AS THIS IS written, the big, fat Hollywood blockbuster Noah is opening amid condemnation from some Muslims and evangelical Christians and praise from most film critics.
Today, any product that touches the Bible is bound to be perceived as another entry in the culture wars. But that doesn’t seem to be what the producers and filmmakers had in mind with Noah. After all, it’s time-tested public domain material that presents great opportunities for computer-generated imagery (CGI) special effects. Paramount, the studio that put up the $125 million production cost, mostly wanted to peel off a slice of the Christian audience that flocked to Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ and the History Channel’s Bible series.
But Noah was a culture war surrogate long before Russell Crowe donned his biblical robes. That’s because the creationist organization Answers in Genesis (AiG), which runs an anti-evolution Creation Museum in northern Kentucky, has for the past few years been trying to raise money to build a theme park anchored by a Bible-sized replica of Noah’s Ark. The Creation Museum is famous for such attractions as exhibits that depict humans and dinosaurs as neighbors. You may have heard it described as the museum for people who think The Flintstones was reality TV.
It’s a big job rebuilding Noah’s ark. The makers of the movie Noah only built to about a third of the biblical dimensions and used CGI for the rest. The price tag for the one planned in Kentucky is about $73 million. Early on, the project got a surprising boost from Kentucky’s governor, Democrat Steve Beshear. You may have seen Beshear on TV recently hyping Kentucky’s rollout of the Affordable Care Act. But before that, in 2010, Beshear came in for rounds of derision when he announced that our state would give $37 million in tax breaks to the ark attraction, as an economic development measure. When—or if—completed, the park is supposed to create 900 jobs and bring $250 million into Kentucky in its first five years.