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Noah
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1,141 of 1,389 people found the following review helpful
WARNING: CONTAINS SPOILERS. On the other hand, reading this before viewing the film just might open your eyes to some of the lesser-known Jewish themes it contains. Never has a movie so clearly illustrated the vast difference between how Christians and Jews read the Bible.

Yes, this is basically a Jewish movie, directed by a Jew (Darren Aronofsky) and written by him and his Jewish co-writer, Ari Handel. One of the early screenings was to a group of rabbis from various Jewish denominations, who gave it a thumbs up. In fact, I believe this is the first-ever major movie with a biblical theme that presents a Jewish POV on the story. That alone deserves a lot of kudos to a director who did NOT pander to the dominant culture in America.

So no, it does not stick to the common Christian understanding of the biblical text -- which is rather short and sketchy anyway, with no real character development. However, the Bible is only a small percentage of the sacred writings that Jews have. Aronofsky also consulted the Talmud, Midrash, Zohar, Book of Enoch, and other extra-biblical sources. Then you have the flood traditions in the Gilgamesh Epic, the story of Atlantis, the Hopi Indians, etc., plus archaological and historical data on what such an early culture might look like. Remember your Bible: "Tubal-Cain, who forged all instruments of copper and iron" (Genesis 4:22) which would place this story in the late Bronze or early Iron Age. People back then did not dress in biblical robes.

So, in his quest to make this more than mere iconography (of which we have already had enough Noah versions, both live action and animated), Aronofsky incorporated a number of themes and details that are not "in the Bible," including:

The Watchers: These are the Nephilim (neh-FEE-leem) mentioned in Genesis 6:4. Granted, the CGI version in the film is a bit hokey, but the idea of divine beings descending to Earth and becoming encased in rock is not alien to Jewish thought. They are also mentioned in the Book of Enoch, and in some gnostic texts. In an interview after the film came out, Aronofsky regretted he did not use the term "Nephilim" instead of "Watchers" -- he had thought it would be too obscure for the general public. Had he called them Nephilim, there might have been a less negative reaction.

Calling God "Creator": The Christian objections to this as "pagan" in some reviews is, in my opinion, ludicrous. OF COURSE the Creator is God! Even today in Jewish prayers and blessings we refer to God as "Boray" --the One Who Creates, as in "Boray pri ha-gafen," "Who creates the fruit of the vine," said over a cup of wine (or grape juice) every Sabbath. And remember: This story is only ten generations from Adam and Eve. So they would not know the "God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob" nor did they have the "I Am That I Am" name revealed to Moses, nor even the more generic "Lord." All that is in the future. They would only know God as the One who created the world.

The snakeskin: The implication in the movie is that the snakeskin is a family heirloom brought from Eden. The way it is wrapped around the arm is like a forerunner of tefillin, the leather straps still used by Jews today during morning prayers. So the scene with Lamech and little Noah is a sort of Bar Mitzvah, and indeed, Lamech does tell him that he is now a man -- as in the "today I am a man" recited at countless Bar Mitzvah ceremonies even today. Entering manhood is a theme that runs through the movie. Tubal-Cain thinks it means to become a warrior and learn to kill. Noah's line sees it differently -- a difference between gentiles and Jews even today, where knowledge is held above toughness.

Not Satanic: Christians interpret the Snake as an incarnation of Satan, but the text does not say that, it simply says he was "the shrewdest of all the wild beasts that God had created." So it is wrong to see the snakeskin scenes as "satanic" as some negative reviewers did. The snake was not cursed until AFTER he tricked Adam and Eve -- and yes, there is a tradition that he shed his beautiful skin at that time (as shown in the film). And he also lost his legs; the Bible itself curses him to crawl on his belly. So the Snake before the Fall was not the same creature as after the Fall. It is not unreasonable to think that the skin of the snake was something sacred, perhaps a reminder NOT to sin.

Methuselah's "magic" sword: Yes, such a tradition exists -- it is cited in "Legends of the Jews" by Louis Ginsberg (a classic).

The "tsohar stones": There is a Jewish tradition about this -- google it. They also show up in the Mormon writings. Plus some versions of the Atlantis myth speaks of using crystals as a power source. Numerous culture have stories of a pre-Flood fallen civilization.

Adam and Eve scene: There is much debate about what the "Garments of skin" were that God made after casting Adam and Eve out of the Garden. Usually we picture them as animal skins. Mystical traditions say they were physical bodies, and that Adam and Eve had been spiritual beings of light in the Garden -- an idea that is included in the film (and also a clever way to show them "naked" in a PG-13 movie.) There is also a tradition that the "garments of skin" God made after the flood were shed snakeskins, since Eden was vegetarian and animals were not yet being slaughtered. Which brings us to:

The sin of eating meat. Yes, folks, Eden was vegetarian (Genesis 3:20), and permission to eat meat was not given until AFTER the Flood at the Noah Covenant (Genesis 9.) That's classic Jewish theology. So this isn't some "animal rights" thing made up for the movie. It has a basis in tradition, and is also a graphic way to illustrate how humankind fell out of harmony with the will of God. In one scene it is hinted that Tubal-Cain's people are cannibals -- a detail also in accord with Jewish tradition. Cannibalism continued to exist well into modern times.

Seeds from Eden: There are Jewish traditions about plants brought from Eden that miraculously grew overnight. Noah's line is credited with developing agriculture. The bible itself says he was the first to plant a vineyard (Genesis 9:20).

The Ark: Usually it is pictured as a regular ship of some sort, but in Jewish commentaries it is indeed a big box without rudder or sails. The primitiveness of the construction is also accurate for the time period, with rough-hewn timbers and black pitch all over. And yes, the Midrash does say the people tried to attack Noah and seize the Ark -- which makes sense. People would probably do the same thing with survivalist bunkers today if there was a major catastrophe.

There are more such details, but I want to move on to the most controversial part: Noah himself. To begin with, Jewish tradition does not hold him to have been a perfect saint. Genesis 6:9 says he was "a righteous man" and "blameless in his age." Jews hold that he was righteous in comparison to the rest of his generation -- which, as the movie shows, were very wicked -- but that if he had lived in the time of Abraham or Moses, he would have been a nobody. He may have been the best that God could find in those times, but he was not perfect. One of his imperfections was that he did not try to save others -- which the movie shows. Even today there is a Jewish expression "to build an Ark for yourself" which implies selfishness and not caring about the rest of the community.

Noah's "nervous breakdown": This part is, as far as I know, purely Aronofsky's imagination, but it makes sense if you see it in terms of survivor guilt. People who survive a great upheaval are often convinced that they should not have survived, and feel guilty for doing so. Two events in Jewish history may have provided the model for this part of the script: The Holocaust, where, in many cases, only one or two people from a whole family line survived, and yes, there were suicides; and Masada, where Jews did indeed commit mass suicide at the end of the Bar Kochba uprising against the Romans. Survivor guilt is also common among soldiers returning from battle --and could account for the high number of suicides among veterans today. So it is perfectly plausible that Noah, after going through the Flood, was filled with such guilt and self-loathing that he did not think any humans should be left alive. The scene where he almost kills his baby granddaughter is horrifying to 21st-century eyes but remember, child sacrifice was common in the Iron Age. (See expanded addenda the bottom of this review.) So it is not unreasonable that the idea would occur to a Noah who, as we said, was not perfect and had just been emotionally traumatized.

Getting drunk: The Bible does indeed say Noah got drunk after the Flood (Genesis 11:20-21.) This movie gives a plausible reason WHY he got drunk. Again, it is not uncommon for survivors of war or disasters to sink into chemical dependency. And this is why the rainbow does not appear in the movie until AFTER Noah is able to reconcile himself with what he saw as a failure. Ila and his wife convince him that God did NOT want all humans to die, that Noah and his family were saved for humanity to start over. Then we see shots of baby animals -- signs of rebirth -- and finally the rainbow appears.

All in all, I think this is a movie that will continue to spark discussion and controversy -- and that is a good thing. As the old saying goes, where you have two Jews, you will find three opinions. So let the debates continue!

ADDENDA, SEPTEMBER 30, 2014: Since the almost-sacrifice of the two babies keeps getting referred to as Noah turning into a "psychotic baby killer" or some such, let me discuss this from the POV of history and theology. No, that story is not in the Bible, but historically it is perfectly plausible. This story is taking place in a Bronze-Age culture, when human sacrifice to appease the gods was very common. Recall the biblical story of Abraham, where God tells him to sacrifice his son, Isaac. That may horrify us in the 21st century, but in ancient times it was so "normal" that Abraham does not even argue against it, he just sets out to obey the command. Recall also the sacrifice of Iphegenia during the Trojan Wars, done in order to make the wind blow so the ships could set sail. (In this case, her mother does take revenge for it later.) Or the sacrifices offered to Kali in India, the child sacrifices of the Mayans, etc. In fact, the Christian idea that God sacrificed his son to save the world is based on the same idea. It resonated with the pagan populations of early Christianity precisely because they were USED TO stories about gods wanting sacrifices of firstborn sons.

Noah, in the movie, believes he is sacrificing his granddaughters to save the world from becoming corrupted by humans again. My take on that scene is that Aronofsky wanted to show us exactly what the horror of that action would be. Christians interpret the almost-sacrifice of Isaac as a forerunner of Jesus on the cross. But Jews see the Abraham-Isaac story as a STOPPING of human sacrifice forever, because God stopped Abraham and told him to substitute a ram instead. The story is there to tell us NOT to sacrifice children. This is my take on why God would test Abraham in the first place -- to give us a clear teaching that although Abraham might be WILLING to do that, it is not what God needs or wants. It is a critical turning point where Judaism breaks away from this brutal custom forever. It is also why Jews reject the idea of Jesus as a human sacrifice.

Mention should also be made of the decade-long debate between Hillel and Shammai, two schools of thought during the rabbinic period (Greco-Roman in secular history), about whether or not humans should have been created. the House of Hillel argued it was better that humans were created. The House of Shammai argued that is would have been better if they had not been created. A compromise was reached: it would have been better had humans not been created, but now that they were here, let people mend their ways. You can see this debate taking place in the movie, with Noah playing the role of Shammai, his wife and daughter-in-law playing Hillel. And a compromise was reached: humanity would live on, and hopefully the new start would be better.
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487 of 609 people found the following review helpful
The tale of Noah is only a short story in Genesis. Any movie adaptation was going to have to find a way to fill out a two hour movie. In some respects, Director Darren Aronofsky did fine. The movie is well cast, with Russell Crowe as a determined and devout Noah, Jennifer Connelly as his dutiful wife, Emma Watson as an adopted daughter, Anthony Hopkins as Noah's grandfather Methuselah, and Ray Winstone as the leader of a band of roving scavengers. If you've seen the trailer, you know the cinematography is quite good. The Icelandic location shooting is dramatic, and those portions of the movie which stick to the original storyline work fairly well.

In some other respects, the movie does less well. The traditional story of Noah is a straightforward morality tale about mankind. Aronofsky insisted on respinning it as a not very convincing environmental cautionary tale about a pre-industrial age. He also chose to rewrite the story of Noah and his sons and their respective wives in order to invent a disturbing and almost lethal family drama inside the Ark. At the end, the message of the movie is quite confusing.

Judging from other reviews, viewers with no particular commitment to the original story of Noah like the movie. Those viewers with expectations of a faithful adaptation of the original story are likely to be disappointed. Judge accordingly.
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577 of 743 people found the following review helpful
on March 31, 2014
I saw Noah a week ago at my local theater, and am just now able to write a level headed review about it. See, Noah is that type of movie that you either absolutely love, or downright hate. Its the kind of movie that makes people fiercely defensive of their opinions, that sparks widespread controversy. This is rare, as movies nowadays seem to be pretty tailored to their target audience. Most of the controversy is centered around whether or not the film is biblical. As a Christian who has read the bible, I feel the need to point out that the bible is very vague concerning the story of Noah. God has the only speaking part, and the feelings and experiences of Noah and his family are not shared with us. If the film ONLY included the text as it was written, it would be about half an hour, and very impersonal. Darren Aronofsky adds additional material because if he didn't, there wouldn't be a film. There wouldn't even be any characters, other then names. Now, a lot of the controversy concerns what he added, mainly the bit about the fallen angels. People seem very confused about this, shortsightedly likening them to "Rock Transformers". The Nephilim, as they are called, are mentioned in the Bible, as well as in the Book of Enoch (Enoch was the great grandfather of Noah), which is a Jewish telling of the flood that is separate from the one in the Bible. They are also referred to in the Epic of Gilgamesh, which is an ancient historical and mythological text containing the story of the flood, also separate from the bible. If one considers for a moment that Darren Aronofksy came from a Jewish background, its easy to see where he would have gotten some of his content. Other characters from the Bible are featured, such as Tubal Cain (the leader of the 'wicked' humans in the film), as well as Methuselah, even though they aren't mentioned in the biblical story of the flood. If one considers that all of these people lived at the same time however, its not much of a stretch. You can have whatever opinion about the film that you want, I just thought it might be interesting for those of you who are confused as to what the Nephilim are, or who the "Yoda character" is. Now, considering the vagueness of the bible on the event of the flood, it is only reasonable that Darren Aronofsky would have to fill in some blanks, and he does take creative license with it. Of course a lot of it isn't in the bible, but it does not contradict or disrespect what is already there. I think it should be celebrated that the bible is so narratively complex, its mysteries so compelling, that a self professed Atheist would be moved to try and tell one of its stories. There is a lot of material in that book for compelling films, whether you believe it to be fact or fantasy.

Of course, a lot of people will disagree with me, both on my opinions of the film and its source material. That is fine, I am just tired of reading negative and uneducated articles and reviews by people who refer to the Nephilim as "rock transformers", even by people who have admitted to not even seeing the film! Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, and some people will not like the liberties taken by the director. Its understandable. But as far as I am concerned, Noah is a beautiful, grim, powerfully compelling epic about the human capacity for wickedness and immorality, as well as love and mercy. The cinematography, art design, special effects, and music are uniformly brilliant. Russell Crowe brings a humanity and chilling focus to the character of Noah in one of his best performances, with Jennifer Connelly, Emma Watson, Ray Winstone, and Logan Lerman all turning in powerfully brazen work as well. The film is tense, brutal, spectacular, smart, emotionally involving and thought provoking. Love if or hate it, you cannot deny the importance and power of anything that has inspired so much debate and controversy. As entertainment, I loved it, as a story with compelling characters and themes, I loved it. If you enjoyed Braveheart or Lord of the Rings, and are willing to see Noah as a work of film rather than an advertisement for the Christian church, I think you will enjoy it too. And if you don't, that's okay. But at least see it and decide for yourself.
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276 of 383 people found the following review helpful
on July 16, 2014
I read all the negative reviews about this movie, and as a religious person myself, chose not to view it in theaters since I don't like people pandering the bible simply because they don't have faith. It was not until a friend rented it and encouraged me to watch it did I relent, and I figured only because it was free as I didn't want to contribute to artistic nonsense.

I knew in advance this was not going to follow the bible to the letter and that was never the issue I thought I was going to have. The issue was I felt it was going to defame and belittle the story. What surprised me was the artistic license was not tasteless or atheistic at all. There are a few scenes that may push your moral outrage to the extreme but in retrospect I believe these scenes were meant to illustrate the moral dilemma, not for spectacle.

I felt that this was a fair and creative way to express the story and true meaning of Noah. I thought the acting was controlled and well done, not goofy melodrama like so many movies. The direction and cinematography really shined. Take away the religion and cast, and story and you must acknowledge it is a beautiful film to watch. However the story ultimately is in line with the original and is not a rewrite or detour, but a modern interpretation. I have come to realize through this film that people who believe their interpretation and historic portrayals of the bible are the only possible interpretation do their religion a disservice and don't trust in it's ability to illuminate in unique ways.

I didn't think Noah was simply an enraged misanthrope as has been accused in this film, but genuinely was vexed about how and why he should carry out Gods will. After all why would God destroy almost ALL of mankind, you don't think even a messiah would question that? The moral dilemmas are realistic and compelling. I felt a greater appreciation both for my own free will and the ultimate power of God after this movie.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on May 9, 2015
This is an enjoyable movie to watch for those who don't mind witnessing another person's interpretation of Noah, the flood, and the state of the world at the time. I advise against those who seek to critisize everything they disagree with. If you are one of those people, do something else with your time. This movie is probably not for you.

There is only a single moment in this movie that bothered me. I just felt that the moment should have continued for a second or two longer and with a better transition. For that reason, Noah gets five stars.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on May 22, 2015
May 15
Due to the recent deluge of rain, I watched the movie Noah this morning. (I have the day off? sorta . . .) Anyway, It's free on Amazon Prime right now. I'd give it 3 out of 5 stars. Yet, there is more.
So, I remember all the contempt for this movie when it came out. In contrast, I thought it was a decent movie. The cinematography was pretty good. The acting was decent. Though there was not a great amount of depth, and it certainly wouldn't appeal to those looking for literal scriptural interpretation, the story was a good midrashic juxtaposition of God's nature and Human nature. It presents those topics in a way that allows us to wrestle with who we are and how we imagine ourselves in light of a holy God.
Earnestly, it invites us to reread scripture and look for something more than what we usually try to find. Moreover, it reminds us that scripture is multifaceted. It deepens our faith when we see the layers of God's wisdom beyond a text that is simply interpreted as "this verse means this idea."
Perhaps when we go beyond a one dimensional view of our faith, we can find God's grace in places we never thought to look. I found God's grace in this movie. I found God's grace in Noah's identity crises. I found God's grace in the interpretation of a living and breathing (and talking?) creation working alongside and in tandem with God's plan for creation. I found God's grace in a story that perpetuates an understanding of a God who desires a people faithful to godliness.
May we all dig deeper in our own understanding of God. May God lead us to be more like the Creator who created is the Creator's image.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on May 21, 2015
I had very low expectations, but WOW this was bad. I have seen b movies with better plots. The acting was fine, but the plot made water world look well developed. All mankind should have been wiped out because of industry and because we aren't all vegetarian. Even if I had never heard of the bible I can say this would be a disappointment.

Noah lives in a hut in the wilderness away from the greed, waste, and evil of man. He gathers only what little fruit or vegetable,after he can to survive in a barren wasteland caused by hunter industrialists who have destroyed the earths ecosystem. So would you believe God decided to destroy all mankind, but Noah because he was the only living environmentalist? Next Noah the typical over the top environmentalist sees himself as the only human worth existing because he cares about the earth and God needs someone to save the animals. So what is the environmental "Natural conclusion?" Let your own son's innocent love interest die so the humankind will end. Plot to kill baby granddaughters so humankind can't continue and destroy the earth in future generations. In the end he can't do it, and we are given a second chance. Whew! It all makes me ask something I always wonder. Why do the environmentalists always make exceptions for themselves? (Read Al Gores private vacation mansion.). But at least I can sleep at night knowing the writers of this warped version of the bible aren't running air conditioners, or driving cars, or even worse eating hot dogs.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on May 11, 2015
Very hard to decide between one star and two stars for its rating. The movie has some interesting concepts but it generally never moves past premise and into execution on delivering on those concepts. Some of the sequences are very well done but the film is uneven, with nonsensical character motivations, particularly on the part of Noah. It has a strong, often heavy handed, environmental message about preserving the natural world. The special effects are rather uneven, varying between exceptional and very poor. The acting is generally decent and it was entertaining to see evolutionary ideas juxtaposed with biblical, and apparently gnostic, ones. Fairly inaccurate if you are interested in a faithful adaptation of the comparatively scant source material. It was odd to see Noah as an unpleasant, unlikeable, action hero who espoused pro-environmental messages while neglecting or harming his family through the use of 'insane troll logic' in his actions and behavior. I began to lose interest about halfway through but stuck with the film to the end... which features a pulsating circular rainbow. Was it worth my time or a waste of it? I honestly don't know, but, aside from a few short segments, I have no desire to watch again. The score, done by Clint Mansell (I believe), is rather excellent.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on April 30, 2015
Horrible. Really bad. I'm no Christian but was raised a Catholic so I know the story and this is not it. It's just a s***ty movie that doesn't follow the narrative that I know. Rock monster angels? A stowaway who ate animals? This just sucks with a capital SUCK.
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26 of 37 people found the following review helpful
on November 16, 2014
I love action movies and looked forward to this one with anticipation..........but was sadly disappointed. Mr. Crowe did a decent job as Noah and the emotions that had to plague him during this time and Emma Watson was fabulous in her role.........but the movie just took too many liberties that really detracted from the storyline and made it hard to follow and fathom. The real story of Noah was himself, his wife, 3 sons and their wives...........but in the movie only one son has a mate (who becomes his wife at the end) and the other 2 sons are alone...............then Ham strolls off into the sunset to start a new life...............with whom? There are no other people so I guess he just wanders off to die or to eventually return "home" after a period of wandering...............then the stowaway was just filler as was the introduction of the "rock people" for lack of a better word. Then this grown man who is known for killing people all through the movie is done in by a little kid with little more than a pocket knife in the back...............yawn.....

It could have been great, had good actors and actresses and certainly had a good storyline that could have been developed........but just went too far out in left field and just never really came back. Watched it once, but will probably gather dust from here on out.
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