Noah is a very conflicted character in the movie. He wants to save all the animals, but he also wants to destroy the human race. He believes that humans are so evil that even his own descendants don’t deserve to repopulate the earth. In this, Noah seems sterner than God. But is he? God doesn’t actually say anything in the movie, so it’s hard to know.
What surprised me about the movie – although it makes sense cinematically – is how God is a hidden character in the movie and Noah is the center of attention. This neatly reverses the prominence of God and Noah in the biblical story. In Genesis, God is the only one who speaks, and Noah is silent. It is God who, by turns, is heartbroken, angry, and compassionate. He is the destroyer and the savior. In Genesis, Noah is a completely flat character – until after the flood, when he gets drunk and, when wakes from his stupor, speaks to his sons in blessing and curse.
In the modern world, a God who is driven by such extreme emotions would be hard to portray on the screen. Imagine Morgan Freeman or another actor trying to play God with such emotional complexity. But it makes sense to have the human protagonist act out these complicated emotions. It’s a bravura role for Russell Crowe. So in the movie Noah becomes the character with conscience and conflict, and God is silent. Modern cinema transfers the inner conflict from the Creator to the leading man. The patriarch struts and frets on the stage, while God is silent. It’s a striking reversal of character and conscience in Genesis, but it makes sense in a post-theological age.
Maybe the writers didn’t know they were flipping the characters and the crisis of conscience. But they did it, and it seems to work. The compassionate turn saves humanity, just as in the Bible, but with a modern twist.