The ‘least biblical film about Noah ever made’ faces a deluge of criticism from religious groups

Qatar, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates have already banned the film with Egypt, Jordan and Kuwait expected to follow suit

Noah, the $125m blockbuster starring Russell Crowe described by its director as the “least biblical biblical film ever made”, is having to navigate choppy waters as religious groups raise opposition to the adaptation while some countries have already banned it. 

The epic retelling of the biblical flood story was a gruelling shoot, with filming having to be postponed when the set was threatened by Hurricane Sandy. Director Darren Aronofsky also had to battle with studio heads over the final cut.

Now it faces further issues as Qatar, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates have banned the film with Egypt, Jordan and Kuwait expected to follow suit. The Muslim countries are furious over the movie’s portrayal of a prophet, saying it “contradicts the teachings of Islam”. The Egyptian Sunni Muslim institute Al-Azhar said it prohibited the screening of movies showing such figures and said the film would antagonise the “feelings of the faithful”.

While studio Paramount Pictures might have hoped for support from Christians in America ahead of the film’s release, it appears to have been mistaken. A series of religious conservative groups criticised the portrayal for not following the Bible story closely enough, with some complaining that the character of Noah was “too dark” after seeing early screenings.

The complaints prompted the studio to put a disclaimer on its marketing materials saying the film was “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 the cornerstone of faith for millions of people worldwide”.

Russell Crowe as Noah: the first environmentalist, according to the film’s director (Allstar/Paramount) Russell Crowe as Noah: the first environmentalist, according to the film’s director (Allstar/Paramount)
There have also been reports of clashes between the director and the studio, which feared the film would inflame conservative Christians. Paramount, which had final cut approval, made a series of re-edits of the finished film to make sure it would appeal to religious viewers.

While Aronofsky’s version came in at two hours long, the studio later tested an 86-minute alternative version featuring a montage of religious figures at the beginning and a Christian rock song at the end. Perhaps unsurprisingly, this version did not test well and the studio later returned to Aronofsky’s vision. “They tried what they wanted to try and eventually they came back,” he told the Hollywood Reporter. “I was upset of course.”

The director added: “ Noah is the least biblical biblical film ever made. I don’t give a f*** about the test scores.”

Aronofsky, whose films include Black Swan and The Wrestler, has wanted to make the film for 15 years, and said he would use it to address environmentalist themes, claiming that Noah was “the first environmentalist”.

The director said the film was made for “believers and non-believers”, telling Variety: “I’m more concerned about getting non-believers into the theatre or people who are less religious.” The film co-stars Jennifer Connelly and some British talent, including Sir Anthony Hopkins, Ray Winstone and Emma Watson.

It opens in the UK on 4 April but had its world premiere in Mexico City this week. Aronofsky told the audience: “Anything you’r e expecting, you’re f***ing wrong.” The studio has placed a strict embargo on the reviews until the US release later this month.

It is hardly the first religious film to incite criticism. The Last Temptation of Christ, directed by Martin Scorsese, faced a wave of protests and boycotts in the US and was banned in countries including Mexico and Turkey when it was released in 1988. Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ (2004) was also controversial due to its graphic portrayal of torture and crucifixion, but it went on to become a global box office hit, taking $612m.

This year is to see a slew of religious films open in the US including Son of God, Heaven is for Real, starring Greg Kinnear, and Exodus, directed by Ridley Scott and starring Christian Bale as Moses.  

Arts and Entertainment
Call The Midwife: Miranda Hart as Chummy

tv Review: Miranda Hart and co deliver the festive goods

Arts and Entertainment
The cast of Downton Abbey in the 2014 Christmas special

tvReview: Older generation get hot under the collar this Christmas

Arts and Entertainment
Dapper Laughs found success through the video app Vine

comedy Erm...he seems to be back

Arts and Entertainment
Wolf (Nathan McMullen), Ian (Dan Starky), The Doctor (Peter Capaldi), Clara (Jenna Coleman), Santa Claus (Nick Frost) in the Doctor Who Christmas Special (BBC/Photographer: David Venni)

tvReview: No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

Arts and Entertainment
Bruce Forsyth and Tess Daly flanking 'Strictly' winners Flavia Cacace and Louis Smith

tv Gymnast Louis Smith triumphed in the Christmas special

PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Rhys says: 'I'm not playing it for laughs, but I have learnt that if you fall over on stage, people can enjoy that as much as an amazing guitar solo'
musicGruff Rhys on his rock odyssey, and the trouble with independence
Arts and Entertainment
Krysia and Daniel (Hand out press photograph provided by Sally Richardson)
How do today's composers answer the challenge of the classical giant?
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
News
Shenaz Treasurywala
film
News
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Jason Watkins as Christopher Jefferies
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Star Wars Director JJ Abrams: key character's names have been revealed
film
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell Williams won two BBC Music Awards for Best Song and International Artist
music
Arts and Entertainment
Mark, Katie and Sanjay in The Apprentice boardroom
TV
Arts and Entertainment

Film The critics but sneer but these unfashionable festive films are our favourites

Arts and Entertainment
Frances O'Connor and James Nesbitt in 'The Missing'

TV We're so close to knowing what happened to Oliver Hughes, but a last-minute bluff crushes expectations

Arts and Entertainment
Joey Essex will be hitting the slopes for series two of The Jump

TV

Who is taking the plunge?
Arts and Entertainment
Katy Perry as an Ancient Egyptian princess in her latest music video for 'Dark Horse'

music
Arts and Entertainment
Dame Judi Dench, as M in Skyfall

film
Arts and Entertainment
Morrissey, 1988

TV
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Aren’t you glad you didn’t say that? The worst wince-and-look-away quotes of the year

    Aren’t you glad you didn’t say that?

    The worst wince-and-look-away quotes of the year
    Hollande's vanity project is on a high-speed track to the middle of nowhere

    Vanity project on a high-speed track to nowhere

    France’s TGV network has become mired in controversy
    Sports Quiz of the Year

    Sports Quiz of the Year

    So, how closely were you paying attention during 2014?
    Alexander Armstrong on insulting Mary Berry, his love of 'Bargain Hunt', and life as a llama farmer

    Alexander Armstrong on insulting Mary Berry and his love of 'Bargain Hunt'

    From Armstrong and Miller to Pointless
    Sanchez helps Gunners hold on after Giroud's moment of madness

    Sanchez helps Gunners hold on

    Olivier Giroud's moment of madness nearly costs them
    A Christmas without hope: Fears grow in Gaza that the conflict with Israel will soon reignite

    Christmas without hope

    Gaza fears grow that conflict with Israel will soon reignite
    After 150 years, you can finally visit the grisliest museum in the country

    The 'Black Museum'

    After 150 years, you can finally visit Britain's grisliest museum
    No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

    No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

    Doctor Who Christmas Special TV review
    Chilly Christmas: Swimmers take festive dip for charity

    Chilly Christmas

    Swimmers dive into freezing British waters for charity
    Veterans' hostel 'overwhelmed by kindness' for festive dinner

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
    Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

    'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

    Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
    Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

    Ed Balls interview

    'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
    He's behind you, dude!

    US stars in UK panto

    From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
    Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

    Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

    What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
    Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

    Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

    Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect