Brian Godawa reviews Darren Aronofsky’s NOAH script

"You’ll be sorely disappointed," promises the Christian filmmaker. But I'm not so sure.

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Spoilers ahoy (in Godawa’s review; not in this post)

Russell Crowe as the eponymous title character

We’ve reported on Darren Aronofsky’s Noah before on this site.  It’s a movie I remain cautiously optimistic about, despite the spoiler-filled negative review that Christian filmmaker/author Brian Godawa gives the script on this blog.

Christian author/filmmaker Biran Godawa

Some choice quotes from Godawa’s review:

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.

Aronofsky’s Noah is deeply anti-Biblical in its moral vision.

All in all, the script for “Noah” is an uninteresting and unBiblical waste of a $150 million dollars that will ruin for decades the possibility of making a really great and entertaining movie of this Bible hero beloved by billions of religious believers, Jewish, Christian, and Muslim.

If “Noah” is released, and as I am predicting, does horrible numbers at the box office after being rejected by traditionalist Christians and Jews (in spite of the studio undoubtedly hiring faith-based marketing companies who will try to put lipstick on the pig for a buck) as well as mainstream viewers, studio executives will cluck about faith-based audience never turning out for “their movies.”

The real story will be that “Noah” was made by someone outside of their community that was insulting, degrading and contrary to their deeply held beliefs and values.

I like Brian Godawa.  I’m a big fan of his film To End All Wars, and his books, particularly Word Pictures and Hollywood Worldviews, have had a big impact on me and have really influenced my own writing, in particular my upcoming book on slasher movies, for which I’m using those books as sources.  His article in the Christian Research Journal, “An Apologetic of Horror,” inspired me to write the original paper that I’m adapting into the book.  I’m also friends with Godawa on Facebook, although I’ve never met the man in person.

Darren Aronofsky

Also, to be fair, I haven’t read the same script that he has.  I can’t comment on how good or bad it is or isn’t.  I do know that Darren Aronofsky is one of my favourite filmmakers, and I’ve never known him to make a bad movie.  Black Swan was one of my favourite films of 2010, and I was among the disappointed fans to learn that he had bowed out of directing the upcoming The Wolverine (although I’m sure James Mangold will do a fine job).

All that said, I can’t necessarily say that I share the same concerns about the script as Godawa as voiced them, at least as much as he does, anyway.  Godawa seems upset that Aronofsky isn’t making a historically/Biblically accurate Noah story, but as far as I can tell, Aronofsky never promised to make anything of the sort.  My understanding based on what I’ve read about this project is that Aronofsky is seeking to make an epic fantasy story, somewhat outside of time and space, that is inspired by the Biblical story of Noah.

(Click to embiggen)

By using the book of Genesis as a jumping-off point, rather than a blueprint for a straight adaptation, Aronofsky is giving himself the freedom to make a movie with themes and ideas that are really important to him.  As long as the studio doesn’t try to sell us on a faithful adaptation, I’m fine with that.  I’ve always thought the story of Noah’s ark would be somewhat problematic to adapt to the silver screen anyway.  Now, the story of Samson?  That’s a movie.

Anyway, another big problem that Godawa has with the script is its focus on what he calls a “radical” environmentalism, at one point even going on a bit of a rant about “postmoderns, leftists, and radicals.”  Let me pause here to register my disappointment at his choice of words.  I’m a Bible-believing Christian, and I could also possibly be described something of a radical postmodern leftist, depending on who you ask.  And I’m not the only one, either.  There are plenty of Christians out there who fit into the post-modern mold, who are socially and politically liberal (sometimes while being theologically conservative, no less!), and who might be called “radical” by different sections of the population.  Heck, my socialist views on gun control and my libertarian views on foreign policy are both pretty radical, and on radically different ends of the political spectrum from one another.

But this isn’t a political website, it’s a site about faith and film.  So without even getting into the issue of right vs. left (with a national election just around the corner, no less), let me say my peace on the whole post-modern thing, and then I’ll get back to the movie.  The problem with using the word “postmodern” as a derogatory term is that it has the connotation of making “modern” sound better and more righteous.  But honestly, there are just as many problems with modernism as there are with post-modernism.  Modernism denotes a strict, post-enlightenment rationalism that leaves no room for miracles, open-mindedness, or the parts of the Bible that don’t make sense to the human mind, limited by inferior human logic and rationality (Trinitarian theology, for example, which is beyond our understanding, or the relationship between God’s sovereignty and man’s free will:  something else we will never be able to make sense of this side of eternity).  The Bible isn’t modern or post-modern; it’s actually pre-modern.

But now I’m in danger of going off on a rant.  As I promised, let’s get back to Godawa’s problems with the script.

Now, I’ll agree that painting Noah as a radical environmentalist is anachronistic to the point of being silly, but I don’t know if I can muster up the same amount of frustration that Godawa has for this aspect of the story.  Once again, I haven’t read the script, so I’m at a disadvantage here.  But either Godawa hasn’t adequately communicated this problem with the script, or I simply disagree with him.

Now, Godawa calls the script “anti-Biblical in its moral vision,” supposedly because it has such an emphasis on God’s judgment of mankind having to do with man’s disrespect to God’s creation, more so than man’s inhumanity to man or man’s blasphemy against God.  While it sounds like the script includes those elements as well, it would seem that the main theme of the movie is the former rather than the latter.  Obviously this is an issue that is very close to Darren Aronofsky’s heart, and rightly so, I’d say.  If we’re going to be honest with ourselves, we’ve done a piss-poor job of taking care of God’s creation.  As a human race, we’ve not only abandoned our posts as caretakers of this world He put us in charge of; we’ve been playing for the other team, as it were:  filling the skies and oceans with poison, destroying entire species left and right, wiping out rainforests, melting the ice caps….and here I am, going on a rant again.  *deep breath*  My point is, I don’t think Aronofsky’s wrong to want to use a Biblical story as a starting point for an epic fantasy myth that espouses a Biblical value of caring for God’s creation.

I could be mistaken, but it seems to me that Godawa’s script review reveals a common element of Western Evangelical Philosophy–the elevation of man above all the rest of God’s creation, almost to the exclusion of the rest of God’s creation.  Now, make no mistake–mankind was God’s only creation that the Bible says He created in His image.  But that doesn’t mean that the world revolves around us.  Adam was created as the representative of creation, just as Jesus Christ, often referred to as the “second Adam” serves as a representation of humanity before God the Father.  But God’s mission is to redeem His entire creation, not just us.  I believe that in the New Heaven and New Earth, God will not only resurrect His children in new bodies, but all His species of plants and animals who have gone extinct, existing in a perfect environmental balance and harmony.  In other words, while we’re certainly important, it’s not all about us.

And I’m not just saying this because I’d like to ride around on the back of a T-Rex someday.

(Although that would be awesome.)

Look, as with most philosophies, there’s a danger of going “too far” with environmentalism.  But from what it sounds like, I don’t think Aronofsky’s anywhere near to crossing that line.  And it’s unfortunate, I think, to project culturally conservative Evangelical expectations onto this movie.

Once again I’d warn that Godawa’s post is filled with spoilers.  But if you don’t mind that, check out his review, and let me know if you think I’m being fair.  But most of all, let’s wait and watch Aronofsky’s movie for ourselves.  Let’s be fair to him and to the film.  Let’s wait and see.

17 Responses to “Brian Godawa reviews Darren Aronofsky’s NOAH script”

  1. Brian Godawa

    Hi Dave! I would say you were very kind and good spirited, though not very accurate. At the most fundamental level, I explicitly made an important point that it is not about Western Evangelical modernist interpretation, because I do not care for that view either. In fact my novel about Noah is way more fantastic than Aronofsky’s and will anger both modernist Evangelicals and pomos. (because they are both ultimately rooted in the idolatry of autonomy) So when you say “Godawa seems upset that Aronofsky isn’t making a historically/Biblically accurate Noah story,” it is quite literally the opposite of what i said. As was the “almost to the exclusion of the rest of God’s creation.” which I clearly argued against from the Bible. Although I would say that, qualifications notwithstanding, “the elevation of man above all the rest of God’s creation” is not a modern evangelical notion, it is an ancient Hebrew notion that I proved from the text. I would reverse the charges and claim cultural imperialism to impose a postmodern/modern elevation of nature onto an ancient Hebrew worldview that did not. I don’t take your inaccuracies to be malicious though. All in a good spirit of conversation and debate. We can agree to disagree. (p.s. gun control has become fascist and libertarian foreign policy leads to nuclear holocaust, but I don’t want to go on a political rant either :-) :-)

    Reply
    • SuperDave

      Brian, thank you for reading and replying to the post! I’m sorry it took me so long to respond (crazy, crazy week). I’m also sorry if I misinterpreted the comments you made in your own piece, to which I was responding to.

      It seemed to me that you were troubled with the directions that Aronofsky was going in his screenplay–I suppose primarily with the emphasis on environmentalism. We may disagree on the importance of environmentalism, which may be why we have different opinions on whether or not this emphasis is a good thing or not.

      I do think that God has made us His representatives of Creation, but that doesn’t make Creation any less important. I subscribe to a Covenantal Theological view that says that God will ultimately restore Creation to her former glory, rather than the idea that He will destroy Creation and start over (a more Dispensational view). To that end, I believe He has called us to constantly push against the effects that the fall has had on His creation, which includes man-made pollution which has given us disastrous climate change and the like. What are your thoughts on that?

      Reply
  2. Renee

    [Oops, don't know if my first submission 'took' so am re-posting this just in case]

    Dave, since you said you hadn’t read the same ‘Noah’ script that Brian read, is there any way you could get ahold of the one he read? Was a read-through of this same script ever granted to Christian media reviewers of a more moderate stance?

    Otherwise, I can’t help but wonder IF the production company that let him read that particular script not only knew what his angle on it might be, but by them NOT letting the same be read by other devout Christian reviewers with a more indepth take [some perhaps open-ended], that Godawa’s comments could be mistakenly perceived by the public as the ‘one’ angle that ‘all’ devout believers supposedly have? [or were they only gauging in advance the more conservative response among Christians, being assured of the moderate reaction of other Christians; or for both reasons? Not sure....]

    However, thanks for adding another angle, as a Christian, on the general theme in Aronofsky’s ‘Noah’ screenplay; but also, a good exchange posted between you and Brian Godawa, respecting each other in the faith despite your different views on a subject: I hope that many see the above content on this webpage, along with weblink references given, so as to be better informed.

    Reply
    • SuperDave

      Hey, Renee, thanks for writing.

      Honestly, I have no idea how Brian got ahold of his script. These types of scripts are generally kept locked down on a pretty tight leash. You’d have to ask him how he was able to get hold of a copy. I don’t know how I would go about getting one.

      Hollywood studios don’t make a practice of submitting scripts to anyone for review. Rather, they are usually guarded under lock and key. The only time that scripts are reviewed prior to the release of the movie is when there has been a script leak, which studios work pretty hard to prevent.

      That being said, I really appreciate your encouraging words! I hope as well that more and more people see what we are trying to do here. You can help by sharing our articles on Facebook and Twitter, Liking us on Facebook, joining our Facebook discussion group, and inviting your friends to do the same. Just today we had a piece that one of our writers wrote on Quentin Tarantino and the Old Testament that has gone viral pretty quickly. We are always hoping to branch out and get more eyes on the page, so I appreciate you doing your part!

      Finally, thanks for commenting on the article. If enough people comment on the articles and on the Facebook page, we may even be able to build a forum one day!

      Dave

      Reply
  3. Renee

    Dave, thank you for your reply. In my above comments of the ‘Noah’ script being passed around [or not] and to whom, I had begun speculating which can lead to misassumption, so I appreciate the information you gave. I contacted Brian Godawa by e-mail and he said the ‘Noah’ script he read was circulated among insiders in Hollywood, and that – as he told me he had noted in his blog – changes made in the transfer of the story from screenplay to film were certainly possible – although as he added, it doesn’t change Aronofsky’s message in the film (being, as he put it, “pagan environmentalism”). I thanked him for answering my inquiry, saying I would re-read his review on his blog and comment at a later point.

    As it is, I’m currently preoccupied with finding F/T income, since my work hours – at one time flexible – were cut definitely to P/T, and of course I can’t subsist on that, much less spend time on reviews/discussions such as the above. Would like to help by getting the above content to Facebook and/or Twitter when I’m no longer struggling daily to afford the basics of living [in a month or two?]. ‘Til then, if I have a spare moment, I’ll try to toss in an occasional comment! Thanks again, from Renee

    Reply
    • SuperDave

      I’m actually looking forward to what translates into the finished film as “pagan” environmentalism, especially since I consider environmentalism to very much be a Christian value, and our responsibility as covenant representatives of God’s creation! I wonder if in the end, some Christians will find more to agree with in the film then which to disagree. Time will tell, I suppose.

      Reply
  4. Renee

    Dave, hello again from Renee, after a long break. I was polishing up comments to send to Brian Godawa, and then tonight I found online and read the screenplay for ‘Noah’ that I think he’s read, based on what he described in his review. If you haven’t read it at this point, try this weblink:

    http://pdfcast.org/pdf/noah-2014-script

    Reply
    • SuperDave

      Wow, I’m really torn on this. On the one hand, do I have a responsibility as a pseudo-journalist to read this? On the other hand, I really would rather see the movie for the first time as it’s completed. I’ll have to think this one over.

      Reply
  5. Renee

    Come to think of it, you may be wise to wait (explanation further below). My curiosity got the better of me, so I read; I’ve been exploring screenplay writing in my spare time.

    While I understand, on a certain level, more clearly Brian Godawa’s reaction to the overall script, as he himself said it’s a review of the script, not the actual movie. In addition to having read an interview with Russell Crowe who mentions lines I didn’t see in the script, my first (hopeful?) impression is that there’ll be more going on, in the story within the film, because of Aronofsky’s touch as a director – whether details added on or altered, or at least fine-tuned through acting to “flesh out” more layers of meaning than the words indicate.

    So, if you’re first and foremost a Reviewer of Movies, then I’d say WAIT for the final, polished product to critique it…..or, IF your business has included reviewing screenplays before they’re released on film (Godawa being a screenwriter, he’s in his element doing this), only then read it to give a pre-production script review. That’s my take! — Best regards, Renee

    Reply
  6. Renee

    P.S. Pardon my being forward in the previous post! Not being a journalist or anywhere close, I wasn’t thinking in terms of responsibility in that light. Today, since I didn’t want to set up a blog with WordPress so as to respond to Brian Godawa’s review of the ‘Noah’ script, I sent him my comments on e-mail instead – but pertaining ONLY to his review, nothing from the script I read (he gave enough examples from the script to demonstrate its inherent message).
    My very l-o-n-g commentary on just his review, I’d like to post here – or on Zeke Facebook tho’ it might not fit – but I’d prefer only after Mr. Godawa responds to my questions and comments. — Renee

    Reply
    • SuperDave

      I would be very interested to hear your thoughts on the script. If you’re interested in doing a script review, you can send it to me as a Word file and Jim and I can look it over and see if it would be something we could publish on the site as a guest review.

      Reply
  7. Renee

    I hadn’t considered doing that….but now I’d be interested in giving it a shot….I’m moving this weekend, so could only start to put together a review of the screenplay itself sometime next week, at the soonest. Much appreciate your invitation, and to look it over at least. My concern is to NOT add any more spoilers to what’s already out there. The scene examples that Brian Godawa chose to reveal got to the heart of the matter, I think; it’s just my angle on a few of those that would differ from his. Still, the entire script (the version I read, which may have later been quite altered) gives the overall effect of Aronofsky’s message to the public, regarding God, creation and humanity’s purpose. Barring unforeseen circumstances, I’ll let you know next week where I’m at on this. Many thanks. — Renee

    Reply
    • SuperDave

      That’d be great. I’d definitely prefer a spoiler-free review.

      Reply
      • Renee

        Hello, Dave, getting back to you. Having initially read the screenplay for ‘Noah’ rather quickly not long ago, I’m now starting to re-read carefully and spending this weekend jotting notes and outline for a review (still finishing up my recent move, here at home). Naturally, if anyone else in the meantime submits their review on the subject material (in the wake of Godawa’s review and your response), that’s fine: ‘the more, the merrier’ – or, continued thoughtful discussion for everyone interested! — Renee

        Reply
  8. Renee

    Hi, Dave, I would like to send an e-mail but where do you post your e-mail address for contact, or did I miss it (is it in front of my nose) or were you referring to Zeke facebook? — Renee

    Reply

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