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
Sir Nicholas Serota has been a feature in the Power 100 top ten since its 2002 launch
art
Arts and Entertainment
Awesome foursome: Sam Smith shows off his awards
music22-year-old confirms he is 2014’s breakout British music success
Arts and Entertainment
Contestants during this summer's Celebrity Big Brother grand finale
tvBroadcaster attempts to change its image following sale to American media group
Arts and Entertainment
Sarah Dales attempts to sell British Breeze in the luxury scent task
tvReview: 'Apprentice' candidate on the verge of tears as they were ejected from the boardroom
Arts and Entertainment
Kate Bush: 'I'm going to miss everyone so much'
music
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Laura Wood, winner of the Montegrappa Scholastic Prize for New Children’s Writing
books

Children's bookseller wins The Independent's new author search

Arts and Entertainment
Pulling the strings: Spira Mirabilis

music
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Neville's Island at Duke of York's theatre
musicReview: The production has been cleverly cast with a quartet of comic performers best known for the work on television
Arts and Entertainment
Banksy's 'The Girl with the Pierced Eardrum' in Bristol

art
Arts and Entertainment
Lynda Bellingham stars in her last Oxo advert with on-screen husband Michael Redfern

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Hunger Games actress Jena Malone has been rumoured to be playing a female Robin in Batman v Superman

film
Arts and Entertainment
Tim Minchin portrait
For a no-holds-barred performer who is scathing about woolly thinking and oppressive religiosity, Tim Minchin is surprisingly gentle
Arts and Entertainment
Clara takes the lead in 'Flatline' while the Doctor remains in the Tardis
tvReview: The 'Impossible Girl' earns some companion stripes... but she’s still annoying in 'Dr Who, Flatline'
Arts and Entertainment
Joy Division photographed around Waterloo Road, Stockport, near Strawberry Studios. The band are Bernard Sumner (guitar and keyboards), Stephen Morris (drums and percussion), Ian Curtis (vocals and occasional guitar), Peter Hook (bass guitar and backing vocals).
books
Arts and Entertainment
Sean Harris in 'The Goob' film photocall, at the Venice International Film Festival 2014
filmThe Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Streisand is his true inspiration
Arts and Entertainment
X Factor contestant Fleur East
tvReview: Some lacklustre performances - but the usual frontrunners continue to excel
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Tuttle's installation in the Turbine Hall at the Tate Modern
artAs two major London galleries put textiles in the spotlight, the poor relation of the creative world is getting recognition it deserves
Arts and Entertainment
Hunger Games actress Jena Malone has been rumoured to be playing a female Robin in Batman v Superman
film
Arts and Entertainment
On top of the world: Actress Cate Blanchett and author Richard Flanagan
artsRichard Flanagan's Man Booker win has put paid to the myth that antipodean artists lack culture
Arts and Entertainment
The Everyman, revamped by Haworth Tompkins
architectureIt beats strong shortlist that included the Shard, the Library of Birmingham, and the London Aquatics Centre
Arts and Entertainment
Justice is served: Robert Downey Jr, Vincent D’Onofrio, Jeremy Strong and Robert Duvall in ‘The Judge’

Film

Arts and Entertainment
Clive Owen (centre) in 'The Knick'

TV

Arts and Entertainment
J.K. Simmons , left, and Miles Teller in a scene from

Film

Arts and Entertainment
Team Tenacity pitch their fetching solar powered, mobile phone charging, heated, flashy jacket
tvReview: No one was safe as Lord Sugar shook things up
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.

    How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

    A crime that reveals London's dark heart

    How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
    Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

    Lost in translation: Western monikers

    Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
    Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

    Handy hacks that make life easier

    New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
    KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

    KidZania: It's a small world

    The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker
    Renée Zellweger's real crime has been to age in an industry that prizes women's youth over humanity

    'Renée Zellweger's real crime was to age'

    The actress's altered appearance raised eyebrows at Elle's Women in Hollywood awards on Monday
    From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

    Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

    From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Patrick Grafton-Green wonders if they can ever recapture the old magic
    Thousands of teenagers to visit battlefields of the First World War in new Government scheme

    Pupils to visit First World War battlefields

    A new Government scheme aims to bring the the horrors of the conflict to life over the next five years
    The 10 best smartphone accessories

    Make the most of your mobile: 10 best smartphone accessories

    Try these add-ons for everything from secret charging to making sure you never lose your keys again
    Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time against Real Madrid: Was this shirt swapping the real reason?

    Liverpool v Real Madrid

    Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time. Was shirt swapping the real reason?
    West Indies tour of India: Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

    Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

    Decision to pull out of India tour leaves the WICB fighting for its existence with an off-field storm building
    Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

    A new American serial killer?

    Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
    Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

    Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

    Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
    Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

    Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

    Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
    Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize

    Wildlife Photographer of the Year

    Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize
    Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

    Want to change the world? Just sign here

    The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?