Talk about timing. Earlier today, I finally caught up with a mixed “review” of Darren Aronofsky’s Noah that was based on a test screening that took place in August. And now, mere hours later? The Hollywood Reporter has posted a story claiming that Aronofsky and the studio are sparring over the final cut of the film, thanks to the “troubling reactions” that the film has received at various test screenings in recent weeks.
Reportedly, the studio has screened different versions of the film for Jewish, Christian and general audiences, and in all three cases the reaction was “worrisome”. But Aronofsky, whose previous films were all low-budget independent efforts (with the possible exception of The Fountain, which was made at Warner Brothers and was originally going to be a much more epic sort of film before the studio slashed its budget), has so far resisted the studio’s suggestions re: how to make the film more marketable.
The question is whether Aronofsky has the power to ensure that Noah will reflect his vision and no one else’s in the end.
According to Box Office Mojo, his first five films — Pi (1998), Requiem for a Dream (2000), The Fountain (2006), The Wrestler (2008) and Black Swan (2010) — were all made for under $35 million, and none of the first four films made more than $45 million worldwide. But Black Swan was a surprise hit and grossed $329 million worldwide, and it earned Natalie Portman an Oscar to boot — and it was the success of this film that convinced Paramount and New Regency to take a chance on Noah, which originally had a budget of $125 million, or more than double all of Aronofsky’s previous films combined. (Thanks to the extensive special effects etc., the actual cost of the film is “now past” that amount, according to the Reporter.)
With that kind of money involved, it’s quite possible that the studio declined to give Aronofsky the final cut that he has had on all or most of his previous pictures. But Paramount vice chairman Rob Moore tells the Reporter that, while Aronofsky “definitely wants some level of independence, he also wants a hit movie.”
So, we’ll see how that works out.
For me, though, I hope that we’ll get to see the film the way Aronofsky intended. The last thing I’d want to see is a film that has been neutered to satisfy certain religious communities (or, indeed, a film that has been neutered to satisfy the general public). I want Aronofsky to engage with the Noah story and show us what it means to him; the last thing I want is for Aronofsky to rein himself in, water things down and give us the Noah story that marketing consultants say the faceless masses want.