With the Christian Bale helmed Moses story Exodus: Gods and Kings (directed by Ridley Scott) due out this December, and Darren Aronofsky's Noah hitting theatres recently, biblical epics are looking to make quite a splash this year.

Noah is a wonderful piece because it utilizes the mythology of its source to create a beautifully resonant and modern piece of cinema. Now of course we all know the story of Noah, where an omnipotent God picks a man to save all the animals from an apocalypse brought about because of human sin. Aronofsky embraces the mythical qualities of the narrative and uses the core of the Hebrew text to tell a story that is as steeped in the iconography of Tolkien as it by its biblical roots.

I read a recent review of the picture in the UK based religious publication 'The Church Times' , which claimed the movie choose to focus on the theological side of the narrative rather than the ecological heart of the story. While I agree with the reviewer's point to an extent, I would also argue that the primary antagonist in the movie, Tubel-Cain (played with scenery chomping glee by Ray Winston), is a proponent of the ideology that the planet and Mother Nature is simply a dominion to be controlled and exploited by human beings whose omnipotence over her is one in which we define our own personal destiny and the resources of the planet are there to be exploited in spite of the destruction of the planet and rape of any natural equilibrium that exists in providence. It is this wanton arrogance that is displayed by Tubel throughout the movie as he kills and maims both human beings and enjoys the pleasures of killing animals for food. In a world where scientific debate rages about the causes and costs of climate change, this is a wonderfully poignant thematic concern within the narrative of Aronofsky's movie and it is front and centre.

Prior to the movie's release it was tested with Christian groups in the United States who did not take kindly to the story. It was widely rumoured that Aronofsky's cut of the picture would have to be amended to fit the template of the target audience.

Its financial takings have fallen by some 61 percent in the weeks following release in the United States. To me this drop may be because of what I see as the subversive brilliance of the movie's second act. Noah himself is motivated by fundamentalist ideals that lead him towards carrying out acts of violence and murder as he begins to interpret the wishes of 'The Creator'. Noah has an obsessive knowledge of religious history, so his spiritual connection to it actually becomes a paradigm where he stands against love and compassion. In a world where religious schism is prominent throughout many religious organisations as some members seek to move away from dogmatic ideals and into modernity, it is telling here that the central conceit at the movie's heart is the collision between human compassion and the ideals of those whose emotional providence cannot sit calmly with a religiously dogmatic approach to theology. This profoundly uncomfortable idea sits well in a movie that is extremely melodramatic and bereft of any humour.

The departures from the biblical text also seek to serve out the aforementioned premise. Emma Watson's Illa is there in the narrative to bring Noah back to the Alma Marta of life - in a literal sense the feminine is used as a thematic device. Noah's wife Nammah (Jennifer Connelly) and a young starving innocent girl point towards the fact that Noah has left Mother Nature and the feminine alone in his pursuit of fulfilling what he believes is the desire of his master. What he learns is to come back to the love of humanity and perhaps a God who is not arbitrary enough to outwardly define the deeds of his human creations on earth. While this is of course a paradox in a story of this nature, it is also a tellingly subversive and courageous part of the narrative development on the director's part which allows the main protagonist to be an oppositional figure who becomes a fundamentalist.

While the movie is undisciplined and wildly out of control - the melodrama at the heart of the movie's conclusion is laughable - it fits within the portrayal of the story. The score and cinematography are superb. I myself think that Noah is a courageous movie with a subversive heart that is not only a cracking blockbuster but also a movie that perhaps suggests how and where religious iconography sits within a modern world that may or may not become more secular. The fact that it manages this is a credit to all of those involved.