I never saw the movie Noah. I heard enough horrible things about it from the Christians who did that I made the choice not to support it. I got some backlash for this decision. I was told that I shouldn’t criticize the movie if I had not seen it. Although I did not give into this logic (try it when it comes to drugs or fornication) I decided to avoid that circumstance by giving my money to a blasphemer, and I went and saw Exodus.
The movie did one thing very well: It reassured and confirmed my original idea that I do not need to see a movie to criticize it. Douglas Wilson once said that you don’t need to drink the whole bottle to know it’s vinegar. I suggest that sometimes even a sniff will suffice.
I am going to respond to the movie in a series of blog posts, starting with this one. For those who get bored and don’t read every word of my blogs, here is a summary of my position in five words: Do not see the movie.
First thing is first, I do understand generally that when trying to tell a biblical story the plot needs to be adjusted. I understand that, for example, to make a movie about Jesus and incorporate every detail from all three Gospels and the extra narratives we get from John would be a very, very long movie. Maybe, the Bible is too complex for film?
To date, there is not a good movie about a biblical story. They are all either theological messes, biblically unfaithful, or they are just of such terrible quality that what is good cannot be tolerated. That includes the Son of God series and that includes The Passion.
To this date, there is no biblical adaptation I would recommend to anyone. To find a Biblical narrative in a movie that is pleasing in the quality of production, acting, and writing, while also not making a travesty of the biblical theology or narrative, seems impossible today (I also think there is an argument to be made that these inaccurate depictions of Jesus are graven images). However, the point of that diatribe is this: although there is leeway in tweaking the stories to make them watchable, there is a very fine line. And Exodus crosses it. I say this because when I address how inaccurate this story was to the biblical narrative, I want to avoid hearing the cry that it’s OK to change some things to make it short enough. This movie (like Noah) far crosses that line and makes this Exodus story almost nothing close to a even a semblance of the Divine text. It’s not even close.
This is especially egregious to the Bible because when you mess with Old Testament narrative you mess with theology. Every detail, event and action are divinely decreed, recorded and inspired to paint a theological picture for us. They are physical representations of spiritual, New Testament realities and they reveal God’s nature and character. If someone were to take a New Testament book like Romans or Ephesians and literally change the words to paint a brand new theological picture, Christians would be outraged. The problem is the old testament narratives ARE our theology. When we change the story, we change the theology. There is no difference (outside of subtlety) to changing the words of Paul in Romans and changing the events of the Exodus story.
Alas, here come the spoilers. If you still plan on seeing it, turn away now (although the following will serve as further evidence of why to avoid it):
–Pharaoh does not die in the waters of the Red Sea.
–Moses is almost never with Aaron.
–Moses dislikes the Jews before his “conversion” (which is really no conversion at all.)
–Moses does respect the Jews more than the rest of the Egyptians, but he does not know his heritage.
–Moses never uses a staff.
–Moses is a powerful war general skilled in the art of killing.
–Pharaoh never has magicians match Moses and Aaron’s works.
–Moses never kills a guard for hurting a slave but instead kills a guard who made him mad for hitting him.
–Moses never truly repents but is constantly angry with God.
–The plagues all happen at one time, almost simultaneously, and all have human explanations. They all are presented as natural consequences from the first miracle. The water turns to blood because God makes alligators eat everything in the Nile. The fish then die because of the blood, and so the frogs come out of the water because of the blood. The gnats come because all the frogs that left the water died. The gnats die and bring the flies, and the flies bring diseases to the cattle which kill all the cattle. The only true miracles that happen are the locusts who come randomly and the Spirit who kills the children (at which God is represented as a moral monster for doing).
–Pharaoh is only warned by Moses twice to let the Jews go and is never told of the consequences.
–Moses starts a rebellious, violent militia with Aaron and Joshua to fight against the Egyptians.
–Moses does not part the red sea, the tide just gets low enough to cross, then God parts it at the end without Moses’ knowledge to crush the armies.
–A tornado of fire never comes down to stop Pharaoh’s army.
–Moses writes the Ten Commandments with his own hand.
–God is portrayed throughout the movie as a physical, little, British boy of (about 9 years of age).
–Moses is allowed to touch the Ark.
This is only a brief list of the faults I remember. I only saw it once. There were many more. I would like to say that all of these changes affect the theology of the text and are very important. Specifically, the hardness and accountability of Pharaoh, the use of Aaron in Moses’ decree, the depiction of God, the lack of miraculous nature in God’s plans, and the fact that the Passover is never explained to Moses as to why it’s significant and how it will be forever, as it is in the text.
The next series will address the characters specifically and why they were ruined.
I will conclude by sharing some irony.
There is a scene in the movie where Moses secretly meets with the Hebrew leaders and they explain the prophecy about him, as well as how he is actually Hebrew. Moses is angered by this account, and as he storms out of the Jewish leadership’s home, he says,
“That’s not even a good story. I thought you people were supposed to be good at telling stories” (not a direct quote, but very close).
It seems Ridley Scott shares this attitude. Apparently, God’s story isn’t good enough. He took matters into his own hands and retold it. The irony is ANYONE who reads Exodus and then watches this movie will see our story is a much better story.
The next post will dive into the theological issues with how the characters were portrayed.