With Darren Aronofsky at helm, upcoming ‘Noah’ has potential

Last week, the first trailers for a new take on the biblical story of Noah hit the Internet. Complete with stunning visuals and a talented cast, the film – simply titled “Noah” – is set to hit theaters in the already movie-laden March 2014. Following in the footsteps of The History Channel’s mini-series “The Bible,” it looks to catapult the genre of the biblical epic back into the Hollywood spotlight.

Directed by Darren Aronofsky, whose resume ranges from the dark ballet psychodrama “Black Swan” to the surrealist fantasy “The Fountain,” this new take on Noah and the ark stars Russell Crowe as the titular character, who builds an ark to save himself and his family from an apocalyptic flood. The supporting cast is full of notable names, including Jennifer Connelly (Crowe’s co-star in “A Beautiful Mind”) as Noah’s wife; “The Perks of Being a Wallflower” star Logan Lerman as Noah’s son; Lerman’s “Perks” co-star and “Harry Potter” star Emma Watson as Noah’s adopted daughter and Anthony Hopkins, best known for his chilling Oscar-winning performance in “The Silence of the Lambs,” as Noah’s father. The first trailers give the film the image of a visually engrossing epic, and it looks like Aronofsky may have just catapulted the biblical epic back into the spotlight.

With the success of “The Bible” and the upcoming releases of “Noah” and Ridley Scott’s film “Exodus” – starring Christian Bale as Moses and is due out in December 2014 – it’s clear Hollywood is revisiting one of its most storied genres: the biblical epic. This genre has produced films such as “Ben-Hur” and “The Ten Commandments,” which are among the first box office smash hits in Hollywood history. It seems that the studios producing “Noah” and “Exodus” are aiming to emulate, if not surpass, the success of these films, thanks to the advent of advanced special effects and star power.

“Noah” certainly has potential. Aronofsky’s track record shows that he can make a good movie critically and commercially, with his latest film “Black Swan” grossing over $300 million at the box office on a $13 million budget and earning Natalie Portman her first Best Actress Oscar in 2011. Crowe, who recently appeared on the big screen with stellar turns in “Les Misérables” and “Man of Steel,” is a box-office juggernaut. A planned IMAX release and its release date in the middle of the spring break season on March 28 should also help the film perform well at the box office.

However, star power and special effects don’t immediately define a film as a critical and box office smash. It’s entirely possible that Aronofsky – who was an interesting choice to direct from the beginning given his track record – was the wrong director. He has been recently surrounded by controversy about the film’s final cut, with tensions between director and studio coming to light. While the cast and effects do show potential, the trailer’s indications of Aronofsky’s vision and creative additions could be a potential red flag for audiences. It’s entirely possible “Noah” could be either a stroke of genius or a colossal flop that delivers a setback to Aronofsky’s career.

The success of “Noah” commercially could also depend on Crowe’s other 2014 release “Winter’s Tale,” a fantasy romance adapted from Mark Helprin’s 1983 novel in which Crowe plays a villainous gangster alongside Connelly and Colin Farrell that is being released on Feb. 14. If “Winter’s Tale” is a success, that audience goodwill could carry over to “Noah”; however, it’s entirely possible that if that film flops, then audiences may not be eager to go see Crowe again on the big screen so soon.

Either way, “Noah” is an intriguing film to look out for in cinemas this spring. Whether it will be a hit or a misfire remains a question, but March will bring the answer.