Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Noah Finds Religion—and Stony Angels

I managed to see Daren Aronofsky’s Noah a bit earlier than I anticipated. Having just read the graphic novel, I thought I knew what to expect. And while that was partially, true, the film went in a surprisingly more religious direction. Also, as I hoped, there were plenty of Watchers—the fallen angels of Genesis 6:1-4 and the Book of Enoch—but even these guys threw me for a bit of a curve.

What I can’t tell is whether Noah’s new dose of religion was added to the script by the studio to quell critics or whether Aronofsky’s vision of the film changed a bit from his graphic novel. As I noted last week, the graphic novel has an uber-environmentalist bent. The wickedness of men that causes the Great Flood is chalked up to man’s sins against the environment, and animals in particular, causing Noah to see himself as the savior of God’s innocent creations.

As many critics have noted, this environmentalist storyline diverges from the true wickedness of man that inspires the Genesis version of the Flood. In Genesis, it all starts with the serpent in the Garden of Eden, but he’s nowhere to be found in the graphic novel. Yet in the movie, he appears right after the opening credits! He also can be seen almost every time the movie talks about Original Sin. Moreover, there’s a scene in the movie designed to portray the wickedness of man. Amidst the murder and chaos, Noah sees a man that the movie strongly suggests is the serpent embodied in human form—the Enemy himself inflaming the wickedness that provokes God to cleanse the earth.

This is a 180-degree change from some of the pre-release speculation about the film. And while the story does have Noah turning down a dark path, believing God wants to exterminate all of mankind and that Noah is supposed to help Him accomplish this, the film’s story arch is one of redemption, backed by a powerful message of love. It’s actually done much better in the film than the graphic novel. Noah’s wife, Naameh, embodies the theme of faith, and Jennifer Connelly, who plays her, pulls this off well.

Now let me say a few things about the Watchers. Unlike the graphic novel which depicted them as gigantic, six-armed ogres, the movie portrays them like Middle-Earthen Tree Ents, but made of stone.

I’ve already written about how Aronofsky’s vision of the Watchers diverges from the Book of Enoch and Genesis chapter 6. Contrary to what you might read in the movie reviews, these guys weren’t the Nephilim of scripture. The Nephilim are actually the children of the Watchers and human women. But let’s just say the Watchers in the movie don’t look capable of procreation. Because they’re more like walking boulders than manlike beings.

Their appearance in the movie, however, got me thinking. I wonder if this wasn’t an intentional play on the Book of Enoch. In that ancient text, the actual Watchers rebel against God, mate with human women, and spawn with the Nephilim, who wreak great evil in the world. As a result, God sends his archangels to imprison them in the earth. In the movie, when these beings of light arrive on earth against God’s will, they turn to stone, literally trapping their light within earth. If my theory is right, this was a very clever move by the writers.

Overall, I enjoyed Noah and think it may have been superior to its graphic counterpart. It’s earned some very good reviews (you can read some here and here). And just maybe it will kindle some interest in that curious verse in Genesis—the one Brother Remi is obsessed with in Enoch’s Device. Speaking of Enoch, Methuselah (played brilliantly by Anthony Hopkins in the film) speaks fondly of his father Enoch, and he wields a little bit of white magic too—just enough, in fact, to change the world.

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