We live in an age where moving pictures have become the instrument for making issues larger than life. Unlike the Renaissance, when a three-dimensional perspective in painting and monumental marble depicted heroic Biblical endeavors, the movies are the dominant media for a broader audience. We hear the sound and see the sight of humanity writ large on the big screen; we see the sweat and dirt of men and women struggling with mental confusion lifted from our fiercest imaginations. We can't turn away.
We feel Noah's pain at the task imposed on him, who in this telling becomes deranged as he carries out instructions from God. He is devoted to his family but turns on those he loves as the task leads him to fanaticism. He berates a child for crushing a flower, but must himself contribute to the destruction of multitudes.
Fortunately there is whimsical relief, in the depiction of Methuselah, Noah's grandfather and the oldest man who ever lived. He makes 969 look like the new 90. Many Bible believers will take issue with the director's liberties, but the movie is also based on thousands of years of commentary and modern scholarship. An inventive mind will visualize, not sentimentalize. The movie's sci-fi giants, huge stone-like creatures with six arms to assist in building the ark and repelling intruders, will find intellectual defenders because the characters are rooted in the Bible's Nephilim. (You can Google them.)
I expected "Noah" to offer a blockbuster without much depth. But curious minds will want to think more about its themes of mercy and justice, its dialectic of good and evil, where personal desires collide with collective survival. "Noah" opened with a $44 million take for an audience with a range of ages and various religious beliefs and secular attitudes. Movieguide says that 83 percent of the movies made now include Biblical or moral content. Who knew? More than stormy weather sells.