Paramount’s Noah—Artistic License Run Amok

Does this Noah line up with the biblical Noah?

Does this Noah line up with the biblical Noah?

There has been considerable buzz about the new Noah movie set to hit theaters this weekend. Some Christian ministries, such as the one I work for (Answers in Genesis), have warned people about many of the unbiblical elements in the movie. Other Christian leaders have encouraged people to go see it since they hope it will spark discussion about the account of Noah and get people interested in reading the Bible.

Oftentimes, the people who have warned of the dangers of this film are ridiculed for overreacting—“It’s just a movie. They are using artistic license. It’s for entertainment, so lighten up.” These are just some of the types of statements we hear, but they generally come back to the idea of artistic license, so I want to focus on that in this post.

Artistic license is a given. It must be used when doing a historical movie, book, play, etc., particularly when we have few details about the characters. In this case, we don’t know what Noah looked like, how he dressed, what he sounded like, where he lived, or what his occupation was prior to the Flood. These sorts of things are filled in by the writer or director through the use of artistic license.

In my position as Content Manager at the Ark Encounter, I am well aware that we will frequently take artistic license when depicting Noah and his family on the Ark. In fact, the Ark itself requires us to take artistic license. We don’t know exactly what it looked like, how the animals and enclosures were arranged, or precisely how Noah’s family cared for all the animals.

Since we are free to use artistic license in these matters, how can someone be critical of the new Noah movie? Isn’t that hypocritical? No, it isn’t, and here’s why. When we take artistic license, we do our very best to make sure we are staying consistent with the biblical account. Yes, there are many unknowns, but we will not knowingly contradict any clear teachings in Scripture.

On the other hand, based on what I’ve read and heard (including an hour-long chat today with someone who recently watched it at Paramount), Darren Aronofsky’s Noah film is at odds with Scripture at many points. The person of Noah is portrayed as a violent man who cares little about humanity. He kills several people early in the film, and he even gets to the point where he wants to murder his own family members but isn’t able to go through with it. Noah appears conflicted throughout the film. Should he kill his own granddaughters to prevent humanity from surviving after the Flood? Has he really done what God wanted him to do?

Compare this to what we read in Scripture about Noah. He “was a just man, perfect in his generations. Noah walked with God” (Genesis 6:9). He did everything God commanded him to do (Genesis 6:22). He is called a righteous man by Ezekiel who put him in the same context as Job and Daniel (Ezekiel 14:14, 20). He is called a preacher of righteousness (2 Peter 2:5). And he is found in the “Faith Hall of Fame” of Hebrews 11, where we read, “By faith Noah, being divinely warned of things not yet seen, moved with godly fear, prepared an ark for the saving of his household, by which he condemned the world and became heir of the righteousness which is according to faith” (Hebrews 11:7). No, he wasn’t perfect. The Bible includes an account after the Flood where Noah became drunk (Genesis 9:21).

Tim's latest book is a practical apologetic on the Resurrection of Jesus. See for more details.

Tim’s latest book is a practical apologetic on the Resurrection of Jesus. See for more details.

There is plenty of room for artistic license here. Go ahead and make Noah a strong man who can wield a weapon. Show him struggle emotionally with the fact that the rest of humanity is going to be wiped out. Have him care deeply about the environment. The Bible doesn’t rule these things out. But it repeatedly stresses that he was a righteous man who walked with God, so don’t turn him into a man who wants to kill his own family members and one who seems to rarely acknowledge God. Don’t make him someone who can’t stand other people. Righteous men have a deep concern for people and want to see others come to trust in God.

The director, Darren Aronofsky, and the screen writer, Ari Handel, have repeatedly stressed how much they studied the Bible to make sure they got it right. This is difficult to believe, since they so often get it wrong, and not just with Noah’s character either. I’m sure they studied the Bible, but it seems that they view its Flood account as just another legend, like those found in so many other cultures. Rather than viewing the Bible as God’s inspired Word, they often ignored what it states.

Let’s employ the concept of artistic license in a different situation. Imagine making a film about Hitler where he is still the catalyst for World War II, but instead of murdering six million Jews and trying to wipe them off the face the earth, he loves the Jews and protects them. How would that go over in our world? Could that twist just be written off as artistic license? Or how about making a movie about Charles Darwin where he still takes the voyage on the Beagle, but when he returns, he writes books all about creation, ridicules evolutionary ideas, and tells everyone that what he saw on his travels confirmed the biblical account? Could we pass that off as artistic license? Of course not. In both cases, what is being taught about the individuals is the opposite of the truth.

This is one of the major problems with the Noah film and other films that knowingly portray biblical characters incorrectly. The people who make these pictures have very little respect for Scripture or the people in it, and they end up making a mockery of the Bible. They give the wrong impression to viewers about God’s Word and in doing so, they make themselves into false teachers.

Much more could be written and will be. I plan to see the movie in a couple of days, and if I have misrepresented the film in this post, I will gladly retract the wrong statements and apologize. Although based on the reviews I’ve seen and heard, I have a feeling that I have vastly understated the problems with this film. If that is the case, then I may need to write a “Part Two” to this post.

[Added on 3/30/2014: I have now seen this film and it is far worse than I imagined. In addition to countless errors, the film turns God and Noah into cruel and wicked beings while making the fallen angels the real heroes of the movie who end up getting saved at the end. I was continually reminded of Isaiah 5:20, “Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; who put darkness for light, and light for darkness; who put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!” I have written a full review of the film, which has been posted on the Answers in Genesis website. I plan to write more in the very near future.]



About Tim Chaffey

I am the founder of Midwest Apologetics and work as the Content Manager with the Attractions Division of Answers in Genesis. I have written (or co-authored) several books, including In Defense of Easter, God and Cancer, The Sons of God and the Nephilim, and The Truth Chronicles Series (see the publications page for more details). Please note: the opinions expressed on this site are my own and do not necessarily represent the views of Answers in Genesis.


Paramount’s Noah—Artistic License Run Amok — 13 Comments

  1. First of all ,i would like to say that i am not religious , but spiritual , so i was never going to judge this film on a religious grounds . This said , very rarely do films make me angry , but the ending of Noah had me ranting like a madman . Great that Noah didn’t kill his twin granddaughters , that wouldn’t have been humane or Christian , but then we get to who is left alive on Earth after the Flood has killed all humanity . First there are Noah & his wife (No more offspring there ) The middle son leaves ‘cos “there is nothing for him there” . So we are left with the eldest son , his wife , twin baby girls and the youngest son . Here is my problem . Anyone with any sense can see that the Human Race can only preliferate from this situation through Incest !! Unless of course i missed something .Now as many critics are saying , this film is not a true reflection of the Bible’s version of Noah , but even as a non religious person this ending is an insult to any rational human being !Russell Crowe & the director should actually get a proper job , ‘cos they sure cant make good films !!

    • Yes, the movie was extremely disturbing and problematic in many ways. As for the situation after the Flood, they certainly did misrepresent what the Bible teaches on this. Each of the sons already had a wife when they entered the Ark. Someone could argue that the movie got around that by having the one daughter-in-law give birth to twin girls, but this is clearly not what the Bible explains. There were four couples, each already married, when they entered the Ark.
      As for the claim about incest, I would encourage you to read through this article. It deals with a very similar issue, but one that goes back further in history, back to the identity of Cain’s wife. I believe this can be used to explain how we all go back to Noah and his wife.

  2. Tim… Came upon this when I read your take on Victoria Osteen, which is spot on. But I disagree on your take on the Noah movie. See here for more:

    What’s missing in all of this is a willingness to cooperate as readers with the literary forms God has chosen by which to reveal Himself to us. The problem with comparing Noah in the Bible with Noah in movie is the Bible’s story does not develop the character of Noah in the story. He never speaks in the story, which is how Hebrew literature develops a character. Now don’t mistake me as saying this is all “make-believe”. I am saying that the Hebrews did not pass down/write their history like we write ours today. They told stories from their actual history, and were quite a bit more sophisticated as story-tellers than we have realized. They used dialog primarily as the means to develop the characters in the story.

    In Noah, the writer (and I believe that Moses primarily collected and wove together these stories) tells a story a lot like similar stories in their literary tradition. But for the Flood, instead of the “Noah” character having center stage, God as a character has center stage.

    I really liked the movie, first, because as my pastor said about it: If I want to know what the Bible says, I don’t go to a movie – I read the Bible. If I go to a movie, I want to be drawn into a story with characters with whom I can relate. I can relate to the struggle to hear from God and sense his direction. I can relate to sometimes feeling God is capricious and unjust. If the movie is to be indicted for this, what of the Psalmist in Psalm 88? The imprecatory Psalms all end with a commitment to remain faithful – all except Psalm 88.

    Honestly, the rock people were a distraction from an otherwise good movie. They were odd in a prehistoric Transformers kind of way, but really did not contribute much to the story.

  3. first: i’m not a christian but i know the biblical story of Noah (i like to be informed about the subject I post about, else it is impossible to form a objective opinion about it). I don’t want to discuss about religion, every human being is free to believe in any form of religion.

    I agree that the movie is wrong on so many levels if you compare it to the biblical story. Maybe it was on purpose maybe it wasn’t i don’t know.
    But It’s clear that the director made use of the artistic license.

    I believe that he tried to depict Noah as a normal human being. It would be wrong to call him evil or wicked cause: to call Noah evil is to infer that all those people who have carried hatred and anger in their hearts towards another human being are also evil. I guess that’s all of us.
    ‘Evil’ or ‘wicked’ is just another label we like to give to other people.
    Noah in this movie was troubled, he was mentally retarded.

    A few inaccurate things:

    Overpopulation: The Bible speaks of the days when human beings had increased in number (Genesis 6:1). But it does not say that this is a bad thing. In fact, just a few chapters earlier, God enjoins man to be fruitful and multiply. But in Noah, endless encampments of human beings rapaciously live off of the earth. And Noah fears human population growth, believing that it will undermine the environment.

    In this litany of great sins, you may be missing the traditional Biblical explanations of sin: idolatry, sexual immorality, violence. Rape and murder make brief appearances, but those sins are purely secondary to the true sin: destruction of the environment and the animals.

    Great Sin: Animal Cruelty. Animals are the ideal in this vision of the world. As Ila, Noah’s adopted daughter and Seth’s wife in the film, states, “They live as they did in the Garden.” They’re the innocent. Humans, however, are not innocent, because they’re ruining things for the animals. That’s what justifies God’s wrath. Now, in traditional Biblical interpretation, one of the ‘sheva mitzvoth b’nei Noach’ was not to eat the flesh of a living animal. But Aronofsky takes it all the way, suggesting that meat-eating itself is the problem. Noah’s son, Ham, is shown as a sinner for having a taste for meat. Forget the fact that after the flood in the Bible, Noah immediately offers animal sacrifices.

    But the real problem is moral. God is Gaia in this version of the Bible. Mankind is the universal sinner, and only the animals are innocent. The film finishes with shots of pairs of animals that could have come from a National Geographic special. Which leads to this question: if God just wanted a really nice zoo, why did He bother creating mankind in the first place?

    But what message did the director try to share with the public?
    The sins of humanity in this movie are all environmental, so he might refer to global warming/ respect mother earth.

    Did I like the movie? seen it once won’t watch it again.

    Would i recommend this movie to learn about Noah? No, The movie tells a totally different story and if people want to know more about Noah they should learn it from Scripture.

  4. I agree with your comments. My husband and I saw the movie last night and were VERY glad we did not take our kids to see it with us. While it’s true that it could represent an opportunity to engage with others in conversation about the Bible, I saw so many distorted representations of God, His Love and His Plan that another response in my thinking took precedence: “…guard your hearts…” Having experienced a personal relationship with God and witnessing the amazing wonders He can work through those that choose to follow Him with faith, the most disturbing thing about this film for me is the way they have used His name and His book to sell thier own ideas and given the viewer a completely wrong impression of what God is actually all about in the process, as well as distorting faith in His love and guidance as, instead, blind allegiance to a cold uncaring deity. I believe God can do anything, including turn effects from this film into something that works for good instead of evil. However, I was saddened to see such an outright attack on Him and wish now that I would not have seen this film at all. It’s not “just a movie” when thousands if not millions will be likely to view these sad and distorted ideas.

  5. Hi Tim. I couldn’t agree more! But one question I keep getting asked is, if I’m so sure the movie will contradict scripture so much, and will paint such a false, ugly portrait of Noah, why am I still going to see it? If I will wait until “God is Not Dead” and “The Son of God” both come out on DVD before watching either of those, why do I HAVE to shell out 9 bucks to see Noah on the big screen? The answer is simple. I LOVE to talk about Noah and the Flood, and this gives me the perfect opportunity to do that with friends, co-workers, and family members.

    • Hi Tom,
      I agree with your rationale for seeing it. For me, it’s an even simpler answer—I actually need to do it for work. I will be writing a review and doing interviews about it.

    • You can talk about the biblical Noah without seeing a movie. With your enthusiasm for the truth it will be a witness to many that you would not compromise the truth by watching such a film filled with lies.

  6. This upsets me that people who have never read the scriptures will watch this movie and now think they know all about Noah and the story of the Ark. I have no desire to watch this movie, it will only anger me. Another movie I refuse to ever see (it has been out for years now) is “The temptation of Christ”. If somone wants to make a bibllical movie, go ahead….but PLEASE,.,,make it BIBLICAL! Don’t insult my faith to make money! More important, you are making a mockery of our God.

Leave a Reply to Tom Ragsdale Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *