Darren Aronofsky is not what one would call a “commercial” filmmaker. The director has crafted plenty of excellent features, from Requiem for a Dream to The Wrestler to Black Swan, but he tends to march to the beat of his own drum without worrying about delivering blockbuster box office results. With his latest film, though, Aronfosky is tackling the epic Biblical story of the Great Flood on his largest scale yet, and with a big movie comes big expectations. Noah involves extensive visual effects and carries a hefty budget, and now Aronofsky is deep in post-production on the Paramount Pictures film.
However, it appears that Aronofsky’s independent sensibilities are having a hard time mixing with Paramount’s eye for widespread appeal, as the director and the studio are reportedly at odds over the final cut of Noah after multiple test screenings have delivered disappointing results. Hit the jump for more.
With a budget of around $130 million, Aronofsky always knew he would be aiming for a wider audience on Noah. He assembled an impressive ensemble cast led by Russell Crowe and set out to capture some ambitious visuals while filming in Iceland, and now Paramount is test screening the current cut of the film to gauge audience reaction. Obviously the pic will be scrutinized by the religious community given its source material, so Paramount reportedly screened the film for specific groups in recent weeks: a largely Jewish audience in New York, a largely Christian audience in Arizona, and a general audience in Orange County.
THR reports that all three test screenings generated “troubling” reactions, and Aronofsky has thus far been unresponsive to Paramount’s requests for changes to be made to the film. Given the significant budget and high level of interest, Paramount has a lot riding on the pic’s success and is understandably wanting to make the most appetizing version of the film possible. However, when you hire Darren Aronofsky to make a film about Noah, you’re going to get a Darren Aronofsky film about Noah; Michael Bay he is not.
Aronofsky fans shouldn’t take word of poor test screening reactions as a bad sign, as there have been plenty of films over the years that received poor test scores and gone on to become incredibly successful. All of the animals in Noah have been created using computer-generated effects—some of which are fantastical in origin—and the film also involves 11-foot-tall fallen angels called Watchers, so audiences expecting a biographical tale of the titular Biblical hero are probably a little taken aback at the cut that has been screening.
Hopefully Aronofsky and Paramount can find some middle ground that doesn’t compromise the film’s integrity. THR’s report notes that it’s unclear whether Aronofsky has held on to his right to final cut on Noah, but Paramount vice chairman Rob Moore seemed optimistic about the final result: “[Aronofsky] definitely wants some level of independence, [but] he also wants a hit movie. We’re getting to a very good place, and we’re getting there with Darren.” Let’s hope so. Noah is currently slated to open in theaters on March 28, 2014.