Noah: Book v. Blockbuster

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More than half of the top twenty box office smashes in 2014 were based off of books. Some more loosely than others. But only one of these blockbusters was based off of the top-selling book of all time: the Bible.

Darren Aronofsky’s Noah is now playing on EPIX. The film might be over two hours long, but it’s only based off of four pages in the Bible. So there is plenty of room for deviations from the original. Let’s take a look at some of those changes.

Warning: Bible (and Noah) spoilers ahead.

Speaking to God?

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BLOCKBUSTER: Noah (Russell Crowe) realizes that “Creator” (God) will destroy the world with a flood in a dream. He then visits his grandfather, Methuselah, played by Anthony Hopkins. Methuselah gives Noah some hallucinogenic tea to help him hear God’s voice.

BIBLE: In Genesis 6-8, God straight up tells drug-free Noah his plans. With extremely explicit instructions. “The ark is to be three hundred cubits long, fifty cubits wide and thirty cubits high–.” And you thought Ikea furniture was hard to put together.

Tubal-Cain?

BLOCKBUSTER: The evil warlord Tubal-Cain (Ray Winstone) stows away on the ark, hiding near the bears and goats. He then attempts to kill Noah with the help of Noah’s son Ham.

BIBLE: No mention of stowaways. Tubal-cain is in the Bible as a representation of evil, but he never crosses paths with Noah.

Giant rock creatures?

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BLOCKBUSTER: “Watchers” are giant rock creatures that chop down the wood for the ark and defend it from an invading army. These creatures are based off of angels God cast out of heaven after creation. They were encased in rock and walked the earth, helping humans.

BIBLE: In Peter 2:4, we learn that disobedient angels were cast to hell. No mention of any special wood-creatures.

Is that really the Ark?

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BLOCKBUSTER: According the Variety film critic Scott Foundas, Aronofsky built the ship to the actual dimension specified by the Bible. In the movie, the ark takes ten years and the help of the Watchers to build.

BOOK: The ark only take 7 days to build. And yes, that could very well be the ark as described in the Bible :

“So make yourself an ark of cypress wood; make rooms in it and coat it with pitch inside and out. This is how you are to build it: The ark is to be three hundred cubits long, fifty cubits wide and thirty cubits high. Make a roof for it, leaving below the roof an opening one cubit high all around.f Put a door in the side of the ark and make lower, middle and upper decks”

– Genesis 16:6-7

Yes, the film version has inconsistencies, but there was also a lot in Noah that was faithful to the Bible.  As correctly portrayed in the film, the flood waters didn’t just come from rain, they came from the heavens opening up. Noah does check to see if it is safe to dock by sending a raven and a dove to land. And yes, in the Bible Noah does get drunk and naked, and his embarrassed kids have to cover him up.

If you like the movie, but are interested in something more substantive than the four pages of the Bible, then you should check out the graphic novel based on the screenplay.