Yesterday afternoon I returned from the NOAH movie press junket in Beverly Hills, CA. And while I wouldn’t say we experienced a heat wave when I was there, this Minnesota boy certainly appreciated temperatures in the mid to high sixties. I may have even donned shorts and a t-shirt once or twice.
Our hotel accommodation for the event was the Four Seasons Beverly Hills. I’ve read about their top-notch service in a number of business and customer service-themed books, but this was the first time I’d been able to experience it firsthand. Believe me, it was everything I’d expected and more. Every staff member I encountered was immensely helpful and accommodating. The rooms were amazing, including:
- Great view from the balcony in my room
- Oversized soaking tub that actually fit my frame (a plus for a runner like me)
- Sufficient and easily accessible power outlets that were actually the height of the desk (important to a geek like me, who travels with a good amount of gadgetry)
The food was excellent. If you’re ever at the Four Seasons Beverly Hills, I highly recommend the Mahi Mahi Fish Tacos and Traditional Eggs Benedict. After you’re done partaking of their fabulous food, you can burn off those calories in the heated pool and workout facility that rival anything you’ll find at a high-end gym.
On Saturday evening we were taken to the Paramount Studios lot to screen the film. The theater had stadium seating and was on-par with what you might find at an AMC or Marcus theater. They even provided us with popcorn and water on our way into the film, which was a nice added touch.
Once I returned to the hotel, I submitted my initial reaction to the film. Here’s a snapshot of my feedback:
- Visually stunning, delivering the epic on-screen experience I had anticipated
- The humanity of Noah is on display. I suspect many moviegoers will come to the film with a sterile Sunday school idea of a smiling bearded Noah, surrounded by a bunch of animals on the ark. Throughout the film we see Noah portrayed with a depth and range of emotions. He’s conflicted over the monstrous task he’s received from God and what the pending deluge means for humanity. He’s shows aggression and anger towards those who want to harm him and his family. He’s confused and despairing as he struggles to come to terms with how things will and should ultimately turn out post- flood.
- The film does a masterful job of drawing us into an antediluvian world that as Genesis 6:11 says is quite ruined. We see that Noah has a burden to continue tending the garden per se, just like his forefather Adam, which is in direct contrast to much of the rest of humanity portrayed in the film, who all seem bent on destroying the parts of the earth that are not yet ruined. Early on, critics (most of them who hadn’t seen the film) complained that the movie was going to have too much of an environmentalist bent. And I’ll be the first to say that care of creation is certainly a strong theme in the film, but it didn’t feel over the top or out of place to me. I can accept the idea of somebody that generationally close to Adam and Eve still having a burden to work the garden.
The following day, print/radio/online media representatives had an opportunity to sit down for a roundtable discussion with Darren Aronofsky and Ari Handel for a bit of Q&A. They were very gracious, giving us 35 minutes of their time to answer our questions. Here are a few of their comments that speak to many of the objections we’ve seen in the media leading up to the release of the film:
“I was surprised that we we had such controversy so early on because people didn’t see it. And I think really the controversy is evaporating now that people are seeing the film… their comments have been great about the movie.”
“I can understand that there was some suspicion because it’s been 50 years since an Old Testament biblical epic has come to the big screen and in that time a lot of films have come out of Hollywood that have rubbed people the wrong way. Now suddenly they’re going back to the Old Testament. What are they going to do with it? I think that what was missing from all of that controversy was my personal passion for the piece, that people didn’t recognize that I’d been thinking about this for 30 years and that me and Ari took it very seriously… and spent 10 years researching it, talking to everyone we could, studying everything we could and trying to get a real understanding that respected the original text and honored the text.”
“We tried very hard not to contradict anything, but to bring it alive for a 21st century audience and to make it a human story.”
“We are reinventing the biblical epic for the 21st century.”
“We were trying to do two things very specifically. One was to not contradict anything in the word of Genesis. The second one was to dramatize and humanize the themes that were being put forward in the words of Genesis.”
“The big thing for us was to ask ourselves what this story was about… The story poses a lot of questions. The biggest question is this notion of how do we get saved, who deserves to be on the boat? Are people going to be judged or are they going to be treated with mercy? The story is bookended with God seeing the wickedness of mankind and judging it and at the end acknowledging the wickedness of mankind and promising not to destroy it again. So that question of why, I think that confounded us from the very beginning, especially when you turn the page and you see Babel and Noah was supposed to be a righteous man, but he’s drunk and he’s cursing his son’s line.”
Let me conclude by disclosing that I felt a bit uneasy as I prepared to leave for the NOAH press junket. Several of the ministries/organizations (Answers in Genesis, Living Waters Ministries) who have harshly criticized the film are ones that I respect and am often in agreement with. That being said, after viewing the final cut of the film and sitting down with Darren and Ari, I came away with a very positive outlook on the film. Yes, there is much creativity and artistic license on display, but during the Q&A session, I was pleased to learn how strongly their decisions in the film were influenced by the biblical text. When you go see the film, you will encounter many surprises and some of your assumptions and expectations will be challenged. Afterwards, open your Bible to the flood account in Genesis and reflect on how the story comes to life in the film. I’m confident you’ll quickly make the connections between the two.
I’ll be encouraging my friends (Christian and non-Christian alike) to go see the film. There are many great biblical themes on display that are worth discussing and personally reflecting on. My hope is that the film will draw moviegoers to head back to their Bibles and consider the flood account for themselves.
Many thanks to the team at Grace Hill Media and Paramount Studios for inviting Cross Focused Media to be a part of the NOAH movie press event!
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