Academy Award winner Russell Crowe stars as Noah, a man chosen by God for a great task before an apocalyptic flood destroys the world.PT2M20S http://www.canberratimes.com.au/action/externalEmbeddedPlayer?id=d-2xkjd 620 349 November 15, 2013
The Noah hype cavalcade continues full force ahead of this week's US and Australian release, with an early review calling it "vital and audacious" amid continuing outrage from Christian groups.
With the New York and Sydney premieres happening Wednesday, the Hollywood Reporter said the film had already opened on Friday in Mexico with a "promising" $US1.4 million ($1.5m) and South Korea with another $US1.4 million, putting it on a par with space blockbuster Gravity.
Emotional ... Jennifer Connelly and Russell Crowe in Noah. Photo: Niko Tavernise
As reviews start to emerge, the Hollywood Reporter's critic Todd McCarthy was full of praise for the $160 million biblical epic. He said it pushed "aggressive environmentalism", which completely omitted any mention of the name "God" altogether.
"Whereas for a century most Hollywood filmmakers have tread carefully and respectfully when tackling biblical topics in big-budget epics aimed at a mass audience, [director Darren] Aronofsky has been daring, digging deep to develop a bold interpretation of a tale which, in the original, offers a lot of room for speculation and invention."
He added that conservative and "literal-minded" followers of faith "will find plenty to fulminate about here".
He said the film carried "numerous dramatic fabrications" and "heavy-handed ecological doomsday messages".
"But whether you buy these elements or not, this is still an arresting piece of filmmaking that has a shot at capturing a large international audience both for its fantasy-style spectacle and its fresh look at an elemental Bible story most often presented as a kiddie yarn."
Elsewhere Scott Foundas from Variety wrote that it was an "uneven but undeniably bold, personal, visually extravagant take on the Old Testament tale", which will is likely to ride a "high sea of curiosity" to score a strong box-office interest.
Despite launching a global PR offensive in Mexico City, Moscow, the Vatican and Reykjavik, none of the stars will head to Sydney for the Thursday release due to a clash with the New York premiere. A smaller premiere attended by local celebrities will take place at Event Cinemas George Street on Wednesday night.
Noah star Russell Crowe has kept local fans in mind, however, tweeting two days ago that the film was out in Australia soon. "Can't wait until you guys get to see it. Response from screenings in Moscow, Mexico City and Rio is intense."
#Noah out in Australia soon. Can't wait until you guys get to see it. Response from screenings in Moscow, Mexico City and Rio is intense.— Russell Crowe (@russellcrowe) March 22, 2014
Christian outrage continues to swirl around the film, however, despite the filmmakers including a disclaimer that "artistic license" had been taken and "the biblical story of Noah can be found in the book of Genesis".
Right-wing US radio host Glenn Beck said the film was "dangerous disinformation" and that children would believe the version of the film adaptation over the Bible story told to them by their parents.
He added he had not seen the film and had no intention to, and that he hoped it was a "massive failure".
In a effort to avert criticism from religious groups, studio Paramount has released a new eight-minute promotional featurette running praise from Christian leaders for the film. "Movies aren't meant to preach. Movies aren't sermons, and so if they can bring up the topic and start conversations, that's a good movie," said Karen Covell, founder of the Hollywood Prayer Network. "And this one made me ask questions."
Phil Cooke, a Christian media producer and consultant, who has advised the studio on the film, said: "Christians have to stop looking at Hollywood as the enemy, and start reaching out. Missionaries have discovered that you don't change minds by criticism, boycotts or threats. You change minds by developing a relationship and a sense of trust."
Noah has been banned in many Muslim countries because it depicts a Koranic prophet, a taboo in the Islamic world.
Crowe is adamant the snub by much of the Muslim world is not a major setback for the film.
''This story is contained in every religious text. Noah is in the Koran. People from all over the world outside of religion have flood mythology,'' Crowe told Britain's Daily Telegraph newspaper.
''To be frank, given that it is a tenet of the Muslim religion that you can't make stories or render images about the Prophet, it was not unexpected that some Islamic nations would ban the film.''
Noah will not be released in Qatar, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates, and Crowe concedes the countries are missing out on ''stimulation and discussion'' in a religious context.
''It's the primary issue of this film, whether you have faith or you don't have faith, you talk about it,'' Crowe said.
Noah will be released in Australian cinemas on March 27.
- with the Telegraph, UK, and WENN