noah, who will not pluck a flower nor step on a blade of grass, uses his elite Patriarch ninja-fu skills on the wights, and kills the men in short order.

He then holds a solemn funeral for the dog, burning it on a pyre. For the dog.

The boy asks in woebegone wonder why the hunters are hunting. Noah explains that they eat meat. The boy has never heard of such a thing before. Eat meat? Why would anyone do such a lunatic, crazed, outrageous thing?! Clearly the Creator meant Mankind only to eat leaves and berries, because we have no canine teeth, and our stomachs cannot digest meat, right? Noah merely grunts (nearly all the dialog is in grunts) and says, “They think it makes them stronger.”

Got that? The Sons of Cain eat meat not because it has any ability to feed them when they are hungry, but because of an inexplicable cult like belief, similar to that of cannibals, that the strength of the animal will somehow be drawn into their body.

A drop of rain comes from the clear blue sky and the dead flower is brought back to life. I assume this was meant to be a symbol of the salvation to come, but, if so, it was a bit of an odd symbol. Whether this actually happened or Noah hallucinated it was not clear.

Noah returns to his tent and tells Naamah in a worried tone that Ham seemed a little too curious about hunting and eating. (Noah does not offer to stab the innocent child to death at this time. That comes later.)

Right before killing the last of the murderous huntsmen, Noah hisses that he wants justice. He sounded a bit like Chris Nolan’s Batman at this point.

To emphasize the similarity to Batman, there is a flashback were we see Tubalcain murdering Lamech, Noah’s father. At this point the Sons of Cain vaunt that they have wiped out the last of the Sons of Seth, and Noah then lives, I presume (it is not clear) hiding in the shadows and living in the wilderness. Where the wife comes from is not clear. In the Bible, she is Tubalcain’s sister.

Why Noah lives in a tent is unclear. He has no flocks, no cattle, not even a scaly dog for a pet. He does not sow, neither does he reap. At one point we see his wife grinding grain in a quern, or perhaps rolling something beneath a rolling pin, but I cannot figure out what a nomad vegetarian living in a barren wasteland would eat, or what he does with his time besides build Arks.

That is another technical error with the story-telling. Not just this, but nothing, nothing at all, has any solidity, any background, any reason for being in one spot as opposed to another. Why does Noah live in a tent rather than a cave? Why does Methuselah live in a cave rather than a tent?

Noah sees in a dream that the soil is soaked in blood, and that the world is soon to drown.

He goes to the one remaining green mountain on the planet, to the cave where Methuselah lives, and inquires of him. Methuselah slips him a Mickey Finn, Noah has a vision of the Ark and decides to build one. Methuselah gives him the last seed from Eden, or perhaps it is from a Truffula tree. It grows up into the forest aforementioned. Why Noah does not use the trees on Methuselah’s mountain is unknown. Or, for that matter, why Methuselah does not live with his grandson in their tents, or why he is not invited to accompany his own family on the Ark.

On the way to the mountain, Noah is mugged by the Watchers, who do not believe him to be sent by the Creator. However, one named Og believes him and aids him, in one of the few touching or arresting scenes in the movie. However, in hindsight, the scene is flat, because Noah displays none of the charisma or eloquence or passion needed to persuade anyone of anything. He simply says in one monotone-level line that the Creator sent him, and the rock monsters reply in their gravelly voice that they don’t believe him. Except the one that does.

The Watchers agree to help Noah. Years pass. I take a nap in my chair, and begin looking at other members of the audience. The guy across the aisle is playing with his cellphone, despite the warnings before the movie started that this was not allowed.

The animals follow the trees and the rivers back to the magical spring which flows from the last seed of Eden, and enter the Ark, and the Noachians stun them with sleep incense, and they sleep. I think some of the incense left the screen and filtered into the audience.

Tubalcain and his unruly mob show up. (I admit I am so tired of repeating these meaningless and boring events, that my eyes are drifting shut as I type, but I do not know how else to prove that the events do not follow one from another as they should.) In any case, Tubalcain shouts that the Ark will be his, and that Noah should not defy him, as Noah is alone. Noah announces solemnly that he is not alone.

In the television commercial, no doubt you thought as I did that Noah meant, as Elijah did, that the invisible power of God was on his side. Nope. He only meant the rock monsters were waiting in ambush.

Tubalcain and his men retreat and set up camp, having brought their wives and daughters along on the campaign, or maybe they were refugees from the destroyed and dead cities, or something. That also was not clear.

Everyone is starving, apparently, because man has overpopulated and destroyed the earth through strip mining. Though if everyone is starving, all the Creator had to do was have fruit trees rather than gopherwood trees leap up of the last seed from Eden, and have Noah eat dates and figs while watching the Sons of Cain die of hunger.

At this point, Ham is a grown man, and Shem has a wife named Ila who is barren from an old war wound, and Ham is jealous and wants a wife. Noah goes into the camp of the Sons of Cain hunting for mates. The director shows us all their wickedness and evil, basically by having the camera pan across a group of dark sepia-hued figures who are yelling at each other, while a girl screams in the middle distance. It was impossible for me to tell what the screaming was about. Then a crowd pushes down a fence, and seizes a young animal of some sort, maybe a goat, and the crowd tears the goat to bits and eats the flesh raw.

At this point Noah looks down, and sees the blood from the goat. It stains his feet. This was the scene he saw in his vision.

This is the very moment when the film goes completely off the rails. It lumbers onward for a few more scenes, however, by sheer force of momentum, before toppling from the trestle and careening into the gulfs of sheer awesome, bottomless stupidity so far below.

I hope you understand the piercing, penetrating, intensely bad craftsmanship of this scene. At this point in the story, what was required was for the audience to be shown that all the Children of Cain were so vile and wicked in their behavior that the judgment of the Deluge, if Draconian, was at least understandable. The camp should have shown acts of mayhem and torment and harlotry and sodomy and cannibalism and drunkenness and idolatry and brutality and violence, or at least usury. Unfortunately, to a modern audience, half those things are Constitutionally-protected rights.

Again, I must emphasize how badly this scene was handled. When Noah sees the earth soaked in blood in  vision, it is a sign from God Almighty that the Earth is soaked in blood. One assumes this is human blood, a sign of wrath and war and murder. Nope. It is only a sign of an unsanitary butcher shop in action. It is goat blood, or whatever the critter was.

Noah departs the camp. He is so disgusted that he goes home and tells Ham that God has sent all that is required.

At first I thought this meant, as in keeping with the theme, that Ham must trust God to find him a wife by some miracle who is not of the diseased and evil lineage of Cain — a miracle because no one aside from the Children of Cain are alive on the whole earth, except for Noah.

Logically, the plot then required this miracle to find or provide the wives of Ham and Japheth, or else the world will not be repopulated after the flood, and mankind not saved, which is Noah’s mission.

But we discover in the next scene that Noah meant the opposite. He was not telling Ham to trust in the provision and providence of God; he was telling Ham to resign himself to living hereafter like a monk and dying childless.

But what about saving mankind? Ah, but suddenly and for no reason the divine mission assigned by the Creator has changed. Noah decides that instead of saving mankind, God really means Noah to destroy mankind, including Noah’s whole family. And the Ark? The point of the Ark was meant to save the innocent. Who are the innocent? Animals, birds, snakes, bugs. Why? Because they alone live as they did in Eden.

So instead of any act which was forbidden to men, eating meat is the horror that is so bad that Noah decides on the spot that his two unmarried sons must live in celibacy for life, and die without heirs, and all the human race die with them. The bloodsoaked earth is because of the unwillingness of man to practice vegetarianism.

Then it starts raining.

Ham, understandably irked that he will live and die without female companionship and without children, sneaks into the Cainite camp, falls into a mass grave, and finds there a girl named Na’el, feeds her, falls in love, and brings her back through the forest toward Noah’s now-filled and ready Ark. Just at that moment, Na’el steps into a bear trap, her leg is caught, and a crowd of men run up and tramples her to death. Noah is there, makes no move to save the girl, and drags Ham away. We see Na’el get stampeded to death by the mob.

Just in terms of the craftsmanship of story telling, what is wrong with that scene? Anyone? Bueller? Anyone? If you raised your hand and said it was a stupid as a stump, you’d be right.

As a matter of craftsmanship, the plot has established that one of the external obstacles to be overcome by Noah before he can launch the Ark is to find wives for Ham and Japheth. They either must be Daughters of Cain, or procured through some unexpected miracle. So when Noah returns from the camp without brides, the only logical solution is for there to be a miracle. I remember waiting and wondering for this to eventuate, even to the point when the rains start, and not seeing how the film maker planned to get out of the auctorial corner into which the film was painted. I waited and waited for something clever. Nothing clever ever arrived. (The eventual solution, which is not clever, is that the two wives for Japheth are in the womb of Ila, ergo not yet born, but he gets to marry his twin nieces, and Ham gets no wife, because he is named after pig meat, which is an unclean animal, and meat is murder).

In terms of storytelling, what the Na’el trampling scene does is change the theme, so that Noah is no longer the righteous man saved out of all the wicked Earth, he is now just a creep who let a girl die. Also, stepping in a bear trap is stupid. We are cheated both of the heroism of a rescue — this, in the middle of a movie about rescuing animals and people from the great flood — and the poignant sorrow of a tragic death. There is no goodbye, just a bear trap snapping her leg, and a crowd trampling her to pieces.

More rain, and the fountains of the earth are also opened. So, another point for Biblical accuracy.

There is a fight scene. Tubalcain sneaks aboard the Ark and lives. Everyone else on Earth dies.

Noah now sits and sulks in the Ark.

He gathers his family and announces that when he and his wife die, Shem and the barren Ila will bury them, and when Shem and Ila die, Ham buries them, and when Ham dies, Japheth buries him, and wanders the earth, the last man, and dies with no one to bury him.

(I am not sure why he thinks they will last so long. It is not clear how the vegetarians survive the 40 plus 150 days as vegetarians on a boat where there is no stored grain or raisins in evidence.)

Ah, but in an earlier scene, we saw Ila get cured miraculously by Methuselah, and can have children now.

Now, by the rules of craftsmanship as mentioned above, this has to be the miracle which solves the problem raised by Ham and Japheth having no brides. Ila is going to have twins, and when they grow up, Ham and Japheth can marry their own nieces. There is an exception to incest rules when only one family is alive on Earth. But, again, just as a matter of craftsmanship, it does not seem to make up for the loss of Ham’s girlfriend of five minutes to the beartrap. The miracle cure of Ila does not undo Noah’s unthinkable cruelty and callousness toward his son and the unsaved Na’el. Unlike the other Children of Cain, she was asking for help. She was willing to repent.  So Ila’s miracle does not fit the needs of the plot.

God does not wait in this version while Methuselah dies peacefully, no, Methuselah is seen rooting through the grass looking for one last berry to eat, and he finds one just before the tidal wave hits, and dies with a big stupid senile grin on his face. (I seem to recall that God in Phillip Pullman also dies with a big stupid grin on his face, or a least a look of relief.) So apparently Methuselah was also too evil to live. Which, again, invalidates theme of the plot if the movie is supposed to be about a good God who commands a faithful man who saves his innocent family from a world-deluge.

But if the movie was supposed to be about a bad God who wants everything destroyed out of malice, and orders his faithful dupe to kill everyone, and the faithful dupe fails, then the plot logic would have required for Noah to be aware of the injustice of the death of Methuselah, and for this to be one of a growing number of reasons why the faithful dupe begins to suspect he’s been had, leading up to a culmination that God is an evil Demiurge. But that never happens either. So whichever of the two sole possible interpretations of the movie is correct, the scene of Methuselah eating a berry while being hit by a tidal wave makes no sense.

Because in this version of the movie, God kills Methuselah with a bucket of water.

Where was I? Oh, yes, just as Noah is announcing his mass euthanasia plan, based wholly and solely on the fact that people eat meat and Noah was grossed out when he stepped in a goaty blood puddle, Ila gets pregnant.

Now the movie loses whatever it had left of its mind, because instead of rejoicing at the birth, which every single solitary Biblical character from Eve to Sarah to Rebecca to Rachel to Hazelelponi to Hannah to Elizabeth to Mary regards as as a blessing, Noah now regards the birth as a curse. (And I will award 40 extra points for anyone who knows who Hazelelponi is).

Noah announces that he is going to kill the child when she is born, if she is a girl. I assume this to prevent the girl from growing up and marrying Ham and filling all of Africa. How Japheth is going to fill up all of Europe with his posterity is also a mystery at this point.

Noah never mentions how is going to prevent Shem from having another child later on. Maybe castration?

But notice another inexplicable change, as if we just walked from one movie to another, or as if the film fired one writer and hired his opposite. A just and obedient Godfearing man who was willing to accept the inevitable fate of dying without grandchildren because his only daughter in law is barren is passively accepting something he cannot change, which he takes to be God’s will. A maniac who ignores the counsel of his wife and sons, provokes them (with perfectly justifiable reason) to parricide, because he thinks God is telling him to kill his own newborn grandchildren is a different character with a different motivation.

The rain stops the instant the news of the birth is made known. Ila announces that this is a sign that the Creator smiles on the unborn babies. Noah grunts (all the dialog is grunts) that the Creator smiles on no one, and announces he intends to commit infanticide. Again, no matter which theory of the movie you believe, the scene makes no sense.

Why is a man who followed signs from God suddenly ignoring what is arguably a sign from God? That would indicate that he has decided to be disobedient, and to kill the family the Creator decided to spare. Which again is senseless from the point of view of constructing a story, since the point of the story up to now was that Noah was obedient enough that he built the Ark despite all obstacles — now he decides to disobey God’s will? But then his motive to wanting the babies dead is his perfect obedience to God’s will. But if the rain stopping just at that moment was a coincidence that Ila misinterprets, why is the scene in the story? Why put in false miracles in a story where the audience just saw a miracle cure, a miracle forest growth, a miracle gathering of all the animals, and a miracle flood?

So, meanwhile, Tubalcain is in the hold of the ship, being nursed back to health by Ham, and Tubalcain eats one of the only surviving pair of some lizard we no longer have on earth. Ham gasps, “There is only two of them!” Tubalcain smiles and replies, “There is only one of me.”

Then Tubalcain recites what his fathers told him of the Creator, who said that man was made in the image of God, and was given dominion over the earth, and commanded to subdue it.

Because villains in Hollywood movies quote scripture. It proves they are evil.

I hate to keep harping on this, but even if you hate Christians and Jews and all our stories and lore, even if this were some Bronze Age version of WHEN WORLDS COLLIDE, and if Noah was named some other name, such as Ducaleon or Ut-Napishtim, or Ziusudra or Bergelmir or Atrahasis or anyone – even if the story were supposed to be a cross between THE SHINING and EVENT HORIZON where the Captain goes mad and starts hunting down his family, surely it would have been necessary and proper story telling to establish the plot point that the Creator wants evil Noah to build the Ark and die with all evil family right at the beginning of the story, and not trick us into thinking he was a good man trying to save mankind?

This is a technical error in the craft of writing, because Noah’s conflict is now between his desire to kill his family, which is what he believes God commanded him to do, and his natural human emotion to love and protect his family. Except that there is no conflict.

There is no tension. In order to create plot and tension, you need two things: something the protagonist desires, and some obstacle that prevents him from getting what he wants. In this case, the desire to kill your own family in order to make the world safe for bears and owls and stinkbugs is not a normal human emotion, and no one in the audience, aside from psychopaths, can feel the temptation.

And in this case, the only real obstacle to Noah’s desire is Tubalcain, who wants to kill Noah, seize control of the Ark, and take the two remaining women alive on Earth as his concubines.

So during the knife brawl with Noah, you and I and all the human beings should logically be rooting for Tubalcain, because if he lives, and fathers more humans on Ila and Naamah, then our ancestors will be born, but if Noah lives, then we will never exist. (Beside, what meat-eating son of Cain would not want to take Jennifer Connolley and Emma Watson as his concubines?)

I assume the filmmaker intended there to be some form of internal tension, as Noah struggles between his perfectly normal and God-fearing desire to obliterate all human life (he did step into a puddle of goat blood, after all!) and his unholy and unhealthy desire to love and protect his wee little baby granddaughters.

Myself, just from a technical point of view as a writer, I think instead of having Noah step into a goat puddle as the thing that sets him off, the Batman should have dropped him into a pit of acid, bleaching his skin white and turning his hair green, while a surgeon fumbles the delicate surgery on his cheek-muscles, so that he cannot stop smiling. That would have made the character arc more realistic.

Noah explains his thinking, if it can be called that. He says that all men have original sin, all are sons of Adam, and ergo the last of the line of Seth do not deserve to live any more that the corrupt lineage of Cain.

Except this was not set up in the film. There is no reason given for him to think this or say this, because no one in his family does anything wrong, at least not that we, the audience, saw on stage.

Indeed, the set up of the plot until this point all goes the other way: the theme and the plot is about a man saving mankind, like a Christ figure. If Noah was supposed to feel unworthy of the burden, and indeed unworthy of life itself, this fact should have been communicated to the audience in the first scene.

This was some dipstick modern writer’s idea of edgy and daring, to have Noah be torn and tormented about saving his family. I have nothing against portraying this kind of ‘survivor’s guilt’. Indeed, had it been done correctly, it would have been a powerful story, instead of boring and dumb. The dumb part comes when Noah decides to kill his own grandchildren.

Honestly, when Noah first changes his mind and decides to kill himself and his family, I thought, surely, this is some numbheaded subplot which the numbhead writer threw in to generate false tension, which will be resolved in the next line of dialog, or the next scene, so we can get on with the film, because there is no possible tension here, because there is no motive for Noah to do such a cruel act, no hint that the Creator changed plans halfway through the ‘spare the righteous’ plan into the ‘kill them all’ plan, no nothing — but then the numbheadedness went on and on and on, and I slowly realized to my horror that the numbheadedness was the film.

The numbheaded idea was supposed to be the main plot line and character arc of the film: Noah goes from condemning all mankind, including himself, to death, in order to cleanse the earth for the sake of the dumb brute stinking animals and pooping birds and poisonous snakes, out of a sense of Old Testament justice, out of a sheer bloody minded obedience to an implacable God; and in the last scene, long after I was bored and offended to the point of wishing for a flood to wash me out of the theater, Noah stands with the knife poised above the eye of the babies, while the mother is screaming, “Do it quickly! Just do it!” and then, voila! The greatness of Noah is displayed when he decides to DISOBEY GOD! Hurrah!

What the Heck? What the Heck was that? Was that supposed to be the culmination of the sadistic insane Noah plotline which started when he stepped on some goat mud? Now we are back to the Noah the savior plotline?

Emma Watson then explains to Noah (since, this being a modern movie, the young women have to have all the insight and they explain things to the fathers and patriarchs): “The Creator did not give a rat’s anus whether you killed my children, and all the human race with us, or relented and granted us all mercy. The Creator has no rules and no sense of right and wrong and no plan for the universe! The choice was YOURS. The Creator left the choice in YOUR hands, because it is all about YOU, baby! Free choice! Choose abortion! Choose choice! There is no right and wrong in life, only choosing stuff!”

Maybe she did not say those words precisely in that order, but that was the gist of it.

Naturally, I will say again, this is not a criticism of taste but of craftsmanship. If the resolution of the story was supposed to be that the Creator leaves each man with his own choice, then the theme has to have been about that issue from the get-go. Noah should have been as indecisive as Hamlet, and the plot is resolved when he acts decisively. He should have refused the burden and gift of the choice, and then grown into manhood when he accepts it.

More events happen, none of which has any point, fits into any plot, or makes any sense. The water goes down. We see Noah, the baby-murdering bastard, sitting by the beach drinking himself senseless, and doing nothing to kill his family as he thought he was supposed to do. They accept him back into the fold and he passes his blessing along to Shem, who goes on to father all the races of Asia.

Ham puts on a very modern looking backpack and sets off across the newly-washed world, to live as a hermit in an empty and die as a celibate. A thermonuclear rainbow explodes out of the sun. The End.

Oh, wait there was a fight scene between Tubalcain and Noah, but nothing came of it. Ham was supposed to help Tubalcain, but hesitates, and God slams the Ark into a rock, so that the knife slips out of Tubalcain’s reach. I think Shem is coming to kill Noah too at this point. Everyone is killing everyone. And there was another sub-plot where Shem and Ila were going to float away on the dinghy, with just one month of supplies, rather than wait for the murder-captain of the Death Boat to eat the baby, but Noah blows up the dinghy with a magic fire rock that I forgot to mention.

Does this plot sound completely incoherent to you, like the writer did not know what he was doing and could not make up his mind what kind of a story he wanted to tell? That is because it is.

And I was bored, as should everyone in the audience have been. Since I was a human being, sitting in the audience, I knew that the human race did not get wiped out in the pre-Nimrod days, so the prospect of Noah’s wrestling with his inner psychopath was not thrilling nor interesting to me. I was a little surprised to find out that, with Ham gone, Africa will never be colonized. Maybe this is a set up for a sequel. Or maybe he will mate with a she-wolf and father the race of lycanthropes. If so, I hope Kate Beckinsale is in the sequel, dressed in a skintight leather ninja suit. NOAH II: THE SQUALL! Just when you thought it was safe for the water to go back into the sea!

So much for the badness. The evil I can sum up quickly:

In this film the Creator floods the world because of the wickedness of men, but here the word “wickedness” means overpopulation, building cities, mining, using up natural resources, and eating meat. Yes, this is the Vegetarian version of Noah, the one who is not told it is lawful to eat meat after the Deluge, and one who does not sacrifice burnt offerings to God when he prays.

The only figure who quotes scripture accurately in the whole damnable film is Tubalcain, the villain. He says God placed man above the animals, and that we are to subdue them and have dominion over them. He says we are made in the image and likeness of God.

As best I recollect my Bible, he is correct.

The moment Tubalcain quotes scripture in the film was the moment when I realized that the film was unforgivable. Making Noah a would-be murderer was not merely an odd or eccentric directorial choice, not merely an act of artistic license gone haywire. It was evil.

That was when the scales fell from my eyes, and I realized that, yes, I had been sucker punched by Hollywood yet again. This was just one more LAST TEMPTATION OF CHRIST, except now aimed at Jews and Muslims also.

A similar moment happened to me when I was watching another utterly nihilist movie with another barren and corrupt heart, V FOR VENDETTA. At one point suddenly in the movie, I realized all my sympathies were for the alleged bad guy, and none for the alleged good guy. I wanted Tubalcain to win.

I wanted Tubalcain to eat the unicorn. (As a fan of MY LITTLE PONY, a man like me has to be driven to extremes to find himself cheering for that.)

Because a man’s life, even the life of an evil man, is worth more than the life of an animal, even if it is the last of its kind. They are beasts.

I regret that I live in a world where I have to say such things to people who never heard them before.

Human life is sacred. Animal life is not. Plants are not. It is not a mortal sin to pluck a pretty flower. God gave them to you, all of them, all the Earth, to you. His generosity is without bound and without limit.

We humans have a right to life. Life is sacred. This earth is ours. We have a right to be here. The environmentalists who think man is a plague are wrong, and not just wrong, they are evil.

We cannot abuse the gift of Earth given us any more than we can abuse the gift of life given us, or abuse the gift of children given us. (Why the environmentalists acknowledge that we must not abuse nature, but scoff (or scream) at the idea that we must not commit suicide nor prenatal infanticide is a mystery.)

Because Tubalcain is right. He quoted scripture correctly.

On the other hand, when Noah finally lands the Ark, and the world is reborn, the covenant Noah announces is that man henceforth shall care for and protect the Earth and her creatures, and serve the Earth. There is no mention of subduing. No mention of being fruitful and multiplying. There is no burnt offering offered up to the Creator, no thanksgiving, no rejoicing that they were saved. No nothing.

Am I calling this movie evil because it struggles with difficult theological concepts, and has real human depth to it? No. I am calling it evil because it does not deal with any difficult theological concepts. It merely pretends to.

Noah does not struggle with theodicy. Noah was not wrestling with his conscience nor wondering why was allowed to live when the world died. The point is rather subtle, and I assume any Christian or Jew not profoundly offended by this vile film merely did not see the real point being made.

Noah is not wrestling with his conscience because he shows no reluctance whatsoever to murder the babies until the very last second, when he suddenly is too weak to carry out his appointed execution.

He does not pray to God and ask for this cup to pass from him. He does not even say such a thing aloud to himself, or to any confidante.

He is not actually wondering why God spared him and let the world die, because, if that had been the question driving the theme, the resolution of the theme would have been the answer to the question: in a normal story, Noah’s obedience to God and his willingness to ask for forgiveness and walk upright would have been the reason he was spared. In this story, it would have been because he was a vegetarian who does not even pluck flowers or eat more grass than he needs. But neither answer was given. Ergo that was not the question.

He does not pray to God and ask why he alone was spared.

Nor is the justice of God being questioned. Noah does not wrongly think God wanted him to kill his children, nor did the angel Tzadkiel stay his hand. (Yes, I know the name of the angel who stops Abraham.)

Noah stays his hand out of weakness, out of a failure of nerve, because he cannot bring himself to obey God.

He then gets drunk and mopes, not because of the unimaginable loss of life he just survived, but instead because he had not the nerve enough to kill his own grandchildren, which he decided to do because he stepped in a puddle of goat blood.

There is not the slightest hint that God actually cared one way or the other about Noah’s attempting dual-infanticide rampage, except of course that the whole first half of the film makes no sense if Noah were not supposed to be the savior of mankind.

Instead, the film puts in the mouth of Emma Watson is the moral of the story: we live in a universe with no right or wrong, and whatever choice you make is the right one, not because it is right, but because you chose it.

In other words, we got to hear the defining single Nihilist message of our age: nothing is worth doing. Life is not worth living.

Small wonder the Leftwing media poured love on this Arkload of stinky animal manure. To them, the question of Noah committing suicide and killing all the human race is an exciting and interesting one, a question that makes them pant with unholy lust, their eyes shining like the eyes of cats at night.

To the Nihilist, suicide is the goal. Mass suicide is better. Racial suicide is best of all.

To sick minds like that, and to them alone, was their any tension in the last half of the movie, because to people who live by the suicidal philosophy of Nihilism, suicide is a great temptation and a lure. To them, it is romantic and interesting.

The whole film is simply that same old Modern crud again, another preaching, morally screeching, morally empty message from the diseased minds of the diseased filth who think their filth makes them somehow superior to honest men.

Let me close on a final and personal note. I adopted a beautiful girl from Red China not long ago, and she, to this day, speaks English poorly, and so perhaps does not listen in Sunday School as well as she ought. I asked her if she knew the story of Noah and the Ark, and to my surprise she said she did not.

Aha! I thought I had a solution. I could take her to a cinematic version of the story, and she could learn the Bible story effortlessly, at the same time. Sort of like the movie ’1776.’ Even if it had a few Hollywoodish things thrown it, how bad could it be?

I had heard the disclaimer given with every ad, that the movie was true to the essence and the values of the faith of millions, and I believed them. It was either a bald faced lie, or they were talking about the faith called environmentalism.

It was not that I trusted them. I trusted I saw this movie on the sole and strong recommendation of Steven Greydanus, of Decent Film Guide, a reviewer whose tastes, in all other things, agree with mine, and with this sole exception, a man of good judgment.

While I am still a fan of Mr Greydanus, I fear I can never trust his judgment again with the simple childlike faith I once did. I am surprised, nay, I am astounded that he did not pan this movie with the multiple heapings of scorn and derision it deserved.

I trusted him to warn me so that I could stay away from Christ-hating filth like this film, and he slept at his post, and the enemy stole through. Perhaps he will change his judgment about this film in times to come.

So I trusted and took my daughter.

Did Mr Greydanus not see the tedious hour of the movie where Noah is portrayed, not as a foreshadow of Christ who saves the world, but as a bloodthirsty child-murdering maniac who wants to wipe out all mankind, that is, his own family?

My daughter now has had her first introduction to one of the central stories of Genesis, but instead of seeing Noah as a reflect image of Our Savior, she saw Noah as a child-murderer like Peter Lorrie’s character in Fritz Lang’s ‘M’.

There is a scene where the Ark is first lifted up on the waters, and outside, we see thousands of screaming souls clinging to the peak of a drowning mountain as one tidal wave after another breaks over their heads, flinging scores from the slippery rock into the cold and bitter sea. Meanwhile, inside the Ark, sitting in the darkness, hollow eyed, Noah listens to the screaming, screaming. When his sons and daughter ask him, “Why can’t we lower ropes? Why can’t we save some of them?” He gives no answer.

After, my daughter asked me about that scene. My daughter said, “That man … ” (meaning Noah) “… Why he not save them?”

So the film personally offended me, offended my family, and had its desired effect, which was to make the Bible harder to teach to my daughter. Bill Maher is laughing.

Instead of answering her question, I left the theater and immediately bought the largest hamburger I could afford, wolfing it down while quoting Tubalcain.

And I immediately showed her a version of the Noah story which was better directed, held more humor and action and true emotion, and but certainly took as much artistic license with the source material but did not scorn it.

You of course should know the version I mean.

POSTSCRIPT: Since the time I wrote this above article, I have since realized that I was so eager to be fair-minded in my review, that I gave compliments to certain images and ideas used which I should have recognized and  condemned.

I read a better article by Dr Brian Mattson, who explains some of the puzzles this writer either could not explain, or complimented as original. His theory, expertly argued, was that the encrustation of the Watchers, the luminous garb of Adam and Eve, and the use of the serpent skin as a relic, all come from the Second Century heresy called Gnosticism, the belief that the creator of the world is an evil Demiurge, the creator of matter, misery and death only. In Gnosticism, the Creator is a villain, and the serpent is an emissary of enlightenment. 

I am chagrined, because, unlike some churchgoers, I am familiar with these ancient heresies, and should have recognized the symbolism being used right away. 

So if you wish to read a more insightful commentary on this film than my own, read here: http://drbrianmattson.com/journal/2014/3/31/sympathy-for-the-devil

 

106 Comments

  1. Ping from John Wright Watched Noah So You Didn’t Have To | The American Catholic:

    […] Aronofsky’s NOAH would be a fine movie for Earthday, or as a source for ideas for a Dungeons and D… […]

  2. Comment by billthesimple:

    Forgive me for correcting such an august personage as yourself, particularly in my first post to your site, but the word I believe you wanted was ‘dinghy’, not ‘dingy’. Although I trust that the dinghies in this film would certainly be dingy. Also if I may ask, is gopherwood the wood a woodchuck would chuck if a woodchuck COULD chuck wood?

  3. Comment by J. C. Salomon:

    The movie’s harping on meat-eating has grounds in Jewish tradition. According to the Midrash, Adam was permitted to make use of animals, and sacrifice them, but not to slaughter them for food. This comes from a close reading of Genesis 1:29–30. But—and from your review it seems the movie misses this—the rules were changed after the Deluge, in Genesis 9:3–4, to allow for meat so long as it was not taken from a living animal.

    Of course, if Aronofsky were to use this correctly he would have needed a revelation after the flood, which he could not do within the story he was trying to tell. So the antediluvian vegetarianism is out of place after all.

    • Comment by John C Wright:

      As I intimated in the review, I am familiar with the tradition. Aronofsky had it exactly backward. According to tradition, the antediluvians were vegetarians, and the postdiluvians were omnivores. Instead Aronofsky has the Sons of Seth being vegetarians, and the Sons of Cain be omnivores or omophages, but does not have The Creator make a covenant with Noah allowing for meat eating and outlawing murder. And even a close reading of Genesis cannot give you the idea that it is wrong to pluck a flower. Cain sacrificed grain, and Abel sacrificed cattle.

  4. Comment by Jordan179:

    Wow, this sounds as if the movie not only sucked and was ugly, but managed to blow a huge budget in doing so. And the script changes made it make far less sense than the original legend. Did no one producing this apply even simple logic to their production?

    • Comment by John C Wright:

      But this movie got top box office for the weekend, whereas WINTER’S TALE, the best movie made in the last forty years, starring the same two actors, Connolly and Crowe, disappeared at the box office, and got panned.

      There is a deep moral lesson for Christians in that. A brilliant movie that glorifies God is forgotten, and a huge, screaming, stinking, waddling mound of refuse that tramples the cross and spits on God get money and lauds, even from Christians

      • Comment by PK:

        Not to dispute your main point here, especially regarding reviews from people who have seen either. (I saw A Winter’s Tale on your recommendation and am glad to have done so, although I was not quite as blown away; I have not seen Noah and, although I have enjoyed a number of stories that you did not, probably won’t. I must admit that I would like to see the part with the fallen angel repenting and being forgiven, but it does to me that beautiful as that might be, Noah’s later… confusion might be foreshadowed and/or influenced by the idea that they fell out of a desire to help humanity.)

        Still, I do think there were some additional factors. It probably helps Noah that it sounds like it is meant to be an adaptation of a familiar story to big-screen spectacle, and that some portions of the plot can be described without spoiling the entire thing. It might have helped A Winter’s Tale if it had received slightly more advertising. Or… any at all. I suppose it must have received some, because my husband remembered hearing of it when I suggested going, but your post was literally the first mention I’d heard.

        • Comment by John C Wright:

          Well, there is at least one person who saw WINTER’S TALE on my recommendation, and for her it was a total waste of money. What if, having read my review, you go into NOAH with really low expectations, and find out you enjoyed it perfectly well?

          Talk to some other people who have seen it before deciding. Please don’t take my word for it, because my taste might differ from yours. I would hate to cheat you of something you might enjoy.

          Because, honestly, there were scenes and ideas I liked. It was just the idea of Noah wanting to knife his own grandkids I could not stand. I am a father. Portrayals of any father-figure in a movie acting like the bad guy offend me, only because I have seen far, far too many of them.

          • Comment by PK:

            Ah, yours is not the only review I have seen. I think it’s possible that I would regard the developments as less incoherent than you do, but that wouldn’t necessarily make it more fun to watch.

      • Comment by Nate Winchester:

        Fear not, as Furious D points out it might die very soon.

        If anything, have hope. The Princess Bride was a box office failure yet enjoys immense pop culture success and praise in the aftermarket. In a few years, we might be lucky enough for Winter’s Tale to be remembered as well. I hope so since I didn’t get the chance to see it on the screen and am interested in it based on your recommendation.

    • Comment by John C Wright:

      “Did no one producing this apply even simple logic to their production?”

      Their logic was flawless. Allow me to quote the illimitable and irascible Matt Walsh:

      Noah is a marketing strategy. And, in fairness, maybe it ought to be reviewed on those terms.

      You can’t condemn it for being a poor Biblical adaptation, because it isn’t a Biblical adaptation.

      You can’t condemn it for being a bad movie, because it isn’t a movie.

      It must be considered as it is: a gimmick. A brilliant gimmick, for sure.

      If the movie studio wanted to spin a yarn about mythical beasts, epic battles, homicidal sea captains, and a pagan Earth god, they could have done so. They could have called it anything. They could have told their own story. But they called it Noah because they knew that the supposed connection to the Bible would garner immediate fascination. They knew there would be controversy, and controversy sells.

      They padded it with enough action movie clichés to draw interest from secular crowds, they hid the outright blasphemy well enough to please gullible Christian crowds, and they mocked Biblical theology blatantly enough to delight the critics.

      They came up with a way to make millions while exploiting the various sensibilities of different audience demographics.

      That was their first and primary intention, and in it they succeeded wildly.

      As an adaptation or retelling of Judeo-Christian theology, it’s a blatant mockery.

      As a film, it’s like the script for a Syfy Network miniseries got shoved into a blender with the treatment for a Lifetime channel made-for-TV movie and then mixed with enough moping nihilism and environmentalist sermonizing to fool pretentious elitists into using words like ‘daring’ and ‘relevant’ when describing it. In other words, it’s aggressively abysmal.

      But, as a money-making ploy, it’s a downright masterpiece.

  5. Comment by sator:

    To be perfectly fair i don’t believe Genesis is written as to imply that antedeluvian people were vegetarian either. In Genesis the Lord still gives man dominion over the earth and Abel himself sacrifices animals to Him. To say that Adam and Eve were vegetarians because Genesis omits to say they weren’t in one passage and then doesn’t omit it later after the deluge is a little too litteralistic to me all the more since animal use, husbandry and so on are heavilly implied all around the text so its fair to assume that “dominion over the beasts of the land” includes eating them.
    That said i forced myself to watch the movie. I wish i hadn’t. The Grigori are its highest point and i too lament the lack of any depiction of Cainite civilization.

    • Comment by John C Wright:

      You and I are of the same mind. I agree about Genesis — the absence of an explicit statement is not evidence of vegetarianism. I once had a someone explain to me that Adam is still asleep, on the grounds that God cast Adam into sleep to fashion Even out of a rib, but the Bible never says He woke him up again.

      Based on that, for the story I am writing, I have decided that the antediluvians of the line of Seth were mortal, because the spans of their lives hence the times of their death are given, but that the antediluviants of the line of Cain are immortals, like vampires or the guys from HIGHLANDER, on the grounds that the Bible did not explicitly say that they died or when. So Tubalcain and Jubalcain are still alive.

      • Comment by sator:

        Makes sense: if God marked Cain (and his progeny?) as His own saying that only him could punish him, stands to reason that the angel of death (Uriel? my angeology is lacking) would also be prohibited from Taking him ahahaha!

        Adam still sleeping is such a masterpiece of litteralism i can’t help but love the idea and imagine Eve forcibly putting the apple in his mouth then pressing and pulling his chin to make him chew. How she managed to make him swallow it is beyond human wisdom.

      • Comment by The Deuce:

        Imo, the statement God gives Noah giving him permission to eat meat, and telling him that the animals will be afraid of him, is meant to be understood as revoking the conditions that held on the Ark, wherein the animals came to him willingly and he was supposed to be rescuing rather than eating them, rather than the conditions of the antediluvian world.

      • Comment by Mary:

        Nah, one of them died. Beowulf said so, since Grendel is a descendant of Cain.

        • Comment by John C Wright:

          Since Grendel’s mother can live underwater without harm, in my (yet unpublished) semi-Biblical fantasy I am writing, I have the surviving Sons of Cain using the magic the fallen angels taught them to transform themselves into mermaids and monsters that can survive the flood.

          Stealing an idea from Lord Byron, I have other fallen angels take the human mothers of the Nephilim away into the stars, as their wives and concubines.

          Also, Irish myths say that the father of all giants, Og, clung to the side of the boat, and eventually made it to Ireland. Cain is the ancestor of all giants.

          I also pretend that Abel was over a hundred years old before he was murdered, and therefore had sons and daughters of this own surviving him, who fled away into the hills and hid from the Sons of Cain, practicing the arts of glamor and witchcraft, and each generation hid farther and farther undergound, eventually reaching Argadtha at the core of the Earth; that all these are the forefathers of the humanoid species we call ‘little people’ and svartalfar and dwarves and kobolds.

          You see, I’ve thought about the Antediluvians far more than is normal, and made up stuff very similar to what the film did. That was why I was predisposed to like it, and why I ended up hating it so bitterly.

          • Comment by Raphael:

            My time being limited, I usually depend on reviews when I decide whether to see a movie. I had planned on seeing Noah because of the positive reviews I’d read, but now I’ve changed my mind. So I thank you, sir, for having saved me $6.00, which is what they cost where I live.

            I’m also writing (or rather, have written the first volume of) an antediluvian fantasy, though I don’t make that explicit in the text. My Sons of Cain are banished to the counter-earth at the cosmic antipodes, which in my cosmogony is inhabited by Paleozoic biota, the husbandry of life having long ago been abandoned by the dissolute demiurges of that sad world. The Sons of Cain are accompanied by the Sons of Abel, however, and the two races live in opposition throughout the cycles of history.

            The Sons of Cain dwell around the shores of a sea in a steam-age city laid out like a giant omega, with an ocean-girt, stratospheric tower at the center linked to an orbiting palace by space elevators. The Sons of Abel survive as a remnant in the catacombs and as aborigines in the desert. The world is also inhabited by goblins and cyclopes, which are actually just branches of Cain’s progeny, and by “men” without rational souls, which are sometimes indwelt by nephilim, when there are no biomachines to come by. The nephilim represent an intermediate stage between men and the angels of Aquinas.

            Of course everyone speaks the same language. They can’t even imagine doing otherwise. But the Sons of Cain, alas!, have managed to bring down the curse of Babel all the same, storing myriad fragments of raw data in their analytical engines while abandoning true wisdom; though they speak the same language, they are no longer able to understand one another, and live in a state of entropy.

            When I was young I loved the Madeleine L’Engle books, and Many Waters was one I read many times. I suppose that’s what first got me interested in the antediluvian age. That, and reading Genesis in my KJV Bible in the fourth grade. I was excited about this Noah movie, so I’m disappointed to hear that Hollywood missed its chance yet again.

          • Comment by Rainforest Giant:

            I have a friend who made a very good role playing game from the antediluvian setting that looked like many of the pictures and images you evoked in the review. It has a better vision in pixels and paper than the movie did in 75MM (or whatever they are using).

    • Comment by Mary:

      When God makes a point of telling what He has given you to eat — See, I give you every seed-bearing plant on all the earth and every tree that has seed-bearing fruit on it to be your food; and to all the wild animals, all the birds of the air, and all the living creatures that crawl on the earth, I give all the green plants for food. — I think the burden of proof is on those who wish to argue that He gave them other things.

      Especially when He later says, “Any living creature that moves about shall be yours to eat; I give them all to you as I did the green plants. ”

      One notes that one can also get wool and milk from domesticated animals.

      What this symbolically reflects, I do not know. Being firmly of St. Augustine and St. Jerome’s school on whether the opening of Genesis is metaphorical.

      • Comment by sator:

        Mary, as much as i love your Namesake, i must disagree: if the Lord is to be taken litteraly when He says that He has given the plants (and only the plants, seeds and fruits) to eat to Man and to “ALL” the beasts of the earth, then there wouldn’t be carnivores in our whole biosphere. If the passage omits the need of certain animals to eat meat (and it does because it also says that beasts gained the faculty to eat Men only after the fall) we can infer that it also omits man’s need, for reasons only the Inspired Writer of Genesis knew (perhaps just to confirm Genesis to the metric needs of the style it was written in). I agree with you and Aquinas on whether the opening of the Genesis is methaphorical, but i disagree that it might be used to push vegetarianism even if taken litteraly.

      • Comment by The Deuce:

        I think it’s a reasonable inference, but there are other things that argue against it too.

        For one, normally you’d sacrifice the same things you’d eat, and in particular you’d sacrifice the *best* parts: Notice how Abel sacrifices the fat portions of his firstborn flock. The clean/unclean distinction that’s repeatedly mentioned is at least a bit awkward without dietary guidelines being in view.

        Also, note how the animals are not “given” to each other at any point, even though only plants are mentioned as being given to them at the beginning (I think this is part of why Aquinas concluded that animals ate each other all along, including before the Fall). And unlike the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, meat-eating is never specifically forbidden.

        The passage in question is combined with the first prohibition of murder, even though murder was clearly presented as wrong before that, so this may be a case of stressing or “making official” what was already implied.

        Also the animals are said to be “given into your hand,” but they were already clearly in human hands for purposes of killing at least.

        It does make reference back to the earlier passage where God tells Adam and Eve they can have any plant to eat, but I think this is largely for structural literary reasons: The Deluge is presented as a sort of unmaking and remaking of a “new creation,” so Noah is presented as receiving parallel instructions to Adam and Eve.

        In each case, the primary contrast is between abundance God is giving them (plants/meat) vs the one itty-bitty thing He’s denying them (the TotKoGaE/living meat).

        I also think the killing and eating of animals is stressed after the Deluge partly because of the conditions described in the Deluge itself, wherein Noah is supposed to be preserving rather than killing animals, and where God causes them to come to him willingly.

        As for how I interpret the early parts of Genesis, I think Jimmy Akin has it right in this article: http://jimmyakin.com/2006/09/ziusudra_who.html

  6. Comment by Moor:

    You’ll have to forgive me if I missed it, because I skipped past the second half of your review to write this, but I think that perhaps you missed a key element in the story. In fact, in talking with a friend who felt much the way you did about the movie, and in explaining to him the nature of this element and its power to hold the two halves of the movie together, I discovered that he had missed it as well.

    The key element is this: when Noah is searching among the Sons of Cain for wives, and while he’s watching that admittedly-heavy-handed scene where the goat-thing is ripped apart, one of the men grabs a piece of meat and begins devouring it raw. Noah watches with disgust and fascination as the man turns to stare him in the face, only to find that he’s seeing HIS OWN FACE, only to find out that THAT MAN IS HIM.

    In other words, the director is telling us that the seed of sin, the marring of mankind is also in Noah, and that, while he had thought himself and his family somehow spared from it before this moment, he now realized that the things which drove the Sons of Cain to their mad rebellions against the Creator were also inside him.

    That’s why the very next set of scenes in the movie show Noah confronting his wife about their own sinful hearts, with her desperately trying to convince him that they are, indeed, different, or at least, good, and Noah challenging in return: “is there anything, good or bad, that you wouldn’t do to protect your children?” She answers in the way we’d expect, affirming that she would do anything for them, but arguing that this impulse is a righteous one and grounded in the children’s inherent value.

    Noah is unconvinced, and it is precisely because he now believes that the New Creation of God cannot be spared the ravages of humanity by the simple annihilation of the Sons of Cain (because his own family will bring sin with them into it), that he determines the only faithful way to survive the flood is to do so on behalf of the other life-forms God has made and put on the Ark.

    So, while I am in agreement with you on a number of issues in your review, and while I will readily acknowledge that you have probably forgotten more about story-telling and story-craft that I’ll ever learn, I think the two halves of the movie veritably hinge on this one scene, and that you have missed it.

    Of course, that may not redeem the film in any significant way for you, and it’s possible that all of your criticisms are still valid (as I said, I didn’t read the whole review for want of getting my thoughts down), but I’m inclined to think that this detail may have the power to alter your perceptions at least a little.

    For my part, as I said to my friend who shared your distaste, once I determined not to hold the movie to any kind of Orthodox Biblical standard, and just allowed it to be a story, I actually found it to be a beautiful one. Then again, I like Jesus Christ Superstar for some of the same reasons…

    • Comment by John C Wright:

      Since you did not read the review, allow me to tell you that I hated this movie on all levels, not just on a Christian level. If this had been a movie about men trying to escape the collision of worlds in a space ship, but had the same plot, the plot still would have been stupid and incoherent. If it had been pro-Christian rather than anti-Christian, I still would have hated it.

      The crucial scene changes exactly nothing. It is a striking visual image of something the scene already communicates, namely, that it is wrong to eat meat.

      It is abundantly clear even to viewers like me yawning too deeply to have noticed that nuance that Noah thinks sin is in his race just as it is in the Sons of Cain, which is why he had the inane dialog just spoken, where the willingness of a mother to do anything for her children is taken, by warped logic, as a sign of evil rather than good, if the word ‘anything’ now means sinning against God. To make the dialog even more stupid, the next thing that happens is that Noah is willing ‘to do anything’ including kill his children, in order to please the God who only saves beasts.

      Why is being willing to do evil for your children somehow bad but being willing to do evil to your children for your God is somehow good?

      Go see WINTER’S TALE instead. It speaks to the similar themes, but it is sane and coherent.

      • Comment by Moor:

        One of these days I’ll take you up on Winter’s Tale!

        As to the elements of the story, I thought that the scene, and the conclusions I drew from it (which went beyond the insipid vegetarianism), quite adequately addressed Noah’s motives moving forward. And, as a minor quibble, Noah wasn’t committed to killing his own children, at least, not technically. He was committed to ending the human race, which meant that his family would have to live out their lives without the hope of progeny.

        What I don’t dispute in the slightest is that the movie is schizophrenic in its portrayal of the Creator, and that it sends mixed messages about His relative pettiness and His relative beneficence. Or, to put it more plainly, there were times when God seemed Grand and Great and Forgiving and Just, and times when He seemed petty and distant and distracted, which seems very much in keeping with the kind of vision of God that an Atheist would be capable of engaging.

        In the end, I found that I disliked the movie much less than most of the people who’ve commented on it, and that I think I have decent reasons for this (reasons that actually mitigate some of the criticism). But, also, in the end, my great respect for opinions like yours has me wanting to hold my conclusions loosely, and so I find myself grateful for the interaction and the stimulation.

        Thank you.

        • Comment by John C Wright:

          “Noah wasn’t committed to killing his own children, at least, not technically.” But by the time he pulls out a knife to stab his grandchildren to death, he is committed. Does the fact this he is willing to let his own children live out their lives in childless celibacy so that the race will die somehow mitigate this? There is a difference to being resigned to die when one thinks that is God’s inescapable will, and taking out a pointy knife to stab to death two wee babies whose birth is an unambiguous miracle from God.

          My reaction, as I said in the article, is threefold. The drabness of the movie is not to my personal taste, but that causes me no grief. The badness of the movie, and I mean the technical errors that spring from the inability of the writer to select a theme and chose his character arc to follow it, causes me a twinge of emotion akin to a doctor autopsying a corpse. But the aggressive nonsense of the Nihilist worldview, the pettiness of the scene where Noah tells Ham not to pluck a flower, the vast disconnect between the real cause of God’s wrath (mankind committed murder continually) and the portrayal in the movie (man ate meat) combined with the directorial decision to have only the villain quote scripture and only disobedience to God be portrayed as sane, all this combines to a matter of personal insult.

          I just paid twenty dollars so that I could take my daughter to watch Aronofsky wipe the Bible against his buttocks while doing the Snoopy Dance, and spit the face of my Lord, and sucker punch me in the kidneys — I am within my rights to take this personally.

          • Comment by Moor:

            Well within your rights!

            I’m sitting here thinking about that old discernment-minded adage about eating the meat and spitting out the bones, and thinking that perhaps you would accuse Aronofsky of trying to choke Christians and Jews with the bones while we ate the meat.

            I would probably, in going with this theme of eating meat, liken the movie to the experience of eating crab legs at Red Lobster. The amount of work needed to find sustenance borders on the prohibitive, but with enough of the former, there was some of the latter to be had as well.

            Also, for the record, I’m generally in lockstep with your perspective on life, faith, culture, etc., and it is a testament to the value I place on your opinions and beliefs that I’m growing a little suspicious of my disagreement with you. But for right now, it persists, and I say again: thanks for what you do.

            • Comment by Stephen J.:

              “I would probably, in going with this theme of eating meat, liken the movie to the experience of eating crab legs at Red Lobster. The amount of work needed to find sustenance borders on the prohibitive, but with enough of the former, there was some of the latter to be had as well.”

              That may be one of the more brilliant analogies I’ve read in recent months. I knew there was a reason I was never much keen on actual crab legs in practice.

              That said, whether one can with sufficient work find some sustenance is one thing; whether that sustenance is enough to justify that amount of work is another. Like you, I actually found Noah’s inability to believe that he and his family were the sole humans worth saving to be quite moving, and I thought Crowe sold it very convincingly; Aronofsky simply didn’t want to introduce the Christian ideas of redemption that were necessary to satisfyingly resolve that dilemma, and without that, all Noah’s turmoil is basically scraps of meat that tantalize without satisfying.

              (I am, to digress, reminded of one of my own suspension-of-disbelief breaking moments: given that Tubal-cain clearly continued his meat-eating while stowed away on the Ark, why did nobody else notice that many of the animals were dying or vanishing over the nine months of their voyage?)

              • Comment by John C Wright:

                That did not bother me. We have to assume that all the ancient mammals, from the Aelurodon and Aepycamelus all the way to the Zygomaturus and Zygorhiza wre wiped put by Tubalcain’s appetite. Nor did Tubalcaine eat that fast: it took him four meals to polish off the Wooly Mammoth and his mate.

                Noah and his family did not bother checking up on the animals in steerage, because they were Unclean.

                • Comment by Jordan179:

                  We have to assume that all the ancient mammals, from the Aelurodon and Aepycamelus all the way to the Zygomaturus and Zygorhiza wre wiped put by Tubalcain’s appetite.

                  That reminds me of a joke I often inflict on my wife. When she talks about an extinct species, I sometimes claim to have eaten it. Is the movie trying to actually depict such impossible gluttony?

                  • Comment by John C Wright:

                    No, no. The movie has one scene where Ham, the vegetarian, is shocked when Tubalcain, hidden in the hold of the Ark, to regain his strength, picks up a sleeping snake or lizard or something, and eats it raw. (All the animals are asleep, having been cast into enchanted slumber by the waving thuribles of the Noachians — an little bit of artistic license I thought was clever).

                • Comment by deiseach:

                  Nor did Tubalcaine eat that fast: it took him four meals to polish off the Wooly Mammoth and his mate.

                  Song: Wine and Water
                  G.K. Chesterton

                  Old Noah he had an ostrich farm and fowls on the largest scale,
                  He ate his egg with a ladle in an egg-cup big as a pail,
                  And the soup he took was Elephant Soup and the fish he took was Whale,
                  But they all were small to the cellar he took when he set out to sail,
                  And Noah he often said to his wife when he sat down to dine,
                  “I don’t care where the water goes if it doesn’t get into the wine.”

                  The cataract of the cliff of heaven fell blinding off the brink
                  As if it would wash the stars away as suds go down a sink,
                  The seven heavens came roaring down for the throats of hell to drink,
                  And Noah he cocked his eye and said, “It looks like rain, I think,
                  The water has drowned the Matterhorn as deep as a Mendip mine,
                  But I don’t care where the water goes if it doesn’t get into the wine.”

                  But Noah he sinned, and we have sinned; on tipsy feet we trod,
                  Till a great big black teetotaller was sent to us for a rod,
                  And you can’t get wine at a P.S.A., or chapel, or Eisteddfod,
                  For the Curse of Water has come again because of the wrath of God,
                  And water is on the Bishop’s board and the Higher Thinker’s shrine,
                  But I don’t care where the water goes if it doesn’t get into the wine.

              • Comment by John C Wright:

                Don’t get me wrong. There is nothing wrong with the idea of Noah thinking he and his family were not worth saving. I would have loved to see a film which dealt with that very profound question of Theodicy. It is just that this is not that movie.

                This movie did not deal with that issue: it brought up the issue, turned Noah into a childkilling maniac, and did not resolve the issue either with a belief in the forgiveness of God, nor in a belief in the holiness of God.

                Like Noah, this nihilist movie did not carry through with the courage of its convictions — a real Nihilist would have actually killed himself and his family. Nor, like a real Jew, did the movie end with Noah resigned to the inscrutable will of God, shaking his head and making a wry joke; nor, like a real Christian, did the movie end in rejoicing in the inscrutable forgiveness of God.

                Technically speaking, the movie did not ‘end’ — by which I mean the plot point raised in the second half (why was Noah saved if he was not holier than the Sons of Cain?) was neither opposed nor resolved, nor was the character arc resolved.

                How is Noah different, either for better or for worse, than in the beginning of his voyage? Is he now faithful to God again? Is he sorry for trying to kill his granddaughters? Does he understand what God wanted? In this movie, is it clear what God wanted?

                • Comment by Stephen J.:

                  “How is Noah different, either for better or for worse, than in the beginning of his voyage? Is he now faithful to God again? Is he sorry for trying to kill his granddaughters? Does he understand what God wanted? In this movie, is it clear what God wanted?”

                  I think — and I say this with great diffidence — we are intended to take away a “Yes” answer to most of the questions above; that this is what Naamah’s wordless forgiveness of and reconciliation with Noah in the final scene is meant to indicate. Like you, however, I find the deliberate refusal to articulate these points less a matter of aesthetically subtle implication and more a cunning artistic dodge that allowed Aronofsky to skip coming up with plausible yet moving and meaningful dialogue. Leaving some work for the reader/viewer is fine; leaving it all for the reader/viewer is lazy.

                  More depressing to me is the idea that Aronofsky may be “correct,” from one perspective, to avoid that kind of content and dialogue: he simply doesn’t credit the average audience these days to share the vocabulary or the understanding needed to grasp it. Even the “environmentalism” may have been simply this attempt to use images that would speak to today’s audiences: too many people today are more moved by visible physical wastelands of terrain than by invisible spiritual wastelands of decadence, so Aronofsky went for the former rather than the latter to show the rottenness of antediluvian civilization. (Which backfired for me because it made it look as if the civilization was quite well along in the process of destroying itself, and needed no help from God.)

          • Comment by Jordan179:

            I’m guessing that the writers took the Noah-refuses-to-sacrifice-his-son-at-God’s-command from the story of Abraham and Isaac, under the theory that any part of Genesis is as good as the next. Which is sloppy on their part.

            • Comment by John C Wright:

              I would not have minded if they actually had done that. After all, I did not mind the rock monsters or the bronze age bazookas — I liked all those things. But what they did was tell a story where Abraham is not told to kill Isaac, he ties up Isaac anyway. brandishes the knife, and then collapses, unable to carry through, and sobs and hates himself.

              I would have loved to see the angel Tzadkiel appear right at the final moment as Russel Crowe was raising the knife. In fact, I would have liked the angel to appear in the form of a winged white horse, blind him with a beam of pure starlight, and turn Russel Crowe into a pillar of snow. That would have been AWESOME!

              • Comment by Jordan179:

                But what they did was tell a story where Abraham is not told to kill Isaac, he ties up Isaac anyway. brandishes the knife, and then collapses, unable to carry through, and sobs and hates himself.

                Which Genesis never did, because — relatively ignorant as the Ancient Hebrews were compared to modern civilizations — it would have made no sense to them. And it makes no sense to me either. Why does Noah hate himself so much, in this movie? I could see him lamenting the people he knew whom he didn’t think were really that wicked (whether or not they actually were) who had died — but apparently that wasn’t his reasoning.

              • Comment by Rainforest Giant:

                Too much color. Not only was the movie a colorless mess theologically and narratively, it was also one visually.

                If Og the mud colored and wholly uninteresting angel had appeared and bored Crowe to sleep that would have been in keeping with the director’s vision.

  7. Comment by Mark McSherry:

    Mr Wright, have you read this?

    About Noah and Jewish Gnosticism—

    “…Aronofsky hasn’t “taken liberties” with anything. The Bible is not his text. ”

    http://drbrianmattson.com/journal/2014/3/31/sympathy-for-the-devil

    • Comment by sator:

      If i might? Aronofsky doesn’t strike me as “smart” enought to intentionally put these themes in a movie. “Pi” arguably had kabalists but the theme was childishly presented and developed. I find it more likely that the guy just inferred Gnostic themes from the zeitgeist of our age and appropriated them like a child that believes himself the first to think of a new revolutionary idea he later realizes was allready tought up by smarter people ages before him and then discarded when its time came to pass. Perhaps he has read some crowley or some regardier and blew his own mind on them without really thinking them out, but a genuinelly kabalistic movie it ain’t. Else he wouldn’t have shown the snake shedding its white Skin to reveal the darkness behind it. If this was intended as a Gnostic movie, it fails at it too.

    • Comment by J. C. Salomon:

      Someone pointed to this review in a comment to Saturday’s post. I’ll repeat part of what I said then:

      Brian Mattson takes some superficial similarities between Gnosticism and Kabbalah and proceeds as if beliefs specific to Gnosticism (the Demiurge, e.g.) had anything at all to do with the Kabbalah.

      Could be there’s Gnostic influence; I’ve not seen the movie so I don’t know. But what might be Gnostic in the movie isn’t from the Kabbalah, and what’s from the Kabbalah isn’t Gnostic. (And as “sator” points out, Gnostic-like touches are more likely from modern philosophies than from an obscure heresy.)

    • Comment by MattJ:

      I read this review, and I have to say that it connects a lot of points that are otherwise out of place and strange. The fascination with the snake-skin seems very odd. I’m not convinced at all that it’s a benign “relic” of Eden, as John seems to think.

      It’s only after the snake-skin is recovered by Noah, does he have the “wisdom” to finally do the right thing, reject God’s will, and save his two daughters, and re-populate humanity. There is no covenant with God, but rather, the “blessing” of his family with the snake-skin.

      Both Noah and Tubal-Cain quote scripture (Noah tells the Genesis creation story of the earth, Tubal-Cain speaks the sections John mentioned). I would argue that the film is trying to tell us that both are still in “darkness” and un-enlightened. It seems that for Tubal-Cain, the snake-skin just plain doesn’t work (it doesn’t “light up”), and it was only at the end that Noah recovers it. Before that, they are both Bible-thumpin’ away at each other talking about images of God and days of creation.

      I too disliked this film tremendously. It turned around the moment Noah let the girl in the bear trap die. This was not a righteous man by any means, nor was the god portrayed in the film a just god by any means.

      The problem is that even a priest I know that went to see the film, defended it, stating that:
      1) Before Christ, people had an incomplete picture of God and his will, and mis-interpretations of God’s will were not uncommon.
      2) There was a lot of God-commissioned murder and slaughter in the OT, even of innocent life (e.g., Joshua’s conquest). So the horrible scenes of killing all of humanity in the flood (innocent or not) or even the contemplation of God willing the murder of the two baby girls is not out of place.

      It seems to me that there is truth to these two objections on some level. Yes, people had really unclear ideas of God’s will at various times. This is very well documented throughout the Old Testament. And yes, God’s justice allowed the killing of entire groups of adversaries during vital points of history that would “make or break” the nation of Israel (and affect the coming of the future Messiah).

      However Daronofsky’s portrayal of God takes these issues, drives a knife into them, and twists it into a picture of a vicious, bloodthirsty god who’s more cruel than a child with a magnifying glass near an ant hill.

      PS – If Gnostic interpretation of the film is accurate (which as I mentioned, I believe has a lot of weight), the Watchers being angelic beings; why would they want seek forgiveness from the “creator” (demiurge/evil god), be rewarded for fighting valiantly along-side men (remember, they were “cast down” for helping them originally) and then return to him in spirit-form during the Battle of the Poop Deck?

      Perhaps they were addressing the “true” spiritual deity, but if they were, I missed it.

      • Comment by John C Wright:

        I am puzzled why your priest, or any Christian, would bother defending this film. Clearly, they see some good in it that I do not. Perhaps it is because, as a writer, if I hear a character in a story say one isolated line, but the plot and the theme do not support that line, I do not regard it as central to the story. It is merely ‘dicta’ extra language or ornamentation. So if the misinterpretation of God’s word were the theme of this film, the plot arc should be either a tragedy where someone hears the word of God correctly, and as time goes on, misinterprets it; or a story where someone hears the word of God incorrectly, and as time goes on, re-interprets it until the real meaning is discovered. You cannot have both at once, because it does not form a story.

        So while there would be some truth to your priest’s objections concerning a film that dealt with those issues, this is not that film. Imagine a different film, one where Noah has a dream of a deluge, and the first words out of his mouth when he awakes are “NO!!! HOW COULD THE CREATOR BE SO CRUEL?!” and the first thing his wife says is “Is The Creator going to kill the innocent children along with the wicked?” — and Noah seeks out Methuselah for answers. That would have been a film about the issues your priest raises. NOAH was not that film.

        • Comment by MattJ:

          I am puzzled too, to be honest.

          I think the best explanation is that he is relatively young. I spoke to him a bit about the film, and it his answer had to do with: 1) art is never perfect. 2) we cannot judge the author’s intentions. 3) we shouldn’t be prejudiced.

          I explained on all points that the director in question has very dubious intentions based on his previous films, and I used the line “absent any information, a prejudice provides starting information.” I think you said something similar in a post not too long ago, so I’m pretty sure I stole that from you. Thanks!

          Aronofsky’s previous film, “The Fountain,” while a very beautiful film artistically (and musically), was very Buddhist in thought, and had a few scenes that displayed overt anti-Catholicism in it (the evil inquisition torturing innocent heretics to death for the crime of free thought). This already tells me his stance on the Abrahamic God.

          What I think is really happening on the priest’s part is rationalization because of an investment paradox whose pithy name eludes me at the moment. The idea is that once you invest a lot into something (the priest brought along a high-school age youth group to see this film. You’re probably smacking your forehead right now. I will give you a moment to re-compose yourself), you are emotionally bound to this investment, and loathe to cut your losses and retreat when you know it’s bad, on the hopes that “it may recover.”

          As a word of hope, he will attempt to “straighten out” the story with those kids. That is good and everything, but I have to completely agree with you that the people that should have known better, and were tasked with this, fell asleep on the job.

          If I had known that there is such a subversive evil in the film, I would have immediately suggested that the priest NOT take the youth group to see it, that we go in private first, and then consider doing it later.

          In fact, based on SDG’s review and Mark Shea’s over the top enthusiasm for it as well, I agreed to go with this group and basically erased any possible cause for red flags that may have been there otherwise, and we went “all in.” I can guarantee you that John’s story of taking his daughter and being horrified by what he saw is probably nowhere close to being the exception.

          As the old saying goes, you had one job to do…

          • Comment by John C Wright:

            MARK SHEA likes this film?!? First Steven Greydanus, and then Al Kresta and now Mark Shea?

            These are all men I admire and respect. I am going mad. Did they not see the scene of crazy Noah with the knife?

            • Comment by robertjwizard:

              Hmm. I’m conflicted. Since we both share a great love of the film DARK CITY (among other things), I tend to give your reviews a good deal of weight.

              However, Fr. Barron gave NOAH a pretty positive review (interpreting it as a form of midrashim). I usually give him an ear as well since I found myself scarfing down a bowl of popcorn last year while watching his 3 part review of The Matrix and got hooked on his weekly video commentaries. I didn’t know priests could discuss cool stuff before that.

              I guess I will have to call it a draw and watch it on iTunes or Netflix.

              • Comment by John C Wright:

                Well, I would hate to cheat you out of a film you might enjoy. The things that bugged me might not bug you. But I am a Dad, and to see any portrayal of a Dad threatening his granddaughters with a knife would have to have a strong setup and clear plot logic in order for the knife-happy maniac not to be a monster. A glimpse of a hallucination showing a man seeing himself eating raw meat, so that our Hero finally understands that all men are guilty of sin, is far, far too weak a motive to turn a man in to a kinslayer, a murderer, an infanticide. As a matter of logic, asking your wife, “Is there anything you would not do for the children?” is not the same as asking “Are you willing and eager to commit murder, adultery, incest, theft, idolatry, and cannibalism?” and the emotional reaction of discovering everyone in your family is a homocidal adulterous incestuous theiving idolatrous cannibal is not the same as the emotional reaction of discovering the a woman is brave enough to kill in self defense if her children are threatened.

  8. Comment by Bob McMaster:

    Through an experience similar in nature, though not severity, I also learned not to trust others to know as well as my wife and I what is suitable to show my children. I am sorry your lesson was this harsh.

    • Comment by Subcreator:

      To be fair, SDG’s review explicitly states that the movie “might” be fine for “thoughtful, mature teens” and up. At no point does he suggest it would be a good replacement for a Sunday school lesson. Mr. Wright made that decision on his own.

      • Comment by John C Wright:

        My daughter is a thoughtful, mature teen. Any halfway decent or halfway honest portrayal of the Noah story would get the basic facts across, which was all that I was seeking, not, as you so snidely put it, a substitute for a Sunday school lesson.

        When Mr Graydanus did not say, which he was obligated to say, was that this movie was the opposite of the Noah story, a piece of trash, and a slap in the face to all faithful Christians, and one which distorts or omits the basic facts.

        It is uncouth of you to try to shift the blame for his failure to tell me the truth about this movie to the victim of his negligence.

        • Comment by Subcreator:

          Mr. Wright, I was not being snide, but taking the statement you made in your post at face value. This is what you said:

          “Let me close on a final and personal note. I adopted a beautiful girl from Red China not long ago, and she, to this day, speaks English poorly, and so perhaps does not listen in Sunday School as well as she ought. I asked her if she knew the story of Noah and the Ark, and to my surprise she said she did not.

          Aha! I thought I had a solution. I could take her to a cinematic version of the story, and she could learn the Bible story effortlessly, at the same time.”

          You brought up the image of her not learning the story in Sunday School and the idea that the movie could be a replacement. I have no idea of the ages of your children, perhaps it was presumptuous of me to assume that the reference to Sunday School indicated a child rather than a teen. My mistake. However, it was still your decision to take her. You seem to be trying to shift the blame for your decision onto Mr. Greydamus.

          Mr. Greydamus was obliged to say none of those things because that is not what he took the movie to be. Mr. Greydamus is obliged to give honest reviews that reflect his true impressions. His review was very clear about there being many questionable aspects of the movie that would easily turn off pious Christians. He was honest that the movie stretched the Bible narrative to the breaking point. He was honest that this isn’t and wasn’t intended to be a “Bible movie”. It was meant to be a creative exploration of a story found in the Bible, nothing more. He has spoken with the director and writer of the movie and believes that there was nothing malicious about their intentions in making this movie. Those are his honest impressions and so he is not obliged to say anything else.

          Clearly you strongly disagree with his impressions. That is, obviously, your prerogative. But to try to place some blame on him because you disagree with his assessment and to suggest that he has failed in his duty as a movie reviewer is extreme, even for you. To suggest that he is even a little responsible for your decision to expose your daughter to a movie which he gave many explicit cautions about in his review rather than seeing it yourself before exposing her to it, is even worse.

          • Comment by John C Wright:

            How can you quote what I said word for word, and then in the next paragraph misrepresent it? I did not say a movie would be a substitute for Sunday School. I said what I said. Please read the words as written.

            Again, I trusted Mr Graydanus to do his job. Years of experience told me he was trustworthy. Here, he did not do his job. A vague warning that the film was controversial is not the same as saying it completely misrepresents the Noah story and mocks the Christian faith. You are trying to blame the victim.

            If the antichristian message in this film was a matter open to interpretation, your argument might have weight. I do not believe it is. If the poor construction and craftsmanship of the film were open to interpretation, your argument might have weight. I do not believe it is.

            The things I had heard from other reviewers, such as the Rock Monsters, did not bother me, and my Christian brethren have cried wolf over films like THE LION THE WITCH AND THE WARDROBE or FELLOWSHIP OF THE RINGS so often, that I was willing to believe that they were crying wolf here — especially since the first reviewer made the outrageous claim that the film never mentions God.

            Because of this and other unreasonable wolf-cries was something I heard too often from my fellow Christians, and because Mr Greydanus never hitherto passed judgment on something where he and I disagreed, I was reasonable to trust him.

            There is nothing I could have done differently. I rarely get out to movies, and I certainly do not have the time and money to spare seeing an entire film just to vet it for my eighteen year old daughter. You do not know my circumstances, therefore you have no basis to make personal comments about what is and is not reasonable to do.

  9. Ping from Trevor Loudon's New Zeal Blog » Watcher’s Council Nominations – April Fool’s Edition:

    […] C. Wright’s Journal – Deluge as Earthday submitted by The Colossus of […]

  10. Comment by meunke:

    What a coincidence! I just saw your article today, after wasting a bunch of time this morning writing my own screen play for the Noah movie. I’ll post it here.

    WARNING: Long post. If our host considers it too long, please feel free to delete as I do not wish to clog his comment section.

    The movie starts with some subtle music and credits over the opening scene which, of course, would be Jennifer Connelly relaxing in a steaming bubble bath, surrounded by candles (because that’s how you start a movie with Jennifer Connelly in it). The camera pans back and forth for the length of the opening credits and then she sits up and wonders aloud where her husband is?

    Cut to the next scene where Noah is out in a huge workshop, hammering on something huge he’s forging out of bronze. Enter Jennifer Connelly wearing a very light pink and white night gown, still warm and damp from her bath. She asks Noah why he’s still in the shop working at this late hour. He gives her a dark and brooding monologue about how he was given a vision from God about how He will be destroying the world. He tells her that he was told to build an ‘ark’ so that they may survive the coming cataclysm. Connelly looks sad and then goes back inside. Once there she takes her bottle of coconut oil, applies a generous amount into the palm of her hand and… You know what? This is going a little slow and I know none of you are interested in this part, so we’ll just skip ahead.

    So, later, the main bad guy hears about how Noah is making this ‘ark’ and decides he wants to take it. So he gathers an army and is about to march when, OH NO, here comes a huge wave of those gigantic rock monsters, grown even bigger!! There is panic, confusion! People try to flee and some try to fight, but it’s too late! The rock monsters ARE the cataclysm (BOOM! Didn’t see that coming did you?) They wipe out all life before them, kill everyone and smash everything in an enormous, Michael Bay-esque CGI display.

    Then they gather again, and march toward the wilderness. Straight towards Noah’s house!!! (Oh no!)

    Jennifer Connelly is out in the orchard picking Granny Smiths, or whatever they grew then. It’s a hot day, and the perspiration is making everything clingy and uncomfortable. She stops her work and takes a large bucket of water, raises it above her head, and pours it all over herself to cool off. Then… she hears a rumble, the camera pans out slowly and you see what she sees: a huge wave of rock monsters!

    She turns, panic stricken, ad begins running, still dripping water, straight toward the camera… rock monsters approaching in the distance.

    Cut forward: The rock monsters reach Noah’s house and start smashing and squishing everything, including Emma Watson, because I never liked her. Jennifer Connelly falls to the ground, dress torn from running pell-mell through the woods. She holds up her arms and screams as a rock monster is about to squish her when….

    All the rock monsters stop and slowly turn around, hearing a deep, thundering rumble approaching from behind. (The music track cranks up at this point with a Ramin Djawadi composition)

    What is it approaching? It’s NOAH! And, OH WOW! He’s in a Jeager!! It’s made out of enormous tree trunks with massive bronze bands riveted together as supports. It’s huge, lumbering, and billowing smoke with massive clanking gears, steampunk style! And what’s that painted on its chest? The name ‘Ark Lady’.

    There’s a spectacular fight scene that lasts almost a full hour as Noah battles hordes of rock monsters until it’s down to him, in the practically smashed ‘Ark Lady’, facing off against the final rock monster, which is a LOT bigger than all the others. They proceed to fight, Noah starting to get the worst of it. The last few moments of the fight are at the top of an active volcano. Noah and the rock monster are circling each other until Noah, using the last bit of the ‘Ark Lady’s’ power, charges, grapples the monster and BOTH go tumbling into the lava, but not before Noah manages to bail out just at the last moment. And then, as he is tumbling down the mountain, THE VOLCANO ERUPTS!!!!

    Jennifer Connelly sees the volcano erupt in the distance and thinks her husband dead. She collapses to the ground weeping, still wearing her shredded dress. It starts to rain softly, and yet she remains, slowly getting drenched.

    Then, after all hope has been lost, NOAH comes striding into view, battered, but walking tall! Connelly gasps and struggles to her feet, running to meet her hero, slowly, through the rain. He catches her up in his arms and she gazes into his eyes. He cracks a wry smile and says “Now… how about that bath?” She giggles and squeezes close. Noah, still with a sly smile, glances right into the camera and winks.

    Music starts playing and ROLL CREDITS!

    • Comment by John C Wright:

      That would have been better than the movie I saw, except that I have a crush on Emma Watson, and so demand that she not be crushed. And besides, Hermione should married Harry, not Ron.

      • Comment by meunke:

        I would probably have a better opinion of her had I seen more than just the first two Harry Potter movies, I suppose.

        I also have to admit that I did NOT see this Noah movie. I don’t consider myself a soothsayer, but I knew it would be bad. It’s not hard to predict.

        ALL classic literature, not just Scriptural stories, is transformed into visual toilet paper when made for the silver screen by modern (or should I say, postmodern) filmmakers. It is ALWAYS so. Pick anything, from ‘Noah’ to ‘Beowulf’ to ‘The Messenger’… it doesn’t matter.

        The few that don’t become garbage… that’s only through a miracle. I think moderns fail so badly at this not just because they are hostile to what the old stories contain, but also because they truly can’t comprehend them. I think G. K. Chesterton made a similar point regarding a review he saw by another author on St. Joan of Arc.

      • Comment by Sylvie D. Rousseau:

        “Hermione should marr[y] Harry, not Ron.”
        In the movies, yes, because Ron is presented like a comic relief most of the time, but not in the books, where the real knight in white armor was Ron from the event of the troll in the dungeon in the first book.

        Quote: Hermione had sunk to the floor in fright; Ron pulled out his own wand … [and] heard himself cry the first spell that came into his head: “Wingardium leviosa!”
        There were other scenes in that line as well.

        They remarked recently at Hogwarts Professor’s website that the scriptwriter had a preference for Hermione and did not do justice to Ron in the movies. For example, I do not recall in the books Ron telling to Hermione that she was “brilliant, but scary.” I think the only person who scares him is his mother, and with good reason: remember, she is the one who beats the prodigiously skilled Bellatrix. The son of such a mother, and brother of such brilliant siblings, cannot logically be a helpless and awkward sidekick.

        And it is a far, far happier ending for Harry to be truly part of a large family with Ron and Hermione as brother and sister by alliance.

        • Comment by John C Wright:

          I have successfully initiated a Ron v Harry debate in terms of who marries Hermione. My role as a blogger is complete.

          • Comment by Sylvie D. Rousseau:

            Happy to have contributed.
            Better subject than this unfortunate Noah movie. All I can say about it is thank you to have prevented me from wasting ten dollars and two hours. I will watch my DVD of Pride and Prejudice with Keira Knightley one more time instead.

            • Comment by John C Wright:

              That movie was directed by Joe Wright. He must be a long lost cousin of mine. It is my favorite film version of PRIDE AND PREJUDICE, and I may have seen them all.

              (Before you think of me as too literary, however, I have seen every version of THE THREE MUSKETEERS, including the recent version with a flying ship where Milady DeWinter is a kung-fu ninja-babe in corset. The best one is the 1935 version, starring Walter Reed)

    • Comment by Lisieux:

      With all due deference to our host, that post must be one of the funniest I’ve every read. Admittedly, having just been marking (‘grading’ in American English, I believe) a set of the most appalling mock examination papers which indicate that I have failed to teach anyone anything in the last seven months, I may well have appreciated the humour more by contrast (given that the humour in the exam papers was all unintentional) but I had to express my gratitude.

  11. Comment by The Ubiquitous:

    Two brief thoughts:

    Got that? The Sons of Cain eat meat not because it has any ability to feed them when they are hungry, but because of an inexplicable cult like belief, similar to that of cannibals, that the strength of the animal will somehow be drawn into their body.

    As we read later in Deuteronomy, this is a thoroughly Biblical idea. (Blood is life.) Isn’t it possible that their meat-eating without God’s permission is is a sign of a descent into being as God by usurping his authority or attempting to be as animals by eating their flesh?

    —-

    Secondly, Kabbalah isn’t Gnosticism, and Kabbalah isn’t Gnosticism. (h/t Greydanus)

  12. Comment by SDG:

    Dear Mr. Wright,

    I am sorry for your excruciating experience, and that of your daughter. (How old is your daughter, if I may ask?)

    I must say, I meant my review to be intriguing to some and a warning to others. I was disconcerted by how consistently people responded to my review by saying “I wasn’t interested in Noah before, but now that I read SDG’s review, I want to see it!”

    I kept saying to people, “You saw that I said the film ‘stretches the text to the breaking point’, right? You saw where I wondered whether the movie had an audience at all, whether it was too secular for religious viewers and too religious for secular viewers? Where I said its provocative flourishes would be a bridge too far for many pious viewers? Where I called it ‘the work of an uncompromising filmmaker who makes dark, divisive, personal films without concession to audience expectations’?”

    Eventually I wrote a second piece exploring some of the controversial questions around the film, including issues dealt with in your essay. However, the review is meant to stand on its own, and I think it does.

    I enjoyed reading your essay. Unsurprisingly, I especially appreciated the appreciative first part. In addition to being fair and generous, it was insightful and, of course, well written.

    The middle part, critiquing the movie’s drabness, calls out a concern I am sympathetic to, and in fact have often made myself. In this case I think there is some defense to be made for it, but I shan’t quarrel with you on this point.

    Even the final, most critical section contains much of what I reliably enjoy about your writing. To do justice to what you have written, I would have to write a magnificently long essay comparable to your own. However, I have already written so many magnificently long essays about this movie (here is a third) that I am now pressed for time, so I will unjustly confine myself to contradicting you on some basic matters of fact, some of them quite central. (I will not, of course, attempt to persuade you that the movie is actually good, only that some of the arguments you have marshaled against it are in error.)

    Needless to say, spoilers ahoy.

    My most crucial disagreement is with your claim, perhaps never quite as explicitly stated as this, that the film not only adds environmental concerns to the catalog of human sin for which God sends the flood, but essentially reduces the entire catalog of human sin to this single charge, essentially omitting anything else. Thus you say:

    Ah, but the filmmaker did condemn mankind for something. It was just not for man’s wickedness.

    Really? Let’s look at the evidence, starting with…

    In the first scene, Noah’s son, Ham, plucks a flower smaller than his fingernail because is it pretty. Noah upbraids him, saying that everything in nature has its place, and we can only take what we need.

    Ah, but this is not the first scene. It is the second. In the first scene, young Noah watches horrified as a band of Cainites casually attack and murder his father.

    Kind of sinful, no? Right in the first scene.

    On a side note, it seems to me that this murderous opening scene puts a rather different light on the obviously parallel scene that immediately follows, in which father Noah and his own son Ham are confronted by a band of Cainites (déjà vu) over an animal they want to kill. You assume Noah kills the men to protect the animal, but it’s not clear to me he isn’t at least partially acting to defend himself and his son from killers who would (or at least might) do to him and his son what he saw them do to his own father.

    However, this is open to interpretation, so I don’t press the point. Let’s turn to the most important evidence:

    At this point in the story, what was required was for the audience to be shown that all the Children of Cain were so vile and wicked in their behavior that the judgment of the Deluge, if Draconian, was at least understandable. The camp should have shown acts of mayhem and torment and harlotry and sodomy and cannibalism and drunkenness and idolatry and brutality and violence, or at least usury.

    Well, now.

    In the camp scene I saw, screaming women are being dragged around and bartered, as chattel sex slaves for the raping pleasure of men, in exchange for meat.

    We see people apparently being led to slaughter. Watch closely and it appears that, yes, cannibalism is taking place.

    Near the camp, Ham stumbles into a pit of corpses, many of which appear to have died violent deaths.

    In the pit he discovers a girl who is clearly terrified that Ham will attack her. I don’t suppose you will contest that this attests how she has been treated in the past and/or seen many other girls treated.

    Later, we see that the less physically fit are being systematically starved: Tubal-cain instructs his men, “Feed only those who will fight.”

    Was all of this not vile and wicked enough?

    Granted, there is no drunkenness. However, we may presume that Aronofsky wants to save drunkenness for Noah himself, since that’s the first time the Bible mentions the subject.

    Nor is there idolatry as such — although the Nietzchean deism of Tubal-cain, who acknowledges the Creator’s existence but considers him irrelevant (“A man isn’t ruled by the heavens, a man is ruled by his will”) would certainly be classified in Catholic moral theory as a sin against the first commandment (if the Ten Commandments had been given at this time). Bear in mind that the death and burial of Adam and Eve was an event in living memory for many people, including Noah’s father Lamech. It makes sense that belief in the Creator would be universal, even if, for those like Tubal-cain, God’s silence “since he marked Cain” suggests that he has abandoned man to do as he sees fit.

    As for harlotry, that would seem to be a step up from chattel sex slavery and rape. Harlots, or sex workers as they say nowadays, have at least some modicum of control over the transaction and are at least somewhat compensated for the abuse of their bodies (whether in money, drugs or some other form of tender). If harlotry doesn’t exist in the Cainite camp, it’s because women aren’t accorded enough dignity to be harlots.

    Added to all this, there is the repeated motif of Cain killing Abel, clearly presented as emblematic of human wickedness.

    I’m not sure from your review whether you somehow glossed over all or most of this while watching the film. Perhaps you were distracted by how drab and ugly the art direction was to notice the greater ugliness of human behavior. Perhaps you were so appalled that you blocked out much of the movie later.

    At this point I can imagine someone taking refuge in the claim that, however evil human behavior might be in fact, nevertheless it is not for wickedness in general, but for man’s crimes against the environment, that the film presents God punishing man — or, at any rate, that the movie does not clearly indicate that God is punishing man for anything other than ravaging the environment.

    Against this view, however, we have Noah’s official interpretation of the reason for the flood, given to his family on board the ark, after recounting the six days of Creation after Genesis 1:

    For ten generations since Adam, sin has walked within us. Brother against brother, nation against nation, man against creation. We murdered each other. We broke the world. We did this.

    Clearly environmental concerns are in the mix there, but they are far from the whole story. Violence and sin in general is also part of the picture.

    It is of course possible to question Noah’s interpretation. Noah’s understanding of God’s will in the film is far from infallible — indeed, at this moment he believes God intends the postdiluvian world to go on without human beings.

    Even so, this statement seems to me the closest thing to a thesis statement from the film on the reason for the flood. (And, while I don’t accord binding interpretive authority to extra-textual statements from the filmmakers, the fact that the filmmakers supported this interpretation when I interviewed them doesn’t incline me to take a different view.)

    On a related note, while you complain in your review about Ham’s seeming puzzlement over the Cainites eating meat (“The boy has never heard of such a thing before. Eat meat? Why would anyone do such a lunatic, crazed, outrageous thing?! Clearly the Creator meant Mankind only to eat leaves and berries, because we have no canine teeth, and our stomachs cannot digest meat, right?”), you clarify in your comments that

    the antediluvians were vegetarians, and the postdiluvians were omnivores. Instead Aronofsky has the Sons of Seth being vegetarians, and the Sons of Cain be omnivores or omophages

    It is true that divine permission to eat animals was given only in the Noahic covenant, not the Adamic covenant, and so prior to the Noahic covenant eating meat would be without divine warrant and thus presumably contrary to God’s will, and thus sinful.

    However, I am not aware of any tradition that states what you allege, that “the antediluvians were vegetarians,” i.e., on this point the Adamic covenant was always perfectly followed, and no one ever cheated and killed and ate animals prior to God giving man permission to do so in the Noahic covenant.

    What warrant do we have to assume that wicked men in the days before the flood, who violated God’s will in so many other ways, whose “every imagination of the thoughts of their heart was only evil continually,” would be scrupulously obedient to the covenant prescriptions in place on this one point?

    Did you yourself not wish for cannibalism in the Cainite camp (a wish the film appears to have granted)? Would it make any sense at all to imagine men eating men and not also eating animals, with or without divine mandate? How is the depiction of the Cainites hunting and eating animals and Noah and his family not doing so entirely consistent with (if not demanded by) the moral and covenant realities described in sacred scripture?

    Does not the very fact that God gives man permission to eat animals after the flood imply that some men were probably doing so already without permission before the flood? Clearl God’s attitude after the flood is in some measure affected by recognition of human weakness (“I will never again curse the ground because of man, for the imagination of man’s heart is evil from his youth”). But once again I’ve stepped beyond factual questions around the film itself.

    You continue:

    At first I thought this meant, as in keeping with the theme, that Ham must trust God to find him a wife by some miracle who is not of the diseased and evil lineage of Cain — a miracle because no one aside from the Children of Cain are alive on the whole earth, except for Noah…

    But we discover in the next scene that Noah meant the opposite. He was not telling Ham to trust in the provision and providence of God; he was telling him to resign himself to living hereafter like a monk and dying childless.

    But what about saving mankind? Ah, but suddenly and for no reason the divine mission assigned by The Creator has changed. Noah decides that instead of saving mankind, God really means him to destroy mankind, including Noah’s whole family.

    All of this is a misunderstanding, though in fairness to you others have missed the revelant points after one viewing.

    To me, at any rate, it was clear on my first viewing that Noah did intend to acquire wives for Ham and Japheth — why else go to the Cainite camp?

    However, as a result of that trip, Noah changes his mind, both about the nature of the coming apocalypse, and also, as a result, of the feasibility of bringing back wives for Ham and Japheth.

    This is not arbitrary or unmotivated, as you seem to think. At the Cainite camp, Noah has a vision (or hallucination if you like) in which he sees himself participating in the same atrocities as the Cainites.

    This drives home to him, as he explains later to Naameh, that he himself and his own family, with all the Sethites, are heirs to the original sin. Thus, wiping out the wicked Cainite culture and proceeding to repopulate the world with Noah’s progeny would not in fact solve the problem of human sin; sin would immediately reassert itself — as in fact happens in the narrative of Genesis, a fact the filmmakers were acutely aware of.

    This is why Noah concludes that he was wrong to think he and his family were exempt from judgment. His first vision shows him God intended to make an end of creation; his second vision clarifies that God intended to start over again; his third vision convinces him that God intends to start over again in a world without fallen humanity. It is an eminently reasonable and even just interpretation of God’s will.

    You are aware of Noah’s concerns on this point, but you object:

    Except this was not set up in the film. There is no reason given for him to think this or say this, because no one in his family does anything wrong, at least not that we the audience saw on stage.

    Presumably you missed the vision that was the immediate occasion of Noah’s moral insight into his family’s fallenness. (You wouldn’t be the first one.)

    That said, what happened to your concerns about Noah killing those men in the opening scene over an animal? (Noah himself tells Naameh killing is wrong, thereby accusing himself.)

    What about Ham voyeuristically spying on Shem and Ila getting frisky in the forest? Noah says Shem is “blinded by desire” and Ham is “covetous”; does this need to be further spelled out?

    And Noah’s cross-examination of Naameh holds water: “Is there nothing you would not do, good or bad, for those boys?”

    Regarding Noah’s conclusion that he must potentially kill his offspring, you say:

    He does not pray to God and ask for this cup to pass from him.

    Actually, he does, in effect. When first told of Ila’s pregnancy, Noah turns to God in grief and horror: I don’t have my notes with me, but to the best of my memory he says something like “I cannot do this. Have I not done everything else you asked of me? Is that not enough?”

    You say that only Tubal-cain quotes scripture correctly. Overlooking the anachronism that Noah and Tubal-cain live at a time when no scripture exists, both Noah and Lamech affirm that the Creator made man “in his image.” Noah’s retelling of Genesis 1 is largely paraphrase with some revisions, but he correctly quotes as the first act of creation the words “Let there be light,” and adds, “And light was. And it was good. The first day.” His retelling includes the repeated refrain “And there was evening and morning.” Following Genesis, Noah refers to the sun and moon simply as “a great…light” and “a lesser light,” without naming them. Phrases like “the waters of the world gathered together, and in their midst emerged dry land” and “Everything that creeps, everything that crawls, and everything that walks upon the ground. It was all good” are also recognizable.

    I disagree 180 degrees with your interpretation of the death of Na’el, and with your interpretation of Ila’s big speech to Noah in the end. However, as these are questions of interpretation I let them pass. I also can’t think why you assume that Japheth will eventually marry both neices. The fact that they are twins clearly suggests, as Naameh herself says, that God has provided wives for both sons; thus, Ham will eventually return to marry one of them.)

    As I said from the outset, none of this is intended to persuade you that the movie is good, or to enjoy it as much as I enjoy it; however, I hope it goes some way toward clarifying some of your objections.

    P.S. Dr. Mattson’s article alleging that Noah is thoroughly Gnostic is deeply flawed. It has been persuasively rebutted by my friends Peter Chattaway of Film Chat and Ryan Holt of I’ve Seen That Movie Too.

    P.P.S. This is a sweet combox editorial system you have!

    • Comment by Moor:

      SDG’s interpretations and understanding of the film are almost exactly the ones I walked away with, and that without having read his review or any like it (in fact, the only review I read was Matt Walsh’s, which almost dissuaded me from going at all, but ultimately did not).

      Furthermore, I am satisfied with his testimony regarding the interviews he did, and believe that what we can conclude, at a minimum, is that seeing and supporting this film does not somehow compromise the witness or call into question the devotion and sincerity of those Christians who choose to knowingly do so (which was, at times, almost an explicitly stated conclusion here).

      • Comment by John C Wright:

        “(which was, at times, almost an explicitly stated conclusion here)”

        If this is directed at me, it is an unwarranted slur, and a venal insult. If it is directed at someone else’s comments, they are comments I did not see, or else I would have rebuked him.

        If your somewhat elliptical insulation is indeed a claim I called the faith of Mr Greydanus into question, you lie. Decency demands you either quote the quote which proves your claim, in which case I will apologize for calling you a liar, or if you cannot prove your claim, you apologize for calling me a character assassin.

        Normally I would not rebuke such a comment so strongly, but if Mr Greydanus sees your lie about me, and that lie is not rebuked strongly, it might create the suspicion in his mind that I am the villain you slander me to be. That is a suspicion I dare not allow to persist uncontradicted.

        • Comment by Moor:

          Dear Mr. Wright,

          I must admit to some shock at the severity of your response, for I did not make my statement in the light with which it was received, but for the sake of clarity, I will attempt to articulate why I made it (because, yes, it was directed at you).

          First of all, let me say that it was not intended as an insult, but rather as an observation. I was certainly bothered by it, but my respect for you, which is tremendous even in light of the short time I’ve had the pleasure of reading your blog, was not diminished or compromised. I simply saw it as a point of disagreement.

          Secondly, I will concede in light of this escalation that my phrasing was lazy, and that I would more accurately want to restate what I said in this way: I believe that you have implicitly insinuated that faithful and thoughtful Christians would, by necessity, reach the same conclusions as you with regard to this film.

          I believe you did this with the following statements:

          1. I am puzzled why your priest, or any Christian, would bother defending this film.

          2. When Mr Graydanus did not say, which he was obligated to say, was that this movie was the opposite of the Noah story, a piece of trash, and a slap in the face to all faithful Christians, and one which distorts or omits the basic facts.

          It is uncouth of you to try to shift the blame for his failure to tell me the truth about this movie to the victim of his negligence.

          3. If the antichristian message in this film was a matter open to interpretation, your argument might have weight. I do not believe it is.

          From these 3 statements in particular, though also from the general tenor of your comments, I concluded that you did not see any possible merit to a positive Christian review of this film. The second quote, in particular, led me to this conclusion, because it seems/ed to me that you imply/ied that “all faithful Christians” ought to have experienced the movie as a “slap in the face”, and that Mr. Greydanus so failed to accurately represent its character that you experienced the doubled and compounding offense of both the film and his obfuscating review.

          In the end, I was left with the following discomfiting thought: I did not experience offense from the movie, but am a faithful Christian…what room was there between these poles in your view? Hence I wrote what I did, without any intent to slander, accuse, or insult, but rather in an attempt, I think, to stake out some room on that ground.

          In conclusion, I hope you’ll receive this response in the spirit of Christian brotherhood, because that is certainly how it is being written.

          • Comment by John C Wright:

            Compare this statement: “I am puzzled why your priest, or any Christian, would bother defending this film.”
            And this statement: “To support and defend this film calls into question the devotion and sincerity of those Christians who choose to do so.”

            Are those statement equivalent? One says that certain Christians lack good taste in movies. The other says that lacking good taste in a movie means they lack Christian faith.

            If there had been any ambiguity in what I said, I would have been happy to explain, if you, in charity, would have asked me what I meant, instead, like a devil, accuse the brethren day and night.

            You have not supported your outrageous lie, nor have your apologized for it and retracted it — something I would have instantly, like a gentleman, and with no hard feelings, if you could have proved your case.

            Is this your idea of Christian Brotherhood? To accuse me of being a character assassin, and then, when confronted, to be unable to support that accusation? And when found unable to support that accusation, being unwilling to apologize?

            Your behavior is forgivable, and I am glad to forgive it and say no more, but it is dishonorable.

            • Comment by Moor:

              Seriously? That’s your response? Did you actually read what I wrote?

              I can imagine that as a public figure who so directly challenges the dominant cultural ethos, you have regularly experienced accusation and slander, but I believe you are perceiving both where neither was intended. If you require an apology in order that we, who will one day share eternity together, can be at peace in the here and now, then please let me offer it:

              I’m sorry I offended you, it was not my intent.

              But let me also say that your words in response were hurtful and combative, and that what started out in my mind as a simple disagreement between brothers ended up feeling much more like war between enemies, and that I am much more sorry about that than I am about stumbling my way into offending you.

              • Comment by John C Wright:

                I forgive you for offending me. You did not apologize for lying about me, but I will forgive you for that as well, since you seem to use your words irresponsibly rather than with malign intent. I accept the apology. As far as I am concerned, the matter is settled.

                If you are still under the impression that I think Mr Greydanus, or anyone else, is a bad Christian because he liked a film I hated, please rest assured that I never entertained such a thought. Obviously I said something which led you to believe that. I retract the comments. If I say anything in the future you think is outrageous, I beg you to ask me to clarify before making sly remarks about my lapse of character. There is a chance, if small, that you misunderstood; there is a chance, perhaps large, that I was unclear.

            • Comment by Subcreator:

              Oh Mr. Wright, you are indeed such a gentleman that in another time I imagine that you would, like D’Artagnan, end up with three duels to the death in an afternoon. Your honor seems so easily offended.

              You talk of Christian Brotherhood, but I believe that a Christian should not only forgive but also always attempt to give others the benefit of the doubt, and always seek out the good in each others’ words and actions.

              Ah, now you may accuse me in your heart (and probably soon in your comments, for you often accuse before you deign to forgive) of hypocrisy, since in an earlier comment I condemned your words as being unjust against Mr. Greydamus. As you will. I believe the evidence in your post was enough to show without any doubt that you viewed Mr. Greydamus unjustly but that, had any doubt remained, your comment in response to mine would have scared it away.

              Mr. Moor is correct that your words to him and also to me have been VERY combative. And your idea of “Christian Brotherhood” must be very unique. For you accuse, and accuse and accuse all the while insisting on your own gentlemanly behavior. Mr. Moor supported what he said with 3 of your statements. You ignored 2 of them in your response and then accuse him of being unable to support his point of view. He said that from all of these three statements (and in particular, which implies that there were more, but these were probably enough) he reached his conclusion. You are correct that the first statement wasn’t enough to support Mr. Moor’s conclusion. But the second and third… Yet you ignore them and Mr. Moor explanation of how he came to his conclusion, which is quite reasonable. To suggest that he has slurred and insulted you is, however, NOT a reasonable response to what was, obviously, his honest impressions of the meaning of your statements.

              You are taking all of this too personally, Mr. Wright. The movie was not a slap in your face or anyone’s just because you didn’t like it.

              • Comment by Darrell:

                I believe that a Christian should not only forgive but also always attempt to give others the benefit of the doubt, and always seek out the good in each others’ words and actions.

                I give this sentiment two thumbs up.

              • Comment by John C Wright:

                Strawman argument. I did not say the movie was a slap in my face because I did not like it. I said it was a slap in my face because it blasphemes God and mocks my faith. Those are slightly different things.

                The second and third examples used by Moor were the same as the first. None was equivalent to the statement attributed to me, which was that I called Mr Greydanus a bad Christian.

                I am afraid I cannot see how “This reviewer was negligent: his taste in film (on this one occasion) is very poor; this reviewer’s bad judgment misled me” is the same as saying, “This reviewer therefore is a bad Christian.”

                The mental leap between those two statements is one you are making, not I. I invite you to go threw these comments and count how many times I applaud Mr Greydanus, or how often I prefixed my comments with warnings not to interpret a criticism of a man’s work product with a criticism of the man.

                This is something of a sore spot with me, because you are accusing me of the one and sole attack I find most despicable when Leftists do it: the ad hominem attack, the assumption that disagreeing with someone means you despise and denigrate them.

                That you disagree with my judgment about how and when and to what degree to respond to slander, is, of course, your privilege. But I have not been discourteous to you or to Moor. I invited him to prove his case; he did not. I demanded an apology; he gave one. I forgive him. The matter is settled.

    • Comment by Nate Winchester:

      Having never seen the movie, I do want to wade in here on a few notes which I can mark just from reading the two of you:

      Ah, but this is not the first scene. It is the second. In the first scene, young Noah watches horrified as a band of Cainites casually attack and murder his father.

      And that’s when Noah became…. BATMAN! nah j/k, I’ll come back to this one later but I did want to point out this lessens Noah’s righteousness as it would underscore all his differences from the Cainites as just a decision to “not be like those killers” – in other words, hate.

      We see people apparently being led to slaughter. Watch closely and it appears that, yes, cannibalism is taking place.

      This statement grows problematic with what you say later:

      Did you yourself not wish for cannibalism in the Cainite camp (a wish the film appears to have granted)? Would it make any sense at all to imagine men eating men and not also eating animals, with or without divine mandate? How is the depiction of the Cainites hunting and eating animals and Noah and his family not doing so entirely consistent with (if not demanded by) the moral and covenant realities described in sacred scripture?

      Yes, it does make a big difference if one evil is only “implied” while the other is explicitly condemned on screen. What if it had been reversed? What if the eating of animals was implied and cannibalism explicitly shown & condemned by Noah? (then again one has to ask, if the environment is so devastated, what animals are there to eat? shouldn’t they be resorting to people chow by now?) Anyway I think John’s point can be amended with little effort: “Why are the environmental sins overt, while the sins against man implied and subtle?”

      As for harlotry, that would seem to be a step up from chattel sex slavery and rape. Harlots, or sex workers as they say nowadays, have at least some modicum of control over the transaction and are at least somewhat compensated for the abuse of their bodies (whether in money, drugs or some other form of tender). If harlotry doesn’t exist in the Cainite camp, it’s because women aren’t accorded enough dignity to be harlots.

      If the world is as you & John described it, what difference would harlotry really have, though? In such a place, the primary tender of everyone is going to be food, water & shelter. This now strikes me as poor world building. Consider for example the cliche of a father with the innocent, of age, daughter. If the family is on the brink of starvation, such that the father sells the daughter for supplies, will the daughter be that opposed or objecting to such a sale since not only will her family survive, but she’ll be gain more permanent food supplies.

      Also, judging from both John’s review and your rebuttal, it seems that another fault can be laid at the movies’ feet: namely the depiction that only men can sin, and women are blameless and pure until corrupted by men. If the world is as bad as the texts say, then the women of it must be just as guilty of innumerable evils as the men. You mentioned Noah’s sons sin, is there any wrong done by any female in the film?

      It is true that divine permission to eat animals was given only in the Noahic covenant, not the Adamic covenant, and so prior to the Noahic covenant eating meat would be without divine warrant and thus presumably contrary to God’s will, and thus sinful.

      By that logic what WASN’T without divine warrant in the time? Building shelter? Didn’t see permission for that. Or for making clothes. Heck sacrifices were never given divine permission so by the above logic Abel and Cain were BOTH sinners.

      This is not arbitrary or unmotivated, as you seem to think. At the Cainite camp, Noah has a vision (or hallucination if you like) in which he sees himself participating in the same atrocities as the Cainites.

      By what motivation? Especially given that you established earlier that Noah watched these people kill his father. Some of these defenses are making me even less inclined to see the movie.

      That said, what happened to your concerns about Noah killing those men in the opening scene over an animal? (Noah himself tells Naameh killing is wrong, thereby accusing himself.)

      Hang on, you earlier pointed out that Noah watched his father be killed and thus had an appropriate fear for his life and that of his son’s, meaning he didn’t accuse himself as self-defense is moral. Of course I also believe in that section John is talking about how the movie is presenting things and both of you admit that the killing scene (whether to save the animal or himself) is portrayed as not wrong. Which means we’re invoking Ken’s rules of plot holes: the audience is doing the work the movie is supposed to.

      Anyway, carry on!

      • Comment by The Ubiquitous:

        By that logic what WASN’T without divine warrant in the time? Building shelter? Didn’t see permission for that. Or for making clothes.

        Where are those in Genesis 9?

      • Comment by SDG:

        Nate Winchester:

        I confine myself to matters of clarity and moral commentary.

        Yes, it does make a big difference if one evil is only “implied” while the other is explicitly condemned on screen. What if it had been reversed? What if the eating of animals was implied and cannibalism explicitly shown & condemned by Noah? (then again one has to ask, if the environment is so devastated, what animals are there to eat? shouldn’t they be resorting to people chow by now?) Anyway I think John’s point can be amended with little effort: “Why are the environmental sins overt, while the sins against man implied and subtle?”

        There’s nothing subtle about the film’s depiction of violence and murder. (I thought of another example I forgot to mention in my earlier comment: When Noah’ family first find Ila, she’s been critically injured by marauders who wiped out her family.)

        Chattel sex slavery and rape are clearly implied rather than flagrantly depicted, and cannibalism subtly implied rather than presented more directly, because the filmmakers want to make a hard PG-13 film, not a hard R film. This reflects our culture’s moral concerns around the depiction of evil and how these concerns have shaped the cinematic industry, rather than a preoccupation with some sins over others on the part of the filmmakers. (I, for one, appreciate this; I might watch a hard-R version of Noah once, but I wouldn’t be as quick to rewatch it. Who wants their nose rubbed in cannibalism?)

        it seems that another fault can be laid at the movies’ feet: namely the depiction that only men can sin, and women are blameless and pure until corrupted by men…You mentioned Noah’s sons sin, is there any wrong done by any female in the film?

        Well, there is one very fraught example, straight from the Bible: We see the female hand of Eve plucking the forbidden fruit. So you could say the movie presents man as blameless and pure until corrupted by woman!

        Neither Naameh nor Ila does anything I would consider really wrong. Partially that’s because, in the film’s patriarchal milieu, Noah follows God, and Naameh follows Noah (though Naameh is ultimately willing to defy Noah, as Noah is unwilling to defy God). The movie places the whole burden of responsibility on Noah’s shoulders. There is also a Cainite girl whom Ham declares “innocent” and “good.” We don’t see her do anything wrong, although there’s also no particular reason why she couldn’t have done anything wrong; when I mentioned her to the filmmakers, their response was, “We don’t know anything about her. She could have stolen. She could have done anything.”

        So it’s fair to say that, other than the very notable case of Eve in the Garden, none of the film’s female characters does anything obviously wrong. However, this does not support your charge that the film suggests that “only men can sin, and women are blameless and pure until corrupted by men.”

        By that logic what WASN’T without divine warrant in the time?

        Read God’s words in the Noahic covenant blessing in Genesis 9: “Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you; and as I gave you the green plants, I give you everything.”

        These words look back to the Adamic covenant in which God says to Adam “I have given you every plant yielding seed which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit; you shall have them for food.”

        The clear implication is that God had not initially given mankind animals before that, and traditional Judeo-Christian commentary has understood that prior to the flood man was authorized only to eat plants. Your quarrel is not with me, but with mainstream biblical exegesis.

        By what motivation? Especially given that you established earlier that Noah watched these people kill his father. Some of these defenses are making me even less inclined to see the movie.

        It’s a vision, reminiscent of Luke Skywalker’s vision in the tree on Dagobah in The Empire Strikes Back, in which he cuts off Darth Vader’s head and sees his own face inside. The point of both visions is that the hero has the same seeds of evil within as the villain(s).

        I’m not defending anything or trying to interest you in anything. I’m simply clarifying.

        Hang on, you earlier pointed out that Noah watched his father be killed and thus had an appropriate fear for his life and that of his son’s, meaning he didn’t accuse himself as self-defense is moral…Which means we’re invoking Ken’s rules of plot holes: the audience is doing the work the movie is supposed to.

        You and I know self-defense is moral. I’m not sure whether Noah is conceptually clear on that or not; when he says “We would kill for our boys, we’re no different” I’m not sure if he means “in self-defense” or if he meant he would kill to help them in other ways as well. The film, like the scriptural story, has many points that are open to interpretation.

        “Ken [and Andrew]‘s rule of plot holes” appears to apply to actual plot holes — holes that can be filled only by “an elaborate framework of suppositions” supplied by viewers. Openness to interpretation with respect to motives and the moral interpretation of actions is not a plot hole, and no elaborate framework of suppositions has been proposed.

        • Comment by Nate Winchester:

          Thanks for the clarifications.

          There’s nothing subtle about the film’s depiction of violence and murder. (I thought of another example I forgot to mention in my earlier comment: When Noah’ family first find Ila, she’s been critically injured by marauders who wiped out her family.)

          Huh. So why was Noah willing to take in Ila but not the almost wife for Ham? At any point was there a hint that he regretted the decision?

          Chattel sex slavery and rape are clearly implied rather than flagrantly depicted, and cannibalism subtly implied rather than presented more directly, because the filmmakers want to make a hard PG-13 film, not a hard R film. This reflects our culture’s moral concerns around the depiction of evil and how these concerns have shaped the cinematic industry, rather than a preoccupation with some sins over others on the part of the filmmakers. (I, for one, appreciate this; I might watch a hard-R version of Noah once, but I wouldn’t be as quick to rewatch it. Who wants their nose rubbed in cannibalism?)

          I get you here and, like you, do consider it ironic that a truthful reproduction of many things from the Bible would actually be considered unfilmable or “NC-17″ rating. Although my memory may be fuzzy but wasn’t cannibalism implied for years during the much stricter hays code? (I know you see it spoofed a lot in old Looney Toons) Why then must it be “subtly” implied OR displayed flagrantly rather than the middle ground that was used historically? Yeah it would have to be updated a little but was there ever a person (or two) shown tied beside or being dragged to a preparing cook etc?

          Neither Naameh nor Ila does anything I would consider really wrong. Partially that’s because, in the film’s patriarchal milieu, Noah follows God, and Naameh follows Noah (though Naameh is ultimately willing to defy Noah, as Noah is unwilling to defy God). The movie places the whole burden of responsibility on Noah’s shoulders. There is also a Cainite girl whom Ham declares “innocent” and “good.” We don’t see her do anything wrong, although there’s also no particular reason why she couldn’t have done anything wrong; when I mentioned her to the filmmakers, their response was, “We don’t know anything about her. She could have stolen. She could have done anything.”

          Non sequitur. Anybody could do anything off screen. Darth Vader could run a no-kill animal shelter and the planet Alderaan could have had a world-wide policy of puppy kicking. By that point the audience is breaking their side of the story. (really, why have a storyteller at that point?) When it comes to stories only what is shown (including hints & clues) on screen counts.

          So it’s fair to say that, other than the very notable case of Eve in the Garden, none of the film’s female characters does anything obviously wrong. However, this does not support your charge that the film suggests that “only men can sin, and women are blameless and pure until corrupted by men.”

          Except you edited out a sentence I wrote that is very important:
          “If the world is as bad as the texts say, then the women of it must be just as guilty of innumerable evils as the men.”
          Which means it’s not just the female characters, but any female which appears on screen at all. When both of you mention the crimes of the Cainite camp, you both mention horrible things men do to men, men do to women and…. that’s it. John’s right in this respect: for the flood to be justified we must see that none are innocent. Women would have to commit horrific acts in the camp too. Children would have to be vicious little beasts almost as soon as they could walk. Again, I see no reason for Noah to refuse a wife for Ham since from both yours & John’s description, there aren’t any wicked women.

          Also, how is Eve’s act portrayed in the film? (did they keep the “silence of Adam” thing where he wussed out and didn’t defend his wife from the serpent’s machinations?) Yes we Christians, Jews & Muslims (or well, a lot of us should) know that act was supremely wicked as it led to all other wickedness later but to an atheist/agnostic culture… heck most of them now don’t see anything wrong with A&E eating the fruit and consider just a stupid rule put up by a petty god. Which means the notable exception you list would seem “not evil” (or at least “not that bad”) to outsiders while everything the men do on screen is generally agreed upon as wicked.

          The clear implication is that God had not initially given mankind animals before that, and traditional Judeo-Christian commentary has understood that prior to the flood man was authorized only to eat plants. Your quarrel is not with me, but with mainstream biblical exegesis.

          I have no problem with the usual exegesis (as I discussed with Foxfier on it on another thread), I was merely taking issue with your statement that absent of a divine warrant, something was sinful. As I said there:
          “One wonders if, in the world where Adam & Eve were still within living memory, animals would have been seen in a much different light. If man would have been reluctant to eat them as we are the family dog. He’s right, there’s a lot of fascinating story potential to be mined from that time…”
          Given also that man was still “king” of the world at that time such that animals apparently approached us without fear, there’s even a case to be made that the meat-eaters were being bad rulers, abusing loyal subjects for food who don’t even have the option of running away from them. I don’t know how “sinful” one can call that but did the movie even bother with an examination or noting over how we were abusing our position as lords of earth? (one might say: the biblical environmentalism)

          It’s a vision, reminiscent of Luke Skywalker’s vision in the tree on Dagobah in The Empire Strikes Back, in which he cuts off Darth Vader’s head and sees his own face inside. The point of both visions is that the hero has the same seeds of evil within as the villain(s).

          Eh, I always had problems with that part of tESB. Yeah I get the point, I’m just not thrilled with that sort of lazy storytelling.

          “Ken [and Andrew]‘s rule of plot holes” appears to apply to actual plot holes — holes that can be filled only by “an elaborate framework of suppositions” supplied by viewers. Openness to interpretation with respect to motives and the moral interpretation of actions is not a plot hole, and no elaborate framework of suppositions has been proposed.

          Yeah I wrote an article on something like that once and you’re technically right. Though I grow tired of this “leaving things open” as it’s increasingly used as an excuse for laziness in writing (particularly in one of my favorite shows right now :() I’m just wondering at what point is it too much? (see confusedMatthew’s Purple Monkey Dishwasher which was his spoof since… there’s all sorts of things open to interpretation on his movie there)

          • Comment by Darrell:

            Nate Winchester

            John’s right in this respect: for the flood to be justified we must see that none are innocent. Women would have to commit horrific acts in the camp too. Children would have to be vicious little beasts almost as soon as they could walk.

            That is a particular interpretive model and one that was likely not shared by Aronofsky. Also, do you really believe that a toddler can be such a “vicious little beast” that he is deserving of execution? What of infants — or does your model hold that the Genesis account assumes no infants were alive when the Flood occurred?

            • Comment by Nate Winchester:

              That is a particular interpretive model and one that was likely not shared by Aronofsky.

              Yeah that’s what I’m getting at and agreeing with John on. If the women are innocent, what’s Noah’s qualms with his son(s) having a wife(s)? We never see any indication that he watches one of those women do something as bad as the men, right? Which means Noah’s refusal has only an interpretation of anti-humanity. (i’d say that or racism but where is Ila from? unless she was established as a relative?)
              EDIT: See below, removing this point.

              Did you lay out in one of your articles what the creator’s artistic vision actually was, btw? Because I’m curious what he was aiming for.

              Also, do you really believe that a toddler can be such a “vicious little beast” that he is deserving of execution?

              What I really believe isn’t relevant as it’s the job of the storyteller to convince me and what better way to show the depravity of a civilization than that they don’t allow even their children to be innocent? Admit it, a scene of a child being taught by his father to kill another man (with the kid laughing in glee as he does) would be more chilling to witness than cannibalism. There’s a reason “evil kids” is a horror movie trope.

              What of infants — or does your model hold that the Genesis account assumes no infants were alive when the Flood occurred?

              My model is irrelevant though, again, there’s a lot of potential story there. Like Noah leading his sons on a commando raid to rescue a litter of children from the Cainites to save them. Maybe a bunch of kids were saved in the ark which is how humanity avoided total genetic collapse. Maybe there weren’t any infants alive because humanity was so wicked they wouldn’t let them live. Again, that could have been a powerful scene of a mother or father laying their newborn onto a chopping block and then raising a flint meat cleaver. (of course the camera cuts away)

              I guess what I’m saying is, from John I get a sense of what’s actually there in the movie. So far from you, I’m getting more of a sense of what you want to be in the movie. Not that there’s anything wrong with that (I’m the guy that likes to concoct whole Game-of-Throne-esque intrigues from MLP:FiM purely for the lulz) but then you can’t hold it against others when they’re not coloring in the lines same as you.

              • Comment by Darrell:

                Nate Winchester

                On occasion Mr. Wright’s journal eats my responses. Usually it is when I am using my iPad so on those occasions I use a word processor to capture my thoughts and then copy-and-paste them over. Today I used my PC and so did not take this precaution. It is thus with heavy heart that I experienced the error message jump up to greet me.

                I don’t want to retype my lengthy response so I’ll simply say that (1) I believe that you have confused me (Darrell) with SDG, (2) I believe that your interpretive model is far from “irrelevant”, and (3) I can’t argue the film, as like you I have not seen it, so instead I was primarily focused on how you made a soteriological requirement for the Flood that I don’t find in Holy Tradition.

                • Comment by Nate Winchester:

                  Today I used my PC and so did not take this precaution. It is thus with heavy heart that I experienced the error message jump up to greet me.

                  Oh I feelz you. Have a virtual whiskey to take the edge off: \~/

                  I don’t want to retype my lengthy response so I’ll simply say that (1) I believe that you have confused me (Darrell) with SDG,

                  I did when I was scrolling through some responses and my edit window had already closed. Whoops. =S

                  (2) I believe that your interpretive model is far from “irrelevant”, and

                  If I was making the movie, you would be right. As far as someone else making it I think John was spot on when he said:
                  “There are only two possible interpretations of this story. The first is that God is an insanely sadistic mass-murdering tyrant, who slays the innocent along with the guilty; the second is that God is just, and that therefore the Antediluvians to a man were not only stained with guilt, not one of them asked for forgiveness.”
                  And that if the makers were trying to go for the latter, they did so so half-measure it ended up slipping back into the former.

                  (3) I can’t argue the film, as like you I have not seen it, so instead I was primarily focused on how you made a soteriological requirement for the Flood that I don’t find in Holy Tradition.

                  I’m not talk about the holy tradition, but about the requirements of a storyteller to be honest to the story. If you’re using the story of Noah, you need to pick which of the two interpretations John mentioned and then build the story towards that. How would it be to live in a world beyond hope of redemption? A place so bad that a God of infinite love wiped it out. We’re talking a dystopia where the Nazis won and then got worse. Is it in the Bible? No, it’s just in accord with the logic of the story.

                  And the unfortunate fact is that deep theological ideas don’t translate well onto screens, especially with movies having a limited runtime. That means that sometimes the more complex truth (like what happened with children in the flood) may need to be adjusted less the audience get distracted. (sort of like they did with Lord of the Rings and some parts of Narnia)

          • Comment by SDG:

            Nate Winchester:

            The answers to your questions about Noah taking in Ila and not Na’el, and whether he ever regretted taking in Ila, are all very clear in the film. See it, if you are so inclined.

            I think parsing degrees of subtlety in implied cannibalism goes above and beyond what I see as my duty here. It’s enough to note blatant examples both of crimes against the Noahic covenant with respect to animals and of offenses against human beings.

            My point about Na’el’s possible offscreen crimes is simply that the film doesn’t present us with a world in which, on some conceptual or by-definition level, only men are capable of sin. It’s true that the story explores the sinful acts of a few male characters and not the sinful acts of (a very small number of) female characters. Make of that what you will.

            Eve’s sin is only glimpsed in flashback. We have no insight into her psychology or Adam’s. Nevertheless, by this act, the film says, our first parents chose “the temptation of darkness” over “the blessing of light.” It is not presented as a trivial matter. The film pushes back on the postmodern assumptions you cite.

            If your standard for the justice of the flood is that “we must see that none are innocent,” and if by “innocent” you mean “not guilty of personal sin,” then on no conceivable depiction can the flood ever be deemed just. In any decent-sized population (and this world has cities, in keeping with Genesis 4:17) there will always be infants and babes in the womb incapable of wrongdoing, as well as young children incapable of grave wrongdoing.

            Even if you fudge this, press on with your Bible reading and you run into Samuel telling the Hebrews on the Lord’s behalf to massacre the Amalekites down to the last infant and suckling (1 Samuel 15:3). No. God’s justice does not depend establishing on the personal sin of every member of a condemned population.

            FWIW, Aronofsky mentioned the issue of the “baby born five minutes before the flood” in his interview with me; it’s a point that shaped his approach to the film. He saw the flood as just in spite of the lack of personal culpability of some wiped out in it, though he considered this loss of “innocent” life something that grieved the Creator’s heart. That in part is why he wanted Na’el to die as an apparent “innocent” (though she doesn’t actually die in the flood itself): to impress upon the audience the tragedy of so much loss of life, and make us feel what he supposes the Creator (in the world of his story) felt.

            If you have no problem with the usual exegesis of the Noahic covenent, then we have no substantial issue on this point. I disclaim the assumption you ascribe to me, but I’m not interested in arguing the point.

            While Noah is certainly not a perfect movie and can legitimately be criticized on many points, in my opinion it is very far from “lazy.” Certainly with respect to the surreal visions in question, what you deem “lazy” I find evocative. I also think Noah spells out plenty. I appreciate a film leaving room for interpretation and debate. But this too is beyond the scope of my present efforts.

            • Comment by Nate Winchester:

              I hope you know I do enjoy a hearty back & forth on stories. :)

              The answers to your questions about Noah taking in Ila and not Na’el, and whether he ever regretted taking in Ila, are all very clear in the film

              Ah, then if it as least addressed that is fair. I’ll see if I can edit an earlier post I put up before I read this clarification but I might not be able to in time.

              It’s enough to note blatant examples both of crimes against the Noahic covenant with respect to animals and of offenses against human beings.

              That’s what I’m trying to determine is how many offenses against humans are blatant rather than implied. You’ve mentioned Noah’s father. The mass grave… Anyway, I believe that was John’s chief complaint is that the crimes against beast are very blatant while the crimes against man are implied. Now does the film make for a parallel? (an implication that what is done against beast is done against man?) That would have worked where the goat blood on Noah’s shoe was mirroring and symbolic of so many men’s blood (did it even mirror his father’s blood?).

              It’s true that the story explores the sinful acts of a few male characters and not the sinful acts of (a very small number of) female characters.

              Are you defining characters as “having lines/story” or “appeared on film at all”? Because it sounds like you’re meaning the former and I’m meaning the latter. You mention the murder of papa Noah and the camp scene. I assume (right? wrong?) than many of the evils in those scenes were done by extras in the background of which we know nothing. My question was is it true that none of the extras ever shown to be sinning are female, only male? If yes, that’s poor storytelling.

              Nevertheless, by this act, the film says, our first parents chose “the temptation of darkness” over “the blessing of light.” It is not presented as a trivial matter. The film pushes back on the postmodern assumptions you cite.

              Oh well that’s a comfort. I’ll applaud the film there then. :)

              If your standard for the justice of the flood is that “we must see that none are innocent,” and if by “innocent” you mean “not guilty of personal sin,” then on no conceivable depiction can the flood ever be deemed just.

              I’ll refer to a reply I made above that’s nested. My point is that if it’s done poorly, it will only convince many modern viewers the God of the OT is indeed a cruel and petty one (not really joking, notice how in this review they say they were rooting against Noah). If we are serious about conveying the proper message about Noah, then the audience will need to see that none are innocent (John admitted that the time of that period must be very different so there’s some possible outs in interpretation), or that Noah + God make a valiant effort to save the innocents (and are thwarted somehow), or a world that is so horrific, the death of the innocent is actually a mercy.

              I disclaim the assumption you ascribe to me, but I’m not interested in arguing the point.

              Consider it redacted, I apologize for a misreading.

              • Comment by SDG:

                Nate Winchester,

                I also enjoy a hearty back & forth on stories! In this case, tho, I hope to wrap up my involvement soon as I have other, more pressing obligations.

                Parsing how many offenses against humans are blatant rather than implied I also see as beyond my brief. It is enough that man’s inhumanity to man and the general hellishness of life among the Cainites is blatant.

                I honestly can’t say whether the chaotic scenes in and around the Cainite camp include any women committing atrocities. It’s not a question that was on my mind watching the film.

                I think the film presents God’s actions as just, but, like the Bible, viewers will form their own opinions. People who read the Bible and see God as a moral monster will see the same in Noah. The film certainly doesn’t tar and feather God, but it’s also not a comforting apologetic designed to get the God of the Bible off the hook, which frankly is what I think many people would want. To me this is a good thing, not a bad thing.

                No apologies necessary, it was not a gross misreading, or one grounded in hostility, ill will, impatience or any such thing.

        • Comment by Moor:

          In walking a friend through many of the same explanations as you provide, I found myself also referencing Luke’s experience in the cave on Dagoba — and wondering at how so many people missed what seemed to me such an obvious cinematic convention (a “that man is me” moment that is most easily communicated in a visual format with the reflection).

          I am of the opinion that by that point in the movie there were enough demerits in the minds of many goers that they either missed entirely, or missed the implications of this moment. Some, including the esteemed author of this blog, have argued that this moment cannot bear the weight of the two halves of the movie, but it was certainly enough for me.

          • Comment by Nate Winchester:

            I found myself also referencing Luke’s experience in the cave on Dagoba — and wondering at how so many people missed what seemed to me such an obvious cinematic convention (a “that man is me” moment that is most easily communicated in a visual format with the reflection).

            Jumping over to Star Wars & that trope in general… It’s one of those things where I get what they are meaning to convey, but I don’t always think they do. Take for instance tESB scene. I get the idea is that Luke could be Vader and certainly that is reinforced even more with Vader’s later reveal. HOWEVER, the problem is that we’re never shown any indication that Luke could be evil. (which was always the weakest part of the first SW, I never bought Luke as being tempted towards the dark side or anything)

            In my opinion, the best moment conveying the idea the Dagoba cave wanted to was in RotJ right after Luke has cut off Vader’s hand and then notices how his own was severed likewise. At least that point we were seeing Luke starting to lose control, starting to actually rage. In tESB we hadn’t, up to that point, seen Luke exhibit even the slightest indication that he might be capable of even a fraction of Vader’s atrocities.

            TL:DR – I believe scenes like that ultimately are just an example of telling, unless they have been reinforced elsewhere in the story.

            • Comment by A Spectator:

              HOWEVER, the problem is that we’re never shown any indication that Luke could be evil. (which was always the weakest part of the first SW, I never bought Luke as being tempted towards the dark side or anything)

              In my opinion, the best moment conveying the idea the Dagoba cave wanted to was in RotJ right after Luke has cut off Vader’s hand and then notices how his own was severed likewise. At least that point we were seeing Luke starting to lose control, starting to actually rage. In tESB we hadn’t, up to that point, seen Luke exhibit even the slightest indication that he might be capable of even a fraction of Vader’s atrocities.

              I have a curious disagreement. I don’t see myself as being up to the task of disputing this point, but I can’t will myself to be silent, either. No doubt, your criticism lies in some subtlety which I have missed, so my disagreement is less an assertion of a firmly-held alternative than a proposition of an objection to a better-schooled philosopher in the attempt to discern where that subtlety lies.

              In the Empire Strikes Back, Yoda chastises Luke numerously for his anger and impatience, declaring that these things lead to the dark side. Luke even voices despair at failing to lift his X-wing “You are the impossible,” at which point Yoda demonstrates the opposite. To me, this has always demonstrated that the Dark Side has firm roots in passions which are innocuous by themselves, but which snowball over time into a fully-developed Sith, that in order to stave off corruption a Jedi has to nip his darker passions while they are still underdeveloped buds and, failing to do so, a point can be reached at which it is nearly impossible to turn back. I have always held that Luke’s comparatively small outbursts definitively foreshadow his outburst in Return of the Jedi.

              While it’s been numerous years since my last viewing, I always saw this as one of the series’ strongest themes and one which I would have been quite unwilling to accept at the time I first viewed it, so I am unconvinced as yet that I have supplied the framework for this interpretation by projection (unless by a guilty conscience, but your critical reply could make that clear).

      • Comment by Subcreator:

        “Also, judging from both John’s review and your rebuttal, it seems that another fault can be laid at the movies’ feet: namely the depiction that only men can sin, and women are blameless and pure until corrupted by men. If the world is as bad as the texts say, then the women of it must be just as guilty of innumerable evils as the men. You mentioned Noah’s sons sin, is there any wrong done by any female in the film?”

        Did you miss the part where Mr. Greydamus recounts how Noah asked his wife if there was nothing, good or bad, she would not do for her children? It does not matter whether any women are seen committing any sinful acts in the story. This line clearly shows that they are capable of it and thus does NOT support the idea that only male humans sin. Quite frankly, there isn’t much opportunity for women to sin in this story. Women are hardly mentioned at all as part of the Noah story in the Bible, except as passengers and mothers.

        • Comment by Nate Winchester:

          Quite frankly, there isn’t much opportunity for women to sin in this story. Women are hardly mentioned at all as part of the Noah story in the Bible, except as passengers and mothers.

          ….
          By that logic men are hardly mentioned at all except as the builder and sons. I guess there’s no opportunity for anybody in the story to sin, really.

    • Comment by Stephen J.:

      Dear Mr. Greydanus,

      As a fan of and frequent relier upon your reviews (and with much appreciation and remaining fully so for both), I have to admit that your review was also part of what got me to go see the film, though I’d read enough far more hostile reviews to have some idea of what I’d be seeing. In the end, I think, I come down more in agreement with Mr. Wright’s analysis than yours for the following reasons — most of which, I think, must be attributed to the actual execution of the film rather than what can reasonably be inferred from the script.

      1) That there is personal sinfulness of lust and violence among the Cainites, as well as the land-devouring wastefulness of their civilization, is certainly established. Aronofsky’s mistake here is to present the latter via explicit textual introduction as the first and most grievous sin of the Cainites, and to refrain from depicting the worst of the former en masse (as opposed to wandering hunters or isolated tyrants) until the Cainites had been (effectively) reduced to a camp of refugees desperate to seize the Ark as their only hope of survival. For real impact consistent with Genesis, the Cainites should have been depicted as equally violent and brutal in situations where they had no apparent need to be; what the audience tends to take away from the film as shown, I think, is that the Cainites seem far more driven by starvation and desperation, and willingness to rally behind the charismatic Tubal-cain, than innately and irredeemably evil.

      2) That Noah and his family are also sinners is established, and on an intellectual level, it is logically consistent for Noah to conclude that God means for them to die too after they have served their appointed task (though why he would come to that conclusion in the face of Ila’s literally miraculously cured barrenness is another question). Aronofsky’s mistake here is his failure to depict this process in a way that would let modern audiences understand it emotionally — the sympathy gap between Noah and the Cainites is simply too wide for Noah’s self-denunciation to seem plausible. No modern audience will fault Naamah for being willing to do “anything” to protect her children; no modern audience faults Noah for defending himself and his son against hunters who might have stepped out of Deliverance, bar the accents; even Noah’s worst deed, his abandonment of Na’el, can be explained (if not excused) as a reflex born of panic and paternal preference than true evil or cowardice. Moreover, Noah’s self-destructive loyalty to the Creator’s will, while admirable in principle, makes no emotional sense in the movie because we are never convincingly shown how that loyalty was acquired and built, or how it has rewarded Noah before now: the one positive scene of Sethite tradition is interrupted by Lamech’s murder, and Noah’s sole scene of moral instruction is to tell his son not to destroy beauty by picking a flower, rather than anything more traditional. If we don’t believe and understand Noah’s self-condemnation, then his actions towards his family don’t come off as a tragedy of the sacrifices called for by faith; rather they come off to the audience the same way they do to his family, as a nonsensical, evil madness, and the conflict is never resolved, only abandoned and (at best) forgiven and forgotten.

      3) That points of the Biblical narrative are inherently going to come across as fantastic but factually implausible to modern audiences cannot be denied; Aronofsky’s mistake here is to attempt to give a veneer of “realism” or “verisimilitude” to some aspects of the story but not others. Why spend so much time on the logistics of getting the wood you need to build the Ark, on showing an onscreen explanation for how the animals were to be kept aboard, on dramatizing the story of Creation with visuals straight out of Cosmos, yet not acknowledge that an immediate family of less than ten people is not a sufficiently large breeding stock to reconstitute a healthy species, even supposing they could overcome the Westermarck effect? If Aronofsky wanted to tailor the Noah story to modern sensibilities, he could have done so in ways that made the story more plausible, rather than less; it is less effort to believe in antediluvian Watchers than to believe in cheerful, morally licit, and near-universal (for the first few generations) incest as the optimum method of rebuilding humanity. In the Bible, this can be accepted as a convention of the mythic narrative; on screen in front of us, it is a lot harder to come to terms with.

      So ultimately my criticisms are less about Aronofsky’s ideas and more about the actual effect of his attempt to execute them, and while I concede that it is a plausible stance to find the ideas interesting enough to mitigate the clunkiness of that execution, I think it must ultimately be granted that the execution was clunky, and that the ideas are not benevolent enough to excuse that.

    • Comment by Darrell:

      SDG

      Thank you for the link to the Peter Chattaway article! It was quite good and provides me a new blogger to follow.

  13. Ping from Now This is How Noah Debates Should be Done:

    […] Now Steve has replied in his comboxes and I may have to take the plunge and read the whole thing. […]

  14. Ping from Before you go to see “Noah” tonight. Or afterward.:

    […] thrown in as a bonus, here’s a really negative review by John C. Wright, who isn’t a Mormon (so far as I can […]

  15. Comment by Paul:

    The idea of the last seed of Eden goes back to the Gospel of Nicodemus, and is part of the Golden Legend.

  16. Comment by The Ubiquitous:

    Having just seen the film, I am flabbergasted that folks find such critical problems that they hate it, or call it terrible. Perhaps I benefited from deliberate prep before the film, but I can’t imagine a Noah movie I’d enjoy more on any level, at least substantially more. Yes, the CGI was often super-lame, and Anthony Hopkins had some odd, weird moments, and some of the motivations weren’t clear — but they were definitely there.

    To wit: Like any Aronofsky film, it does not lack content. It lacks only clarity. Noah, because he was righteous, realizes his solidarity in sin with the children of Cain when he witnesses their sin — or maybe he merely has a vision and sees it. This is perhaps the most pivotal point in his character development, essential to understanding the thrust of the story, as much as his conversation with Hermione Granger. It may not be clear what’s going on in his head, but I don’t think it’s for lack of trying on the part of the director. Noah sees himself eating meat, and then fire coming from the sky to consume him. This changes his outlook completely. He accuses himself later of the very same sins of the children of Cain, and notes his family suffers the same sins — it is an exposition of Original Sin, and Noah cannot distinguish between that lack of grace and a complete, true depravity and abandonment to self that Tubal-Cain emphasizes.

    Tubal-Cain, by the way, is a pitch-perfect representation of sin, of self-worship. He calls to God and gets no answer — he treats God like a genie. Of course God does not answer.

    At the climax of the film Noah seems clearly meant to correlate to an anthropomorphized version of the Creator, who for love, and for the innocent, stays his hand. Until then, he is consumed by a partial truth, that of original sin. His wife, in turn, had earlier spoken words to him which might have come from the action of the Holy Spirit, a literal inspiration. She rebuked him for his plan, saying that he would die hated, and other words to this effect which might have easily come from the Spirit.

    There are several other points in the OP essay which seem wrongheaded, such as the flower not being picked. To use this as an example:

    1. Noah knows God has been silent, or seems to have been, just as Tubal-Cain does.
    2. Noah at this point has no idea that there will ever be any flowers again. He knows the natural goodness is, by passivity, fighting a losing battle.
    3. Noah is rebuked by God by the miraculous growth of a replacement flower. He doesn’t know what to make of this at first.

    This is hardly the lecture the above essay made it out to be.

    And the dog on a funeral pyre:

    1. The dog is an innocent.
    2. The visual motif of smoke rising: It reaches up to heaven, a propitiation.
    3. It prevents the dog being eaten, which is still a sin in the days of Noah.

    All of these make sense visually and within the guidelines of the story, and for the most part even by using only evidence provided by the director.

    —-

    These scattered thoughts, I hope, convey my utter satisfaction with the film. I have some qualms with the quality of storytelling, but I can tolerate that very easily. I have some other qualms with bad angelology — angels changing their disposition after having chosen for or against God — but once that decision was made to portray them that way, it would follow that they could be redeemed, and they are. I have other issues with the lackluster, fake-looking visual effects, &c. None of these substantially detract from my wholehearted endorsement of this film.

    Watch it. Do some reading first, I’d say, but watch it.

  17. Ping from The Razor » Blog Archive » Council Nominations: April 2, 2014:

    […] C. Wright’s Journal – Deluge as Earthday submitted by The Colossus of […]

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