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Ten Ways Aronofsky’s Noah Could Have Been Worse

April 15, 2014

Recently, someone saw the movie Noah by Darren Aronofsky, and thereupon tweeted: “Not sure if I could have liked it less. “

“Oh, really?” I say, “Maybe it’s simply a lack of imagination. Here let me help…”

The following “pitches,” by the grace of Almighty God, never actually made it to the screen. Why they didn’t get green-lighted–in the existing film industry–who can say? We can only thank the Creator every day. (Actually, I made all these up, in case you failed to detect the element of irony here.) Enjoy (NOT!).


10. Disney does it again with Chosen. It’s the story of three brothers in search of three brides. They won’t settle for anything less than finding True Love—but then they have all the time in the world. That is, until Noah, their father, insists that a catastrophic flood is on the way—and soon. That explains the “Gopherwood Palace” dad’s been building on the back 40 as long as they can remember. So it’s high-gear high jinx, as Shem, Ham, and Japheth pull out all the stops to win the hearts of three beautiful princesses, before it’s too late. Only, do they tell them about all dad’s pets? You’ll love the musical numbers along the way, such as “Gotta be married before I’m 100,” “Gimme Cupid—not Cubits,” as well as an all-new version of “Heffalumps and Woozles.”

9. Kirk Cameron leads a cast of unknown amateurs in Waterproof. He plays Noah, the local lawman of Enochville, Georgia. He’s got his work cut out for him, what with the wickedness of man being great in the earth, and every imagination of the thoughts of his heart only evil continually. But the job’s taking a toll on his marriage. What’s worse to pay the bills, his wife has had to take a job at the local animal shelter. But then Noah just had to have a new boat. And their three boys are growing fast. Shem’s the jock: quarterback of the football team, and on his biggest night, facing the giants of Nephilim High, Noah has to work late. Ham’s the “bad boy” type: his grades have been slipping, and they suspect he may have secretly started smoking. All he wanted was for his father to take him fishing, but there was never time: “the job comes first, son.” Japheth just lives in a world of his own, comic books and video games. But fateful events bring them all together, as 4,000,000,000 of their friends and neighbors are killed in one night in a freak thunderstorm. But the family survives and more importantly is able to spend quality time together on Noah’s boat. Afterward, Noah and his sons form a men’s group, and he invites them to take a knee and they all sign the Rainbow Covenant, promising to be better husbands and fathers. Tie in materials include a website and copies of The Rainbow Covenant, which can be bought in bulk for Sunday schools and home groups.

8. Based on the international bestseller, Genesis, comes Raindrops, a love story for the ages. Beulah knows is a forbidden love. She is a D.O.M., and Edwin is a S.O.G. Yes, he’s fallen, but so angelic. From that first day, when he walked into the classroom, her heart has never been the same. She and Shem have been sweethearts for three years, and she cares for him deeply, but Edwin sparkles in the sunlight. Which one will she choose? But choices have consequences, especially since Shem’s father, Mr. Noah, the leading climatologist, warns of a storm to end all storms, coming, who knows when. The Raindrops Saga is set to continue in Dark CloudOvercast, and finallyBreaking Storm.

7. Noah’s Ark (2014) is a reboot of the 1999 classic television miniseries of the same name. Kevin Sorbo stars as Noah, the ancient patriarch. Charlie Sheen plays Lot, the main villain. Macaulay Culkin is Absalom. Jane Seymour is Cleopatra, and Jon Voight (who played Noah in the original film) appears in a cameo as Abraham Lincoln. Action-packed, sometimes zany, occasionally irrelevant, this is not your father’s Bible film. And this is only the beginning: coming this September, the fun continues on NBC with Noah: the Legendary Journeys, in which Noah sets sail in his ark and each week encounters a different character from Bible stories, ancient history, and the mythologies of the world.

6. Coming this summer, Clash of the Nephilim, will be a sure-fire blockbuster. It’s a cosmic upstairs/downstairs. Above the firmament dome stands the dazzling palace of Paradise. Ian MacShane stars as Jehovah, who has just about had it with the denizens of the downstairs realm. Around him the celestial court is filled with intrigue, and some of the younger angels are sneaking away to hook up with babes down below. James Cromwell plays Che Rubin, and Julianne Moore is Sarah Phim. Little do they know on the flat world below, they are about to be blotted out by a flood of water from heaven. But one man gets wind of it, Noah, played by Jason Statham, and he’s determined to show the man upstairs who is boss. He undertakes a gargantuan building program, an ark half a mile long and twenty stories high. But before he can finish, Jehovah has had enough. “Release the Deluge!” he commands.

5. It’s Dr. Dolittle meets Captain Nemo in Dr. Noah, a complete re-imagining of the ancient Biblical tale. It’s a steampunk, psychedelic sci-fi voyage beyond imagination. Long, long ago lived an age-old wise man named Noah (Ian McKellan). In his laboratory at his fortress of Edenwood, his experiements delve into the secrets of the universe. He has learned to communicate with what mankind calls the beasts, but which are in reality far more civilized than they. Along with his companions, Shem the unicorn, Ham the lion, and Japheth the orangutan, he asks nothing more but to be left alone to do his work. Though the simple, stone-age humans are oblivious, the animals can sense something big is looming; a horrendous flood. Dr. Noah learns of this from them, and reveals his top secret supreme project hidden in a water-filled cave deep under his lair: a massive wooden submarine, known as The Ark, which is powered by the mysterious substance “Angel Fire.” He survives the flood and repopulates the earth with new, more advanced test-tube versions of the human race.

4. The Ark presents the most historically accurate depiction of what scholars believe to be the true story behind the traditional story we know as Noah’s Ark. Clive Owen stars as Upnapishtim, chieftan of a small band of early homo sapiens, in the Mesopotamian valley, who live in constant conflict with Neanderthals, who outnumber them. The humans have developed rudimentary agriculture and keep herds and flocks, whereas the Neanderthals are hunter-gatherers, and these descend upon the humans raiding them of crops and livestock. Flooding is common in the valley, but when a storm of unusual proportion threatens, the people band together to build the largest barge ever built, large enough to house their small settlement along with their animals. The result is not only survival of the group, but deliverance from the harrying Neanderthals, who are unable to flee, and who perish in the flood. The human band celebrates their victory, sacrifice to their deities, and the tale of the event is told from generation to generation.

3. The story we know as Noah’s ark has appeared on screen before, but never before with the spiritual sensitivity ofThe Story of the Flood. Because Islam forbids depiction of any prophet, the story is seen through the eyes of the prophet of those days, whose name was Nuh. Accurately recounting the story from the original Qur’an. When God reveals He is sending a flood, Nuh builds a giant raft to save his family and all those who would believe his warning. Even one of his own sons does not believe, but the other three, along with 76 others, and Nuh’s domestic animals ride the ark to safety and give praise to God.

2. Finally, a Bible story for our times. Noah’s Rainbow is a very special re-telling of the ancient tale. He has begotten three sons with the wife of his youth, but he cannot deny the feelings inside. When God speaks to him, and warns him of a coming flood, he feels himself affirmed. But he struggles with the implications when God inexplicably issues his orders with heteronormative insensitivity. Animals two by two, one male, one female. How can God be good, and yet so clearly bigoted? He argues, he struggles, he organizes a march, but finally the rains come and he has no choice but to trust. His faith is rewarded after the flood, because it is a New World now, and God finally shows His true feelings by painting a beautiful rainbow across the sky. As the film concludes, even the animals join Noah and company in an exuberant production number to the song: “It’s Raining Men.”

[Note: that was revolting, wasn’t it!]

1. One final way Noah could have been worse. Imagine a scrupulously “correct” depiction of the details of the text of Genesis 6-9, unimpeachable to the last detail (at least according to someone’s interpretation), but which proved ultimately insipid, flat, devoid of narrative force. It could be due to unimaginative writing, inappropriate casting, mediocre acting, passionless direction, ho-hum cinematography, unmoving music, or any number of other failings which tend to kill a film. It could be acclaimed for its accuracy by some of the same folks who have vocally panned Aronofsky’s Noah for its distortions (of which there are many), and ultimately fail to draw anyone but the “usual suspects” who do that Christian movie thing. And ultimately, while it earns a place on church library shelves (whereNoah would not), there may not be all that much interest to watch it again.

We have no small number of examples of such works, and not only for Bible films, but also for literary works, where somehow, someone felt that fidelity to particulars was enough, and the impact of the whole was less a consideration, not important, or simply not achieved.

I don’t say this is inevitable. I say let’s have both. However, there seems to be a dynamic which increases blandness of result the more that strict adherence to source material is the focus. Part of this is due to the fact that adapting a written work—inspired or not—is an act of translation to a visual medium. As with other forms of translation, a paradox exists such that over-adherence to formal correspondence effects a distortion of its own. The original in its own context, genre, and medium carried impact, sustained coherence, and conveyed a message. Often the same bundle of particulars, in a new context, genre or medium fails to do so without significant—and creative—craftsmanship of the derived work.

As with other kinds of translation, the complaint is often traductor traditor—translator traitor! And certainly many feel “betrayed” by Aronofsky. And I don’t say he achieved anything like an appropriate translation, but many of thespecific accusations, I think, are exaggerated, groundless, or downright hypocritical. And anyway—it could’ve been awhole lot worse. QED

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