The crawl at the beginning of “Noah” tells of Adam and Eve losing paradise. According to the movie they had three sons, Cain, Abel, and Seth. Cain killed Abel. By Noah’s day all mankind had descended from either Cain or Seth. Cain’s descendants were the bad guys, Seth’s the good guys, of which Lamech and his son, Noah, are the last.
And there was a third element, The Watchers: huge, lava-like creatures that are a clear rip-off of the Rock Monster from the (comedy) movie Galaxy Quest. I wish I was kidding.
The action starts with an attack by the bad guys, led by Tubal-cain, killing Lamech when Noah is a boy. He is raised by his grandfather, Methuselah. As an adult, he has an encounter with a band of bad guys who are hunting a weird animal. After explaining to his sons Shem and Ham that while mankind should be protecting animals the bad guys believe they gain strength by eating them, Noah goes all Bruce Willis on the bad guys.
Noah has a weird dream about a flood. He discusses it with Methuselah and comes up with a plan to build an ark to save the animals. The building begins. Shem is his dad’s right-hand man, Ham is a troubled teen. Shem has a girlfriend, Ila – though she’s barren – but Ham has no one. Noah’s third son, Japheth, is about nine.
The depiction of the ark is impressive. How can one man and two teens build such a colossal structure? Easy. The lava monsters come to their aid. One of them explains that they felt sorry for Adam and Eve when they were kicked out of Eden and tried to watch over them, but The Creator (the movie consistently avoids calling Him God) turned them from light to stone for going against His will. Or something like that; it was hard to hear Frank Langella’s rumbling monologue.
Noah’s wife stirs up an herbal concoction that puts the animals to sleep so they don’t eat each other on the ark. Methuselah heals Ila’s sterility. Rain begins, bad guys attack the ark, lava monsters slaughter thousands, but Tubal-Cain figures out how to defeat them. As one is dying it looks to heaven and asks for forgiveness. Its rocky shell falls away and, Beam Me Up Scotty.
The attack continues. Noah kills several before closing the door. Tubal-cain stows away with Ham’s help. Ham is upset about having no mate. Noah explains that he has decided that the Creator’s actual plan is not the saving of mankind but the end of all mankind; that after he and his wife die, after Shem and Ila die, Ham will bury them, Japheth will bury Ham, and Japheth will die alone. Ila then reveals that she is pregnant, and asks for Noah’s blessing. He refuses, saying that if it’s a boy, fine, but if it’s a girl he’ll kill it to guarantee that mankind is wiped out and the world is left to the animals.
About the time the ark runs aground Ilah delivers twin girls. Tubal-Cain brawls with Noah. Ham, forced to choose, defends his dad and kills Tubal-Cain. Noah can’t bring himself to kill the baby girls; feels like a failure and drinks himself into a stupor. Ham sees him naked and does nothing. Shem and Japheth cover him up, and Ham leaves home.
What does the movie get right? Well, Noah did have 3 sons. The world of his day was being ruined by bad guys. And the movie ark is an excellent depiction of the Bible ark.
What does the movie get wrong? Just about everything else.
Adam had more kids than Cain, Abel, and Seth. “The days of Adam after he became the father of Seth were eight hundred years; and he had other sons and daughters.” (Genesis 5:4) Cain, Seth, and their younger brothers married their sisters or nieces.
The Bible divides humanity into 3 families – the descendants of Shem, Ham, and Japheth. And while science argues about Ham and Japheth, they generally agree that middle-eastern “semites” (Shem-ites) are one family of humans, genetically related and distinct from other races. The movie “Noah” has all of us descending from Shem and Ila.
Lamech died when he was 777 years old. The world was a violent place at that time, and it’s not impossible he was murdered, but the Bible doesn’t say. What it does say is that Noah was 595 years old when his dad died… hardly an impressionable young boy.
Tubal-cain is described in the Bible as a metalworker and inventor of tools, so his depiction in the movie is interesting. The Bible says nothing about whether he was good or bad. The Roman god Vulcan was the god of fire and was usually portrayed holding a blacksmith’s hammer, and the myth is thought by many to have been derived from the biblical Tubal-cain. But Tubal-cain and Methuselah were both eight generations down from Adam. If Tubal-cain lived until Noah’s day, he’d likely have been as ancient as Methuselah.
A flashback scene supposedly telling the story of creation depicts fish crawling up onto land and developing legs, ala evolution. Similarly, nearly all the animals seen in the movie look like leftovers from Jurassic Park.
The Bible clearly calls the mates of Adam, Cain, Lamech, Noah, and Shem “wives.” It even includes a description of Adam’s marriage to Eve. The movie condemns the bad guys for taking women by force, but condones Shem’s unmarried relations with Ila. They only seek Noah’s blessing after she becomes pregnant. The Hollywood message, as usual, that whatever is done by consenting adults is okay.
Noah spent the last 7 days before the Flood loading the animals: seven of some kinds, two each of others. The movie portrays them all in pairs, and all miraculously loading themselves. The Bible is silent on the task of keeping them at peace, fed, and watered, but the movie idea of incense that put them to sleep yet didn’t effect humans is a stretch.
Noah built the ark with the help of his wife, his full-grown sons and their wives. These eight probably spent 40 or 50 years building the 450-foot-long, 3-story vessel. Noah is described as a righteous man. In fact, we are told, in Genesis 6:9, “Noah was a righteous man, blameless in his generation; Noah walked with God.” Peter called Noah a ‘preacher of righteousness.’ That description certainly doesn’t fit Russell Crowe’s crazy, murdering, judgmental bunker-prepper-survivalist Noah. The actual Noah would have welcomed anyone who wanted to join him on the ark, rather than fighting to keep them out. Oh, and God closed the door, not Noah.
‘The Nephilim were on the earth in those days, and also afterward, when the sons of God came in to the daughters of men, and they bore children to them.’ (Genesis 6:4) “Nephilim” is a Hebrew word related to the word for ‘fall down.’ The Greek Septuagint version renders it ‘gigantes’ from which we get our word “gigantic.” While some scholars theorize that ‘sons of God’ refers to descendants of Seth and ‘daughters of men’ refers to descendants of Cain, this doesn’t fly. One of the most important tenets of the Bible is that everyone has free will. The descendants of Seth were not automatically righteous, nor were the offspring of Cain automatically sinful. A better explanation is found in 1Peter 3:19, 20 “…the spirits that were in prison, who in ancient times had been disobedient, while God was patiently waiting in the days of Noah during the building of the Ark, in which a few persons--eight in number--were brought safely through the water.” That meshes with Jude 6: “And angels--those who did not keep the position originally assigned to them, but deserted their own proper abode--He reserves in everlasting bonds, in darkness, in preparation for the judgment of the great day.” Satan was originally an angel who did not keep his original position. So the reference to ‘sons of God marrying the daughters of men’ must mean other angels who left their assigned place – heaven – and came to Earth and married women, the ‘daughters of men.’ These fallen angels in human guise, and their weird half human offspring, nicely fit the term ‘nephilim’ … a reference either to their own fall, or to their bullying, knocking people down. To paint them as heroes who helped Noah build the ark is the worst sort of blasphemy.
This was a missed opportunity. The biblical account, presented accurately, would make a great movie: Good guys Noah, Shem, Ham, Japheth, possibly Methuselah. Bad guys the fallen angels pretending to be gods, their offspring brutal bullying demi-gods, no doubt early patterns for Zeus, Apollo, Mars, Hercules, all of whom have been movie fodder. The movie could have focused on Noah’s herculean task of building the ark and gathering animals, keeping his family safe, trying to persuade neighbors and relatives to join them, and the pain of seeing everyone destroyed.
Jesus warned, “At that time, before the Deluge, men were busy eating and drinking, taking wives or giving them, up to the very day when Noah entered the Ark, and they had no care till the waters came and took them all away; so will be the coming of the Son of man.” (Matthew 24:38, 39)
Compared to Jesus sobering warning, the bland message of the movie about man’s destroying the environment, is pathetic. I doubt if “The Creator” was amused.