It’s funny, the unexamined things that stick with you.
I don’t think I’ve thought about the story of Noah and the Flood since, oh, the last time I went to Vacation Bible School in some grade-school summer. Perhaps I thought about when I was reading some popular work of history discussing Mesopotamia, or the possible veracity of the global Bronze Age flood myth.
I certainly haven’t devoted any time to cataloging my presuppositions about the Flood. Yet, as I watched the recent movie adaptation Noah (the one with Russell Crowe, Jennifer Connelly, and Emma Watson,) I found myself checking off my assumptions as if on a list.
I’d always conceived of the flood story as taking place in a pseudo-historical time. Layered with legend, certainly, but grounded in a real time and place.
Bronze Age, check.
Middle East, check. (Though not the deserts of today — the scrubby arable land and small forests that archaeology has revealed to us.)
Small city-state kingdoms, check.
Some sort of climactic water-related event that caused considerable damage, check. (Not blanketing the globe, of course. But something that showed in the historical and archaeological records.)
On top of this real-world event is placed the story of Noah, with its allegory and legend and lessons for a small religious minority eking out a living on the edges of the known world.
Or we could have the movie version of Noah, which is straight-up SF/F.
Industrial global empires? Um, sure. Check.
Walking, talking demonic-form fallen angels who perform heavy labor? Why not? Check.
Magical powers? Check.
Post-apocalyptic Tank-Girl-style wastelands? :throws hands in the air: I give up, sure, check, why not??
See, the thing the makers of this movie realized, which I had not considered, is that IF the Flood narrative is 100% accurate, then you can put ANY SORT OF THING before it. Unicorns. Laser turrets. Yoda-I-mean-Methusalah’s use of the Force. Massive industrial cities buried in deserts. ANYTHING YOU WANT. Because the entire point is, God wipes all of that away as if it never existed, and Noah starts again.
So why not make it a sprawling SF/F action pic? Why not?
It’s … it’s not a terrible movie. It’s not great, but it’s not terrible. (The gender politics and roles ARE terrible, I must say. Ugh, and double ugh. And there are no people of color in all the empires of the world, apparently. (I can’t tell which is worse — not having any people of color, or making the descendants of Cain all evil PoC.)) The special effects are pretty neat, the acting is decent. And I was kept entertained by noticing all the weird setting decisions. Like, full-face welding masks used by blacksmiths.
Your mileage may vary, and I can’t exactly recommend the movie, but I will say it is probably nothing like you were thinking when you saw the title, “Noah.”
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