In the review before this post it is pretty clear that I do not like Aronofsky’s Noah. That said there are many positive aspects of the movie. Unfortunately, some of these unfairly have come under fire from conservative/Christian reviewers due either to ignorance or political ideology. Two in particular I would like to address here: the accusation of the movie being environmentalist propaganda and the mythologizing of the story through the addition of the Watchers (or “rock people” as some reviewers like to call them). The second of these two accusations will be discussed in part two of this defense.
The Holy Scripture paints an incredibly bleak picture of the world during Noah’s time saying that “the earth was filled with violence” and that “all flesh had corrupted their way upon the earth.” (Gen 6:11-12) This is actually a bleaker picture than that painted by Aronofsky. Aronofsky describes the animals at that time as being like they were in the Garden, but “flesh” in the above Scripture does not refer only to man; it refers to all creatures: “man and beast and creeping things and birds of the air.” (Gen 6:7) One could argue that Aronofsky’s portrayal of animals as innocent while man is guilty is environmentalist propaganda, but regardless of whether it is or not the simple fact remains that man truly is the root of corruption throughout the earth. It is man whom God looked upon and saw “that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.” (Gen 6:5) In the story of the Creation and the Fall, of which Noah is an extension, the state of creation is dependent on man. The burden falls upon his shoulders. If one insists on bemoaning that man is the villain in Aronofsky’s Noah then they must also bemoan that man is the villain in God’s Noah.
I appreciate Aronofsky’s presentation of the world at the time of Noah. It shows an earth that is “filled with violence” (see above). He begins with the Fall of Adam and Eve and the murder of Abel by his brother Cain. This immediately sets the stage of man’s relationship with other men. This continues with the introduction of Noah when as a child he witnesses the murder of his father, and as an adult must defend himself and kill three men who attempt to kill him and pose a threat to his family. The primary antagonist is Tubal-Cain, who according to Scripture is the first to forge “instruments of bronze and iron.” (Gen 4:22) There is a long tradition both Christian and Jewish that this includes weapons. The degradation of man is seen first in his violence to others and this violence is carried on throughout the movie. It is within this context that man’s abuse of creation takes place. This abuse includes the eating of animals for it wasn’t until after the Flood that animals were given to man for food. (cf. Gen 9:3-4) In light of this, once again regardless of whether or not this was intended as environmentalist propaganda by Aronofsky it is in keeping with the story of Noah as told in Scripture. Considering this when we see animals in Noah hunted or cut to pieces we should feel sad. When Tubal-Cain eats one of the animals on the ark we should be horrified.
In Noah the world due to man’s violence and lust (in the original sense) is barren. The image of a barren and desolate world is a great example of an artistic rendering of the relationship between man and creation as depicted in Genesis 3-6. The Fall as told in Genesis 3 regards man’s relation with God, with himself, and with each other. There is more to it though. It is also the origin of man’s disunity with nature. First, Adam is told that he will have to work by the sweat of his brow for food. The land will yield thistles and thorns, and man will have to eat bread. Gone are the days when man can pick freely of the Garden. This disunity is taken further with Cain. The land that he tilled was stained with the blood of his brother whom he murdered. As punishment the land would no longer produce for Cain. He could no longer be a farmer, but was now condemned to wander and would eventually settle and establish a city (Enoch). He did not build a town or village. He built a city. Cities require greater consumption of natural resources to sustain its population. This is due to the amount and type of buildings that make a city. There is a greater need for food and its surplus for winter and famines. Where there are cities there are advances in the arts, clothing, adornments, and a greater need for the resources to make those items. There is greater need for fuel, minerals, plants, etc. Cain went from tiller to taker. So is there a legitimate connection between cities and the abuse of the environment according to the Scriptures? Evidently yes, and this is seen all around us today. One need not be an environmentalist to see how fallen man has abused and continues to abuse what has been entrusted to him, nor does one need to be an environmentalist to be horrified by this abuse or convicted to fight against it.