(Photo: Paramount Pictures)
The forthcoming film "Noah" has been criticized by some for altering the biblical story, but other Christians who have seen the film praised it and urged the Christian community to support this Bible story on screen.
"The primary message that comes out of the film is the depravity of man and the judgment of God," Dr. Ted Baehr, chairman of the Christian Film and Television Coalition and editor-in-chief of Movieguide, told The Christian Post in an interview on Wednesday. Baehr explained that the filmmakers added new characters, but "none of that takes away from the spine of the story."
Producer and filmmaker Phil Cooke, founder and chief executive officer of Cooke Pictures, argued that Christians should praise Hollywood for making a movie about the Bible. "There are hundreds of dedicated Christians working inside Hollywood," Cooke explained, "and every time we do a petition drive, a boycott, or a protest, it compromises what they're doing." He argued that Christians should "stop viewing Hollywood as an enemy and start viewing them as a mission field."
Cooke also praised the film's adherence to Scripture. "The ark is amazing – I enjoyed seeing the movie just for the ark alone," the filmmaker declared. "The way they portray it in the film, it's just giant tree trunks lashed together with pitch," a rather bare-bones view compared to modern versions of the ark with a bow, smooth wood, and a rudder. "It's extremely, to the letter, the way the Bible describes it."
Their comments follow those of critics who have denounced the film for its inaccuracy. The Hollywood Reporter reported that Christian viewers at a pre-screening "questioned the film's adherence to the Bible story and reacted negatively to the intensity and darkness of the lead character."
Dan Gainor, vice president of Business and Culture for The Media Research Center, told CP earlier, "It's laughable what's in the trailers." "This is not some attempt to tell the Bible story – they want to make it into an Action/Adventure."
Gainor claimed that Hollywood often uses a real story as an excuse to exaggerate events and twist the meaning of a story to fit its agenda. "This movie is an insult to anybody who follows the Bible story," he said.
But Cooke and Baehr argue that the film contains all the major themes of the biblical account.
Cooke explained, "Noah clearly hears from God, they show very clearly that sin has entered and overwhelmed the world," Cooke told CP. "I would say the major themes of the Noah story are all there."
"Sin is evident in the film, God's saving grace is evident in the film," Cook flatly declared, despite the fact that God's grace only applies to Noah and his family in both the film and the Bible story.
Baehr emphasized the film's thematic agreement with Scripture. "'Noah' shows that man is depraved, that God is real – a real God who is sovereign and really has judgment and can destroy the earth," he told CP. In addition to destroying the world, God "grants a future to those that he selects." Each of these themes, Baehr insisted "coheres with a biblical theology."
The themes of man's depravity and God's judgment lead to the Christian message that "you need a real savior who is Jesus Christ," Baehr explained. He praised the movie for setting the stage for the Christian Gospel.
"They've added a character so there's a fight between Noah and Tubal Cain," Baehr reported. He also mentioned the Nephilim – crazy rock monsters, which add to the story without weakening its biblical integrity.
Baehr expressed his gratitude that the original director, Darren Aronofsky, did not convert the story into an environmentalist polemic like "Avatar." "'Be fruitful and multiply' is not the message of environmentalists," the reviewer quipped.
Cooke mentioned a flashback to the creation of the world that introduces evolution into the Bible story. "They do show evolution happening in the animal kingdom but there's a clear break between that and humanity," he admitted. He emphasized the film's distinction between animal and human evolution, arguing that Christians should not expect "a theologically correct film."
Both Baehr and Cooke emphasized the fact that "Noah" has gone through multiple versions before its final cut. "Nearly every movie out there goes through multiple screenings and multiple changes," Cooke explained.
Baehr recalled seeing an early version of "Toy Story" before its final release. "When they showed Toy Story six months out, it was a disaster – all the screenings were bad," he declared. The crew was still editing it the day it opened, but by then "it was great!" Baehr also emphasized that nearly every film uses "tons of scripts." As an example, he cited "Amadeus," which had 46.
A Gospel Opportunity
Cooke argued that the film's small departures from the Bible story should not obscure the fact that Hollywood is spending millions of dollars to promote a biblical tale. "I don't think they overwhelm the idea that Paramount is spending almost $300 million to tell a Bible story around the world," he told CP. "What a great opportunity for us to share our message!"
The filmmaker noted that, due to this movie, people will be talking about Noah at their water coolers. Millions of people will watch it, and Cooke argued that Christians should "use that as a tool for reaching out to people."