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

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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. I’m a Christian and here’s my take. The biblical narrative isn’t extremely long or detailed on this story, so there’s room for Aronofsky to tell a story and stay true to the Bible. The problem is he may not stay true to popular religious feelings or beliefs. The bible’s clear on God creating the world for men and mankind abused what God created to the point that God was sorry he ever created man and sent a flood to wash away the filth. Noah being an environmentalist of sorts, and showing the abuse as more than man against man but man against all of Creation, actually is true to the Bible and Aronofsky showing that side of it could actually show he has a deeper respect for the source material than some religious people.

    Final thought, Christ said you can’t serve 2 masters, either you’ll love the one and hate the other or you’ll hate the one and love the other. You can’t serve both God and money. Make your movie Darren, I’ll see it either way.

    • I agree and I definitely will see it. There are a lot of stories in the bible that aren’t written with a lot of detail that someone with Aronofsky’s talent could well put into a movie that stays true to the Bible and is truly worth seeing.

    • I saw the movie. I thought it was wonderful. I would recommend everyone go and see it. There are lots of parts that are different than what the Bible says. With that being said, it was very entertaining and inspirational. Go see it!!!

    • Cannot agree more.

  2. The previous commenter begs the question. Was the Noah story in the Bible “true” to it’s actual inspiration, the Sumerian/Babylonian story of Gilgames? I’ll be greatly offended if the Noah story in the Bible doesn’t adhere to the story those Hebrew scribes ripped off.

    • Without getting into a debate the Bible’s narrative of the flood is the original. The epic of Gilgamesh is a corrupted alteration preserved by peoples who did not follow the God of the Hebrews.

      • No. The Epic of Gilgamesh is demonstrably older than the biblical story of Noah. It’s impossible for the biblical depiction of this story to be the original.

        • The Epic of Gilgamesh is considered older only because, so far, it’s the earliest manuscript we’ve found. It is still possible to find an even older manuscript documenting the flood story as found in Genesis. Basic logic here.

          • Eh Nichole I think if we haven’t found it by now then it probably doesn’t exist mate. But you can feel free to hold onto that thread of fantasy if it helps you sleep at night.

            • So Azzy, if we haven’t yet found any of those “missing links” the anthropologists are constantly looking for then I guess, under your logic, “it probably doesn’t exist” right mate. But, no worrys, “you can feel free to hold onto that thread of fantasy” too.

  3. I’m really excited to see this film; finally a religious film that acknowledges the epic proportions of the stories instead of watering them down to sentimental slop. As for the controversy stemming from the christians who want the film to strictly follow the ‘christian interpretation’ of the story, I think since Aronofsky never said he was making this to be ‘accurate’ we shouldn’t hold him to it. Why should we hold him to our standards if he isn’t a christian to begin with. I actually think it will be really interesting to see the Noah story from an environmental perspective.

  4. From a special effects point of view, this movie looks like quite the spectacle! The score only adds to the visuals from ILM. Russel Crow looks to have captured some of his earlier films magic with this character as well.

    Sadly, the director has decided to put his “spin” on this story in a way that the majority of Christians will end up rejecting. I am not debating the truth of the Scriptures as objective, but even an unbeliever can uphold the intent and truth of the story put forth.

    There are no “innocents” for Noah to save – including himself. The unfolding of the redemption of God’s people (all those the God has chosen to save) has nothing to do with man as the center of salvation. It has everything to do with Christ being the only innocent man that will ever walk the earth (see original/imputed sin) and taking the curse of sin upon Himself for His people which is the wrath of God. Noah was shown favor not because Noah was a righteous man apart from God, but was “declared” righteous because Noah was found in Christ. The last thing that God cared about in this story were the animals and the earth – those are there in service to His greater goal – His glory.

    The adding of fantasy creatures (while cool in and of themselves) into this account is taking too much liberty. It’s like doing a story on Alexander the Great and adding faeries and elves.

    Here is to hoping he does a good job staying true to the source material – it will be the only way to save this film – no pun intended :)

    • If you study the bible and the writings of Enoch. You will find that there were strange creatures the “Fallen Angels”, which the bible refers to as the “Sons Of God” and the “Watchers”, defiled the human race by having sex with women here on earth. They also had sex with the animals. That is why God said the earth and everything in the earth was evil (With the exception of the animals God wanted Noah to save)and would be destroyed. I don’t think it’s a far cry to think there would be weird animals that don’t exist this day and time that existed back then, and that were destroyed in the flood, do to the fallen angels messing with everything. I’ve studied this a lot recently. The Giants (Raphiam) were also offspring of the fallen angels that had sex with earthly women. There goal was to pollute the human race (DNA) so, that Christ would not be born from the virgin Mary. There is a lot we don’t know and won’t know until we get to heaven. God Bless.

    • I would have to disagree with you regarding so called “fantasy elements” in a Historical or Religious film. I don’t consider it to be taking “to much liberty”; especially if it is handled in a respectful and creatively artistic manner such as has been the case with Zack Snyder’s Historical Fantasy Epic “300″ and it’s sequel “300 Rise of An Empire” which feels more like Sony PlayStation’s God of War franchise.

      Zack Snyder worked in the “Greek Mythological Fantasy Elements” seamlessly in such a way that it’s hard to imagine the film without it. Actually, the so called “fantasy elements” aren’t a drag on Aronofsky’s Noah at all. If you read the Biblical book of Revelation it is full of gigantic Angels and supernatural creatures.

    • “The adding of fantasy creatures (while cool in and of themselves) into this account is taking too much liberty.” … Yeah, because without that the whole story is virtually a documentary of something that actually happened, right? Please excuse me while I laugh myself silly.

      • Your opinion is fine. Have it, but you didn’t need to be rude. No problem with you disagreeing, again that’s your choice, but be respectful, or is there just no humanity in you? The Bible is real to him, and there is nothing wrong with that. For the record, it’s real to me as well, even though I believe it to be horribly tainted throughout time for those in powers during each respective point of time. The point is, don’t be an asshole.

  5. I’m looking forward to this, I would have to admit I would like to see a script based more on the bible, that doesn’t have to mean it’s going to be dull…infact using the story of why the flood was brought by god would appeal to many if it told the story of the fallen angels and Nephilim, these are both subjects that have been distorted by programs such as ancient aliens so it would kill two birds with one stone…excuse the punn about animal death, it would bring in the millions of people who confuse Nephilim and fallen angels with alien propaganda and also teach them that the flood was made to cancel out the evil violent gene pool that was created by fallen angels, Satan and needed to be washed away to prepare for Christ…that may help DVD sales then with the passion. Everyone knows it’s a religious story whether they’re religious or not…so why make an environmental epic, these have already been done. Epic bible tales are rarely done, only the passion I can think of in the last, well a long LONG time. So seeding as the bible is ram packed with fact, legend and epic tales galore…make them, and in the words of the bible…THEY WILL COME!

  6. I’m a Christian.

    As has been said there are plenty of ways to add more backstory to Noah’s story. Although, if they change the general plot that was actually written in the bible to fit today’s view of things or just to fit their new story I’m pretty sure there will be a massive uproar. In the end us Christians will probably shun the movie if it’s been altered too much from the original story, not because we think it’s a badly made movie, but because it will leave a bad taste in our mouths knowing that the creators decided they didn’t want to tell what happened but instead shape the film to whatever they want or to convey whatever political message they want to put out there. It’s sad to see such large amounts of money wasted making what could be a ground breakingly original movie turned into propaganda. I mean if somebody wants to talk to me about gay rights, fine, but don’t put that in a movie and change a charactor/story in order to give us your opinion. Anybody seen the tv mini series recreation or Andromeda Strain? That’s a great example of what I’m talking about.

    I can’t wait to see Noah, here’s hoping they screw it up.

    • Looking forward to watch this. As a christian who loves to read and study the Scriptures, I think this film is going to touch a lot of people’s curiosity and they will look for their bibles to read more about this. Comparing this with Passion of the Christ, the only thing I can say is that the Passion had some elements that were not biblical, but based on catholic tradition and screenwriter’s creative freedom, despite that, it was very provocative, and in some way, controversial

  7. Why can’t people just enjoy a movie for the sake of the fantasy? Coleridge’s 1817 comment on suspending disbelief: “so as to transfer from our inward nature a human interest and a semblance of truth sufficient to procure for these shadows of imagination that willing suspension of disbelief for the moment, which constitutes poetic faith”.

    • Since when does the Biblical story need embellishment? The simple fact that it had never rained before this is sufficient to the extraordinary event that was about to take place. Never mind the arrival of all the animals for loading.

      I am interested in seeing the Bible brought to life. If this film has some hidden agenda a la Epsilon, I’ll get up and walk out right in the middle.

      • I wouldn’t call it a simple fact, for certain. Do you read the message Bible? I’m gonna go with complicated interpretation.

  8. Easy answer:
    Version 1: the one studios opt for
    Version 2: Directors Cut as Director wanted to do
    Version 3: The whole tomato with deleted scenes included

    • agreed!!! put out 3 versions, and let the viewer decide what they want to engage with.

  9. I’m a Christian and got to see the trailer and hear Darren Aronofsky speak at the Catalyst conference in Atlanta on Oct 2. From hearing how long he’s wanted to make this movie, to how his grade school teacher had him write a poem – which was about Noah, the dove and peace – that won a contest with the UN (she has a speaking part in the movie, btw)and basically launched his writing career; the 15,000 of us in Atlanta gave him a standing O after hearing him and seeing it. Our family can’t wait to see it. It’s Hollywood folks. It’s entertainment. And it’s Darren’s interpretation of the story. If you’re prone to taking offense, maybe you shouldn’t rush out to see it. Otherwise, don’t miss it. Kudos and props, Darren, for going for it.


    • sadly, i get the feeling that the corporate media machine will once again only let we the sheeple see what they judge to be in accordance with their pursuits. look at the friggin masses and tell me they cant handle a movie with intense stuff in it? ..i hope they dont protect us from the author’s original intent but you know how the nani state is becomming….

  11. I am a Christian and I fully believe the Bible story of Noah. However, making movies is not the same as recounting a story. A movie based on a real life story is never the same thing as the actually story. That is why it is based on an actual event, not the actual event itself and this leaves room for cinematic and artistic expression. So, am I upset that the movie of Noah will be different than the Bible story. Not at all. I can see God at work in a film like this and enjoy it for all it brings. In no way did the director state he would deliver a Christian Biblical recount of Noah so we shouldn’t expect one.

  12. I want to see it. I don’t give a hoot about the critics or the “special” audiences – be they Christian, Jewish, Agnostic or athiest.
    The trailer is brilliant, it looks like a good cast and I rate Darren as a director and film maker.

    Roll on the release date I say.

    (Incidentally, I am in fact a Christian but I just want to see this movie. Whether it adheres to the biblical account or not, it’s bound to get people talking and that’s got to be good)

  13. Wherer are the people of color? All white as usual.

  14. Noah had Three son, Shem, Ham and Japheth. Now if you know anything about the bible you know Ham was a black man as well as his descendents who were Cush who’s grandson was Nimrod the ancestor of the Ethipoians. Ham’s three other sons were Mizraim (Egypt), Canaan the original inhabitants of the land of Israel and Phut who settled in North Africa and was the father of the Phoenicians. Noah had a black son named Ham and no blacks in this movie. This movie is a joke for not representing all of God’s people especially Noah’s sons. Also scripture does not say Noah had a dream or vision about the flood but that God told him and Noah acted in faith, believed God and built the ark. No I don’t plan on watching racist hoolywood movies that hate the Lord Jesus and mock him constantly.

    • Relax brother, the story is fictional.

  15. I was originally excited by the trailers and was planning to do a theatre take over with about 100 or more friends from the Christian community and other, but now I think I’ll save my money, wait to hear someone else’s feedback and watch it on Netflix if I feel it’s worth it (considering a month of Netflix is cheaper than a night in the theatre)

  16. II also am a Christian!
    I’m sure the movie will not be word for word to the
    bible but at least they are bringing God to the big screen
    And the Bible says that the end will be like in days of Noah
    So, I can’t wait.
    Love in Christ alone.

  17. Why not make a movie about Noah? His battle was to preserve the natural world, and he obeyed God. It’s important to bear in mind that no one lives now who was around during Noah’s time. So it is Aronofsky’s interpretation of a Biblical event. Only God knows the reasons behind the flood, but I think it’s important for people to have a chance to consider the story in a modern light, or at least they can look at rainbows with different eyes.

  18. Can someone who’s already screened the movie tell us if it in fact does have leftist environmental overtones? Movies like The Day after Tomorrow, and The Happening, which have this agends have already proved to royaly suck. I’m glad Aronofsky’s hand is in this movie because he breaks the mold. As a Christian, I’m glad someone whom understands symbolism as he does is making this film. Symbolism and typology actually stems from the Hebrewaic way of thought, which is the irony of him making this film. Hopefully it is preserved. When Aronofsky does CGI it’s not for the sake of eye candy, it’s for a greater reason which touches the human spirit, namely, alligory. Hollywood has utterly lost this ability.

    As far as Noah’s flood goes, the story is colassal and touches the human soul as well. We long for and crave justice. This movie with this story has to opportunity to demonstrate it on a grand scale. Just the ending of ‘Dogville’ brings rejoicing of sweet justice after much patience abuse by the victim, so this movie can demonstrate how evil the hearts of men can be and how the God whom created them has every right to wipe them out. But there is also an aspect of salvation and mediation between God and man which is symbolized in the ark. The earth is purified from sin in a physical way which represents who God will one day clense the world of sin a spiritual way. Just as the ark saved them from God’s judgment, so now Christ is whom we abide in to bring salvation.

    The world is a place we are to have domonion over, but in a way which is glorifying to God. Yes, we are to take care of the world. But only redeemed sinner are doing so because they are horing the God whom made them for the world and the world for them.

    I’m sure Aronofsky could make this film more powerful than many Christian producers could. I just hope it’s not ruined by “environmentalism”, hence them not even having those issues in the ancient world or knowing about them, and second, there is so much more potential, wonder, and awe to be had in this story than that.

  19. Nobody actually cares what Paramount thinks. Finally someone is making a beautiful movie that isn’t about sex! I think you are doing a wonderful thing, Darren. The world needs more directors like you!

  20. I’m curious as to how many people will see the film and still believe it’s a true story.

    • I think it’s going to bring the truth to life

    • If the story of Noah is hard to believe, you my friend are very limited in your thought process. Of course it’s possible. Everything in the Bible is possible. To be honest, most things you can think of are possible, which in your case appears highly limited. And yes, I’m a Christian. You don’t have to be one, I have no desire to push my views on you, and I don’t hate you for having a differing opinion, but don’t be an asshole. It’s immature.

  21. I’m Jewish, and we Jews believe that there are numerous ways to understand and interpret the Bible. I say, Why not let him interpret it in whichever way he pleases? The people who had no prior opinions will walk out with a deeper appreciation than they have now, and the people who have prior opinions can just say, “Well, that was interesting. I understood it differently.” And even if he’s dead wrong about everything, how many historical movies have we seen where liberties were taken to make the movie more dramatic? Almost ALL of them. It’s okay, as long as we understand this.

    Anyway, as far as what some other people are saying, Ham wasn’t necessarily black — all of mankind emerged from the same set of people, and at some point some of them changed skin coloring, but likely it wasn’t an abrupt change from father (Noah) to son (Ham). And yes, according to many interpretations, there were angels, giants, etc. walking around at the time. I haven’t seen the movie so I don’t know what is or isn’t accurate, but he definitely did a ton of research. And where else are we going to see this kind of scope on the story of Noah? That movie with Steve Carrell?

    And no, Noah wasn’t perfect, and did have flaws, but he was the least evil person around. there’s no favoritism of animals over peoples — in fact, there were more people on the ark than any given type of animal, besides the ones that could be eaten, obviously.

    And as far as those of you who don’t believe in the Bible, why on earth are you spending time commenting on a movie that as far as you care has no more basis in fact than the Hunger Games?

    • I think he will

  22. Being a Christian I would surely watch this movie and would love to enjoy watching a Bible story coming to life! The actual story from the Bible will remain in my heart and any part of the adaptation that will not stand true to the Bible, I will be cautious of. But I truly wish that Aronofsky would do justice to what God chose to reveal in the Bible about Noah and the Ark… Besides, the fact that such a movie is coming out has actually made me read the related Bible passage and research more on historical evidence so I would be in a position to answer my non-christian friends if they ask about Noah! :-)

  23. Guillermo…this is no more bringing Christ to the screen than the exorcist movie is bringing leva than satanism to the screen. Reality people.

    • HAHA your funny, not necessarily wrong, just funny.

  24. The movie looks absolutely terrible!

    There is no reason to put CGI animals in the movie!

    They stand out and don’t look or move realistically.

    I wish people would stop hyping how “neat” and “complicated” CGI animals
    are and instead realize SPECIAL EFFECTS DON’T WORK IF THEY STAND OUT.

    They could have hired an animal wrangler and used real animals but that
    would have required (gasp!) effort and thinking and planning.

    They are just banking on the fact that the so-called “Christian community”
    will support anything with the label of “Christian”, regardless of quality.

    Completely lazy sci-fi channel quality garbage.

  25. O My word it gives me chills every time i watch the Trailer!!! I’ve been waiting for a large movie based on noah for a long time.

    I hope they steer clear of R rated content… one of my biggest fears is them showing a bunch of nude orgies and homosexuality in graphic form. There are plenty of innocent ways of showing how corrupt the world was without actually seeing it in action.

    On the the bright side I agree there lots of room to get creative with the movie, they can do alot and still stay in the reigns of the Bible, but if they mess with the holy, virtuous, personality of God in the Bible, or the righteousness of Noah, it’s just gonna end up being another hollywood trash film.

  26. Ok, putting aside the “The story is all fake” comments, for those interested, the reason everyone is light skinned is because the original people’s were pale. Not white but pale. How? Genetics. Recessive traits turn into dominant. Not the other way around.

    A blonde blue eyed girl marrying a black man from Africa will have tanned children. Simple fact. The out of Africa theory is bogus as they found older skeletons in Israel not too recently. Check internet for links.

    The Bible is infallible meaning everything can be defended. Simple comments like. ” Its fake bro” doesn’t fly in the face of facts. That being said, I think the trailer showed how untrue to the story its going to be. Still gonna watch it cause its a Bible film.