"They got the big points of the story right," says Johnson. "It's so counter-cultural today in America or the West to talk about sin, right and wrong, and particularly the idea of judgment — and that is so serious in this film."
Johnson adds that, among other reservations, "the insertion of the extremist environmental agenda is a problem." Aronofsky disputes that.
"It's in the Bible that we are supposed to tend the garden," the director says. "To say there's no ecological side to the Noah story when Noah is saving the animals just doesn't make sense to me."
Picturehouse founder Bob Berney, who as president of Newmarket Films distributed "The Passion of the Christ," says balancing artistic license and faithfulness to Scripture is challenging.
"It's a kind of a trap, and you have to be very careful," says Berney. "At the same time, they are movies, and they have to be really good. I think the faith-based audience, the Christian audience still wants a big, exciting movie."
All the conversation — both negative and positive — may lure audiences to "Noah," which Moore says will do its biggest business internationally, even though the film has been banned in many Islamic counties where it's taboo to depict a prophet. He and Aronofsky believe they have a rich history of artistic ambition on their side.
"It's strange that the conversation for a little bit has turned into a controversy about literalism," says Aronofsky. "What is literalism when it comes to interpreting and making an artistic representation of the text? Is Michelangelo's David a literal interpretation of what David looked like?"