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'Noah' tops box office, sparks debate

Published: Friday, April 4 2014 6:25 p.m. MDT

The Ark in "Noah," from Paramount Pictures and Regency Enterprises.

Paramount

Director Darren Aronofsky’s blockbuster “Noah” opened at No. 1 at the box office last weekend, amassing $44 million and acclaim by many media outlets. But the success was not without some negative reactions from religious critics and moviegoers.

In March, Aronofsky, an atheist who is known for his work on movies like “Black Swan” and “Requiem for a Dream,” told The New Yorker that “Noah” was the “least biblical biblical film ever made."

Many who saw the film on opening weekend are agreeing that "Noah" is indeed "unbiblical."

In an article on myfoxchicago.com, DePaul University Religious Studies associate professor Scott Paeth said undertaking to make a movie based on a book as heavily scrutinized as the Bible is no easy task.

"No movie that's based on the Bible is ever going to be 100 percent biblically accurate," he said, adding that the length of stories like that of Noah’s ark would make for very short films.

"Yes, I get that the actual biblical story of Noah is both way too short and not nearly cinematic enough for a blockbuster movie," wrote Stephen Silver of technologytell.com. "But there’s a whole lot of stuff here that doesn’t feel like it belongs in a biblical epic."

Ken Ham, the founder of Answers in Genesis, is another critic who had a hard time finding much biblical accuracy in the film.

“Except for some of the names in the movie, like Noah, his sons’ names and Methuselah, hardly any remnant of the Bible’s account of the Flood in Genesis 6-9 is recognizable,” Ham wrote in an article published on time.com.

Ham wrote that the movie “grossly distorts the Genesis account of the Creation and the Flood, and it totally denigrates the godly character of the Noah of the Bible.

“Further,” Ham added, “it may be the worst film I have ever seen.”

“Noah” begins with the line “In the beginning, there was nothing,” as opposed to the King James Version in Genesis 1:1, which reads: "In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth."

In fact, the name “God” is not mentioned a single time in Aronofsky’s film. A generally favorable review from The Hollywood Reporter says that the film "will rile some for the complete omission of the name 'God' from the dialogue."

The Hollywood Reporter also points out several other controversial discrepancies between the film and the Bible, such as “far more swordplay and fighting than one ever imagined in this story” and what the article calls “foreground family melodrama,” including the disturbing potential for an Abraham-and-Isaac-style sacrifice.

In the New Testament, the prophet Noah is described as a man of faith who was warned of God and became the heir of righteousness. In his article for Time, Ham describes Aronofsky’s portrayal of the prophet as “an insult to the character of Noah, and most of all, an insult to the God of the Bible,” noting that, after much of the movie’s drama has subsided, Noah “wants to totally destroy the human race and doesn’t want his sons to have children, … values his animals on board more than people … (and) becomes a psychopath.” He adds, “Hollywood’s Noah is not the righteous man described in Hebrews 11 and other scriptures.”

The character of Methuselah (portrayed in the movie by Anthony Hopkins) has also been the subject of criticism. Aaron Klein of wnd.com calls Hopkins’ character “a sorcerer of sorts,” referring to the use of black magic in resolving several of the film’s pivotal moments.

"This is not exactly a Sunday School lesson," pointed out AP writer Christy Lemire on Rotten Tomatoes.

Ok.com users give the film a 38-percent "Worth Your Time" rating. Audiences at Rotten Tomatoes have given "Noah" a 47 percent approval rating. However, "Noah" is "certified fresh" by professional critics, currently sitting at 77 percent approval.

Christopher Orr of The Atlantic wrote, "Despite its flamboyant, and at times goofy, fantasy trappings, 'Noah' is firmly anchored by the fierce moral intensity of Aronofsky’s vision, which is, if anything, more Old Testament than the Old Testament itself."

"'Noah,' like the good book it springs from, is wide open to interpretation," wrote Steve Persall of the Tampa Bay Times. "Bold yet reverent, (Aronofsky's) head-trip take on the biblical legend is bound to confound literalists wondering what in the name of Cecil B. DeMille is going on."

Some Christian leaders have spoken up in defense of the film and believe the movie can be used as a positive tool for Bible-believing Christians, as reported by The Blaze. In a video the website posted in March, Gabe Lyons, the author and founder of Q, said, "They wanted to do a story that could capture our imagination and is riveting, that draws you in, that makes you leave affected, feeling the weight of life and humanity, and this story does that."

"Movies aren't meant to preach," Karen Covell said in the video. Covell, the founder of the Hollywood Prayer Network, continued, "Movies aren't sermons. And so if they can bring up the topic and start conversation, that's a good movie — and this one made me ask questions."

"There will be many people who will choose to see this movie. We can’t prevent that, and I am not calling for a boycott," Ham wrote. “If a Christian who is knowledgeable about the true account of Noah knows of someone who has already seen the film, then that believer should certainly take the opportunity to share about the truthfulness of God’s Word."

Email: achristensen@deseretnews.com, Twitter: atownmania

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