>> Beowulf (John’s Review, 7.5/10)

Beowulf Despite Square and Sony’s adult-oriented CG-animated box office dud of some years back, Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within, maybe there is an actual audience for something like this? Director Robert Zemeckis can’t seem to shake his fascination with motion-capture technology–the process in which actors are tracked by a computer while wearing a body suit covered in ping pong balls, then “drawn over” with a computer. So, instead of seeing just Anthony Hopkins, I can see a fat, naked, strangely plasticine ANIMATED Anthony Hopkins. Hooo-kay…

Zemeckis has set his sights on the epic poem Beowulf, and my memories are too vague from 9th grade English class to make any kind of decent comparison between that work and this one. I do know that we did NOT have to wear 3-D glasses in the classroom, and that’s a pretty big difference right there. Maybe I would’ve remembered the poem better if my teacher was throwing mead right in my face or perhaps poking spearheads directly at my eye.

Beowulf is an oddly fractured narrative about the legendary hero (Ray Winstone) and his apparently life-long struggles with the monster Grendel and Grendel’s smoking hot mother, played by a nude, gold-skinned Angelina Jolie. The film is rigidly structured into three acts that seem to fight against any kind of typical writing structure of rising action, climax, falling action. It’s basically three battles–Beowulf/Grendel, Beowulf/Grendel’s Mom, then Beowulf/Dragon. There’s sort-of a throughline about what it means to be a hero, but Beowulf himself is not an entirely likeable character here, motivated too much by lust and a braggart’s spirit. It takes the air out of most of the moments an audience whould be cheering for him. When bad things happen in the film, they are a direct action of the stupid mistakes of our “good guys”, and we can’t help but sit back and go, “well, you brought this on yourself, really…” That’s not the kind of response you typically want from an audience in an action flick.

Those criticisms aside, I still recommend the film, especially in 3-D if you can catch it. The movie is certianly the kind of thing you should see on a big screen anyways, and the 3-D effect is just butter on the popcorn. The dragon battle in particular uses the 3-D to really enhance the action on screen. There is a video gamey element to the whole thing and the cast generally have the same animated mannequin look like the human characters from Shrek, but there’s an unexpectedly high quotient of pulpy swashbuckling, sex, and gore to keep things moving.

I’m all for 3-D and animation, but I’m ready for Zemeckis to return to the world of live-action filmmaking. When push comes to shove, I’d rather watch the actual John Malkovish than the animated John Malkovich. Could Zemeckis’s Beowulf have been told in live-action? Yes, actually. So why is this animated? So Ray Winstone can be skinny, and Anthony Hopkins can be fat, I guess. Shut up and munch your popcorn, Gholson.

7.5 on a 1 to 10 scale

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3 Comments

  1. I saw it this past weekend as well. I liked the film, but I loved the experience. It almost felt like I was thrown into the middle of GOD OF WAR.

  2. I was kinda uninvolved in the film, but I think that may be a personal thing, and not reflective of the actual film itself, if that makes sense…

  3. (Spoiler)
    How does slashing your arm off make any kind of difference? its not gonna get you any closer the dragons heart, actually its just gonna make the hole in the dragons chest higher and the heart even more unreachable!
    simple physics!

    apart from that the movie was awesome. Sure the 3d characters all had steven seagal s the expressional range but hey, at least the color scheme didnt give me a heradache like that 300 movie(also great)


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