Requiem for a Bible Epic?

I’ve been watching the development of Darren Aronofsky’s Noah for quite a while (not a surprise to anyone who follows this blog) and it’s been an interesting ride.  The first thing I remember hearing – way back in 2008 in this Slashfilm article – was that the movie was being made to promote a pro-environmentalist agenda.   In that article, Aronosky was cited as saying,

I think it’s really timely because it’s about environmental apocalypse which is the biggest theme, for me, right now for what’s going on on this planet. So I think it’s got these big, big themes that connect with us. Noah was the first environmentalist. He’s a really interesting character. Hopefully they’ll let me make it.

darren_aronofsky_02At the time, this revelation really bothered me.  Not because I’m opposed to saving the environment, but I’m not happy with changing source material in such a radical way.  While it’s a noble idea to try and draw the attention of the modern audience to the important issue of environmental awareness, the story of Noah from the Old Testament has absolutely nothing to do with humanity’s lack of being green.  Genesis 6:5 says that the reason God sent the flood was:

The Lord saw how great the wickedness of the human race had become on the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of the human heart was only evil all the time.

Certainly one could make the argument that God could have been grieved  because of humanity’s evil treatment of the environment, but you have to read a LOT into the text to make that implication, especially if that is the thesis of your film.  The text makes it clear that it was humanity’s immorality – their evil treatment of each other – that ticked off God enough that he wanted to clean house and start over.  Genesis 6 goes on to say that one of the redeeming qualities of Noah was that he was “a righteous man, blameless among the people of his time, and he walked faithfully with God”.

It’s pretty clear that the issue in Genesis was fundamentally a religious issue, that Noah was juxtaposed against the rest of the people, and they were found severely wanting.  But check out what Aronofsky said in the aforementioned article:

I don’t think it’s a very religious story… I think it’s a great fable that’s part of so many different religions and spiritual practices. I just think it’s a great story that’s never been on film.

Not a very religious story?  Seriously?  As it was said in the comments on Slashfilm at that time,

Why not take out the issues of racism from “To Kill a Mockingbird”?  Or, we could focus the next film adaptation of “Lord of the Rings” on the disenfranchisement of the orc population!  Bottom line?  The story of Noah’s Ark without the religious component is NOT the story of Noah’s Ark.

I think this is the heart of the matter, the thinking that has so many people predicting that the movie will flop with religious audiences.

And it is precisely where I am hoping that Aronofsky will surprise us.

Coming in March 2014

Coming in March 2014

As a Christian movie lover, I’ll be fine if part of the problem in the film is that humanity has despoiled the earth and is being punished for it.  But if he avoids showing that humanity was also just plain wicked, that the majority of the people were not walking with God, it will be a huge opportunity lost.

And so for the past few days there has been a lot of noise, starting with Variety’s recently published story that had this rather misleading headline:

Survey: Faith-Driven Consumers Dissatisfied with ‘Noah,’ Hollywood Religious Pics

How can “faith-driven consumers” be dissatisfied with Noah, when they haven’t actually seen the film?  My guess is that very few people are following the story as closely as I have been following it, and their opinion on the upcoming film is only based on the fact that it’s being produced by a big Hollywood studio, and stars big Hollywood stars with Russell Crowe, Jennifer Connolly, Emma Watson, and Sir Anthony Hopkins.  But Faith Driven Consumers, the group behind getting Phil Robertson of Duck Dynasty reinstated, did a survey which found that 98% of “faith-driven consumers” weren’t interested in a Bible movie where the core message of the Bible story is replaced by a Hollywood message.

It’s a fair question, and one that the suits behind the film should be paying attention to, because ultimately it will be the thing that ensures that their 168 million dollar take on Noah is a hit or a flop.  This is what the noise has been about these past few days, with many websites asking the same question in a slightly different way.  Will religious audiences turn out for Aronofsky’s Bible-based epic?

Further Controversy for Noah

Will Christian Moviegoers Float ‘Noah’s’ Boat?

Wary of Hollywood’s “Noah”, Christians Back “Son of God” Instead

Director Claims He’s Following the Bible 

Noah Movie Test Screenings Reveal Christian Audiences Upset With ‘Darkness’ of Russell Crowe’s Character

But again, and what I return to is this: we don’t know.  We don’t know what Aronofsky is going to do with this story, and we won’t know until the film has been released, and so folks who are unsettled about this should just settle down.  Personally, I want to give him the benefit of the doubt, because I want the movie to be a huge hit. I want to want to take people to see the movie – whether they’re religious or not.

The bottom line?  I am a “faith driven consumer”, and I want to give Noah a chance.


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