Darren Aronofsky has never been a particularly audience-friendly filmmaker; his first Oscar nomination was for the gorgeously disturbing ballerina breakdown drama "Black Swan," and his first move, "Pi," features a self-trepanation scene. Is it any wonder that his Biblical epic "Noah" is giving audiences similarly confounded reactions?

"Noah," which stars Russell Crowe, Jennifer Connelly, Anthony Hopkins, Logan Lerman, Emma Watson, and Douglas Booth, is scheduled for release on March 28, but Paramount and Aronofsky are reportedly wrestling for control over the final cut. According to The Hollywood Reporter, it seems that some of the test audiences are having rather "troubling reactions" to the film, which could be problematic if the studio is pushing for the religious audience. The NYC test screening was "largely Jewish," a screening in Arizona was predominantly Christian, and the screening in Orange County, Calif., was for the general public. Aronofsky also screened some footage of "Noah" for the Echo Conference in Dallas, which is billed as "[a]n event for artists, geeks, and storytellers in the church."

In August 2012, Aronofsky tweeted a photo from the set with the text "nephilim wuz here." The interpretation of the creatures known as nephilim vary by text; they appear in the Old Testament (aka the Torah) and the non-canon Book of Enoch, which is part of the Dead Sea Scrolls. These are probably the Watchers mentioned in Drew McWeeny's story on HitFix about the script, which he describes as "eleven-foot-tall fallen angels with six arms and no wings." Aronofsky and exec producer Ari Handel also had his script adapted for a French graphic novel called "Noah, For the Cruelty of Men." The synopsis refers to Noah as a "warrior" who enlists the help of "terrible Giants," another interpretation or description of the nephilim; it sounds fantastic -- and pretty damn different than the sanitized version of Noah's Ark and its animals marching two-by-two we're used to seeing. We're sure that the FX from Industrial Light & Magic will do a wondrous job of it, too. (Check out some art and pages from the novel here.)

THR also reports that Aronofsky isn't particularly concerned with Paramount's reaction. An anonymous "talent rep with ties to the project" described him as "very dismissive. He doesn't care about [Paramount's] opinion." However, Paramount vice chairman Rob Moore calls this "a normal review process." He told the magazine, "We're getting to a very good place, and we're getting there with Darren."

Will "Noah" be another expensive experiment on par with "The Fountain," a movie that has found a loyal audience long after its release, or the "Noah" movie that Aronofsky has been dreaming of since he was in seventh grade? Or somewhere in between, watered down for mainstream and/or religious audiences?

"Noah" is currently scheduled to hit theaters on March 28.

[via THR]

Darren Aronofsky - 'Best Director'; 'Black Swan' - 2011 Film Independent Spirit Awards
categories Movies