I saw Noah on Thursday night, via digital IMAX at the NYC Lincoln Square theater. I had no idea what to expect going in; I hadn't even seen a trailer. I wasn't looking forward (or not looking forward) to the movie, so I'd like to think I went in with an open mind. A lot of times, when I work a later shift and there's a movie opening at one of my favorite nearby screens, I'll see it on my way home. In particular, I see a lot of IMAX releases, as I find myself more willing to see something without any advance knowledge of it if it's playing in that format. (It's a holdover from when IMAX was 15/70 projection for all of their features - I'm losing some of that enthusiasm for their digital releases.) On the way to theater, I walked past two elderly ladies leaving the earlier screening, and I overheard one say to the other, "It wasn't bad, but it was no Charlton Heston parting the red sea." That's probably the quickest way to sum it up. The movie was never boring. All of the Darren Aronofsky films that I've seen strike me as being about people who are at the edge of their sanity, and "Noah" is no different. It's sort of a weird hybrid of internal chaos (as shown in several quick montages of visions Noah is receiving) and Peter Jackson-style destruction (when the floods come and humanity tries to attack/board the ark). For the first hour of the film, my description of the film was going to be "Batman Begins meets Lord Of The Rings". The tone changes somewhat in the second half, once Noah is onboard the ark - it goes from epic battles to epic claustrophobia, as Noah is torn between his interpretation of his visions, and his duties to his family. I found that most of the goodwill I had for the film in its first half was spent on making it through the second half. I wouldn't be surprised if others have the same reaction.
In terms of the technical presentation of the film, I found that to be a mixed bag. The CGI work wasn't terrible, but not groundbreaking either. The sequence of an acorn sprouting a forrest was probably most enjoyable. Sequences of the ark on the water, or the flooding of the earth, have a very generic, "you know you're watching CGI" look to them. For the IMAX version, IMAX did not make 15/70 prints; if you see it at a 15/70 location (as I did), you will see the digital projectors projecting an image to the center of the IMAX screen, with bars on all four sides of the picture. In my opinion, whether due to the projectors or the source file, there was not enough resolution to sustain a blow-up to that size - there was some pixelation and digital noise that I've never observed in any blowups that were printed out to 15/70 film. With all of the destruction and chaos in the film, I thought this would be a natural fit for the IMAX screen, but I was slightly disappointed in the presentation. (Special thanks to the theater for turning up the house lights a minute before the end of the film - nothing like spending $20 on a film and then having the theater start herding you towards the door before the thing even ends.)
Though the movie was uneven, it was always interesting - it didn't feel as long as its 138 minute runtime. The performances were good, and the first half in particular was solid. I don't know if I'd recommend it, but I wouldn't urge anyone to avoid it either - I'd put this clsoer to being a rental than a blind buy.