Thursday, March 27, 2014

The Noah Graphic Novel Promises a Very Enochian Film

In my earlier post on the upcoming movie Noah, I noted that it was based on a graphic novel by Ari Handel. This, it turns out, was only partially correct. In fact, the graphic novel was essentially a pre-production story board authored by the film’s writer/director Darren Aronofsky, as well as Handel and Niko Henrichon. That said, if the movie follows the graphic novel, we’re in for a spectacular ride.

The artwork is worth the price of this graphic novel!
Aronofsky’s story has generated a good bit a controversy, some of which is legitimate. Yet before I touch on that, let me start by stating a few things about the graphic novel’s rendition. For one, the illustrations are gorgeous; it’s a piece of art that I’ll proudly display with my finest hardcover novels. Also, I’m very pleased with the way the story acknowledges one of the most curious verses in the Bible (Genesis 6:1-4) and borrows from the apocryphal Book of Enoch. As an author of Enochian fiction, I’m excited this “mythology” is getting some prime time play!
In the graphic novel (and hopefully the film), Noah encounters the Watchers—rogue angels who left heaven for earth. In Genesis, as well as the Book of Enoch, these angles left heaven because of their lust for the beautiful “daughters of men.” This isn’t the case in the graphic novel. There, the rogue angels travel to earth to help mankind after its exile from the Garden of Eden. They teach man all they know, but man eventually turns that knowledge toward war—and ultimately against the very angels who taught them. As Semyaza, their leader, tells Noah, “Your kind turned our charity into our torture.”
Hopefully we'll see some Watchers in this film.
The Watchers now live in exile, their appearance having become monstrous since abandoning heaven. (Imagine a six-armed ogre and you’ll get the picture.) In the graphic novel, I found them to be a sympathetic lot. They even become Noah’s friends and help him build the ark, which was an unexpected twist. In short, Aronofsky’s story may be the most empathetic take on the Watchers I’ve read to date.

An even bigger twist, perhaps, occurs in the character of Noah. His mission is to save the “innocents”—the animals, God’s creations. Man is killing His creations, slaying the rhino, for example, to use its horn to make potions. Noah begins to wonder if mankind should die out, and eventually this conviction becomes a dark obsession. By the novel’s midpoint, Noah proves to be a very hard character to pull for because he’s convinced God desires mankind’s extinction. In the end, this results in a powerful character arc, and if the film stays true to the graphic novel, Russell Crowe seems the perfect actor to pull this off. But whether the story is true to scripture is an entirely different question.

This one's on my Kindle to-read list!
The controversy begins with Aronofsky’s uber-environmentalist take on the reason for the Great Flood. Author Brian Godawa, who penned the historical fantasy novel Noah Primeval, wrote a blog post titled “Darren Aronofsky’s Noah: Environmentalist Wacko” that’s well worth reading. Godawa takes on all the controversies from Aronofsky’s script, including the difficult to reconcile notion that God would stop mankind from harming the environment by annihilating that environment on global scale.

That’s not what scripture says, according to Godawa, who notes that in Genesis, God brings the Flood because of the evil of men—something that suggests more than simply killing animals for food or whatnot. Further, as Godawa points out, greenhouse gasses and global warming weren’t a problem back in Antediluvian times: “And how in the world was Neolithic man able to destroy his environment and cause global warming anyway? Exactly where did the carbon emissions come from? Fred Flintstone SUVs?” According to Godawa, turning “the tale of Noah into an environmentalist screed and an animal rights diatribe does violence to the Biblical meaning and turns it into something entirely alien to the original meaning of the text.”

Aronofsky’s story also diverges from its other source material—the Book of Enoch. In that ancient text, the Watchers’ lust for “the daughters of men” convinces them to rebel against God and travel to earth to mate with human women. And while they also end up teaching mankind the ways of war and weapons and sorcery, they spawn the Nephilim—the giant-like offspring who ultimately wreak so much evil on earth that God sends His archangels, Michael, Raphael, and Uriel, to deal with the problem. They end up imprisoning the Watchers deep within the earth, before God sends the Great Flood to erase all the wickedness the Nephilim and men created together. This, however, is in stark contrast to the sympathetic take on the Watchers presented in Aronofsky’s graphic novel.

Here’s my view, on the graphic novel at least: I agree with Godawa pretty much wholeheartedly on the religious problems with Aronofsky’s tale. Moreover, the take on Enochian mythology that I adopted in Enoch’s Device is far more consistent with Godawa’s and the Book of Enoch than that of Aronofsky. But all that said, I appreciate that different authors can approach the same subject matter in utterly different ways. Aronofsky’s Noah may diverge from the biblical narrative, but I’m eager to see what spiritual meaning may remain once his tale is told on screen. (Here’s is good opinion piece on that point from CNN.)

Had there not been a biblical narrative to compare it to, Aronofsky’s graphic novel would tell a compelling story, even if the main character is very hard to root for. And coupled with the masterful artwork, it does itself justice in this graphic form. The only issue is whether one can separate the art from a more accurate biblical rendition of the tale.

I’m still looking forward to the movie, and promise to post a review once I see it (though it may be a week or two). Until then, however, I’m curious as to your view—do you have an opinion on Darren Aronofsky’s Noah? And, if so, let us know what it is.


Bill said...

Very disappointing, but hardly surprising, to learn that Mr. Aronofsky has chosen to use this Biblical story to advance his political views on environmentalism. That's the dominant culture in Hollywood.

Joseph Finley said...

Thanks for the comment Bill. Also, thanks for forwarding the link to the WSJ review. I'm posting it here in case others want to read it: