In the past couple of days, a new trailer has been released for the forthcoming movie Noah, slated for release in March 2014. With a budget of $125 million, special effects galore and an all-star cast that includes Russell Crowe, Anthony Hopkins, Jennifer Connelly and Emma Watson, it’s sure to receive plenty of media attention over the coming months.
Here’s the trailer:
The only reason I know of this movie is that a number of friends have shared the trailer on social media, accompanied by comments to the effect that it looks great and they can’t wait to see it. At the risk of being dismissed as a killjoy, I don’t share their enthusiasm.
There’s plenty of criticism out there on the internet for those who care to find it. In a scathing five thousand word blog post written over a year ago, Christian screenwriter Brian Godawa said, “If you were expecting a Biblically faithful retelling of the story of the greatest mariner in history and a tale of redemption and obedience to God you’ll be sorely disappointed”. There’s also this extensive takedown of the many and various ways in which the script takes liberties with the Biblical text, principally by recasting Noah as an ardent environmentalist. (While the overall approach and tone of the site this article is found on is a little too, ahem, fundamentalist for my liking, there’s enough here to raise concern for many Christians.)
I’ll leave it to you to read early reviews and critical comments – as I said, there’s plenty out there. I’d simply like to share five reasons why I’m concerned rather than excited about this movie:
1. Hollywood’s priority is not to recreate a biblically faithful account. It’s to make money, period. And the way Hollywood often makes money is by making movies that are sensationalised and dramatic. The trailer suggests that Noah will basically sit in the action movie genre. There’s a reason why the story of Noah is in the Bible, and it isn’t to make people gasp and drool at the amazing special effects.
2. Those marketing this movie will be careful to make it look and sound appealing to Christians. Again, this is not because they’re fulfilling a God-given desire to bring biblical truth to the masses – it’s because Christians represent a large market. They want your money, and they want you to help them get other people’s money. (To clarify: I’m not decrying the movie studios for seeking to make money – that’s their job. What I’m concerned about is Christians who don’t seem to appreciate that money is the only thing driving this movie. Love and respect for the Bible don’t enter the picture.)
3. Seeing the story of Noah and the unlikely redemption of the human race in a home-made boat played out on the big screen amid eye-goggling special effects is not going to convince any sceptic of the veracity or value of the Bible. Indeed, I would contend that, by essentially treating the story as dramatic fantasy, this movie will, if anything, encourage sceptics to go on treating the Bible as just that – fantasy.
4. As I said before, the story of Noah is in the Bible for a reason; I would say that reason is mainly to reveal something of God’s redemptive nature and compassion for His creation. From what I’ve read, that is not how this movie will portray God; instead, He will likely come across as an impatient, unreasonable and angry deity who destroys most of the world in a temper tantrum.
5. This kind of treatment encourages a purely flat, literalistic reading of the Old Testament. There’s a case to be made that, rather than being a historical account, the story of the flood was quite likely passed down as a myth intended to capture and preserve something important about the nature of God and His relationship to His creation. You may or may not agree with that; the point is that this movie doesn’t leave you any option but to view the text through a literalist lens. (The sad truth is probably that many Christians have so little idea why most of the Old Testament exists that they’re quite happy to see it serve some kind of purpose as entertainment fodder.)
Whether or not you agree with any of my concerns, I want to encourage Christians not to jump on the bandwagon with this film simply because it looks and sounds exciting and is about something in the Bible. The content of scripture is worth more than that, and the Bible deserves a more discerning approach from those who claim to hold it dear.