In less than one week, Paramount will be releasing a movie of Biblical proportions. [Noah](movie:204057) starring the likes of Russell Crowe, Sir Anthony Hopkins, Jennifer Connely and (of Harry Potter fame) Emma Watson will bring the epic story to theaters around the nation. But what are we really getting? Hollywood doesn’t have a great track record with affairs of spirituality. But Mel Gibson’s PASSION OF THE CHRIST turned that around a bit although it too had its share of controversy with its handling of the Jews PR with the story of Christ’s horrific death. This story too touches beyond the Christian vale and speaks to not only Jewish audiences but to us all. It’s a story reaching out from every ethnic tradition every to walk the Earth. But are we going to get the message we were meant to get from the Biblical epic?
The answer may be in comments made across the years and also just recently by none other than the director himself.
First of all, although the story is as old as man itself, the Director has found several sources besides the Bible, including the apocryphal Jewish scripture, THE BOOK OF ENOCH, and has found several original and, not surprisingly, modern takes on the old classic.
“So, when Paramount announced that his version of Noah would be a ‘close adaptation of the biblical story of Noah’s ark,’ we weren’t buying it. Now, some clues have surfaced making this more clear than ever: Noah will not be the biblical story you learned about in Sunday school.” – ScreenCrave
This is an understatement. Darren Aronofsky, the mind behind this movie, has dreamed of telling this story all his life; Not so much the story the Bible gives us, but his vision. And his vision was laid out originally in a French graphic Novel called simply NOE (NOAH). That’s right. Aronofsky, along with the talent of Ari Handel and Canadian artist, Niko Henrichon, set out to tell a tale that uses the frame work of the Biblical narrative, but has an agenda all its own.
"A lot of people are thinking, 'Oh. I don't want to go see a Bible movie', but we completely shook up all expectations and people will see that as soon as they sit down and watch the movie.”
Aronofsky also said his movie was for ‘Believers and Non-believers’
"I'm more concerned about getting non-believers into the theatre or people who are less religious,"
When confronted with the fact that his vision, NOAH, would have a disclaimer saying it is not a literal adaptation, he played it down.
"The controversy is all about the unknown and about the fear of people trying to exploit a Bible story. It will all disappear as soon as people start seeing the film."
Or will it? As stated before, I know what I’m in for; A Christian walking into a Hollywood adaptation of sacred scripture. But, once you look over Aronofsky’s vision in the form of his graphic novel, you begin to realize he’s veering a ways off the subject matter. The two blaring inconsistencies in his pre-script ‘vision’ are his translation of the word ‘wickedness’ and the role of the ‘Watchers’ in the story.
Now, I had heard murmurings of Noah being more of an environmental hero, but I really wasn't sure till I picked up some of his graphic novels. In it there is a scene where poachers are caught by our hero slaughtering animals viciously. In fact, this story makes it clear that the ‘sin’ committed was against the ‘ground’ and the ‘innocent animals’. Besides this, the only evil assigned to man is his incessant need for more violence especially against his own and the world around him.
But the one element of Aronofsky’s story that has been kept under tight-lipped raps was his vision of the WATCHERS. In the BOOK OF ENOCH, the Watchers were angels God himself has sent to WATCH over the humans. But these angels grew too close to those they were watching over and began to give them forbidden knowledge. On top of this, they began to have sexual relations with the ‘daughters of men’ siring a race of ravenous giants called Nephilim. Now, this book, as stated before, is a non-canonical Jewish text that to the Christian faith does not hold the weight of the Genesis text. But even Genesis mentions the Nephilim although spiritual leader’s interpretation of whom these beings were and whether they were of divine lineage or merely a mixing of faiths is led to a great deal of debate and discussion. Now, by all of the talk and the trailers, you would never even think that these giant, semi-divine beings would even be a part of the movie. But, over the years of production, there have been many indicators that they will make their appearance.
“The story will also include the Watchers, which are described as “eleven-foot-tall fallen angels with six arms and no wings.” Slashfilm
these fallen angels are actually mentioned in the Bible (Genesis 6) as the giant offspring of the “sons of God and the “daughters of men.” – ScreenCrave reported. They continued, “Interestingly, while the angels may seem like Aronofsky’s most bizarre addition to the tale, they are in fact referred to in the Bible. Genesis 6 mentions Nephilim, giant offspring of the “sons of God” and the “daughters of men.” The part about them having six arms may be Aronofsky’s idea, though — I’m not sure.”
According to IMBD.com, Nick Nolte is cast as Samyaza apparently replacing Mark Mogolis (who is still listed as the character named Magog which refers to a character in the Biblical text of Revelation). Samyaza was listed in the apocryphal book of Enoch as the leader of the WATCHERS.
Peter Chattaway on Patheos.com reported, “but the one that catches my eye is the announcement that Kevin Durand (Legion) is playing “a watcher . . . one of the giants who helps Noah and his family."
Durand is cast as a character named Rameel who is also listed among the Watchers in ENOCH.
As you can tell by that Chattaway's statement, in NOAH, the role and even the nature of the WATCHERS is stretched beyond any recognition of any source of the Flood Narrative. In fact, although they occupy the role of the Nephilim, he calls them WATCHERS or GUARDIANS in the graphic novel. As I said before, the Watchers were angels who fathered the giant Nephilim with the daughters of men according to ENOCH. But, if it stopped there, we might be able to overlook this mistake.
“The tyrant Akkad, who Noah went to visit in the city of Bal-llim, chased him and sentenced him to flee. After consulting with his grandfather Methuselah, Noah decided to rally to his cause the terrible Giants and accomplish the task entrusted to him by the Creator…” – Slashfilm
In the graphic novel, Noah enlists the help of some of the Nephilim to finish what God had asked him to do. This is obviously a far departure from the scripture. These evil beings are a great part of the problem and are not meant to be the heroes.
Now there are a few other minor inconsistencies besides the above. Noah’s wife’s name is changed from the ENOCH story to Naamah which just so happens to be the name of the sister of Noah’s antagonist, Tubal-Cain. Is there to be an added family strife between Noah and his brother-in-law? Also, instead of three sons with already married daughter’s-in-law, we have, Shem, the youngest unmarried. We also have a young ‘adopted’ daughter played by Emma Watson. Is this a way to build a young love story too? But, really, compared to the other blaring changes, these are minor and not really worth worrying about.
But do we still know what we are really going to get? I’m not sure. For starting late last year, after bad screenings of the movie, Paramount was getting a bit antsy about their investment. They began to question the direction. Really? Did they not read the script? Did they not look over the director’s vision via the graphic novel? Maybe. Maybe not. Whatever the facts were, now they were questioning the end product. That’s when they apparently gave Aronofsky no real say on the final cut. When asked about this, he played it down.
"I was upset -- of course. No one's ever done that to me. My guys and I were pretty sure that because of the nature of the film and how we work, there wasn't another version," says Aronofsky. "That's what I told them … the scenes were so interconnected -- if you started unwinding scenes, I just knew there would be holes. I showed it to filmmaker friends, and they said the DNA was set in this film." Aronofsky reassured, "For people who are very literal-minded, it would be great to communicate that the themes of the film are very much in line with the themes of the Bible -- ideas about hope, second chances and family," he says. "If they allow that, they're going to have an incredible experience with the movie. If they don't allow it, It’s theirs to lose."
What will we see if we watch NOAH this weekend? Aronofsky’s complete vision, a perfect Biblical narrative or a post production hackjob? I am not sure. Should you go see it? That I cannot tell you. I would warn the Christian viewers that they shouldn’t go in expecting something that totally re-affirms their beliefs or tell them the story they hold dear. There are traces of that story in the final cut. You can tell that by the amazing cinematic shots given in the trailers. I have already been blessed by some of the images and dialog so far. But, as Christians, we see God in the most mundane of things and this too is true here also. Sometimes all we can do is pray for the best and hold fast to what we know is true.