Written by Neil Gaiman & Roger Avary
Directed by Robert Zemeckis
Running Time: 1:50
for intense sequences of violence including
disturbing images, some sexual material and nudity.
Beowulf was a good, but not great, film which had some spectacular animation but suffered from dead spots.
The people of Heorot are being tormented by an evil creature named Grendel who lives in a cave near the town. One night, after a drunken party led by King Hrothgar, Grendel attacks again, killing many. This time word travels to the mighty hero Beowulf, who ventures to the town to rid them of the beast. After a long battle, he succeeds, but in doing so, incurs the wrath of Grendel's mother, who is a cunning and vicious creature in her own right. Beowulf is forced to make a decision which will affect him and the people of Heorot for years to come.
Unless you live under a rock, you know that Beowulf is animated using motion capture techniques. While still not completely lifelike, the animation does look tremendous and allows the filmmakers to do things not otherwise possible with real actors. That being said, as with most 'new' looks, once you get past how amazing things look, there needs to be a compelling story to keep you interested. I didn't know the story of Beowulf before seeing the film. But I looked it up afterwards and I think I find what the screenwriters did to be more compelling that what the real poem had. They didn't change what happened as much as they changed why it all happened.
First off, the animation did look really good. I was fortunate enough to attend a 3D screening, which made the movie pop that much more. And I highly suggest if you do want to see this film, you see it in 3D. The action sequences alone are worth the price of admission. There's nothing better than seeing animated blood come flying at you in your seat. From the opening credits on, you can't help but be amazed at how good things look. The smallest details are able to be captured, and while the human form isn't quite 100%, you can still recognize the real actors behind the animation. Everything looked extremely crisp and sharp. So while viewing the movie in 3D did give me a little bit of a headache, it was worth it.
Then there was the story. It felt like a cross between 300 and Lord of the Rings, although not as good as either. I won't ruin the twists and turns the movie takes, but while I was watching the movie, I didn't really react to the story. Thinking about it a day later, and having read what the original poem had, I think I appreciate the story more now. It was really quite inventive and shows that even the greatest hero can be brought down by greed. As I said earlier, the action sequences were quite amazing. From Beowulf's battle with Grendel in the Mead Hall, to his battle against a dragon which takes place above and beneath the water, when the action came, it was non-stop. The problem comes with the rest of the story. There were a lot of times when the movie slowed to a huge halt. And when it came to a halt, I got bored. There's something about watching a slow animated movie that feels more boring to me than if it were done with live actors. When the Queen launches into her two song sequences, I felt like getting up and leaving. Yet I know if it was a live actress, I would have more appreciation for it. I guess I feel like, since this is an animated movie, and you can do whatever you want, why slow down the movie so much? Yes, the story is very important and I understand that, but the dead spots can be removed without sacrificing the story. At 110 minutes, there is plenty that can be removed and not lose anything. There was also just an overall feel like the movie wasn't complete. As much as I enjoyed the action, I never fully got ingrained in the film.
The DVD has a bunch of extras on it. There are some deleted scenes, which, as in the case of most animated films, aren't graphically complete and only help the story. There are a couple of short documentaries on the origins of Beowulf and creating the ultimate Beowulf. There are a couple of longer ones on the creatures and art of the movie. But the one I enjoyed the most was the making of Beowulf documentary. It was fascinating to see what went into making the film happen. The best parts are when they show the film and inset the actors doing their thing on a stage. I can't imagine how difficult it must have been for the actors to act with nothing more than other actors and some props made out of wiring. What I did realize though is that out of all these extras I never once saw Angelina Jolie. Tom Hanks even stops by for a few minutes, but Angelina is never shown doing anything. Was she that against appearing on camera? Or was she such a pain the producers decided not to include her on the DVD? It was a very glaring and obvious omission. As far as whether the movie looks good on the small screen, most animated films look pretty good on today's newer HD TVs. But not being able to watch it in 3D is a letdown. I wonder if they'll ever be able to release a 3D version of the film on DVD because that would be spectacular.
THE BOTTOM LINE
So overall, Beowulf was a great experience, but only a good movie. It's certainly something that should be seen, especially in 3D, but it's not a classic for the ages.
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