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

Published 9 months 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

TAGS: noah


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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.

  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.

  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.

  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

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