Darren Aronofsky’s Noah: Will This Be the Director’s Break Into Blockbuster Territory?
Darren Aronofsky describes Noah as being “a big event film,” and with an estimated $125 million budget (that’s more than double all five of his previous film budgets combined) it’s sure to be a spectacle. The idea that Aronofsky is going blockbuster on us is difficult to wrap my mind around, but really, he’s one of those embraced directors who hits the sweet spot between artistic, well-reviewed material and actually reaching a large-scale audience. His last film, Black Swan, grossed over $329 million worldwide and won a Best Actress in a Leading Role award for Natalie Portman. It seems as though he’s been toying with the idea of creating an all-out megahit for ages now with rumors constantly circulating of projects that he’s in talks for. The question becomes: what can we expect from the creative auteur, and will it be the successful launch into blockbusterdom that Aronofsky’s been searching for?
To answer this question it’s best to review the path so far… After he obtained the ultra hip, hot-director status with Pi and Requim for a Dream, Warner Bros. brought Aronofsky on to reboot the Batman franchise. This was mid-2000 and using Frank Miller’s Batman: Year One origin story he was aiming to create a gritty, dark Batman movie. After his version of Year One fell through, and the idea continued bouncing around until it wound up in Christopher Nolan’s hands; Aronofsky moved on to The Fountain, which, when originally conceived, carried a $70 million budget. In his efforts to create a spiritual, large-scale epic sci-fi Aronofsky went through over six years of roadblocks, including major budget cuts that led to further story cuts. The full story was later released in graphic novel form. The Fountain was intended to be a large scale, redefining philosophical science fiction film, but by bringing in only $15 million, The Fountain is the closest Aronofsky has come to a misfire. The story is beautifully told with a challenging core, but could it have been a bit more evenly told? Absolutely. Even at that, The Fountain found its own audience; Aronofsky cites it more as “an art/experimental film” than a big budget affair. I think The Fountain is also the best reference point we currently have in gauging expectations for Noah, coming out in 2014. They’re both big-budget dark stories that approach religious/philosophical notions with a science fiction technique. We know that his vision of Noah is going to incorporate fantasy/sci-fi elements due to all the talk about gigantic Watchers.
Next up, many fans were sure Aronofsky would be helming The Wolverine, but this too fell through, officially due to travel conflicts. He wound up creating The Wrestler instead, which is a heart-wrenching experience and a significant entry in the world of film. The next sci-fi tentpole that Aronofsky was attached to was the as yet unreleased Robocop. Due to financial problems with the studio there, he moved on to create Black Swan. So the super-hero film has yet to happen for Aronofsky. The more details that are revealed about Noah, though, the more it seems like the biblical figure could be taking on Aronofsky’s superhero mantle. There’s a very good chance we’ll be seeing Russell Crowe obliterate evil-doers, more than that though Aronofsky is looking to take the essential elements of the classical biblical tale and enhance it by exploring Noah’s inner turmoil and individual journey of overcoming incredible obstacles and ultimately preserving mankind – as well as all the creatures of Earth.
On the one hand, it’s hard for me to even imagine Aronofsky ever making a bad movie – everything he’s done has been challenging and thought-provoking, led by his natural directorial instincts. On the other hand, Aronofsky’s taking a great deal of risks in what he’s aiming to achieve; a “big event” film that reaches a broad audience. Forecasters are saying biblical epics are expected to be the next big source for Hollywood inspiration. History’s The Bible has recently become a breakout success for the channel, which is clearly a good omen. Aronofsky carries large expectations; will his interpretation be able to reach a large scale audience?
My gut tells me this will be a decent (not overwhelming) success as the title and star recognition is certainly in place. I don’t expect that the built-in faith-based crowd that spurred Passion of the Christ to become such a megahit will be as firmly secured for this film as Aronofsky describes his vision of Noah as an environmentalist; not the best way to connect with the obvious demographic. Clearly, the story will need to be more digestible than The Fountain, though from the bits and pieces that Aronofsky has discussed of Noah, he does seem to have a defined, straight-forward story in mind. One of the strongest elements working in favor for Noah will definitely be the visuals. Creating visually arresting imagery has always been Aronofsky’s forte; add to that the epic level of story-telling and, long-time collaborator, Matthew Libatique’s super creepy tweeted sneak peek (seen below) and this film is sure to catch attention.
Whether or not Aronofsky manages to capture the right narrative with Noah will not prevent it from being a worthwhile film to check out. It’s about time that he takes his shot at creating an epic sorta superhero story since it’s been a long time coming. Creating a blockbuster always comes with the challenge of hitting as large a demographic as possible while still being interesting to everyone – that’s the money-making game. No matter how blockbuster he goes, though, Aronofsky will absolutely remain an artist.
What do you think? Leave a comment.