9 Problems with Aronofsky's 'Noah'
Much of the hubbub surrounding Darren Aronofsky’s Noah has been, to this point, speculation. Because the movie will only be released in theaters today, Noah’s defenders have been able to point to ignorance as the rationale for attacks on the film. No longer. We now know what’s in the movie – and it’s worse than its worst critics described.
Spoiler alert: we will explore what’s in the film, in detail. It’s important to do so because so many religious people are so overjoyed to see a Bibically-based film that they seem to forget that the Bible has a moral system to it – and they seem to overlook the fact that that moral system isn’t just violated, it’s turned on its head in Noah. Noah doesn’t merely get the story wrong; like all Biblical adaptations, it’s bound to do that (although some aspects of the film are out and out ridiculous). It gets the morality of the story wrong, and in the process turns God into Gaia and morality into radical deep green environmentalism.
Here, then, are the top nine problems with the movie. Some are aesthetic; the most important are moral.
Turning Bible Into Lord Of The Rings-Style Myth. It is possible to take the story of Noah figuratively, although virtually every Near East ancient civilization has its own version of the flood story (including the amoral epic of Gilgamesh). But to turn the story into a pure fantasy spectacle is a disservice to the Bible itself.
The story goes something like this: incipient Jedi master Noah is tasked with keeping the earth safe from the clutches of the encroaching and exploitative Emperor, Tubal-Cain; Tubal-Cain, aka Avatar’s Colonel Miles Quaritch, seeks to murder Noah and his family (a la Avatar’s Na’vi) and destroy the planet’s animals and resources; the Jedi, aided by Treebeard’s rock-cousins, the Nephilim, build an Ark; Yoda Methuselah helps Noah find his path, and also magically heals infertility; the flood comes; Jedi Noah considers becoming a homicidal maniac. If this sounds like the Bible to you, complete with magical gold-like material that creates energy and rock monsters that contain fallen angels, then this movie is for you.
Rock People. Yes, Treebeard’s slag cousins show up here, this time in the form of supposed fallen angels imprisoned in their stone bodies as a punishment for helping humanity. They talk like Treebeard. They walk like Treebeard. And they kill villains like Treebeard. These were supposed be the Nephilim of Genesis 6:4. Those Nephilim, however, were not giant rock people tasked with bludgeoning legions of humans.
Magic Methuselah. Methuselah, the oldest person in the Bible, is Noah’s grandfather. He’s also apparently a close relative of Pocahontas’ Mother Willow. He helps Noah see visions by giving him drugged tea, hands him a seed from the Garden of Eden that somehow becomes a magical forest on the spot, and can cure infertility by touching women’s wombs (somewhere, Nancy Pelosi is screaming, “keep your hands off my uterus!”). He also has a peculiar love for berries. He likes them. A lot. And he keeps saying so. The good news: he finally eats a berry. The bad news: that’s right before the flood drowns him.
Nature Becomes God. In this version of the Noah story, the sins of mankind that require Godly extirpation are not chiefly sexual immorality or idolatry or murder. They are environmental. Tubal-Cain’s motto is that he will do everything he can to allow humanity to survive: “Damned if I don’t do what it takes. Damned if I don’t take what I want.” As the villain of the film, he paraphrases Genesis 1:26, in which God gives dominion over nature to mankind and says that man is made in God’s image. Noah, meanwhile, believes – we are supposed to agree with him – that man has destroyed Eden because he is exploitative and brutish. Because man has sinned against nature itself, man must be destroyed.
Great Sin: Primitive Fracking and Mining. Noah wanders the earth with his family in search of Methuselah’s mountain, and stumbles on a mining operation designed to uncover “zohar,” a magical substance that acts essentially like oil. The primitive fracking operation that has uncovered this zohar is seen as a disastrous environmental degradation.
Great Sin: Overpopulation. The Bible speaks of the days when human beings had increased in number (Genesis 6:1). But it does not say that this is a bad thing. In fact, just a few chapters earlier, God enjoins man to be fruitful and multiply. But in Noah, endless encampments of human beings rapaciously live off of the earth. And Noah fears human population growth, believing that it will undermine the environment.
Great Sin: Animal Cruelty. Animals are the ideal in this vision of the world. As Ila (Emma Watson), Noah’s adopted daughter and Seth’s wife in the film, states, “They live as they did in the Garden.” They’re the innocent. Humans, however, are not innocent, because they’re ruining things for the animals. That’s what justifies God’s wrath. It also justifies Noah killing three guys for hunting a snake-dog. Now, in traditional Biblical interpretation, one of the sheva mitzvoth b’nei Noach – one of the seven commandments the sons of Noah took on – was not to eat the flesh of a living animal. But Aronofsky takes it all the way, suggesting that meat-eating itself is the problem. Noah’s son, Ham, is shown as a sinner for having a taste for meat. Forget the fact that after the flood in the Bible, Noah immediately offers animal sacrifices and God tells Noah he can have a giant barbecue with all the animals (Genesis 9:3).
Great Sin: Weapons-Making. Tubal-Cain is described in the Bible as a weapons maker, but has nothing to do with the Noah story. But in Noah, he’s the great villain – a humanity-first abuser who is willing to do anything to save himself. He makes weapons, of course, and Noah tells his son, Ham, not to take a weapon from Tubal-Cain. Of course, Noah is apparently fluent in weapons use. This contradiction is never explained.
In this litany of great sins, you may be missing the traditional Biblical explanations of sin: idolatry, sexual immorality, violence. Rape and murder make brief appearances, but those sins are purely secondary to the true sin: destruction of the environment and the purty animals.
Humanity Doesn’t Deserve to Survive. Because man has destroyed nature and therefore deserves to be destroyed, Noah is left in the odd position of saving his family alongside the animals. That’s odd because Noah and family are also humans – humans who have also exploited nature in order to survive. In the Biblical narrative, God saves Noah because he is not immoral – because he walks with God. In the Noah story, God chooses Noah because Noah supposedly has the strength to do away with all of humanity. God chooses Hitler. What Aronofsky never quite explains is why God rewards Noah for failing in his mission – and why, if humanity was meant to survive and Noah’s children will be sinners, God doesn’t just send a couple cases of TB to finish off the job. Instead, Aronofsky’s Noah sits by idly while the last of the humans drown just yards from his boat, screaming pitifully. Then he proceeds to consider whether or not to demolish his own kids.
Noah Is a Homicidal Maniac. Instead, in the film, God sends Noah to finish off the job – even if that means murdering his newly-born granddaughters. Granddaughters cannot be born, of course, because Noah’s sons could theoretically pair off with their nieces to reproduce. And so the climactic scene of the film has Russell Crowe hovering over his grandchildren with a knife in his hand. He only changes his mind because…well, because…love. Yes, that’s the Hollywood all-purpose deux ex machina, even if Hollywood scorns the traditional deux.
There are other problems with the film, of course. The score, by Clint Mansell, is a monstrosity, thundering two notes over and over again in a poor imitation of Hans Zimmer (it’s actually the same two notes as the Batman trilogy, just reversed). Half the action is difficult to see thanks to the accursed shaky-cam Aronofsky loves so much. And while the performances are universally good, Aronofsky’s bizarre special effects and plot choices (Seth impregnates Ila in the middle of the forest while looking for his brother, who has run off and faces death) had the audience in my theater laughing out loud at several points.
But the real problem is moral. God is Gaia in this version of the Bible. Mankind is the universal sinner, and only the animals are innocent. The film finishes with shots of pairs of animals that could have come from a National Geographic special. Which leads to this question: if God just wanted a really nice zoo, why did He bother creating mankind in the first place?
Ben Shapiro is Senior Editor-At-Large of Breitbart News and author of the New York Times bestseller “Bullies: How the Left’s Culture of Fear and Intimidation Silences America” (Threshold Editions, January 8, 2013). He is also Editor-in-Chief of TruthRevolt.org. Follow Ben Shapiro on Twitter @benshapiro.