Controversy Over Upcoming Paramount Release “Noah”

On March 28, Paramount Pictures will be releasing Director Darren Aronofsky’s latest film “Noah” based on the biblical story found in the book of Genesis. Currently, it is the source of great controversy, where enthusiasts and critics both can be found amongst faithful, atheists, and agnostics alike.

This biblical adaptation happens to be a passion project of the born-and-raised-Jewish Aronofsky — and has been since he was in high school and won an award for a poem he wrote about Noah’s dove. He has had this movie in the back of his mind for years, and has only now seen it come to completion, after many years of work. “Noah’s” test-screenings (which Paramount forced along the way, against Aronosfsky’s will) did not meet with much enthusiasm, and Paramount repeatedly made Aronofsky recut the film until he reached the final product all audiences will see upon its release next month. Not to say they fixed it to a point where everyone who saw it liked it; there are still many factions, groups, and Christian organizations that disagree with themes, or characters depicted in the movie, claiming that Aronofsky had strayed too far from the biblical account, making it more focused on current issues such as environmentalism, overpopulation, and global warming.

On the other hand, Ted Baehr, founder of MovieGuide, (an organization that reviews movies for Christians), has defended the Biblical nature of the film, saying “Noah” doesn’t stray from the Bible in significant ways. All of the hyper-environmentalism that’s being reported, it’s not in the final movie. The environmental points are there, but they are dropped pretty quickly, and it’s more oriented toward salvation, and loving God, and being fruitful.” Other reports claim that when the art department was trying to come up with designs for how the ark would look on screen, Aronofsky kept having them refer to the bible saying “the measurements are right there.”

So yes, as most adaptations go, things have changed somewhat. In fact to “adapt” means to change. But the question is whether or not it was changed or embellished for the better. The director wanted to make the story compelling so that all audiences would not have another Sunday-school flick, and have a more engaging “Passion of the Christ” kind of film.

How should Christians, handle the film? What’s more, how should Chaldean Catholics, who have a deep insight into the accounts of the flood, especially through the character of Utnapishtim in the Epic of Gilgamesh, handle the film? Should they boycott anything that deviates from the word-for-word biblical story? How should they voice their approval, or disapproval of this adaptation?

Before we answer that question, it is important to know and understand how Hollywood, and movie theaters work, otherwise no communication can take place. Movies are investments for studios. They spend millions of dollars on a budget to fund the production of any one movie, before they distribute the finished product to any participating theaters. In Hollywood, ticket sales mean everything. If not many people buy tickets to see that movie, studios will be far less likely to make any more movies similar to it, assuming that audiences don’t like that kind of thing. What business would spend that much money making a product that no one will buy?

But the fact of the matter is, Hollywood’s trying it. Hollywood is trying to make a biblical movie. What parent, seeing their toddler make their first feeble attempts at walking, would push their child down and say “you’re not doing it right, don’t do it all all”? How many times have we wished that Hollywood would make more wholesome, family friendly, even faith-based films? How many times have we complained that all Hollywood makes is immoral and in bad taste? I say, let Hollywood try to make “Noah”. Go, see the movie, then condemn it if it deserves it. Offer feedback. Write letters. Tweet your disapproval. Don’t buy the DVD.

At least by buying that ticket, you’re telling Hollywood, “I’d like to see more biblically-based movies.” It’s your refusal to buy the DVD that tells them “you could do better.”

But if you don’t see the movie at all, you’re telling Hollywood “You’re not doing it right. Don’t even try.” And we should want them to.