Movie Review: NOAH Part 2

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So in my last review of Noah I touched on a lot of factors but didn’t go very deep into the theological implications of what it ultimately says.  Most of the reviews out there are focusing on the same things I initially did.  So I figured I would expand a bit on why the film ultimately flies off the rails and where it really goes bad.  For some reason since I didn’t lambast the film completely people assumed I had no issue with the movie theologically, which made the last 48hrs a little frustrating online.  So, let me clear up some things.  I had mentioned in my previous post that the character of Noah and the portrayal of God were the chief issues in the film.  Here’s why…

In the film, GOD (known in the film as The Creator) does a few things and that’s it.  He sends a flood, is credited with creation, gives Noah his initial vision in a dream, and that’s about it.  Unlike the real story of Noah, God doesn’t give Noah revelation the way the scripture tells it.  In the Bible, God spoke and so it was.  In NOAH, God never speaks.  God is silent.  Even in the scenes where as a viewer I was begging for the movie to have God say something, he said nothing and because of that said something even louder, at least as far as the narrative was concerned.  Noah gets revelation from his dreams while asleep, day dreams, and eventually a drug from Methuselah.  The movie’s God is one who is very hands off.  What is displayed more than anything in the story is God’s wrath, but other elements and characteristics are wholly absent.  When God communicates to men like Noah or Moses in the Bible, he speaks clearly and directly.  The movie was missing this clarity, with big consequences later on in what Noah feels he has to do.

Also, the power that Methuselah seems to have is almost magical (healing the womb of Emma Watson’s character).  I think the directors intent was to portray a pre-flood world in which some of the glory of creation remained.  The problem with that is the movie does such a good job of portraying sin and depravity as total and complete, and then there’s Methuselah with what seems to be a little power left over, a power that’s fading away since Noah doesn’t have it.  In the Bible, sin corrupted man completely, there weren’t any leftovers of power that faded off over the next 10 generations like radiation poisoning.  This isn’t the films major problem overall, but it’s something to mention.  If the power Methuselah had wasn’t meant to be implied as a leftover remnant of creation and mans initial perfection, then where was the power coming from?  Either way, lets move on because I don’t want to hammer on that point super hard.

The greatest issue with the film comes later on once they’re on the boat already and the “baby killing” plot arises.  Throughout the movie to its credit it says time and again “we broke this world” and “we did this.”  The film portrays sin in a very nasty light, with wickedness being clear.  Even in regards to the pillaging of the planet, it’s clear that this is due to mans greed and sin.  Tubal-Cain repeats more than once in the film that they take what they want, and do what they have to in order to survive, as they are cursed.  When the issue of dominion is brought up by Tubal-Cain inside the ark to Noah’s son Ham, he presents it falsely, bypassing stewardship for a harsh and careless view.  Those of you seeing the whole “don’t eat meat” message in the film are forgetting that until after the flood God’s people didn’t eat meat.  Cain’s descendants have torn through the animal supply on earth carelessly.  Ok back to the baby killing problem.

Noah recognizes sin in the film, clearly.  He recognizes his families sin filled state as being equal to that of the others destined to die.  This was a great thing to see in a film!  However, where it leads Noah is a problem.  As stated in my previous review he gets it into his head that because of this, God’s intent must be to save creation but not man.  This wasn’t what God destroyed the earth for, because God communicated to Noah clearly in Genesis 6 (particularly verse 18) that he would establish his covenant with him.  We all know the ultimate purpose was to bless Noah’s offspring and keep the people of God intact and the line of Christ intact, with the whole situation of Noah and the Ark being a massive metaphor for what was to come.  The thing is, when Noah realizes the pregnancy on board and runs to the top of the boat, God says nothing when Noah appeals to him.  God’s silence is his answer, and Noah says “It will be done.”  As far as the narrative telling was concerned, God said yes or was indifferent.  Now you might say “You can’t know that’s what’s implied 100%”  While that’s sorta true (although I still don’t agree), when we get around to the big moment where he’s holding the knife over the baby’s face, and Emma Watson’s character sings the song to calm them down (so they don’t die screaming) as Noah did to her when they found her (she was adopted, injured) Noah realizes he can’t kill the babies and drops the knife.  The fate of human kinds existence is put into the hands of Noah and when he decides not to kill the children, he looks up and tells God “I can’t do what you’ve asked.”  Noah defies God in the movie.  The rainbow appears in this moment in the film with God almost affirming Noah’s eventual choice?  You could say God was testing Noah like he tested the faith of Abraham, but everything else is pointing to the contrary.  If the film made it clear that Noah was wrong about what God wanted him to do, instead of making it look like God was defied and eventually changed his mind, then the baby killing dilemma would be very comparable to what God asked Abraham to do, but I see a clear difference between the two stories.  In the story of Abraham, God called out to Abraham to stop him, God took an action.  In the Noah movie, he makes the choice of his own accord, with God clearly leaving the door open for failure and sitting around to watch.  This isn’t the God I see in scripture, but I understand why the creator of the film would do this.  The film affirms Noah’s inherent good, which is what his wife was trying to appeal to him with when she begged him not to do it and threatened to leave him.  It’s a humanist point of view.

After the grounding of the boat and time passes and life starts again, Noah reconnects with his wife.  She tells him that he saved them, and that God gave him a choice.  Noah becomes the savior of the story, not God.  The movie’s telling you that God’s ultimate reason to kill everyone was for all humanity to be ended, and God gave Noah a choice to either let humanity continue to let it go extinct, and because of man’s inherent goodness, was able to continue.  Who’s the God of this story anyway?  The film misses the entire picture of the Gospel that the story of Noah is meant to be, since it makes Noah the God of the story.  It places almost all the decision making in Noah’s hands, since the God in the movie is largely absent (and apparently powerless, except to create the whole universe and send a ton of water your way).  You could argue God’s sovereignty is intact in the story since the ultimate plan we know of still happened, but in the worldview of the film itself, that’s not what happened.  Only if you’re looking at it already understanding how God’s sovereignty works can you come to that conclusion, because from fade in to fade out that’s not what it tells you.  Even when the blessings of “be fruitful and multiply” line comes up at the end, Noah is the one who says it, not God.

I can appreciate some of the things the movie got right, and it’s nice to see sin portrayed in a film for what it is, and rooted in man’s wickedness.  However, there is no display of grace on God’s part, only the wrath to destroy all of humanity and let the rest of creation begin again.  The mission to build the Ark and God’s protection of Noah is never portrayed as an outpouring of God’s grace on a wicked world.  The whole point is that God destroyed all but saved some, when what he was justified to do was destroy everyone.  The film also brings in the nature of inherent good, which further muddies the precedent it was setting in regards to sin.  God didn’t leave the fate of humanity in the hands of Noah.  He spoke directly to a man, who accomplished what was asked, God shut the door to the Ark, he protected the Ark, etc.  God spoke with clarity.  Noah was told God’s intentions.  God didn’t leave the ultimate event of Jesus Christ and his eventual death, burial, and resurrection up to the psychological and emotional whims of a man named Noah, and he never left divine revelation up to messy interpretation.  Noah and his sons and their wives got onto the boat God had graciously led them to build.  The future of humanity was already intact with God protecting it.  This is where the film makes its greatest misstep and actually does damage theologically because it tells you it was up to Noah, not a sovereign God.  God isn’t the hero of this story, which is unfortunate.  The movie gets a few things right but totally misses the Noahic Covenant.  Understanding the Gospel is crucial to getting these big issues in the film right, but this film doesn’t understand the Gospel at all.

In light of that, I can agree that the film fundamentally changes key things about the story as to totally corrupt the meaning of it.  This is unfortunate, but understandable given who made it and his lack of understanding about how the story of Noah fits into the Bible as a whole, and who the God is that the story of Noah talks about.  In that sense it can be a problem for the millions watching it, unaware of what the real story says.  Yes, this is an opportunity to share the gospel, yes it’s an opportunity for people to possibly crack open their Bibles and find out the real story, but the movie does paint Noah as a character and the God of the Bible in a way that is a 180 from what’s truthful and for that reason I obviously don’t endorse it as something super-profitable to watch other than to be informed and maybe glean some of the things it DID do right.  I say all of that understanding that a faithful representation wasn’t even trying to be attempted, but my opinion it stands due to what the source material is and who it came from.

Take all that for what you will. :)  I hope that clears up my position for a few folks, and I can put this movie behind me now LOL.  After all, Ridley Scott’s EXODUS comes out soon, and we gotta go through all this crap on social media all over again.  Yay!

The Producers Responsibility

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I’ve Written/Directed/Produced two feature films so far.  That’s nothing compared to some folks.  I made my many mistakes with the first (which I own completely), and there were things I wanted to avoid with the second.  I kept thinking about what to blog about and the Sarah Jones event came to mind.  I don’t really want to weigh in on that whole thing, since there is plenty of information already out there.  It’s a tragic event, and it had me thinking about Producing and what a responsibility that is.

As I’ve understood it after two films, a Producer has a responsibility to his crew.  This responsibility is a heavy one.  If you’re making a film full of volunteers over paid crew it’s still a similar burden.  You’re there to help lead the production and guide it to completion, not just during production, but afterwards.  Depending on what sort of Producer you want to be known for being, you treat people with a certain level of respect.  Just because you’re in “the big chair” doesn’t excuse common courtesy, respect for others and their skills, the need for your crew to take care of themselves, etc.  There is a chain of command on-set, but no Producer has a film in the can by productions end without the hard work of a lot of people.  Remembering that is key, since it can be very easy for egos and politics to balloon the whole experience into a mess of epic proportions.  Every person you help hire has something to bring to the table.  A Producer isn’t a DP, and a DP isn’t a Make Up person, and a Make Up person isn’t an Actor, and an Actor isn’t a Boom Operator.  A film crew is a body with many moving parts, all critical to achieve the goal.  Everyone has a different priority list, but for me personally, completing the film on budget isn’t #1 on the list.  That’s a crazy thing to say I’m sure, but completing the film on budget is #2.  Taking care of everyone properly and honorably is #1 and should be #1.  No great film is worth a rotten production experience caused by neglect and poor management.  I say that as a person who loves film dearly.  I realize some of the greatest films in history have risen out of the ashes, films that were so terrible to work on the Director contemplated suicide more than once (lots of stories of that sort out there!), but nobody going in wanted it that way, I can assure you of that.

I ask this to you folks out there who Produce films or who want to someday, what’s finishing on budget worth to you?  What’s making a slightly better film worth to you?  Is it worth burning bridges with one of your talented cast?  How about killing your crew the entire shoot since “they can sleep later?”  I don’t ask viciously, I’m serious, because as someone who’s done the job and made his own mistakes, I can tell you that making a choice in your head about what sort of Producer you want to be is required if there’s any hope of doing this longterm.  Do you want to be the guy people work with because you pay them well but treat them like garbage, the guy who pays them nothing AND treats them like garbage, or do you want to be the guy who pays people well, gives them sleep, treats them with respect, etc.?  I’ll take the latter!  It’s not always easy to do, but I think it’s worth it.

I say all this because I hear a ton of horror stories out there in the Christian movie world, not just Hollywood.  People being treated horridly in the name of “serving the Lord” for instance.  Sound familiar?  Or you just hear about conduct on-set being very disrespectful and biting with no graciousness or maturity and no respect for what others are there to do.  Or schedules that are so unreasonable that people become bitter.  I can tell you that when people are treated well, paid adequately, and get enough sleep, you do end up with a better film.  Even if you didn’t, is that not worth shooting for anyway?  Where are your priorities?  When I sat down to write Love Covers All, I actually had the Producers hat on first.  I sat down and decided what sort of film I wanted to do that would meet the goals I thought God was telling me to set.  Firstly, I knew that my budget would be better than last time but still very limited.  This meant that I had to make a choice.  Was I going to get a bunch of volunteers again?  Where would I push the money?  I made a very deliberate choice that before I even started writing this film, that I was going to do whatever it took to pay people a decent wage, and beyond that, I wanted everyone to leave happy on the last day of production.  Whatever that took, even if it meant changes in the creative stage, it would be done.  So to keep those goals in place (financially especially), I estimated what I thought I could raise, and then settled on a story that would allow that.  I told a story in a compressed timeframe, with a limited number of locations, and a limited number of actors.  I concentrated on story structure as best I could and tried to flesh out my characters as best I knew how with what I had learned up to that point.  I knew that keeping things limited would hurt the films perceived quality to an extent, in making it somewhat claustrophobic, but I also knew it meant concentrating my money where I wanted to, into good people who would be there to (hopefully) do good work and have a good time.

With my main staff on the film, I made it really clear that any grumblings or frustrations between one another wouldn’t be buried.  Things would slow down on any given day if they had to in order to handle them.  One rotten attitude on a set spreads like wildfire!  Take it from me as a guy who Directed these movies as well, my attitude sets the entire tone for the day.  If I’m in a rotten mood, everybody is.  Holding grudges against other crew members and not dealing with things swiftly doesn’t just hurt your relationship with someone but it does effect the work.  It’s impossible to avoid and it’s not worth it.  If you’re a Producer, help set the tone on set, and be stern but be fair and decent.  If you see an issue between crew members, get them together in a room and get it handled.  If they’re adults, they’ll figure it out.  If they can’t, then maybe they’re not so good to have around anyway?  But in all things try to make the peace.  Every production needs a leader, and film production is stressful even when things are going well.  Be the one who can calm the storms and put out the fires, don’t start your own or be the cause of trouble!  Also, please for the love of goodness, feed your crew well.  I dare say that the better actor and his fee isn’t worth feeding your crew fruit snacks for lunch.  Nobody is there to make a bad movie, but don’t make food a last priority.  A well fed crew is a happy crew.  It’s amazing how few people get that right!  Even after shooting on my film was over, I followed up as best I could with folks to find out how they thought things went.  What went wrong?  What could’ve been better?  Is there anything you’re not telling me?  What good is doing this a third time if it’s not done better!?  Thankfully, everyone seemed to have a wonderful time, and I was so pleased to hear that.  All the steps leading to productions end were totally worth it.

Hopefully I don’t sound prideful here. :)  I’m just trying to inspire those who want to Produce films to try as best they can to strive for something better.  If you’re working in the Christian space, then I hold you doubly accountable.  I’m not just talking about how good the movie becomes, but how things were ran behind the scenes.  That’s what your crew will remember.  They’ll remember (and tell others) about Day 15 where you got angry and threw something or yelled at someone. That’s what they’ll remember, and you as well.  Excuses can be made, but a lot of this just comes down to making a choice.  I’m not in the big leagues.  I don’t have millions to spend on a film, but if you treat people right, they come back to you.  Some folks I know have taken lower paying jobs because they knew who they’d be working under and preferred that over the alternative.  Money isn’t everything.  If you’re hoping to be a Producer, then be mindful of all these things.  Protect your film by protecting your crew.  Relationships and integrity are worth more than what ends up between fade in and fade out.  News travels fast, and in the Christian space, it’s an even smaller world.  Even if nobody finds out, God knows, and that should be enough.