Few culture commentators, be they Christian or not, have been able to avoid the great flood of 2014. The following excerpts represent the spectrum of opinion.
Answers in Genesis CEO Ken Ham: "As a Creationist and also a believer in the historical account of Noah and the Flood, I agree with atheist Darren Aronofsky's statement about his just-released film Noah: It is the 'least biblical' of Bible-themed films. Any other agreement I have with the filmmaker's take on the book of Genesis and its account of Noah ends right there. … While the extreme wickedness of man was depicted, the real sin displayed in the film was the people's destruction of the earth. Lost within the film's extreme environmentalist message is that the actual sins of the pre-Flood people were a rebellion against God and also man's inhumanity to man. … Ultimately, there is barely a hint of biblical fidelity in this film. It is an unbiblical, pagan film from its start."
Film critic, producer and founding partner of the script consulting company Catharsis, Barbara Nicolosi: "Noah is a terrible, terrible movie. I kept thinking all through, 'Wow. The secular critics hate Christians this much. They hate the Christians so much, that they will rave about this piece of crap because they think the Christians are going to hate it for ideological reasons.' And the Christian critics? Well, too many have been all balled up in the throes of self-loathing for at least a decade, which leads them to depths of self-contradiction in their popular culture appraisals that never seems to have a bottom. As soon as the momentum around this picture as offensive Scripturally began to go—and it is clear that this was generated intentionally by the studio and PR people promoting Noah—the Christians felt themselves double-dared to show themselves 'enlightened' enough to embrace the movie even as it spits in their eye in every way—as an adaptation of Scripture, as a work of cinema, and as a plain old story. … Remember when we were all told to go see The Da Vinci Code to promote 'dialogue.' What a crock! … Anybody who says Christians need to see the movie to promote dialogue is being a tool. Anybody who says the movie is visionary is jumping on an Emperor has No Clothes bandwagon. Any pastor who creates a sermon to coincide with this awful piece is being played for a sucker. And the Christians who are promoting the film for money should be ASHAMED of themselves. Really, how dare you?"
Trinity United Church of Christ senior pastor Rev. Otis Moss III: "Noah demands the audience to think and feel. We are forced to look at the film with head and heart. We think about the essence of the Biblical demand to be stewards and not purveyors of chaos. We think about our flaws and proclivity toward evil. … Many will claim this movie is not Biblical. It does not follow the Biblical narrative with surgical precision. I would agree. It does not follow the Biblical narrative with surgical precision, but offers the best elements of the story (a very short Biblical story, I might add), to challenge us to re-read and re-engage the Bible and take Noah's story seriously, not just literally. As a pastor and cultural critic, I believe Noah gives the audience and the community of faith, a new opportunity to re-engage this ancient story."
Noah director Darren Aronofsky: "Whether you see the Bible as truth or parable, it is evident that the ancient stories told within it are long-standing philosophical meditations on the world, the sacred, and our place within it. And whether you are a believer or an atheist, I hold that there is wisdom to be found within its pages. … Noah is a story of man's sin and God's judgment. It is a story of our tendency to fall into wickedness, and of the challenge to live in accordance with our better natures. It is a story of falling short of our responsibilities, of taking the beauty that has been entrusted to our care and corrupting it. But it is also a story of hope, a story of the possibility of change, a story of mercy. Noah finds grace in the eyes of the Lord. Humanity is given a second chance. We are living that second chance. This is our garden. We have dominion over it. Are we tending it? Are we keeping it? Will we stand before it with Awe and Reverence, or will we corrupt our way upon it? It is our choice. It is our responsibility." [huffingtonpost.com, 3/27-29/14; time.com, 3/28/14; answersingenesis.com, 3/31/14; patheos.com/blogs/churchofthemasses, 3/27/14]
While Noah was generating all manner of controversial buzz on its way to a stronger-than-expected $43.7 million North American debut, the small Christian film God's Not Dead pulled off a nearly miraculous second weekend in theaters. The film, which stars Kevin Sorbo (best known for his starring role in the television show Hercules: The Legendary Journeys in the mid-'90s), brought in $8.8 million, a drop-off of just 4.5% compared to its opening weekend take of $9.2 million. By way of comparison, it's typical for films to experience a 50% dip in revenue in their second weekend in theaters, sometimes even when theater locations are added (and 398 theaters were added in this case). Analysts at the Hollywood trade website deadline.com are projecting that the film could make as much as $40 to $45 million in its theatrical run, which would rank it ahead of Christian movie heavyweights such as Sherwood Pictures' Fireproof and Courageous, which made $33.5 million and $34.5 million respectively. Meanwhile, Mark Burnett and Roma Downey's film Son of God has made $57.9 million since its Feb. 28 opening.
Writing for deadline.com, Anita Busch says of the performances of these biblically oriented films, "After the strong staying power of this weekend's God's Not Dead and the stronger than expected opening of Paramount Pictures' Noah following on the heels of the surprise opening of Fox's Son of God earlier this year, is there any doubt anymore Hollywood that if you build it, they will come? … 'I think that is a smart assumption,' said Megan Colligan, president of domestic marketing and distribution for Paramount. 'Noah is a movie that gets people thinking about big spiritual matters, but also is very entertaining. What [it] accomplished isn't easy to replicate, but it's definitely a genre that artists and studios will be thinking about.'" [deadline.com, 3/30/14; boxofficemojo.com, 3/30/14; imdb.com, 3/30/14 stats]
Meanwhile, another box office record fell over the weekend, with Frozen passing up Toy Story 3 to become the highest-grossing animated film ever worldwide. The heartwarming story of a chilly relationship between two sisters has thus far scooped up a whopping $1.07 billion internationally, making it the 10th biggest movie of all time (of any kind) on the global chart. [boxofficemojo.com, 3/30/14 stats]
"In the future, it seems, there will be only one 'ism'—Individualism—and its rule will never end. As for religion, it shall decline; as for marriage, it shall be postponed; as for ideologies, they shall be rejected; as for patriotism, it shall be abandoned; as for strangers, they shall be distrusted. Only pot, selfies and Facebook will abide—and the greatest of these will probably be Facebook. That's the implication, at least, of what the polling industry keeps telling us about the rising American generation, the so-called millennials. … A new Pew survey, the latest dispatch from the land of young adulthood, describes a generation that's socially liberal on issues like immigration and marijuana and same-sex marriage, proudly independent of either political party, less likely to be married and religious than earlier generations, less likely to identify as patriotic and less likely—by a striking margin—to say that one's fellow human beings can be trusted."
—New York Times op-ed columnist Ross Douthat [nytimes.com, 3/15/14]