All the elements for a rainmaking weekend were in place for “Noah” — pre-screening controversy from some religious leaders over accuracy, star Russell Crowe generating press for getting a meeting (“finally”) with the Pope last week and, of course, a huge million or so budget to make and market the flick, which was No. 1 at the domestic box office with a $44 million opening.
The primary talking point handed to the folks involved with generating buzz for the film seems to be “we want to get people talking.” That they did.
“Most of the attention around the $125 million production —Hollywood's first biblical epic in decades — focused on the discomfort of religious leaders, many of whom declined to offer the full-throated endorsements that can drive churchgoers to the multiplex,” writes the Wall Street Journal’s Erich Schwartzel.
“The movie's full of very clever ideas and I think it brings out of people a fascination and also the desire to discuss their own faith and what they believe in,” Russell Crowe said on “On the Red Carpet.”
“If a piece of art brings people to that kind of discussion, where they examine what they believe in, they wanna know what their friends believe in, they wanna talk about their relationship to the planet, to animals and to spirituality, that's a wonderful thing,” he added.
“Even non-believers will come away from ‘Noah’ scratching their heads wondering why acclaimed director Darren Aronofsky … chose to portray God’s righteous man Noah as a homicidal maniac hell bent on killing his own family members,” opines the Faith Driven Consumer site, which says it speaks on behalf of 46 million Americans who comprise 15% of the population and spend $1.75 trillion annually.
Pastor Rick Warren, reflecting on a piece by Tad Friend in The New Yorker, tweeted: “The Director of new ‘Noah’ movie calls it ‘The LEAST biblical film ever made.’ The director then insulted millions of potential viewers by using the F word. Thanks for the warning Mr. Director. You just saved me from wasting my money.”
The staff at the Hirsen on Hollywood blog commented that Warren’s observations “may indicate there are storm clouds overhead relating to the movie’s ultimate fate.” But The Christian Post’s Emma Koonse points out that “the quote [Warren] used is not only errant, but has been taken out of context.”
Which is, of course, furthering the conversation.
Meanwhile, Time’s Charlotte Alter reports that “several scholars and religious leaders participated in a video about the Paramount film, encouraging the faithful to see the movie.” It was made by writer-producer Phil Cooke at Paramount’s request after he wrote a blog post encouraging Christians to check out the film.
“It’s a horrifying story about how serious human sinfulness is,” said King’s College President Gregory Thornbury.
Opening weekend moviegoers were diverse, Megan Colligan, Paramount’s president of domestic marketing and distribution, tells the Los Angeles Times’ Saba Hamedy — split between men and women. It was popular with Christians, Catholic Latinos and African Americans, plus “lots of Aronofsky fans in major cities,” according to Colligan. “There was a pretty good balance of age ranges but a little bit of an older crowd, which we expected,” she said.
Hamedy reports that the audience in a theater in Santa Monica gave the film a standing ovation Saturday night.
“At first I thought maybe we walked into the wrong movie — it was a little cheesy of a start,” said Astacia Christenson, 36. “But it worked out because you got into the characters, there was some good acting and the story picked up and got more interesting. The movie saved itself.”
Paramount expects “Noah” to attract older viewers, “who tend to see movies later, in coming weeks, reports the Wall Street Journal’s Schwartzel. But he points out that “the teen audience that is needed to keep ‘Noah’ and other films afloat will be harder to come by next week, when Disney and Marvel Studio’s “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” kicks off the summer blockbuster season.
Indeed, “Captain America” took in $75.2 million in its overseas box-office debut this weekend, according to The Wrap. And it’s at 93% on Rotten Tomatoes “Tomatometer,” compared to a 75% rating for “Noah.”
The former “takes the bold (for Marvel) step of reducing CGI spectacle to a relative minimum in favor of reviving the pleasures of hard-driving old-school action, surprising character development and intriguing suspense,” Todd McCarthy wrote in the Hollywood Reporter. As for “Noah,” we all know how that turned out, don’t we?