NoahI had the chance to see the movie Noah with my new friend Jon Blevins while I was in Manitowoc, WI, this past weekend doing a parish mission at St. Francis of Assisi Parish. My love and prayers to everyone who attended: I had a blast sharing the Gospel and getting to know you.

Jon and I decided to go see Noah, not so much because we wanted to, but because we knew teens would watch it and ask questions. After seeing it I’ve come across numerous blogs that think that it’s either wonderful, awful, faithful, or heretical. For anyone who cares, here’s my two cents on Noah.

The Good

Visually, the movie was stunning. There’s a five minute scene where Noah tells his family the story of creation and it blew me away—sure to be playing at every youth group in the world once it comes out on Blu-ray. The rock monsters were awesome. Yes, theologically wacky, but I have a special affinity for rock monsters and I personally think every movie should find a way to include a rock monster in it. Especially rom-coms. But I digress. Some great action sequences, and Russell Crowe is a stud and fun to watch in pretty much anything he does (unless he’s singing a monologue on a ledge).

The Bad

It was loooooong. At the end I was kind of hoping God would wipe everyone out so I didn’t have to keep listening to them talk. For an eco-friendly pacifist, Noah was really good at killing dudes, which stuck me as a bit odd. The rock monsters were awesome. Oh, I already said that. I thought the last half of the movie faltered in it’s pace and emotional drive. The stuff heading up to the flood was pretty riveting; once they get on the boat it I felt it floundered.

Theology

This was a big-budget, Hollywood movie, so I didn’t expect it to nail the Biblical story, and to be honest I didn’t mind the creative license the director took in adding new characters, new story lines, etc. I’ve read a few blogs that really hated against some of the theologically questionable things in the movie, like the rock monsters, which were awesome. Here are the things from a theological perspective that bothered me.

I didn’t like how the movie changed what the Bible says about one of Noah’s sons, Ham. In Scripture, Ham is cast out because he rebelled against his father. He becomes the father of Canaan, whose offspring become the enemy of the Jewish people. But the movie created story lines where you felt that Ham was actually doing the right thing most of the time and there was no sense of him being banished. Really, the movie made you blame Noah for being so thick headed as to alienate his son. I didn’t appreciate that.

There was a complete disregard for human life and an over-sensitivity for animal and plant life. In the beginning of the movie, Noah comes across some kind of armadillo/dog-thing that was wounded by hunters. The dogadillo dies and Noah kills the three guys with little effort (seriously, where did he get that kind of training?) He shows no remorse for the loss of human life but is really torn up about the animal. I know the hunters were “bad”—but how about a guy who regrets the taking of any life, even if necessary? In Scripture, the story wasn’t about saving all the animals as much as saving humanity and creating a new covenant with Noah. In one of the greatest moments of biblical irony, the first thing that Noah does is sacrifice some of the animals in thanksgiving to God. The Noah of the Bible was not a vegetarian/animal rights activist who taught his kids that people who ate meat went against God’s plan. I’m eating a hamburger as I write this, by the way.

What happened to 40 days and 40 nights? In this movie, they were on that boat for at least 8 to 9 months, as the girl got pregnant right before the flood and gave birth on the boat. Or did people magically have shorter pregnancies back then? That bothered me not just from a biblical perspective but also as a plot point, ‘cause that was a long time for the bad guy to hide and keep eating the other animals. I imagine he wiped out a number of species over those months. I was so hoping they would show him eating a unicorn.

UPDATE: Thanks to Mark Hart, the Bible Geek, for correcting this. The flood lasted 40 days. Then there was 150 days before the water subsided. So the timeline was about right, but I still think it was weird to have the bad guy not discovered for so long (which obviously wasn’t a part of the biblical story).

But the biggest problem for me was the lack of God’s mercy. God was vengeful, not loving. One could argue this was part of the Biblical story: didn’t He wipe out almost all of humanity? Well, “almost” is the key word here. In a world that had completely rebelled against God (say that again with a deep, movie trailer voice), He was willing to not give up on humanity in spite of their sin. He caused the flood and saved Noah and his family to establish a covenant of peace (symbolized by the rainbow.) That’s the key element of the story, and that was completely missing here.

I really liked many elements of Fr. Barron’s review of the movie but I was surprised when he wrote, “At the emotional climax of the movie, Noah moves to kill his own granddaughters, convinced that it is God’s will that the human race be obliterated, but he relents when it becomes clear to him that God in fact wills for humanity to be renewed” (my emphasis). That wasn’t in the movie I saw. In the movie, Noah was convinced that God wanted all humanity wiped out, including his own family, and when he couldn’t bring himself to kill his grandchildren Noah was distraught because he thought he had failed God’s plan—so much so he later isolates himself in a cave and gets drunk.

Yes, there’s a little conversation at the end with Hermione that suggested that perhaps his “failure” was actually God’s will all the time. But it was a nuance, a brief whisper amid the message the rest of the movie shouted from the beginning. The overall theme was that man was made for nature, not nature for man. This focus contradicts not just the main point of the Noah story but the entire Creation narrative. I found it disturbing that one of the only voices in the movie that suggests that nature was made for man was the bad guy (and said while biting the head of an animal).

I didn’t mind that the director made changes to the story of Noah—I am disappointed that he changed the message. When you look at the pollution of the planet, it’s clear that in many places humanity has not lived up to God’s command of being good stewards to what was given to us. We should repent of this and need to do a better job protecting the earth, not just for the earth’s sake, but because the first victims of pollution are usually the poor and the marginalized.

Creation is a gift from God to man, not man a poison to creation. God created the world so we could know Him through it. And even when we sin and turn away, He reaches out to us. He didn’t make us like the plants, trees, and animals. We are more than just another part creation—we are His children, made in His image and likeness.

There were parts of the movie that spoke to that. But more often than not, I think that message was lost and replaced with something more culturally palatable. And that’s why, even with some inspiring moments and awesome rock monsters, I walked away disappointed with Noah.

As always with my blogs, feel free to respectfully disagree in the comments. Biases against rock monsters will not be tolerated. 

STIDI’m a Trekkie.

There, I said it.

I used to avoid the title because I thought other people were more into Star Trek than I was, and I didn’t want lay claim to a title I didn’t deserve. I can’t quote trivial details about each episode. I don’t frequently watch the movies/TV shows over and over. I didn’t even like all of them. And I don’t speak Klingon. Well, not fluently.

But since I recently dressed up as Lt. Riker to a showing of “Best of Both Worlds” at my local movie theater, I think I can lay claim to the title, at least causally. More to the point, this last movie bugged me so much that I must have some Trekkie blood in me to be so riled about it.

Don’t think of me a purist. I liked the first JJ Abrams film and, though it had it’s faults, I was really looking forward to this one. He’s great at making action films and working with ensemble casts. So I really wanted to enjoy it… but I just couldn’t. Here’s why. (SPOILER ALERT: This is full of them.)

Transporter problems. So Khan can teleport out of a falling ship into a different galaxy but they can’t beam Spock out of a volcano without line of sight? Lazy writing.

Transporter successes. Wait… Khan can teleport out of a falling ship into a different galaxy?!? Huh? Wha? GAAAH! This insanely stupid technology (used in the first movie in an equally lame plot device) means that space ships are mostly irrelevant. I mean, let’s just beam from planet to planet now, shall we?

Gravity problems. Okay, this bugged me so much it completely pulled me out of the movie. The gravity plates work or they don’t. If they work, people are walking normally. If they don’t, people are floating. Especially if they are falling to earth (this is how NASA currently simulates zero-gravity in aircrafts.) The whole turning at a 90 degree angle with bodies flying everywhere was just plain stupid. The “Science of Star Trek” is one of the things that gave Star Trek a unique brand and fan base, and it seems that gets thrown out of the window (or space hatch) entirely.

Engineering. While I’m on the subject of technology: I’m sure Paramount saved lots of money by using some local water filtration system plant instead of building a real set for the Enterprise’s engineering section, but seriouzly? Couldn’t they have made it look cooler, or did they blow their budget buying extra light bulbs for the bridge? While I’m on that…

Why does the Enterprise only have five rooms in it? There’s sick bay, the water filtration plant, the prison, the bridge, and a really long hallway that connects to the transporter bay (which apparently you don’t need since you can teleport to a different galaxy using a device the size of your leg… GAAAH!) How about a “Ready Room” where a Captain can make important decisions not surrounded by the rest of the crew? Do they even have private quarters? I guess they don’t because…

Dr. Carol Marcus in her underwear. Was there a reason she needed to change in the shuttlecraft? Why wasn’t Bones running right behind her in his skivvies? Kidding aside, this scene really bothered me. Kirk responded with less tact than a 13 year old would. And it was such an obvious, “Oh no! We’ve gone an hour without sex! Have the pretty young actress take her clothes off!” Degrading to women; insulting to the audience. I doubt we’d have seen that scene if she was an older woman, but those kind of people don’t exist in the future because…

Starfleet seems to be made up of mostly 20 year olds. Captain Kirk screws up and they want to send him back to… the Academy? Scotty resigns and they replace him with a Russian teenager? This was the same problem I had with the first film (Cadet Kirk goes from being suspended in Starfleet to being Captain of a starship in the matter of a few hours) and it continued bug me here. But the thing that bugged me the most is…

By having Benedict Cumberbunch play Kahn, they made it a reboot, not an alternate timeline. I love the actor—Sherlock is one of my favorite TV shows of all time. When I heard he was going to be in the new Star Trek film I was thrilled. But when I discovered he was Kahn… my stomach turned. That’s not because I’m a huge Ricardo Monteban fan. It’s because up to this point the filmmakers had gone out of their way to cast actors who have some kind of resemblance to the original series. But with Kahn, the greatest and most dynamic of all Star Trek villains, they said, “Ah, screw it.” He didn’t look like Kahn. He didn’t act like Kahn. He wasn’t Kahn.

Like many Star Trek fans, when we heard about the first movie being made we were excited but also nervous. None of us wanted a “re-boot.” What I thought was brilliant about the first one was that it was not a re-boot, but an alternate timeline. What would Kirk be like without his father’s influence? What would Spock be like with his mother dead and planet gone? What will Starfleet be like having faced such a technologically superior threat? But turning Kahn into a hyper-military English guy broke the whole thing.

I wish they had made him someone else. How about having him as part of Kahn’s crew with a frozen Kahn in a torpedo? And while I thought the flip of the Kirk/Spock dialogue was kind of clever, all it did was remind me that this movie just “looks” like Star Trek, but it really isn’t. Oh, and one more thing…

“We need Kahn’s blood!” No you don’t. You’ve got 72 other people who have the same stuff in their veins. BTW, I hope they didn’t just leave those people in cold storage. At the very least, their blood could cure every disease on earth, and even raise people who were “mostly” dead, right?

That kind of plot device works in Princess Bride, but not in Star Trek. Or at least, it shouldn’t. And that’s why I didn’t like the movie.

COMMENTS: Normally, I ask for a a civil conversation. But not today! Heghlu'meH QaQ jajvam!