I saw the Noah movie. It’s bad. Really, really bad. It’s such a comedown from director Darren Aronovsky’s previous film, The Black Swan, which was really, really good.
Where to start with Noah? How about with the gender stereotyping and racism? The roles of the girls and women are passive and focused completely on getting husbands and becoming great with child; the men on building and fighting. The characters are all so predictable.
And every actor in the film, insofar as I could tell, is white. Through the whole movie, you can’t help but wonder: How did black and Asian people ever come to appear on Earth? They aren’t among the children of Adam and Eve, nor are they among the children of Noah. If there’s a black, Hispanic, or Asian anywhere in this film, they’re lost in crowd scenes. You wouldn’t have thought that a cosmopolitan atheist director would depict race in a way befitting Ken Ham of the creationist museum in Kentucky. But he did.
And the story. Please. Right out of the gate, it reminds one why biblical literalism is so absurd. The sudden creation of heaven and Earth, the immediate snake in the garden debacle, the god who regrets his own creation of humans, the great boat, the animals, the miracles blended arbitrarily with naturalism. It’s a world, but it’s a ridiculous world. And as the basis for a serious worldview, it’s idiotic and childish; a pre-scientific account of history from the toddler stage of our civilization.
Then there’s the Earth First! environmentalism. Noah, a vegan, thinks God has chosen him to participate in the genocide of humanity so that the planet can be in eco-balance again. Noah participates in this genocide. At no point in the film does he question (nor does any other character in the film question) this genocide. God wants people gone, Noah sees water as a cleansing, God wants a boat made to save the animals (like He can’t build his own fricken boat!), and Noah is obedient to God’s desire. If Aronovsky’s Noah was a train conductor in Nazi Germany, he would have blown his whistle and thought to himself, “All aboard, Jews, off to Auschwitz with you! It’s the Fuhrer’s will. I’m just his obedient servant. I do what he tells me. The Holocaust will be a time of cleansing. He knows best.” God says it, Noah believes it, that settles it.
Until it doesn’t. At the very, very end (caution: spoiler), Noah has a change of heart. He wants the human race to go on. Like Abraham prevented by the angel of the Lord from sacrificing Isaac, Noah relents to the entreaties of the women to not kill his grandchildren now that the flood has subsided. He decides he’ll let them multiply and have another go at being kind and eco-friendly; that God wants human beings, even though they have a history of being total assholes and egregiously huge carbon footprint leavers, to go ahead and populate the Earth again. Noah has no regrets that God wiped out all of previous humanity, but Noah’s grandchildren–well, that’s a different story. He struggles with being God’s agent in the killing of them. The very fact that he does not want his grandchildren dead at the very last minute is supposed to show that Noah has got, at bottom, a heart of gold.
I just hated this movie. And I hate it the more I write about it. If you see it, you’ll probably hate it too. But in the interest of balance, I’ll note that A. O. Scott, a film critic at The New York Times, didn’t pan the film outright. He says it is “occasionally clumsy, ridiculous and unconvincing, but it is never dull.”
But I think it’s dull and dulling, so I won’t give Scott the last word here. Like reading a bad poem and finding it throws off your ear for good poems, this movie dulls one to the possibilities of good movie making–and even to measured ecological and moral reflection. Noah is noisy and busy. It rains a lot. There’s a storm. Millions (billions?) die and not a single survivor pauses to reflect on what this means; on what this says about God. Some other noisy things happen. It’s not enough.