I took my Youth Group kids to see Noah today.
It was a gamble, and I have to admit that I was a bit nervous. I usually don’t even consider PG-13 movies for Youth Group, let alone ones surrounded by controversy, to take other peoples’ kids to. But ever since they saw previews for this movie, they have been begging to go as a group. I read lots of reviews, mostly ones that were cautious if not all out against the film. I heard lots of people speak very poorly of the movie’s interpretation of Scripture, many saying that it was a complete work of fiction. Someone told me that the only thing the movie had in common with the Bible was that there was a man named Noah and there was a big flood.
But I still wanted to see it, and I knew that most of the kids would end up seeing it with or without me, so I hoped to create a teachable moment. As Christians, we often want to put a bubble around our children. To protect them from all that is false, ungodly, and immoral. However, we also live in the world. They will live in the world without our guidance someday. So we need to teach them to think, to look for God in all circumstances, to discern the good and choose to do it. Going to this movie seemed like a good opportunity to show them how to do that, in a small way. I read the Plugged in Movie Review, which gave me info to share with the parents about what their kids would see, and I also was glad to read Sr. Helena and Bonnie’s thoughts about the movie.
The kids were required (ha) to read Genesis 6-9 before coming to the movie, and each car had a list of a few questions to discuss on the drive to get them thinking. We had fifteen people sit and enjoy the movie, completely caught up in the story, cinematography, and acting. After the movie was over, we posed for some goofy pictures with the big Noah poster in the movie theater, and then drove across the street to get ice cream. We probably sat and talked for a half an hour about what had happened in the movie, what we loved, what we disagreed with, and what we thought of the message overall.
Here are a few of my thoughts: (Spoilers ahead…)
- I loved the casting. Emma Watson stole the show, and her part in Noah’s family was one of the best “creative license” additions to the story.
- I actually really liked the Watchers. There, I said it. Genesis 6:4….who knows what those “men of renown” really were? Why couldn’t there be a part of God’s creation that was only here in those very early years? I loved how they went from enemies to protectors and how they asked for forgiveness and received redemption. Major creative license, but overall a good message.
- Noah’s telling of the Creation story was awesome. So vivid and it encompassed so many ideas about how creation happened. Loved the symbolism of the light within Adam & Eve, the heart/life within the forbidden fruit, the shadowed symbols of the sin of Cain and Abel continuing through all generations.
- They went pretty easy on the whole "uncovered his father's nakedness" thing. You're welcome, Ham.
- The costuming and sets were awesome. CGI animals, sometimes not so much.
- Loved the last seed from the Garden of Eden creating an oasis in the barren world to give Noah’s family supplies and shelter as they built the ark.
- I did not like the over emphasis on the killing and eating of animals being the primary reason the descendants of Cain were evil. Major agenda showing here- totally contrary to Biblical teaching, as well as what Noah was told by God. Go back to the beginning after all, and Abel’s offering (of animals from his flock) was the one accepted by God. I appreciated the message of care and concern for creation, but not the vegan/vegetarian mindset as being the only holy choice. And God would do all that to “save the animals?” No. Plus there is no way Russell Crowe got muscles like that from only eating things growing on the forest floor. Ain't happening.
- While God’s will is rarely spoken in black and white terms to us, I didn’t like Noah’s shadowy understanding of God’s plan for him. His story in the Bible constantly says, “Then the Lord said to Noah…” I think Noah had a little bit better of an idea what was going on.
- I support the creative license in the film, but I think the sorcery/magic/etc. was unnecessary. There were enough other “unbelievable” elements that having glowing snakeskins, fire rocks, and magic pregnancy tests were not really needed to set the tone for the movie.
- Tubal-cain stowing away on the ark was dumb. Ham didn’t need a mentor to teach him evil. Evil was already in his heart, just like it is in every descendant of Adam and Eve. The movie gave plenty of reason for Ham to turn away, and Tubal-cain being there was a distraction. I could rewrite all of the scenes on the ark without him, and make them just as dramatic.
- Let’s talk about Noah wanting to kill his granddaughters. I don’t agree with it, because of my comments above about him knowing God’s will. However, if in this version of the story, with abundant creative license, Noah was in the gray area of understanding the plan, I can sort of get his thoughts. Really, I think that the only thing I can take away from it is a mirror of the story of Abraham and Isaac. He thought he was being faithful to God's will, and God stayed his hand at the last moment.
- Tubal-cain was an awesome example of how we can take God’s Word and twist it for our own purposes. He said over and over, “We were made in the Creator’s image and likeness.” He got that right, and I wish Noah would have picked up on that a little bit. However, Tubel-cain used that idea for evil and power and greed. We can do that too easily. I would have loved for them to have portrayed a strong and righteous Noah who knew the real meaning of the dignity of being made in God’s image, and that the flood and the ark and the new start was not for the animals, but was for us, the pinnacle of the Creator’s plan.
These were some major points that we wrapped up our discussion with:
1. Our God is a God of justice AND mercy.
2. It is easy to twist God's Word for our own purposes. The line between good and evil is drawn down the heart of every man.
3. While God's creation is GOOD, mankind was made in His image and likeness, making us VERY GOOD, and valuable beyond measure.
Looking for a literal word-for-word Bible movie to show in Sunday School? This isn’t it.
Looking for an artistic interpretation based on the story of Noah that will make you think? I would recommend this.
What to watch it with a group of teens? Do it, but be ready to talk about it. If you want some ideas, feel free to use this discussion guide as a start: