Noah star Russell Crowe has hit back at critics of his latest blockbuster, saying that to condemn the movie before even seeing it is "bordering on absolute stupidity".
Although it doesn't open in the US until Friday and will not reach British cinemas until 4 April, Noah has already been at the centre of a significant amount of controversy.
Many in the faith community have been particularly sceptical about the way in which the plot will retain biblical accuracy, while the film has been banned in several Muslim countries for its depiction of the titular character, who is also a prophet in the Koran.
"We've had probably over a year now of very harsh criticism from a bunch of people who have put their name and stamp on an opinion that's not even based on the movie or seeing the movie, just an assumption of what it could be or how bad it could be or how wrong it could be in their eyes, which I think, quite frankly, is bordering on absolute stupidity," Crowe said in an interview with Good Morning America on Wednesday.
"Now, I think, people are seeing the movie and they're realising how respectful it is and how potent it is," he continued.
"The great thing about this film, whether you're somebody of faith or not, is that you come out of this movie and you want to talk...about our stewardship of the earth, our relationship to animals, what is spirituality, who am I in this world, all these fantastic subjects for conversation.
"This is a great piece of art, and art that can do that for people is a wonderful thing," he finished.
Crowe joins many others in this contention. Some Christian leaders have said that regardless of the controversy, believers should welcome the opportunity to discuss their faith and use Noah as a springboard to share the Gospel.
Jonathan Snowden, biblical adviser for the film, believes it will be valuable in opening up reflections on the biblical narrative, mercy, faith and intimacy with God. "We can have fun, spirited debates of how you'd do it differently if you had $125 million to make your version of Noah's ark, but let's focus on the opportunity for now," he wrote in an article for the Christian Post.
In his ABC interview, Crowe also addressed rumours that his request to meet with Pope Francis in Rome had been snubbed, and shared that he had in fact met with the Pontiff in St Peter's Square earlier this month.
"I think considering the controversy around this movie, it would have been so easy for the Vatican to rescind the invitation...but the kindness to actually let the invitation stand, I just thought it was so consistent with who [the Pope] has been," he said.
Crowe went on to praise the Catholic leader further; though he noted that he himself does not identify with Catholicism and has "never felt any connection with any previous pope", he has warmed to Pope Francis' humble and gentle style.
"I really like this guy, I like what he says," Crowe asserted.
"He's changing the tone of the way you regard the Pope, and I think it's a magnificent thing. I was really privileged and humbled to be in that environment."