Do you remember when you were a kid and you had to read a book for school and then create a presentation in front of the class. There was always that one kid who refused to read the book but he’d still have an elaborate project in an attempt to impress for a grade and the rest of the class would have to sit through it? You know the feeling of looking forward to something for a while, knowing it has extreme potential, but it just falls flat, and a sinking sensation fills your guts? Everyone has at some point or another said “it’s just not as good as the book,” in reference to a movie adaption, am I right? Well all these scenarios apply to Darren Aronofsky’s Noah. If this film were graded on accuracy to the source text, it’d get a hard F.
The thing is, there is no “Book of Noah”. The story of Noah is recounted in Chapters 6-10 of the book of Genesis. So you’d think it’d take no longer than 5-10 minutes to read? Well Darren must’ve got lazy and looked up some sparknotes. That’s not to say his team didn’t do research. They found plenty of information to draw on, just not much from Genesis, and found some creative license as well. In the end it pushed much of the true source material and overall point out of the picture.
Let’s start with an obvious doozy. In Genesis 6:2 it reads “the sons of God (angels) saw the daughters of men that they were fair; and they took them wives of all that they chose.” (ASV) The account continues in verse 4, telling that the women the angels bedded gave birth to Nephilim, giants among men, violent and strong. Demigods, basically. This would translate to film amazingly. The perfect cherry on top of the cake. But no. Get rid of ’em. Get rid of the angels that came to sleep with the women too. “Let’s replace them with good angels that choose to try and aid the humans, but let’s turn them into stone Transformers that explode when you kill them.” Yeah. This actually happened. Instead of going with the very clear source material, they chose to delve into the apocryphal Book of Enoch, written around the first or second century B.C.E., wherein the stone watchers are mentioned. This is a huge mistake for the movie. It is generally believed that it took Noah and his family 40-50 years to build the ark. With The Watchers aiding Noah it took only a few.
A few other additions to the story made everyone who’s ever read Genesis second guess what the heck was going on at times. An ancient relic from the Garden of Eden, the snakeskin shed from the tempter himself was passed down the line of Seth (third son of Adam & Eve), and oddly enough was used to bless younger ones (after of course wrapping the snake around the arm). I can’t imagine what this symbolized, but I’m pretty sure nobody got it. Another interesting addition were the glowing stones littered throughout the movie, used mainly to start fires, or as gunpowder. I believe it was referred to as Zoha, or Zohar (a term found in Jewish mysticism), but the only reference to glowing stones I could find was an addition to the text in the Book of Ether (in the Book of Mormon). Another interesting inclusion was Methuselah’s magic powers, or ability to perform miracles without any determinable Holy Spirit. Oh, and his fire sword.
Creative freedom you say? Well, okay. The film certainly was “creative.” But did it hold the same meaning that it did in the scriptures? Sadly no. A running them in the film was that Noah didn’t have clear direction from “the Creator” as to who lives and who dies. Noah was dead certain that the Creator meant for everyone to die, and that humanity would end when his last son Japheth perished. But this just isn’t true. According to Genesis, he was told to, along with all the animals (by 2s and 7s), he would take himself, his sons, his wife, and his sons’ wives along in the ark, so as to wipe out all wickedness. The scriptures never lead us to assume Noah was tasked to end all human life. But the Noah of this film really fell far from grace and actually was very dislikable, allowing a female that Ham (his second son) was interested in to die, and plotted to murder the two daughters of Ila (wife of Shem, first son) because they could bear children to Noah’s other sons. It was a terribly disturbing plot device and sacrificed the moral of the original text.
Which brings out another clearly disregarded story fact. Eight humans in the ark. This film had six (seven if you count Tubal-Cain the main protagonist who climbed aboard in secret). Why would the Ceator even allow Tubal-Cain on His ark? Why would He leave his plans for humanity up to Noah to decide? Where was Ham going at the end of the movie? He’s supposed to make kids and populate the earth. Just so much bad.
BUT it’s not all a loss. Although this movie was a TERRIBLE adaptation, some interesting notions were touched upon that I liked. I thought that the line of Cain vs the line of Seth was very well thought out. The blackened earth I imagine must have been the Mark of Cain – I can only assume however, as again, they don’t explain it. There were some funky futurist/steampunk developments all over the place. It had been 2000+ years since the events in the Garden of Eden, so it would make sense that the humans in the ante-diluvian time period had come up with some form of technological advancement (especially since the average lifespan was 700-900 years of age) all to be wiped away along with the wicked. Noah’s dreams were particularly well done and jarringly frightening. The wickedness and violence of men in the time period was truly disgusting. And the stop motion stylized footage was really gripping. And then there was some terrific acting from Emma Watson and Jennifer Connelly.
I’ve also seen a few people harping on about Noah being a vegetarian. Well that’s actually true. Genesis says that man was allowed to eat from any fruit or tree in the garden, and said nothing about eating animals. The first account of the creator saying it was okay to eat meat (with the understanding that they must bleed the animal out first) was directly after the deluge, due to the fact that there were no vegetarian things to eat anymore. They never did explain they were directed to eat meat after the flood in the movie however.
Alas, I couldn’t get over how much I disliked all the changes they made to one of my favorite stories growing up as a kid. It’s just not the story of Noah’s ark. Some things I really liked, others I really wanted to, but most of it was just spurious nonsense that took me out of the film. It was probably the worst adaption of anything I’ve ever seen. I’ve never walked out of a theatre so upset.