Despite achieving a fair amount of widespread recognition and acclaim, Darren Aronofsky is not what you would call a mainstream director. He’s shown several times in the past that he’s not willing to flinch from his dramatic vision for a film, four quadrant appeal be damned (Requiem for a Dream, anyone?). The thing is though, none of those previous films needed a cheque as big as the one Paramount wrote for his latest film, the Biblical Flood epic Noah.
And when those many dollar signs are involved, you can expect that the studio will want to protect its investment by making it as palatable to as many potential viewers as possible. Problem is, Aronofsky isn’t playing along.
According to reports from THR, the studio recently hosted test screenings to make sure that the heavily effects driven, $130 million film would go down well enough with cinemagoers – particularly religious cinemagoers, based on its subject matter – to be able to recoup its cost. Those screenings were broken down into three very specific focus groups, namely a largely Christian audience in Arizona, a largely Jewish audience in New York, and then a “general public” audience in Orange County.
Unfortunately, multiple sources indicate that despite the usual box-office bait all-star cast of Russell Crowe (as the titular Biblical character), Jennifer Connelly, Anthony Hopkins, Emma Watson, Ray Winstone and others, all the screenings produced “worrisome results”. Maybe it was the 11-foot tall angel-like beings known as Watchers, or the fully digitally rendered fantastical, made-up animals that threw audiences for a loop? Whether it was Aronofsky’s not-quite Sunday School approach to the tale – apparently the film features a third act that’s different from the traditionally, not quite exciting conclusion of Noah and his family just surviving the flood and finding land – or something else entirely that’s putting audiences off it, the fact remains that Paramount drastically want some changes made.
And Aronofsky, is apparently just ignoring all the screams and pleas coming his way. According to one source with ties to the project, “Darren is not made for studio films. He’s very dismissive. He doesn’t care about [Paramount’s] opinion.”
Writer Brian Godawa hasn’t seen the current cut of the film, but he managed to get hold of the script last year, and posted his thoughts on it, saying that Noah will be “an uninteresting and unbiblical waste of a hundred and fifty million dollars that will ruin for decades the possibility of making a really great and entertaining movie of this Bible hero.”
Paramount Vice Chairman Rob Moore is a bit more optimistic about it, saying that despite the current tussle between Aronofsky and the studio, the film is just going through a “normal review process” and that the final cut will simply be “one version of the movie that Darren is overseeing.” He added that he knew that Aronofsky “definitely wants some level of independence, [but] he also wants a hit movie.”
With that in mind the studio expected some complications, which is why they “allowed for a very long postproduction period, which allowed for a lot of test screenings,” and the “bottom line” is that “[they’re] getting to a very good place, and [they’re] getting there with Darren.”
Now it’s just left to find out if audiences will join them as well. We’ll find that out when Noah sets sail in cinemas on March 28, 2014.
Last Updated: October 18, 2013