Expensive biblical epics haven’t been a staple of Hollywood for decades, but this week saw the release of the first trailer of Noah which will hit theaters in early 2014.
Some like J.W. Wartick have written on concerns over possible “divergence from the Biblical story.” Fair enough, but I don’t have a problem with divergence, if it is in the sense Brian Godawa describes:
…there is nothing wrong with engaging in creative license, whether it is magical seeds or six-armed Watchers, or even Noah as a warrior. I don’t even think there is a problem in using non-biblical sources like the Book of Enoch or the Sumerian version of the Flood story, where unlike in the Bible, Noah receives dreams about the coming Deluge. The question is, does it support the spirit or meaning of the original story, or the original author’s intent. Bible believing Christians do not necessarily own this category of Biblical interpretation. The Bible doesn’t say what vocation Noah had before the Flood, only what he was afterward (a tiller of the soil). So if a Christian attacks the notion of Noah as a warrior shaman, he may really be illustrating his own cultural prejudice of the notion of a white bearded old farmer which is not in the Bible either…[bold mine]
However, Godawa does discuss quite a few concerns he had with an earlier draft of the script. Having only seen a brief clip of the movie, and not knowing how the script evolved or was edited, I’m not going to add or subtract from his analysis other than this: I do like how the film trailer does not depict Noah as a pastoral old man leading cute, Narnia-like animals into an ark. This Sunday School-fantasy version ignores the terror — and ultimately the point — of the account: Horrible evil is occurring in the world and mankind will be wiped out because of it. The actual story — an adult one — has been co-opted by preschoolers. Perhaps the film will spark debate on how shallow our take on Noah has become.
Hopefully, the filmmakers chose not to put modern agendas into an iconic account from the ancient world. There’s enough historical contextual sources to draw from, as Godawa does in his own novel on Noah. In a film of this budget, studios try not to be too offensive to anyone. It is a business after all. Then again, many big budget films failed in 2013.
Time will tell if Noah emerges under a rainbow or washes out.
Update [3/2/14, 3/17/14]: After continuing controversy over a film not released, Jerry A. Johnson, president of the National Religious Broadcasters (NRB), discusses Five Positive Facts and Five Negative Facts about the film. Johnson and the NRB were behind the recent press release from Paramount Pictures which states, “the feature film is a dramatization of the major scriptural themes and not a line-by-line retelling of the Bible story.”
Apparently the NRB thinks the Christian world is not intelligent enough to figure that out on their own. On the other hand, the “Sunday School-fantasy version” of Noah I discussed above that many envision in their minds is not “a line-by-line retelling of the Bible story” either.