Why would you hire Darren Aronofsky to make a Darren Aronofsky film unless you were ready to have the full Darren Aronofsky experience?
During a recent appearance on the podcast “How Did This Get Made?”, I talked about how often we see long-time dream projects finally get realized on film only to turn out to be terrible. I’m not saying that will be the case with “Noah,” but any studio that signs on to a film like that has to understand this isn’t some mere case of work for hire. This is something that a filmmaker has lived with for decades now, and there are things he’s going to have to do, test audiences be damned. When you agree to make a film like that, you have to assume it’s going to be a wild ride, and when we hear reports of struggles in this situation, it baffles me because it seems like everyone involved should have seen that coming.
The process of getting a film made involves a lot of tap-dancing, particularly when we’re talking about a $100 million-plus epic action film based on a Bible story that features mutant giants, CG animals, and the actual end of the world. Aronofsky knew full well what he was trying to do with the film, but part of the game involves convincing someone who is willing to spend that $100 million-plus that even if you make the absolute weirdest version of your film, there’s still some commercial appeal, and you can cut a trailer that will get everyone in the theater.
I have no idea where they are in the process right now. Normally I’d reach out to the filmmaker to ask, but I would imagine that once the story broke in the “Hollywood Reporter,” Aronofsky was bombarded with requests for comment, and honestly, his best opportunity to comment comes when he releases the film. If it works, then none of this process right now matters to the audience in the least, and if it doesn’t, at least it will be finished and the film is the film at that point.
It seems crazy to try to loop in people who expect a more traditional take on the story from the Bible, because even in script form, “Noah” was not that. At all. I am fascinated by what Aronofsky is attempting here, and I can honestly say it’s not like anything else I’ve ever read. It uses the familiar story as a springboard, but it’s much larger and stranger and more outrageous than what people will expect. It is a story about man’s responsibility to the Earth, and in some ways, it eschews any simple arguments about religion. That just isn’t what the film seems to be about, and that will no doubt frustrate people looking for something akin to the old ’60s Bible epics.
Kim Masters wrote about how there have been a number of test screenings that have had very mixed results, and that they’ve evidently been screening to very specific crowds looking to see if there are different reactions depending on someone’s POV ahead of time. With the film set for a March release, there’s still plenty of time to fine-tune things. Aronofsky’s last film, “Black Swan,” was a bigger financial hit than I think anyone might have expected, and it definitely earned him the right to make this film, which has been his dream since high-school. No matter what, I hope the final cut of the film represents Aronofsky’s vision and not something that has been homogenized through test screening. Use that process for something like “Jack Ryan,” where you’re aiming for a franchise and you want every single possible audience member. With “Noah,” the studio had to know up front that they were signing on to make a very expensive piece of art with an artist who is known for not compromising his vision. He’s got a cast (including Emma Watson, Jennifer Connelly, Logan Lerman, Anthony Hopkins, and Ray Winstone) that can help sell the film, and I’ll bet you can pull plenty of arresting imagery from the film, especially with ILM handling the FX. Roll the dice. Let him make his movie. Fighting him on it at this point seems backwards.
It just seems ridiculous to me when the frog complains because the scorpion stung him. Darren Aronofsky has never pretended to be anything other than what he is, and that’s exactly why so many of us love his work.
“Noah” is currently set to sail into theaters on March 28, 2014.