It doesn’t take Mel Gibson to make a contentious religious epic. Martin Scorsese did it before him, and now we can add Darren Aronofsky to the list. Aronofsky’s “Noah” opens March 28, after a few years of rough seas from all corners of the moviegoing population. Christians like it, Christians hate it. Studios are hankering to back it, studios are mad at Aronofsky’s approach. Like “The Passion of the Christ,” “The Last Temptation of Christ” and others before it, “Noah” arrives inside an echo chamber brimming with dissenters.
Aronofsky has remained steadfast, however, and the “Black Swan” director’s first major studio project since “The Fountain” will bow with all eyes on how it handles the religious fundamentalism (or lack thereof). In an added twist, “Noah” will go head-to-head with, among other movies, “God’s Not Dead.” The pro-faith drama expands to more than 1,160 theaters this weekend, acting as a sort of antithesis to Aronofsky’s self-described non-biblical approach to the beloved Genesis parable. How “Noah” will fare is yet to be seen, but there’s no denying the lengthy build-up to Friday’s release. Aronofsky has mostly mocked the discord that surrounds these contentious crossroads. Here’s a handful of his many vitriolic responses to the movie’s critics.
September 2008: Aronofsky tells SlashFilm about his plans for “Noah”: “It’s the end of the world and it’s the second most famous ship after the Titanic. So I’m not sure why any studio won’t want to make it. I think it’s really timely because it’s about environmental apocalypse, which is the biggest theme, for me, right now for what’s going on on this planet. So I think it’s got these big, big themes that connect with us. Noah was the first environmentalist. He’s a really interesting character. Hopefully they’ll let me make it.”
June 2011: Aronofsky makes it clear that this won’t be your average God-fearing biblical adaptation. “I don’t think it’s a very religious story,” he tells IFC News. “I think it’s a great fable that’s part of so many different religions and spiritual practices. I just think it’s a great story that’s never been on film.”
July 2013: Aronofsky screens a sneak peek of “Noah” at the faith-based Echo Conference in Texas. “I’m also excited that Hollywood has finally agreed to make the first biblical epic in almost 50 years,” he says. “It’s been a long time since Bible movies were on the screen, and there’s been a lot of advancements in technology and special effects, and maybe that’s the reason why Noah’s never been attempted on the big screen before, because of the size and scale of the deluge and all the different animals. … But now, finally, with Hollywood’s help, we can actually do this and bring it to life.”
February 2014: Aronofsky reveals he granted Paramount the rights to select the final cut of “Noah” in exchange for an elevated budget, saying he knew his would be victorious. He was right. “My guys and I were pretty sure that because of the nature of the film and how we work, there wasn’t another version,” he tells The Hollywood Reporter. “The scenes were so interconnected — if you started unwinding scenes, I just knew there would be holes. … I’ve never reshot a frame, and I think that’s very odd on big-budget movies. We’re meticulous. We come from independent film, with limited resources.”
March 2014: “‘Noah’ is the least biblical biblical film ever made,” the director tells The New Yorker when asked about the alternate cuts that produced troubling responses from some religious audiences. “I don’t give a f–k about the test scores. My films are outside the scores.”
March 2014: “It’s a very, very different movie,” Aronofsky tells the audience at the Mexico City premiere. “Anything you’re expecting, you’re f–king wrong.”
March 2014: “Where are there liberties? Find me a contradiction in there that can’t be explained. Of course there’s liberties. I mean, we’re making a movie here,” he tells Religious News Service. “If you read the four chapters that the Noah story takes place in, Noah doesn’t even speak. How are you going to cast Russell Crowe and not have him talk? Noah’s wife and his sons’ three wives aren’t even named in the Bible. … A lot of people are going to be like ‘What? Noah, drunk and naked? How dare you?!’ It’s in the Bible. People are going to say, ‘Giants walking the earth? Fallen angels? How dare you?!’ But it’s in there.”
March 2014: “It’s impossible to understand what these times are because there are four chapters in the Bible,” Aronofsky tells The Atlantic when asked about the lack of literalism employed in the film. “It’s just important that you don’t contradict any of it and that you study each word, and study each sentence, and try to use and extract as much juice out of that to be inspired to turn it into a vision that represents the spirit of it all. That’s the goal. It’s like—not to compare me to Michelangelo in any way, I’m in awe of him—but you look at the Sistine Chapel and there’s the moment of the fingers almost about to touch the moment of creation—and that’s not described in the Bible that way. There was no finger-to-finger, E.T. moment in the Bible. But that’s how Michelangelo decided to draw it.”
And one from Crowe to boot: “We’ve had probably over a year now of very harsh criticism from a bunch of people who have put their name and stamp on an opinion that’s not even based on the movie or seeing the movie, just an assumption of what it could be or how bad it could be or how wrong it could be in their eyes, which I think quite frankly is bordering on absolute stupidity, because now, I think, people are seeing the movie and they’re realizing how respectful it is and how potent it is,” he says during an apperance on “Good Morning America.”