I know I am very late in writing this. In today’s frantic and fickle pop-cultural tastes, a week is an eternity. I want to write a bit about the new Noah movie over a week after the
blockbuster has been released, but since this is not a movie review; the week
delay should not matter too much.
I have not seen the movie. It’s not that I have anything against it. It is just that I do not get out to the local bijou very often. (Bijou?!!? Now I know I am getting old.) But from the few reviews that I have read on the Internet, everybody who has seen it seems to have some kind of heated response. My favorites are from reviewers who condemn the movie for being ‘historically inaccurate’. Oh dear.
Quickly, and without seeing the stinking movie, here is my take. The only difference between Noah and other modern interpretations of mythical epics is the fact that a large percentage of people still believe in myths contained in The Bible.
can safely deviate from ancient tradition when they dramatize King Arthur,
Robin Hood, Beowulf or other quasi-legendary heroes. Forget about legend and myth. Historical dramatizations, even recent Oscar
winners (e.g. Argo, Zero Dark Thirty, Captain Phillips,
etc., etc.) often deviate from known historical events. This artistic license is routinely done,
everybody understands it, and nobody seems to mind. But when certain myths that come from a
certain book are given the same artistic treatment, people come unglued.
With this month’s Noah, and the Exodus movie scheduled for a December release, Biblical epics seem to be making something of a comeback. They were hot
property back in the 1950s, and even then there was plenty of fuss and furor
over deviations from the text. I saw The
Ten Commandments in a drive-in theater in the early 1970s, and I had to
listen to Grandma Wagner nit-pick over every scene (‘An Egyptian Princess? Who fell in love with Moses! That’s not in the Bible!’). Even the Catholic TV-movie Jesus of
Nazareth from 1977 went through my mom’s pious scrutiny (‘The Bible says Jesus
was dunked when he was baptized! He was not sprinkled!’).
Nope. Their can be no deviation from these ancient myths. At least, the ancient myths that we happen to believe are actually true. Even history can get a pass, but not these beloved myths. Christians often ask, ‘why would non-believers want to make a movie about a story in the Bible?’ No Christian, it is not because you or your scriptures are being mocked. It is because The Bible contains some great stories, and with a little brushing up, that book is great fodder for
blockbusters. As far as I am concerned,
if Hollywood can tweak mythic
heroes like Odysseus, Hercules, Thor and Beowulf and film them with epic scope
and effects for a modern audience, they should be able to do the same thing
with Noah. I see no difference between
them, except again, that some people still believe in Noah. They may even see in the movie Noah
the inevitable slide toward treating more big ticket Bible stories as summer
blockbusters. Maybe they have a right to
be worried. The Bible is ripe for the
This may explain the controversy over Noah. Theologically, I do not see how the Biblical Patriarch is important. The stories of Noah contained in the Bible have nothing to do with redemption from sin and salvation through Jesus. Noah taught no moral standards. The only thing the story of Noah and the Deluge explains to the modern reader is the formation of the
Grand Canyon and the purpose of rainbows – and this
only to a handful of Christians. If I
had to guess, the presentation of Noah as a Hollywood
action hero is not what worries Christians.
I think what worries Christians is that they see the potential of more
of their holy myths as summer blockbusters.
Noah may not be that important to Christian theology, but who is
next? Moses is coming in December. Elijah and Elisha are golden opportunities
for lovers of action spiced with magical spells. But eventually, the biggest ticket item of them
all is coming. You know He will. Think I am kidding?
Say, you know, Jesus did have a dark side to him. Didn’t he turn over the money-changers’ tables and cause the
to cease? Can we picture a plausible
insurrection against the Romans before his fateful destruction? Hmm … I think the people behind a movie like 300
can easily do something with that. No I
am not joking. Christians must know this. They simply cannot stomach the idea of having
a ‘fictionalized’ version of an ancient Palestinian deity opening against
Marvel Comics’ ‘fictionalized’ version of an ancient Scandinavian deity at the