In January of 2013 Entertainment Weekly reported that “Hollywood has found its next book to turn into a blockbuster, and it isn’t some young-adult adventure. It’s a tome that’s been sitting on people’s shelves (or at least in their hotel-room drawers) for centuries.” Yes, they’re referring to the Bible, and several Hollywood studios are working on Bible-based movies to roll out in coming months. The first of these is a blockbuster opening in theaters around the world next week—Noah.
I’ve thought for years that film producers were missing some of the greatest story lines ever by ignoring the Bible, but every time I’ve seen a movie based on something biblical I’ve come away disappointed—they never seem to get it right. Because of this, while I plan to see Noah, my expectations are not very high.
That’s not only because of past experience, but because of publicity that has already come out about it. I’m sure the special effects will be really impressive; but when one of the film’s producers, Scott Franklin, says, “Noah is a very short section of the Bible with a lot of gaps, so we definitely had to take some creative expression in it”—well, that sends up a red flag. He also said, “I think we stayed very true to the story and didn’t really deviate from the Bible.” We’ll see.
In just its prerelease viewings Noah has already created firestorms of controversy in some quarters. Criticism from religious people has ranged from some Muslim nations banning it entirely to Christian conservatives objecting to how it strays from the Bible’s literal descriptions.
But what else would you expect from a self-proclaimed atheist director in a Hollywood environment? Darren Aronofsky said in a 2007 interview with The Guardian that “Noah was the first person to plant vineyards and drink wine and get drunk. … It’s there in the Bible—it was one of the first things he did when he reached land.” He also analyzes Noah as, “There was some real survivor’s guilt going on there. He’s a dark, complicated character.” The promo describes Noah as “a man suffering visions of an apocalyptic deluge.” Hmmmm.
The question is, How many moviegoers, who are basically biblically illiterate, will be able to separate fact from fiction or speculation? And even more important, how many will be able to relate the story of Noah to what truly is relevant for our world today?
Aronofsky was right about one thing when he told the LA Times, “It’s not a nursery school story in the Bible. It’s the end of the world.” Jesus Christ Himself said the story of Noah continues to be critically relevant for another real-life, end-of-the-world scenario.
Talking about His return to this earth, Jesus said, “But as the days of Noah were, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be.” He went on to describe how in Noah’s day—which will undoubtedly be portrayed in full salacious Hollywood style—for most people life just went on as usual, and the general public ignored the warnings until it was too late. “For as in the days before the flood,” Jesus said, “they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and did not know until the flood came and took them all away, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be.”
The conclusion of Jesus’ prophecy? “Watch therefore, for you do not know what hour your Lord is coming.” Noah was a man who watched and heeded God. He is described in the book of Hebrews as a man of faith, who, “being divinely warned of things not yet seen, moved with godly fear, prepared an ark for the saving of his household.” I wonder how much of that will be captured in this portrayal of Noah.
Like all movies, Noah will ride temporarily on marketing hype; then most people will move on to the next big entertainment buzz. Wise people, though, won’t just move on, but will turn to the pages of the Bible to find the truth and why Jesus chose to call our attention to Noah’s story. With that guidance, those who start paying attention to what’s going on around us will see the parallels to Noah’s time and will start taking Christ’s warnings very seriously.
For Life, Hope & Truth, I’m Clyde Kilough.