Darren Aronofsky’s ‘Noah’ Attracts Controversy During Test Screenings

Published 2 years ago by

noah darren aronofsky controversy Darren Aronofskys Noah Attracts Controversy During Test Screenings

When you adapt a Bible story for the big screen, you’re just asking for trouble, and Darren Aronofsky has already courted his fair share with his graphic novel-turned movie project, Noah. The Black Swan director’s vision of the Noah’s Ark story features Russell Crowe as the eponymous prophet, who believes that his visions of an impending apocalyptic flood are a message from God – and thus, begins to construct an enormous ship, in order to protect his family and as many living creatures as possible.

Paramount has started test screening Noah, by showing different cuts of the film to audiences so as to determine which one is best received (read: most commercially viable). The religious tentpole is reported to have climbed past its original $125 million budget, so Aronofsky is having to deal with more studio feedback than he’s accustomed to, seeing how his previous features have all been pretty low on the professional film budget scale (with the exception of The Fountain, which still cost “just” $35 million to make).

The current problems facing Noah are described by THR as follows:

In recent weeks, the studio has held test screenings for key groups that might take a strong interest in the subject matter: in New York (for a largely Jewish audience), in Arizona (Christians) and in Orange County, Calif. (general public). All are said to have generated troubling reactions. But sources say Aronofsky has been resistant to Paramount’s suggested changes. “Darren is not made for studio films,” says a talent rep with ties to the project. “He’s very dismissive. He doesn’t care about [Paramount's] opinion.”

Aronofsky is definitely aiming to put his own creative stamp on the material, having described Noah as “the first environmentalist” (as in, the first person to recognize the importance of caring for the world created for humanity by God) and planned a vision of the story that includes beings like giant six-armed angels and fantastical animals unlike any in existence today. The setting of Aronofsky and Ari Handel’s Noah graphic novel (the basis for the film) can be described as savage and Mad Max-ish, with years of human barbarism and warfare having ravaged the landscape, even before the the time of a terrible drought.

darren aronofsky noah Darren Aronofskys Noah Attracts Controversy During Test Screenings

Artwork from the ‘Noah’ graphic novel

The artistic challenges that come with realizing such a world have already been documented, most recently in an interview where Aronofsky revealed that the CGI animals designed for Noah are the most complex digital shots rendered by ILM to date. However, as passionate as the filmmaker’s vision for the project appears to be, that doesn’t guarantee that others will be so taken with his re-interpretation of the Noah’s Ark story, as THR notes in its write-up:

Beyond the visuals, a major challenge has been coming up with an exciting third act that doesn’t alienate the potentially huge Christian audience (in the Bible, Noah and the ark’s inhabitants survive the flood that destroys the Earth). Some in the faith community already have expressed skepticism about the result, especially after writer Brian Godawa in October 2012 obtained a version of the Noah script and posted his summary online under the heading, “Darren Aronofsky’s Noah: Environmentalist Wacko.”…

Admittedly, there’s something deliciously meta about all this, with Aronofsky’s plans having been heavily scrutinized by the doubtful religious community looking onwards as the project develops. It parallels how Noah, in the movie, faces much in the way of skepticism from his peers (including, Ray Winstone’s character), who question whether the protagonist’s visions and behavior are those of a faithful servant of God… or a disillusioned madman, who’s been given too much leeway.

russell crowe noah1 Darren Aronofskys Noah Attracts Controversy During Test Screenings

Russell Crowe as Noah

There’s certainly an audience that will be interested to see how Aronofsky breathes new life into the Noah’s Ark story, more so because it’s clear that he is strongly committed to making the film a success; as a result, ensuring that the Biblical epic should feel like the handiwork of an auteur, not a soulless Hollywood effects-heavy tentpole. Whether or not it’s respectful of the Bible source material, is a discussion better saved for later (i.e. when the film is no longer a work-in-progress and ready for critiquing).

On the other hand, you can see where Paramount is coming from, since the studio has already invested heavily in letting Aronofsky maintain his artistic integrity with Noah, despite the chance that it could push away the sizable Christian audience (see: the box office returns for The Passion of the Christ and huge ratings success of The History Channel’s The Bible mini-series-turned upcoming theatrical release Son of God, for the proof of that).

Still, at this stage, Paramount attempting to make the film easier-to-swallow for moviegoers might be too little, too late, lest the studio end up sacrificing the cohesiveness of Aronofsky’s vision and turning the film into a Frankenstein job like the recent expensive summer blockbusters World War Z and The Lone Ranger. Indeed, the vast difference in those films’ box office returns just goes to show: you can never be too sure about how things will work out in the end.

Let us know whether or not you’re interested in seeing Noah in the comments section below (and remember, keep it civil, folks).


Noah is slated to open in theaters on March 28th, 2014.

Source: THR

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  1. The worst movie I’ve seen since “master of disguise”. Brutal. Script, vFX, score, blechhh.

    I went in not having even seen the preview or any promo… And I’ll never get that time back.

    Crap sandwich.

  2. An atheist producing a religious movie? What truth but lies that come out from it? So you tell me if it is worth watching? May be his fellow atheist friends, which is not many.

  3. as with all movies I was expecting poetic licence but I was very disappointed at the story line mutating Noah from a righteous man into a mad man who would kill his grandchildren (not that they had children during the 40 days anyway).this movie sets out to destroy the depth of meaning of the story of Noah. Shame.

  4. Haven’t seen it yet, however am going today. My one comment pre-viewing, is that Noah’s family is to have spread the new line of humans post-deluge. He should have had a wife of color, as biologically, caucasoids are recessive genetically, and as such, cannot produce any offspring with dominant genes/phenotypes. Ergo, he should have been brown/black or his spouse in order to introduce these genetic strains of melatonin back into the population.
    Hollywood continues its racist message in its apocalyptic films, as does the mainstream Christian Church: Jesus is “white,” all the people of the so-called (coined in 1902 by an American Naval Admiral) “middle east” (continental Africa/Asia) are “white,” and people of color have no part in the making of history or present.
    It’ll be a good Mad Max film – but even that genre had an Auntie (Tina Turner) to realistically balance the scales.

    • Yawn…

  5. Seeker has a good point about skin color and from my study Mrs Noah or one of the wives aboard would need to have variation , also remember the other root races types .. There would need to be all varieties of man represented in the gene pool . The Tower of Babel is the next marker , where the Creator God again steps in and confuses the one language they had and disperses the populations to other parts of the planet so perhaps the ethnic divergence might have also taken place here? Just guessing about that . For the movie , a black Noah would have covered that question better, but then it would get Americas current President involved and disturb the allegorical aspect . It is not an all literal film , it fills in non important details with imaginative solutions , so if you wanted to just imagine Noah or his wife was black or Chinese , you could, it was not a big point in the production .. That is why the director used dreams and visions more so you too could use your imagination to fill in the holes you needed to understand…..great Question

  6. I am an ordained minister and a college Religion professor. My field is Bible, especially Hebrew Bible. I am not a fan of religious movies, as they always seem to anger somebody. I had no intention of seeing this film. But after being told by many people what a horrible thing it was, I decided to go. I am glad that I did. It is clearly a very modern re-interpretation of the Noah story (actually “stories,” as there are 2 that are woven together in Genesis 6-9). Everyone always thinks that their knowledge and understanding is complete. But there is always more to learn. The movie makes a lot more sense if a person has familiarity with the ancient Book of Enoch which seems to come from Genesis 6.1-4. The big rock beings in the movie seem to represent fallen angels who are cast out from God to the earth. They are fire and light, and hit the ground thus melting the rock around them. They are prisoners in another world and are banished from God. According to Enoch, they come to the earth and teach humans to dig in the ground to find ore to make weapons (and make-up!). This odd little bit of Genesis (6.1-4) seems to lead right into the fact that violence had come to the world. I have heard people complain about the animals being eaten in the movie, and how that must be some Vegan madness. Actually Genesis 1 says that all animals and humans will eat plants. This is changed in Genesis 9, after the flood is over. So for people in Noah’s day to be eating animals would have been a violation before God. I know this has gone long, so let me close this: The movie does take liberties with what Genesis actually says. I don’t think it intends for humans to die off once the barge is parked. But this movie does a “The Day The Earth Stood Still” kind of thing with the story, which maybe we need. One final P.S.: There are two “arks” if you will in the beginning of the Bible, this one in Genesis, and another in Exodus. The other one? The little basket that protects Moses in the river to save his life. As far as the Bible is concerned, that other ark is just as important, maybe more. I have new respect for the figure of Noah in the story. Imagine you have been asked to see to the extinction of the human race, because you think God is asking for that. I believe that Russell Crowe pays this brilliantly.

    • Rich is right on , I am reading the Book of Enoch as we. Speak . This Noah movie comes from that in many ways … My study of the days of Noah have been greatly improved by having access to this uncannonised book. It is most important I think to live in the time period you are reading about to understand the account from the perspective of the time. Those in Noah’s time did not Know Jesus as God and were more distent , they could not call him Father or Loving God , as Moses was able to do in the beginning of Gen 1:1 … Moses was able to tell the story that way , but the people during Noah’s time were more distent and used other names like The Creator … This was a very fine way the director had of showing that distence I think and again creating a better than Biblical movie …….

    • “Liberties” you say? You mean how they added several events, inconsistent with the story line and with the ideas of good and evil in the bible? For someone who claims to study the bible as their profession, you seem to lack insight on some very fundamental biblical points. Remember, God chose Noah because he saw him righteous and allowed him and his entire immediate family to escape on the arc. God forbade child bearing on the arc for the entire time they were on the arc. There was no need for fallen angles (the devils servants) to aid in their escape, for the God in the bible is all powerful. God sealed the gate to the arc and the chosen animals fought to protect it. There was no conflict between members in the family during or before the arc was being made. Reading the bible is one thing but knowing how to interpret and understand it is another.

    • Although I am not a minister, I was born, raised and still remain a follower of Christianity. My husband is an ordined elder and he would not give his time to watching this movie, but I was curious (also a fan of Russell Crowe)and attempted to watch the movie with an understanding that it was never advertised as anthing otherthan an “inspired” work using biblical reference as its guide. I will say that I couldn’t relate to the Fallen Angels that were transformed into “rock”creatures. It had too much of a “Transformer” feel to me. I also had problems with Shem having a wife, but not the other sons (per scripture) and then I thought…this is just a movie. It was made to make money, to provoke controversy and to begin “conversation” – nothing more and nothing less. None of us were there with Noah. None of us stood with Noah, hammered with him, carried any gopher wood or endured the task God gave to him. Christian stand on Faith – not on Hollywood “make-believe”. Watch whichever movie you like and take it for what it’s worth to you. Would I have appreciated spending $14 for a movie ticket – No! But $2.00 rental was fine for this experience and as always, I enjoyed Mr. Crowe’s performance!

  7. I have been an atheist since I was thirteen, a vegetarian/Vegan since I was twenty. Now I am eligible for senior discounts, so it’s been a long, long, time. I went to see this movie because I was interested in the environmental message, and I was not disappointed. This is a tale that does serve as an epic reminder of our lack of responsibility to the earth and our fellow creatures. We are a destructive bunch. Would the planet be better off without the human animal? Probably. Is there still time to stop the destruction? Is there time to undo some of the damage? None of us know for sure, but we must try. When the famous architect, Frank Lloyd Wright was asked if he believed in God, he responded; “Yes I do, and I spell it N A T U R E”. Enough said.

    • What destruction? You mean like the millions of years the planet has been bombarded with volcanos, floods, fires, hurricanes, meteorite collisions? Oh no, you mean that evil ketchup bottle. I do agree, though. There are entire zip codes of people the planet would be better off without.

  8. My view is the racial diversity part should have been enfesised more…for our futre..

  9. The movie realy twisted the christian view of Noah…..,hope for fallen angels and noah’s son aiding an evil man….to the grandad dying in the flood ….is all bias and well maybe to give controvesial benefit

  10. Hey folks, it’s just a movie. If you really care about this world go out and do something to save it.

  11. This sci-fi movie was awesome. Loved the scenery, CGI and music. Movies are meant to be entertaining.

    • But that was not it’s claim, Dave. In it’s pre-release advertising, this movie claimed to be true to the Biblicl narrative, and even boasted of it’s painstaking detail in followig the construction of the ark to exact Biblical specifications. But let’s say the film did not claim to follow the Biblical story, and admitted it was fantasy – something they EVENTUALLY had to unofficially admit – let’s imagine if the producer’s next movie was called “Martin Luther King”, featuried a black man, fighting for civil rights, set in the south in the 60′s , but made him out to be a wacko murderous monster of a human being, against all written accounts of his character. Do you think there would be justifiable outrage at his vilifiaction?

      • Yes , a real actual ark on a different planet than this one , Science Fiction ,the best way to bring this to life.
        A taste of metaphor and allegory in a science fiction format ..or we live in a comic book culture after all
        Wait , I first saw this film all alone in a highly meditative mood expecting a Science fiction re telling like Star Trek that might give me insight into how to help mankind through allegory ,on this planet too, we need help . I took a class on the Study of the Future in college where we looked at The prophetic power of movies to both entertain and also impart a vision or insight , in a word Art films . Not everyone’s cup of tea , but never the less, this Noah movie delivered what I was looking for ,and then some. A strange planet destroyed by the wicked, an anti hero who just wanted to keep his family safe is given prophetic dreams that he needs help to understand , he must deal alone with the task that is revealed to him , he has to piece it together on his own , has a basic understanding at first then is over whelmed by the evil he sees in himself and all mankind , this movie should not have been touted as a Bible epic, but a film of Biblical proportions. It is a great film on a grand scale asking questions that need to be answered that only science fiction is brave enough to ask. This movie is not supposed to be a Fully Biblical account .. It is a strange unfamiliar planet that is more easily explained and explored by suspension of your reality . It is a re-telling using other Noah accounts and stories from other cultures as well , it is not what Christians thought they wanted . It is a Sci – fi based graphic novel written by the director and then turned into a Big budget movie
        Using Biblical Accuracy as a standard for judging a movie not soul based or derived exclusively from the Bible is not unlike judging the wrong category . This was a graphic novel (Read comic book ) originally that the director chose to bring to the big screen with its Science fiction elements intact . Planet of the apes , by Rod Serling , twilight zone style ,
        I fully respect anyone’s right to view or show Bible stories from the Bible exactly verse by verse how the Bible says, but this is not the purpose nor the stated ambition of this film . It is a journey to a place in time we have never gone before , the film holds you in with new ideas and possible and impossible solutions , it is not a mockery of anything , it supports many biblical themes and yet speaks from its own script , just as Shakespeare used Some Biblical wisdom , but created new stories. King Lear was not much like the King Lear in Shakespeare, so why must Noah be anything like the one in the Bible , and why insist on such a control if this is Science fiction?
        The points the movie infers are in Gen 6 – 8
        There is corruption in the seed of man that causes him to kill and destroy and is visually made evident in a burned out world that is left , we learn that this corruption is sin, and that sin still lives even in Noah’s family , this environmental theme is inferred , but is not the reason for such, they left God, this is shown in the film and even exemplified in ToBal Cain, visually and by his own words later in the film …. “Creator, why will you not talk to me?”

        This Hunk Gladiator Noah , must grow to understand that sin is great in man , but there is also what God sees in His remnant that is worth saving as well. This is not a different God than is in the Bible is it? God of Justice , Demands perfection , in the 7 Noahide commandments , yet man is guilty , so God gives Mercy and allows a new beginning anyway .

      • Low dee doo, I think you might have mis- comprehended Noah going Postal on first viewing , because you had not understood the motivation This Noah was dealing with . The director perhaps failed in getting you to see From this Noah’s point of perspective . This Noah , unlike the Noah in the Bible , had seen the corruption caused by the fall still found inside himself , and yet he and his family were the last remnant , this Noah had to decide if he and his family were good enough to continue, on the other side of the Flood, Man is guilty of Sin , Even Noah , even you , Salvation does not make one perfect , only forgiven . It was hard for This Noah to look at the depravity of Man , so he assumed God The Creator wanted them to die off , this assumption was just , because God is perfect, but Noah also found out later that God Has Marcy on those who come to him also and this is really the Salvation Story is it not? Guilty Sinners on the way to judgement yet when we turn to The Lord with all our heart and repent , we are forgiven and redeemed , Christ pays our debt and we can walk in Him? Even on another plant or in a directors fairy tale .. This is how salvation works , so I am sorry about having to even explain this , it was obvious to me as a former professional Seeker , I think we need more films created by honest seekers who what to interact with us Christians , so we can reason together .

      • You’re referring to a man who lived and breathed in a time where recorded history was MUCH more accurate than thousands of years ago, when people made up a lot of s*** for the things they never understood, and relayed history through the embellished stories of primitives.

  12. True to the Biblical narrative. Yes. Fantasy. Sci-Fi. Fiction. I never read the bible and don’t plan on it. I saw this movie about a guy named Noah and it was awsome.

  13. With the way the world is today I think this movie was great. I believe our world is setting it self up for being destroyed again for pretty much the same reason as the first time. I think this movie will remind alot of people in this world that it only takes a few minutes the wipe everything and everyone off the face of this earth. Everyone interpets the bible stories differently but lets all face the facts that the main message of the story is there and comes across loud and clear !!


  15. The movie is BLASPHEMY!! READ GENESIS

    • Dustin, Seekers have a right to make movies too, how else will they find if they can not seek? The form of the film asked for questions , you can fill in all the questions. In your documentary , this was not about that .

  16. You had such a wonderful chance, and you threw it away. I only hope that children do not believe that this is the true story of Noah. How sad it is that the truth is not enough to sell Theater Tickets.


  18. Dear Dustin , the Caps are not necessary, and God has not been in the business of judging Comic books to my knowledge any how , I am glad you are protecting the Holiness of God in your heart and I respect your faithfulness to deliver the True Gospel message when ever possible , you obviously believe these are the last days as do I , can we then reason together and see that your very objection, causes those around you to be curious for themselves what this movie is about? You might feed the very monster you wish to vanquish in this regard, and scare even more away from God’s open and forgiving arms by your behavior, do you see that as a possibility ?
    how many folks have read here the words of Angry well meaning Christians , who seemed rather “crazy” in their objections that a Movie – form of – ENTERTAiNMENT! was making them angry as hornets … False idols on big screens cause religious fanatics to get upset …..might be a logical headline in today’s paper . I love the Ark in this Movie , and in the rear view mirror of time .. This is all anyone else will remember either……Till the Next blockbuster Bible inspired Hollywood production comes along …I respect your warnings and value your commitment to Christ

  19. The reason why virtually all of the alleged biblically enlightened Christians will never understand the absolute original truth of this movie, is because they were never taught, and remain ignorant of The Eternal Creators – “Everlasting Agreement”, which HE clearly gave to the first man and woman, and later reestablished through Noach. I agree there are two small parts of the movie where the writers took some license via some very ancient folklore, which is again more information Christians are not familiar with because most are only trying to prove our prophet correct when he said, “My people will perish for their lack of understanding”… Mostly because they ignore all Hebrew language and culture, and only receive their faith via the 50% Western language commentaries taken from our previously politically corrected Hebrew text, and not the more ancient Hebrew texts which tell a different story.

    This movie has more ancient truth in it than most of you will ever know of or admit to, and to my extensive knowledge, no other such depiction of any biblical event has ever been put to film in such a truthful manner, much less based on the oldest Aramaic Hebrew text depictions of Noach’s day. My only question is, is the author aware of the original textual truths he wrote about, or did this occur some other way?

    You would do well to read this book if you truly want to understand how accurate the most important parts of this movie actually are.

    Amazon books – http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss_1?url=search-alias%3Dstripbooks&field-keywords=The%20land%20of%20meat%20and%20honey

  20. Stephen,

    What I was trying to say is Why make a movie about something you do not belI’ve in for what reason?? Was it cause of profit and money ppeople would think it was really happens and I know GOD exist and like I said you added stuff and he will let you know you were wrong the only thing in the world to fear is God’s rath I am just trying to let you know what to expect .it’s like if you make a promise to GOD and break it he will let you know you done wrong and you will know who and Why when you hit rock bottom before you can climb. Up again please take this serious least have the righteousness

    • Dear Dustin, do not see movies about anything but Jesus or you will be disappointed . There are movies made about Thor , and Superman and other things that help people who want to know about God , but want a story that addresses where they are in life . I explained the best I could how a movie that contained questions in a fiction format could help people who could gain something from that . Not you , you know it all , but I like to learn from films that question what I think I know … There are many ways to get to where you are , this was a Film based on a graphic novel that you did not read , so I think you can rest . This film did not attempt to evangelize , it was only made because the director was interested in history , a history lost , he came up with a way to both explore and get people interested in the discussion a different Noah on a different planet …if you like …. Disney does this imagination thing all the time . Noah in the Bible is not God .. Not a Holy Cow … Jesus is the whole reason we are even having this discussion . Noah in the Bible is safe , this movie will get people to read about the real Bible Noah , that is already happening …..this is a good thing .

  21. Dear Stephen,

    Hey man that’s great that this movie has gotten more people to read and discuss the Bible and the true story of NOAH. But that wasn’t the point I was trying to make. Many people watched this movie expecting some Hollywood drama to spice up the movie but to stay true to the original story. The true story. The NOAH in the Bible is an important example of God’s wrath, but at the same time his love and compassion. This turned NOAH into crazy murder, and that was not what NOAH was. NOAH was a man of GOD. This movies should have least in the disciption or on the case that this is a fictional. Interpretation of the Bible that it did not follow or try to stay true to the Bible . There are many movies, and t.v serious that people have enjoyed watching that stay true to the Bible, examples include Peter and Paul,staring Anthony hopkins and Robert.foxworth, the Bible, staring. Diogo margado, and the book of daniel, staring robert miano the book of daniel was directed by Anna zielinski. I have watched these programs with my family because I belI’ve it is important to know the Bible and it’s easier for my children to understand when they can watch. It I thought NOAH was going to be a great spiritual learning and experience. But it just confused people who were unsure of the true story. This movie was a dissapointment. As far as my values and spiritual. Are concerned.

    • Dustin , your points are well taken , but I have the DVD and I think your first viewing may have missed the direction and merits of the production completely . First the rating tells you , this is not a film to show your children , it is not a Disney film , yet a Christian can get much from the film if they can realize what it is…. As many here have tried to explain it is a good movie . where as… A film directly based on the Bible alone is what you wanted to see.. So sorry about that .. It is not going to happen ….I have been researching the Bible and The flood for many years and … There is not enough to interest everyone , and Hollywood would not be interested in producing something like that .. In fact ,without a hook , a Sci -Fi slant there is no drama here for Hollywood to get excited about . It is up to Christians to produce a movie about the Noah they understand … Noah is not a god , Noah was just a man with sin , I mentioned sacred Cows before .. I mean anything that gets people offended is a Sacred Cow and I think there are far to many Sacred Cows that need to be removed before we can have a conversation … This comic book adaption has some Sacred Cows in it , Noah , real or imaginary can not make you sinless or give you salvation , only The Lord can do that … If you do not like Adam and Eve depicted in a movie , or the fall of man , or anything else discussed in any movie made by Hollywood you may have Sacred cows that should not be , when you go to see Hollywood films just forgive them and get on with your Christian life . See only films made for and by Christians, and stop complaining so much .. You cannot fix anything you do not understand , learn where to pick your fights , otherwise you will miss what God is doing . And please do not show your children movies made for adults , unless they can figure out the difference . The movie ” Thor” , might have them believing that Norse Gods are really aliens or something …

      • While not a Hollywood production like NOAH the movie God’s not dead had all the makings of what a good religious movie should be. It keeps viewers entertaineand waiting to see what happens next. This movie keeps to the faith and teaches a message that people in this day and age should learn. This is the type of movie everyone should watch with their family of all ages. There is something to learn from this movie. Not to mention a great soundtrack. Gods Not Dead.

  22. I saw the movie, i saw comments of people saying the movie is influenced by the book of Enoch, I actually have the book of Enoch, and I still do not reconcile Biblical Noah Character and the Movie Noah character. Well am sure Aronofsky knew all these controversy would come up. For me the Bible is not certainly not an ordinary book(puzzles me when people twist&joke with it), I dont read it depending on just my mental ability,but on the Truth(the person Jesus)and His Spirit. I pray that every sincere heart towards God would’nt be decieved. God help us.

  23. this was just so disappointing. people watch this movie because they have a great expectation to understand what really happened in the bible story. and worst this movie over complicate the story of Noah, it actually didn’t help.