Will Aronofsky’s ‘Noah’ be the latest dream project to turn out as a nightmare?

You will find few more passionate advocates for Darren Aronofsky’s work online than me. One of the first times I was quoted in a campaign for a film was for “The Fountain,” and I couldn’t have been more excited about it. I knew that movie was a hard-sell, but I also felt like it was something special, and anything I could do to help was my genuine pleasure.

Both “The Wrestler” and “Black Swan” topped my list of the year’s best films when they came out, and they felt like a huge step for Aronofsky, movies that tapped some nerve with people, more accessible than his earlier work but without any compromise. I have been eagerly anticipating whatever’s next, and when “Noah” was announced, I was naturally curious to see what he might be putting together.

So please keep that in mind when I say that today’s “Noah” trailer left me cold, and more than that, it worried me. It looked no different than most of the noisy blockbuster fare of the last decade, and there is a seriousness to the trailer that could easily turn into camp if tipped the wrong way. Then again, it’s just a trailer and it’s ridiculous to judge something based on two minutes of footage… right?

Here’s what scares me. Aronofsky has referred to “Noah” as his dream project so often that if you run a Google search for “Noah,” “Aronofsky,” and “dream project,” you’ll get something on the order of 3.9 million results. It almost seems to be a given at this point that if you mention the film, you have to call it his dream project. Might as well be part of the title.

This is what makes me nervous. Last month, I made an appearance on the podcast “How Did This Get Made?” to discuss the Barry Levinson film “Toys,” and I talked a bit about how rarely dream projects turn out to be good films by the time they are actually made, and I have a theory about why that happens. These are movies that are frequently among the first things imagined by the filmmakers who nurture them for decades. I think films have a shelf life during development. I think it’s always best when something picks up a creative momentum and then happens, and frequently when things stall and then keep stalling and then keep stalling, they start to get more and more overthought and then eventually start to curdle.

I will be thrilled if the film is great. I think Blblical movies have been, by and large, ridiculous and stilted over the years, and part of that is because they all seem to wrestle with not insulting someone’s dogma while still making dramatic choices and doing things to turn the stories into films. There are so many things that are in the script by Aronofsky and Ari Handel that aren’t even hinted at in this trailer, and I get the feeling it’s because they’re still not quite sure how to explain the 18-foot-tall six-armed Watcher beasts or the way it turns into a family psychodrama while they’re all on the Ark. Instead, they’re selling spectacle, and the stuff with the generic Charging Crowd Exploding Battlefield footage and the Ark facing the turbulent CGI waters of “The Perfect Storm” all feel like they came out of a stock footage catalog from event movies since the year 2000. That’s the last thing I expected from a Darren Aronofsky trailer.

We ran a piece earlier today about the US trailer, and if you want to see the international version, which is slightly different, here it is:

I didn’t get worked up about the recent reports that Aronosky and Paramount were butting heads over the final shape of the film because I would frankly expect nothing less. It’s a big expensive movie, no matter what it’s about, and considering Paramount only makes about six films a year at this point, every single one of them counts. I am confident that this will become a film that must be seen, but the question is whether this will be an ambitious and original take on the epic or if this is going to be yet another long-held dream that turns into a nightmare for the people who paid for it.

“Noah” is in theaters March 28, 2014.