NEW YORK — Russell Crowe calls the criticism that the film “Noah” has received “irrational” and says he’s happy audiences can finally see it for themselves.

Crowe spoke to The Associated Press on Wednesday night at the New York premiere of the biblical epic, directed by Darren Aronofsky and featuring Emma Watson and Jennifer Connelly, who were also at the event.

“Noah” has been the subject of controversy with some religious groups claiming the story has been inaccurately portrayed. That has prompted Paramount Pictures to add a disclaimer to its marketing material saying “artistic license has been taken” in telling the story. The film has also been banned in many Islamic countries where it’s taboo to depict a prophet.

“We have endured 12 to 14 months of irrational criticism and now people are starting to see it and to realize how respectful it is, and how true to the source material it is and how intense of an experience it is in the movie theater, you know, so that’s cool,” he said.

Emma Watson, who plays Ila, the wife of Noah’s son Shem, says she wasn’t surprised by the response to the film.

“To be honest, I expected there to be controversy, I think all biblical adaptations carry the weight of that because it is something that is so personal to people,” she said.

Crowe said his decision to play the title role was in part swayed by a long-standing desire to work with Aronofsky.