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