While traveling this week, I had a chance to see the movie Noah. (If you haven’t yet seen it, watch out for a minor spoiler alert below.)
Most of the reviews have noted that this isn’t your typical robe-and-sandals story with a deep-voiced deity intoning commands to a reluctant prophet. It’s about life on a blackened, blasted, wasted world, and whether our fellow animals can ever be safe while there are still humans around – even just one family of us.
In this version of the flood story, once everybody is finally all aboard the ark and the deluge is unleashed, Noah reveals to his family that their mission is not, as they expected, to “be fruitful and multiply” and get the human story rolling once again when the storm is over. It’s about whether our fellow animals can ever be safe while there humans are around – even just one family of us.
Rather, as he interprets what he’s hearing from “the Creator”, humans can never again be allowed to “have dominion” over the planet. Instead, after they’ve released the other animals onto a cleansed planet, this one family can live out what remains of each of their lives, but they cannot give birth to more humans. They will be the end of the line.
That’s not necessarily exactly what transpires at the end of the movie. (After all, here we are today, all seven billion of us.) But if director Darren Aronofsky has a purpose in presenting this movie, it is surely to ask the key question of our own time:
In a rapidly unfolding Sixth Extinction, can there be any hope for the other animals as long as the human species is still around? Are we capable of doing anything other than destroying them and all life on the planet?
The movie itself reaches no conclusion and offers no solution. If you’re familiar with the Book of Genesis, however, you know that it answers that question with unambiguous clarity: Without a break, it moves directly from the Flood to the story of the Tower of Babel – the next episode of humankind’s attempt to prove its mastery and dominion over all of nature.