Since this ended up being a controversial film I will give my conclusion upfront: As a Christian, I’m not personally offended by the movie. However, for other reasons unrelated to my faith, I did not enjoy the film and cannot give it a wholly positive review.
I will start by addressing the controversies from the perspective of someone who is both Christian and an Aronofsky fan (and a fan of film in general).
If you’re a Christian then it’s worth asking the question, “Can an Atheist make a movie based on a story from the Bible.” The short answer is yes. Of course he can. He did. Unless Christians are proposing that they cannot make art or film based on or including any elements that aren’t pulled straight from the Bible then you must allow for people of other faiths or non-faiths to enter the conversation about Christian faith. I personally find the urge to separate art into sacred and secular categories very troubling—but even if you disagree (and I understand the concern about misrepresentation) it would be impossible to achieve that separation.
There was a lot of discussion over Mr. Aronofsky being quoted to saying it was the “most unbiblical movie ever made” which a little research will tell you was taken out of context and only meant to mean that Bible stories rarely hit the big screen in such a big way. In fact, it was incredibly thoughtful and spiritual for someone who claims be be an unbeliever.
There were certainly some mystical/magical elements that would make Christians uncomfortable but for an unbeliever magical and miraculous are hard to differentiate so that should not be surprising. The articles claiming we’ve all been fooled and that this was a ghostic or kaballah based film I think are a reach, but seeing as it’s a short story I could see Aronofsky visiting all of the creation/noah accounts that exist among a variety of religious traditions. Still, at best it would be subtly eluding to, not outright proclaiming any of those views.
So as far as positive aspects, there were many great questions raised by the film including questions about God’s nature and sin itself. Christians having to face the perception of a more wrathful OT God, God’s grief over destroying his creation, and our sinful nature is a good thing I think. Also, Bible stories are rarely told on this scale. Visually there were some pretty incredible scenes. My personal favorite was the creation/fall narrative scene which was visually stunning. And the acting is pretty good. I am a fan of Logan Lerman, Anthony Hopkins, and Emma Watson so I always enjoy their performances.
Yet, despite the positives I have to say that I did not think this was a great film overall. All controversy and inaccuracies aside, the film that was presented was itself fell short. It was mostly the story and a few of the artistic choices that killed it. The story presented was very disjointed, at times even inexplicably bizarre, and at other times just plain boring. When I saw it, I knew immediately that I didn’t like it. As I’ve let it settle I’ve grown to like aspects of it more than I did at the time, but I was pretty disappointed with the film as a whole and I can’t see it being a film I want to see again.
Basically, I like Aronofsky as a director and I was disappointed because I expected more. I did think it had some great elements, I’m okay with the concept of taking artistic liberties and I feel he was very thoughtful and most of the Christian backlash is unwarranted. However, despite all of that I still feel it was not a very good film. I can’t seem to shake that feeling.
But to end on a positive, I stumbled upon a poem written by Aronofsky as a child about Noah that I thought was really excellent so I will conclude my review by sharing it.