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'Noah' Headed for Rocky Waters as Darren Aronofsky and Paramount Battle Over Final Cut

Darren Aronofsky's Noah is headed for troubled waters.

The director's big-budget adaption of the Biblical tale of Noah, the ark and God's flooding of the world finds itself in the middle of a battle between Aronofsky and Paramount Pictures, according to a story by The Hollywood Reporter on Tuesday. THR reports that the film was screened for several test audiences, with those screenings resulting in "troubling reactions."

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 best known for artistic, independent movies like The Black Swan, Requiem for a Dream and The Wrestler. By my count, Noah is the director's third attempt to helm a major studio film. Aronofksy's past flirtations with rebooting the Batman franchise went nowhere and while he was hired to direct The Wolverine, he eventually stepped down and was replaced by James Mangold. Noah definitely has a tentpole cast, with Russell Crowe, Jennifer ConnellyLogan Lerman, Emma Watson, Anthony Hopkins and Ray Winstone making up its cast.

According to THR, Aronofsky and Paramount are feuding over final cut of Noah, with it being unclear whether or not the director has that right. Paramount has invested more than $125 million in Noah, and is eager to make sure the movie doesn't flop. Based on those test screenings, Paramount may have a legitimate concern here. Noah is a CGI-heavy movie, as no actual animals were used during filming. THR reports that Aronofsky recently boasted that "Industrial Light and Magic had said it did the most complicated rendering in the company's history for Noah." This is not the kind of project that a studio wants to see go off the rails. Or, in this case, go off course.

THR also mentions that Aronofsky may try to cram some kind of green message into Noah, which is troublesome.

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." (Aronofsky has in the past described Noah as "the first environmentalist.") Among his conclusions is 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."

Someone should point out that Evan Almighty, the underwhelming sequel to Bruce Almighty, already tried to push an environmental slant through the Noah and the Ark story. That movie barely made $100 million domestically, so I think Paramount should do everything in its power to make sure Noah doesn't go down that path too.

Noah is scheduled to hit theaters on March 28, 2014. We'll have to wait until then to see what kind of movie Aronofsky and Paramount wind up delivering.
'Noah' Headed for Rocky Waters as Darren Aronofsky and Paramount Battle Over Final Cut Reviewed by Bill Kuchman on 10/16/2013 Rating: 5

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