(Photo: Paramount Pictures)
As the anticipated Darren Aronofsky film "Noah" hit theaters on Friday, debate in the Christian community over the movie's biblical accuracy continued and critics remained divided.
Faith Driven Consumer, which already had a negative impression of the film before its release, insisted that Aronofsky's movie "misses the boat," and gave it a faith-friendly rating of 2 stars out of 5, based on categories including overall faith or biblical relevance, faith-compatible characters and relationships, faith-compatible situations, family viewing suitability and entertainment value.
"Having now seen 'Noah,' we are disappointed to report that the film misses the boat," wrote founder Chris Stone. "'Noah' is a significant departure both from the Biblical narrative and message, and Faith Driven Consumers are likely not going to spend their hard-earned dollars on an entertainment product that fails to resonate."
But Salvation Army Vision Network Executive Director Guy Noland continues to throw his support behind the film, calling it a "fun, action-packed, biblical epic that manages to champion the spirit of the Genesis tale while ensuring mass appeal."
"The film will undoubtedly introduce millions of souls to the scriptures who will likely never pick up a Bible on their own," he noted. "'Noah' presents an open door to talking with my unchurched friends about the true living Word of God."
Noland, who had been invited to the set of "Noah" in 2012, acknowledged the controversy around the "creative license" taken in the film, but argued that the producers implemented key suggestions made by the Christian media world.
"Does this film maintain the core truths of the Biblical account? Does it succeed in upholding the important pillars of the Noah story?" Noland posed. "Absolutely."
The film drew controversy before its release as reports indicated that Christians who saw test screenings were discontent. Others also chose to blast the film based on those reports and were criticized by supporters for making the comments without having seen the film.
Now that they have seen the film, many of the critics say they stand by their original criticism.
Brian Godawa, a filmmaker, dismissed the film for what he views as bad theology and bad storytelling, and he pointed readers back to his original critique of the film (written when he had an early draft of the "Noah" script).
"The Noah movie is ugly. It's anti-human exceptionalism. It's enviro-agitprop. And it's poorly done," Godawa maintained.
Paul Asay, senior associate editor at Focus on the Family's film review site Plugged In, was a little more gracious in his review but still noted that the film and the biblical narrative are "far too different."
"Director Darren Aronofsky offers a spectacular and often moving story, but it's obviously not the story of Noah," he wrote. "Perhaps this director made the Creator in his own image-full of mercy, magic and environmental sobriety. If you uncouple the movie from the Bible and take Noah as imaginative, fantastic fiction, it can begin to work. But hooked as it is to such a sacred narrative, well, let's just say it'll be hard for some Christians to swallow whole this fractious fable.
"Harry Potter fans expect 'Harry Potter' movies to stay mostly true to the book. History buffs are known to require historical dramas to follow actual history. I think it's reasonable, then, for Christians to ask that the stories most precious to them be treated with faithfulness-and that movies based on them would, y'know, stay at least in the ballpark. But Mr. Aronofsky has chosen a different tack, and so the ancient truth about Noah becomes more of a pretext for Middle-earth rock monsters and a tormented, half-mad Noah ready to kill his own kin."
Matt Zoller Seitz, editor-in-chief of RogerEbert.com, wrote, "'Noah' is writer-director Darren Aronofksy's interpretation of the story of Noah and the flood. He's made a few changes. Okay, more than a few. Way more. This is the Book of Genesis after a page one rewrite."
Notably, Ari Handel, co-writer of "Noah," has stated that adhering to the biblical account of the story was "very important" to the filmmakers.
"It was very important to us to do two things at the same time: one was to not do anything which contradicted the letter of the text, and the second was wherever we could – without contradicting Genesis – we wanted to break expectations. So we went very deep," Handel stated.
Others continue to defend the film, including Pastor Craig Gross of XXXchurch, whose son plays the young Ham in "Noah."
Calling the criticism of "Noah" "embarrassing," Gross told The Christian Post, "Even if my kid wasn't in it, and I wasn't there, I would still be bothered by the criticism."
Praising the film, he said in his review, "… This movie has done the best job in the history of Hollywood to date of taking a Bible story and putting it on the big screen."
Christian actor Stephen Baldwin also described "Noah" as "powerful and beautiful" on social media.