Despite its debatable portrayal of Noah, we might want to give Hollywood’s Noah a fair shake in admitting that religions themselves have interpreted the patriarch in various ways. It’s not just that Judaism sees Noah one way and Islam another, with Christianity having its own take. Even within each religion there are widely divergent interpretations of the character of Noah himself. For many Jewish commentators, the biblical description of Noah as "righteous in his generation" (Genesis 6:9) suggested that Noah was only righteous compared to the world in which he lived – that he was nowhere near as righteous as Abraham, for example. In this view, Noah is even seen as a man who ensured his own safety while ignoring his neighbors. Other Jewish scholars, such as the commentator Rashi, said this view was unfair and that Noah purposely stretched the building of the Ark over 120 years precisely to give his neighbors a chance to repent.
Christianity has done the same thing in terms of differing interpretations. Noah is generally seen in a very positive light – doubtless due to his inclusion in the “Faith Hall of Fame” of Hebrews 11, and the fact that according to Peter, Noah was a "preacher of righteousness" (1 Peter 2:5). But there have been many Christian “takes” on Noah even within this tradition. I understand that the Mormon Church teaches that Noah was actually the angel Gabriel in human form, and these facts shows the extent to which views on Noah can diverge even within the range of faith.
So although we might rail against the “divergence” between the biblical Noah and the “Noah” of the movie, we might remember the range of views within the faith traditions themselves and the fact that the movie – despite its problems of fidelity to scripture – has at least been the cause for vast numbers of people reading the Genesis narrative on the internet Bible sites, many of whom might never have looked at the account had it not been for the film’s popularity.
Ultimately, we need to realize, too, that the Bible really does not do biography, per se. Not even the lives of Jesus that we find presented in the gospels give a single seamless account with all the details seen from the same perspective. At the end of the day, the Bible gives us few details about Noah himself, and while we might (and do) argue about their interpreta- tion, the story of Noah remains a classic example that what was important to the biblical writers was not the man’s personality or even his problems (imagined by Hollywood or otherwise), but how he was used by God.