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Director Darren Aronofsky’s non-traditional ‘Noah’ gets explanatory message

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Oscar-winner Russell Crowe stars in "Noah."

Oscar-winner Russell Crowe stars in “Noah.”

Paramount Pictures

Darren Aronofsky’s upcoming “Noah” might not portray the biblical prophet in quite the way audiences are used to, and it's something Paramount wants to make abundantly clear before the film’s March 28 release date.

According to an announcement last Thursday in the Hollywood Reporter, Paramount has opted to add a new explanatory message to future marketing materials for the pricey Old Testament-inspired epic at the urging of several faith-based groups including the National Religious Broadcasters.

This comes as part of an effort to minimize backlash by religious filmgoers over some fairly large liberties taken by Aronofsky and co-writer Ari Handel that might otherwise come as a shock, including allegedly, giant six-armed angels and fantastical CGI beasts in lieu of the standard lions, tigers, elephants and "every thing that creepeth upon the earth."

As Rabbi Geoff Dennis, who consulted with Handel on Jewish mythology, described it on his blog, “Noah” will be “more ‘Lord of the Rings’ than ‘Ben-Hur.’ ”

That is why some explanation was deemed necessary.

According to the Los Angeles Times, Paramount says the message will be added to “the film’s official website, and 100 percent of print and radio, as well as a percentage of the film’s online and broadcast” promotions and will read as follows: “The film is inspired by the story of Noah. While artistic license has been taken, we believe that this film is true to the essence, values, and integrity of a story that is a cornerstone of faith for millions of people worldwide. The biblical story of Noah can be found in the book of Genesis.”

Following Paramount’s announcement, NRB president and CEO Jerry A. Johnson issued a statement on behalf of the organization thanking the studio for "striving ... to strike a proper balance between artistic creativity, character development and honoring the sacred scripture."

In turn, Paramount vice chairman Rob Moore was quoted in the Hollywood Reporter as saying, "We are deeply appreciative of Dr. Johnson's efforts to bring (the idea of an explanatory message) to us. Our goal has been to take every measure we can to ensure moviegoers have the information they need before deciding to buy a ticket to see the film."

From its inception, Aronofsky’s vision for “Noah” has raised eyebrows. A graphic novel version of his script, originally released in 2011 to help secure funding for the film, drew comparisons to things like "Mad Max," according to ScreenRant.com.

During post-production, the ambitious $125 million film briefly hit some rough waters. According to the Hollywood Reporter, Aronofsky and the studio butted heads over final cut after test screenings among Christian and Jewish audiences elicited “troubling” reactions, prompting Paramount to consider editing the footage to better fit the traditional biblical account.

In the end, however, it appears as though Aronofsky's non-literal take won out. Contradicting the earlier claims of negative test screenings, the director told the Hollywood Reporter that, "They (Paramount) tried what they wanted to try, and eventually they came back. ... My version of the film hasn't been tested. ... It's what we wrote and what was greenlighted."

But while his version of “Noah” does diverge from the source material in many ways, Aronofsky maintains that it stays true to the spirit of the Genesis account.

"For people who are very literal-minded,” he told the Hollywood Reporter, “it would be great to communicate that the themes of the film are very much in line with the themes of the Bible — ideas about hope, second chances and family. If they allow that, they're going to have an incredible experience with the movie. If they don't allow it, it's theirs to lose."

“Noah,” starring Academy Award-winner Russell Crowe as the Old Testament patriarch, also features Jennifer Connelly, Anthony Hopkins, Ray Winstone, Emma Watson and Logan Lerman.

A native of Utah Valley and a devoted cinephile, Jeff Peterson is currently studying humanities and history at Brigham Young University.