It seems that the biblical movie â€˜Noahâ€™ starring leading man Russell Crowe has studio investors re-thinking the finished product.
Early screenings of the movie has been met with mixed reviews from the two audiences that studio executives at Paramount targeted most, Christians and Jews.
To make matters worse the filmâ€™s director Darren Aronofsky (Black Swan, The Wrestler) is embroiled in a fight for control of his ambitious new film with studio Paramount.
The problem, according to the Hollywood Reporter, is that the two key demographics identified by producers as critical to the box office success of the film have both reacted negatively at test screenings. Christian viewers in Arizona didnâ€™t like it much, possibly because the movie plays fast and loose with its biblical subject matter, and neither did Jewish film-goers in New York.
A screening for the “general public” in Orange County, California, also produced “troubling reactions”, and it is not clear whether Aronofsky has maintained his control over final cut or the final version of the film.
The Guardian reports that the Requiem for a Dream director, for his part, is said to not be concerned by the response at test screenings, and has no plans to shift away from the heavily special effects-laden take that he has wanted to make all along. “Darren is not made for studio films,” a source with ties to the project told the Hollywood Reporter. “He’s very dismissive. He doesn’t care about [Paramount's] opinion.”
Insiders report that Noah’s cost has already ballooned beyond the project’s initial $125m budget and Paramount admits the screening process may not yet be complete.
Studio vice chairman Rob Moore told the Reporter that Noah was going through a “normal preview process” and the result would be “one version of the movie that Darren is overseeing”. Continued Moore: “We’re getting to a very good place, and we’re getting there with Darren.”
There have been rumblings of Christian discontent for over a year, since news of a big budget version of the story of Noah surfaced.
Not all audiences are giving bad reviews though. Several tweets by attendees at a Texas church conference in July suggest a positive reception to the screeners.
One thing is for sure, the film will need to do a lot at the box office to overcome the lavish budget. The recent success of the History Channelâ€™s â€˜The Bible Seriesâ€™ and past successes like Mel Gibsonâ€™s â€˜Passion of the Christâ€™ indicate that if marketed right â€˜Noahâ€™ could secure a huge profit for the studio.
As a Christian, I wouldnâ€™t rely on the movie to add perspective, but viewers will probably still turn out when they see a trailer loaded with special effects. We shall see.