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Noah’s Arc

by Ross Douthat

A review of Noah

The religious reception of Darren Aronofsky’s Noah — a weird art-house/blockbuster hybrid, part Malick and part Bruckheimer — has moved in three broad waves. First, long before the movie screened, there was anxiety among the religious, fanned by allegations that Aronofsky had turned the flood story into a crude environmentalist tract. Then, after various attempts at outreach and damage control, there was a burst of more favorable publicity, segueing into an initial critical reaction — from religious and secular reviewers alike — that judged the movie an interesting, if flawed, success.

But since then, there has been a religious backlash, on aesthetic and theological grounds alike. The movie has been attacked, predictably, for taking liberties with Genesis: For making God more hidden, for making Noah more morally conflicted, for inserting large rock monsters into the first half of the story (more on that below). And, more seriously and significantly, its religious defenders have been accused of trading their birthright for a mess of pottage — of praising a movie that’s schlockier than the “worst of the cheesy Biblical movies made in the fifties,” as Barbara Nicolosi, a screenwriter and widely respected authority on religion and Hollywood, wrote recently, just because they don’t want to seem unhip, and of being “lured into a defense of the indefensible because they are so afraid of the charge of ‘unreasonableness.’”

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