on November 15, 2007
Written around 700 AD and being of unknown authorship, "Beowulf" may be one of the purest fantasies ever told--it was one of the first to tell the story of a warrior who fought demons and a dragon. In the hands of director Robert Zemeckis and screenwriters Neil Gaiman and Roger Avary, the story transcends what we might have envisioned when reading the epic poem. This latest film adaptation is a triumph of classic storytelling, giving us a both hero to root for and monsters to be afraid of; it's a story told in the language of entertainment, having the power to capture its audience with compelling characters and breathtaking visuals. It's an honest to goodness fable that tells it like it is, completely free of long-winded setups and complicated details.
Relying on the same motion capture technique he utilized in "The Polar Express," Zemeckis has crafted an entirely computer generated film that has an appropriately surreal look. This is especially true of the characters, which exist in a gray area between the realistic and the fantastic; they don't look phony by any means, but they're not completely authentic, either. I suppose part of this can be blamed on the limits of computer technology, which still isn't able to fool an audience despite major advances. The thing is, I don't think the film should have looked too realistic, simply because it's telling an unrealistic story. "Beowulf" is a purely imaginative piece, and as such, the film needed a purely imaginative look. Zemeckis chose to make the entire thing one big special effect--there are no individual effects that enhance live-action scenes.
Taking place in the sixth century, Ray Winstone voices the title character with the perfect mix of pride, arrogance, and youthful impulsiveness. He also gives Beowulf a hard-edged masculinity that's just as expected as it is cliché. Upon hearing that a monster is terrorizing a Danish kingdom, Beowulf and his Geat men come to the rescue. His motives are purely ego driven--he only wants to fight in glorious battle and be remembered for it. Stories of his past battles make this clear because they're all so dramatic, downright boastful. Basically, it's obvious that he's exaggerating practically everything he says to make himself look more like a hero. All arrogance aside, he does believe himself capable of killing the creature that attacked the mead hall of the drunken, disgraced King Hrothgar (Anthony Hopkins) and the quiet, suspicious Wealthow (Robin Wright Penn).
This creature is Grendel (Crispin Glover), a character that, like Frankenstein's Monster, is hideous yet pathetic. He's a grotesque sight to behold: he's massive, hunched over, and deformed, bearing little if any resemblance to a human being. His soft, pitiful voice--which speaks in a Scandinavian tongue--is pretty much his only connection to the rest of us. Here's a character that's truly nightmarish in appearance. And when his anger is added to the mix, it gets even worse; he loses control at the sounds of merrymaking, forcing him to retreat from his cave and attack the mead hall. As he breaks through the wooden door, the orange flames in the fire pit become a cold blue that engulf everything surrounding it. Beowulf is able to lure Grendel back by making his men sing, after which the two engage in fierce combat. Because Grendel has no armor or weapons, Beowulf decides to "fight him on equal terms" by stripping completely naked. How this was necessary, I have no idea, but I guess it doesn't really matter.
It's only after the battle is finished that Beowulf learns of Grendel's mother (Angelina Jolie), a seductive water demon whose feminine curves are accented by shifting slivers of gold paint. Her hair ends as a living, tentacle-like ponytail, and her feet are naturally high heeled. When Beowulf first meets her, he carries a golden horn given by Hrothgar as a gift; in the presence of Grendel's mother, the horn glows like molten metal, just as the water she emerges from becomes a phosphorescent blue. In this strange yet magically erotic atmosphere, she temps Beowulf with promises of fame and fortune. At what price, no one can say, but considering how fiercely protective she was of her son, I think it's safe to assume that it'll be quite high.
When the film flashes forward by a number of years, signs of Beowulf's age are not the only differences--his views on glory, battle, and fame have changed, forcing him to wonder if his years of arrogance were worth it. At one time, he would scream, "I am Beowulf!" at the drop of a hat, but now, there doesn't seem to be any reason to do that anymore. It doesn't help that he's keeping a big secret, one he's held onto for many years. The arrival of a monstrous fire-breathing dragon brings his past back up to the surface, and he must face it whether or not he's ready to.
But to face his past is to redefine what it means to be a hero. The young Beowulf believed it was all about winning battles, but the older Beowulf begins to feel that there's something more to it, something that doesn't rely on physical brute force and bloodshed. In Zemeckis' film, Beowulf is just like any character on a Hero's Journey: he matures as his quest nears its end. He looks back on what he's been through and is able to draw strength from it. This well-established narrative formula is one of the things that make "Beowulf" an incredibly enjoyable film; it follows the most basic rules of fantasy storytelling, which is both necessary and effective. This movie thoroughly accomplishes what it set out to accomplish--it's an engaging, exciting, and highly artistic vision, made with style and precision. Odin be praised.
on May 5, 2008
Beowulf is a great story, it would not have lasted over thousand years if it wasn't. This 2007 all CGI version deviates considerably from the original story's truest and perhaps even its most enduring elements. The villain Grendel is portrayed as if we have the opportunity to sympathize with him. I remember upon his first attack in this film thinking that the Grendel from the epic poem would never have been so bold as to attack while his enemies were not asleep. Never would he come face to face with King Hrothgar on his throne. He is a cowardly and vile monster. I also remember studying Beowulf and thinking that this is the ultimate pagan hero. Courageous even if to a fault, boisterously politicizing himself to the gods by listing off each of his own unearthly tasks, challenging any evil no matter what it may be, even if it looks exactly like a naked Angelina Jolie. Most of all, he was to be a shining example of pride and honesty. It's funny, until now I never realized how I may have idolized Beowulf during my High School readings but just like those young pagan lads a thousand years ago listening to tales of the great warrior around a giant bonfire, I guess in a way I did and still do. The Beowulf we get here is tricked and tormented and his time as king is essentially based on deception. He is flawed in ways that make him less a hero.
There is something to admire in that fearless definition of heroism held up high in the original tale. Something even more endearing about this ultimate clash between good and evil. Something got lost in the transition from ancient Anglo-Saxon scribes to the capable pens of Neil Gaiman and Roger Avery, who wrote the solid but fundamentally flawed screenplay. Their writing makes for a great popcorn movie but I'm quite sure English scholars are not so impressed. In fact, this will definitely not and should not be shown by teachers or professors to compliment the study of this epic poem.
Still, Beowulf as a film is a back-to-back feast for the eyes. It is a beautiful film and I also believe its style to be a worthy standard to uphold for other action filmmakers in the years to come. I was worried right off that bat that Beowulf would be a two-hour video game cut scene, but it manages to transcend that judgement with time. The characters may be quasi-cartoon but they still hold more spirit than many cartoons have the ability to by far. Ray Winstone is Beowulf and his demeanor is nearly perfect. Anthony Hopkins and John Malkovich, as Hrothgar and Unferth respectively, both shine through their computerized characters more than enough. Both actors bring the overall performances in this film to attention, as both are just that good at their craft. Crispin Glover manages Grendel fantastically and the Grendel here is quite visually satisfying considering I've never had a strong enough imagination to picture Grendel myself based on the descriptions in literature. Angelina Jolie is certainly good enough for her role, as flawed as it may be. Grendel's mother is actually the character changed most of all, but as a separate villain from the epic poem, the character is not only crucial to Gaiman and Avery's story, but actually quite effective. Oh yes, and what epic film with bearded warriors would be complete without everyone's favorite brute from the early middle ages, Brendan Gleeson (as Wiglaf)?!
Overall, it is a tribute in some ways to the great story but on the other hand the way it sacrifices the purity of its characters just to create a convenient story, a gripping visual style, and a well-packaged blockbuster troubles me enough to only give a slight recommendation. Also, wait for this on blu-ray if you want it (if it ever comes in that format), I really can't see any reason not to unless you need it right away. There is an HD DVD version available.
on December 6, 2011
"We men are the monsters now."
Robert Zemeckis's "Beowulf" has, I think, been grossly misunderstood. The popular consensus appears to be that it is another mo-cap failure, all exaggerated, adolescent, computer-generated violence with zero substance. While the film certainly has its flaws, the visual effects techniques employed to create it have apparently blinded many to its rather clever deconstruction of the Beowulf story.
Now, it's inarguable that the original poem is a treasured literary classic, but what some of the more "academic" reviews either don't seem to grasp or conveniently choose to ignore is that the poem is over a thousand years old and is an entirely different medium to the modern blockbuster; literature is an individual experience, interpreted through the prism of the reader's - or listener's, if hearing an oration - imagination while film is a defined, temporal experience intended for a mass audience. What works in one can be disastrous in another.
The key obstacle in adapting "Beowulf" is the narrative structure. The story is split between three battles: Grendel, Grendel's mother, and the Dragon. Classical three-act structure, you say? Not quite. There's a fifty year gap between the last two acts. Furthermore, Beowulf himself is a static character, an idealized hero without flaw. These present no real issue in poetic verse, but in a film that is expected to flow smoothly from narrative point A to narrative point B in two hours or less, a static protagonist will bore the audience and such an enormous time shift will seem unjustified.
Therefore, writers Neil Gaiman and Roger Avary strove to accomplish with their adaptation what any good adaptation ought to do -- find a new reason to tell this ancient tale. They asked questions: why won't Grendel attack Hrothgar? Because no one else actually saw what happened in the cave with Grendel's mother, what if what Beowulf recited isn't the truth? These questions led to a deconstruction of the original narrative where Beowulf is an unreliable narrator and he and the characters suffer from the all-too human traits of greed, pride, lust, and envy. Now, the long gap between the final acts is motivated through exploring Beowulf's regret at the decisions he's made in his life that now tie into the confrontation with the Dragon. The conceit is that this version is the "original" version of the story before it became what we now know in the poem.
The beauty of this conceit is that it makes the nature of storytelling itself one of the film's themes. Beowulf is presented as an exaggerating braggart and even an outright liar concerning his early exploits. After Beowulf is crowned and they perform his "song" decades later, the depiction of Grendel's disarming corresponds to the bare-handed version in the original poem and not the mechanically-assisted version we saw take place earlier in the film; the story has evolved to be bolder and more heroic than the reality. The implication is that this same change has happened to the rest of the story over time, the character's flaws were lost and he became the idealized hero of the poem. (This is also hinted at the film's treatment of Christianity as a rising religion among a rowdy pagan culture, closer to historical reality of the time the poem is set, while the poem of course portrays its heroes as good Christian men.)
The introduction of character flaws into the narrative provides room for character development and greater psychological reality over the course of the film narrative, but it also ties into the theme of storytelling and sets up the ambiguous ending, which I won't spoil here. Why do we tell the stories of heroes such as Beowulf? Why are they so idealized? The answer is so that we mere mortals may be inspired by these stories to overcome our flaws, to avoid the mistakes of the past, and to hope for a better future. This is the position that Wiglaf (and the audience) is left in at the end of the film: is he doomed to succumb to temptation and corruption like those who came before him, or can the tale and memory of those such as Beowulf give him the strength and courage to resist?
It's a new and interesting layer to the story, providing greater dimension and expressing an interesting, meta-textual perspective on the poem - a companion, not a replacement. There's more to cover here - too much, really - but hopefully it's apparent that there is indeed more to this film than what meets the eye.
Is the film a masterpiece? No. For all the intelligent choices made in the adaptation, the execution seems a bit off. Post-"300", the soundtrack is sprinkled with distorted electric guitar riffs to let the teenage boys know that, no, really, this story is COOL. During Beowulf's fight with Grendel, the constant and convenient coverage of his genitals quickly becomes an annoying joke. The animation, while often breathtakingly detailed and beautiful, occasionally looks dull and lifeless; the heightened realism of the motion-capture movements highlights some of the faults of the rendered character designs and lighting. Lastly, while going all-digital has freed up Zemeckis's camera to create some mind-bogglingly creative and awesome shots, he does have a tendency to go over-the-top and his direction calls attention to itself; a tad more restraint could have made this film a classic. As is, it's solid entertainment.
The Blu-ray itself showcases exemplary picture and sound, as well as a couple of hours of documentaries and deleted scenes, all presented in high definition. It's not a Criterion-worthy package, but it gets the job done and is worthwhile.
If you can accept that the poem is the poem and the film is the film, this disc is highly recommended.
Beowulf is a new version of a classic tale. The animation style really comes to life when seen in Imax 3D. This is one movie worth seeing in the theatre and owning in HD.
There are three groups who will want to see Beowulf no matter what reviewers think: those who loved the Polar Express (same creators, same animation style), those who love mythology and war movies, and those who love Angelina Jolie. And yet the real reason to see this movie should attract a much wider audience: this is a visually stunning "video game" on the movie screen. While any new take on a classic tale will upset purists, this movie is worth suspending disbelief for the entertainment value.
The animation of the film is very "cartoon" and "video game like." While that may not satisfy those who are looking for entirely realistic CGI effects, it is an artistic form that is very compelling when seen in Imax 3D. Clearly, the technology will improve in future movies. Regardless, the creativity and artistry of this movie should be appreciated for what it is.
There are many 3D elements that leap out at viewers. If they added smells and water spray it would be very similar to some Disney World 3D movies. My only curiousity is how (if at all) they plan on making the 3D experience available to home viewers
The score is very well put together and complements the movie experience. There is a lot of driving heart pounding composition, almost operatic in nature. And there are also soft pensive songs. In any case, the music is also well appreciated in a theatre, and sets this version apart from previous ones all on its own.
Acting and Direction
The acting is really well tailored for the film, in as much as CGI can be. Really, this is an accomplishment in direction and film editing. You will find yourself asking, "who is that actor who plays Beowulf?" And when you see Ray Winstone in real life, you will be even more amazed. Robing Wright Penn as the queen and Anthony Hopkins as the king give the most classic expressive performances of the group. And unfortunately for the Jolie fans out there, her role is somewhat minor in the scope of this movie.
Those who read Beowulf will leave with a certain feeling of "Huh?" after seeing this movie. The story has been changed, but in a purposeful way. It is true that Beowulf comes across as more vulnerable than in the original accounts. In the end, I defer to the creators. They have created a different version of this story that should be appreciated on it's own. Purists aside, it's an interesting take on the tale.
Overall, this is a great entertainment movie. See it in the theatre, get the DVD in HD, and marvel at how far we've come in the worlds of animation, computing and entertainment.
on August 1, 2009
I teach British Literature to high school juniors. The students begged me last year to show Beowulf after we read the epic in class. I told them I had to watch it first but did not ever remember to rent it. Then, I saw it on Showtime this summer, and I have to say I was somewhat impressed. I could definitely show this in my classroom for two reasons:
1) I teach my students about film as interpretation of literature. This is somewhat of a departure from the original epic, but it is in a way that's creative and interesting. I think for a lot of readers, the movie attempts to answer questions left by holes in the original story. We can discuss later if we think the interpretation is plausible or not. For instance, the relationship between Grendel's mother and Hrothgar would be a good discussion point. Also while reading, we discuss different scholar's interpretations of Beowulf. Some scholars feel that the emphasis on Christianity was added later by monk/scribes in an effort to convert the pagan masses. The movie definitely supports that idea.
2)I feel that there is opportunity to compare the film version to other classic epics, particularly the Odyssey. The scene where Beowulf stabs the sea monsters in the eye is reminiscent of Odysseus' encounter with the Cyclops. Also, Angelina portraying Grendel's mother as an enchanting seductress definitely reminds me of Circe. And then, the theme that "a hero comes home" relates to the Odyssey as well. I think analyzing why the director/writers chose to make these connections to the Odyssey could lead to an interesting discussion. Also, it would give us a chance to discuss what "Hollywood" aspects have been applied to the epic.
I will definitely show this in class next semester, but I give it only 4 stars. I thought that some of the sexual references were over the top. I also didn't think it was necessary to show Beowulf's butt. However, I know my students are mature enough to handle watching the movie, even though I will still have to listen to some snickering. I don't think that these things are enough to take away from the main points that I want to discuss in class.
on April 4, 2008
Or---"He comes from the Land of the Ice and Snow!"
Look man: You know Times are getting tough when a Monster can't go next door and tell the neighbors to keep a lid on it. I mean, Have some sympathy for the Devil, man: I'm talking about poor, twisted, mewling, scarred, warped, stretched, folded, spindled and mutilated Grendel, the cave-dwelling monster that gets Robert Zemeckis's eye-popping "Beowulf" off to its high-octane start.
It's the end of the age of High Magic and the beginning of the Age of Man: so the skalds in the ale-halls sing---and with the latter comes the fact that it's damned near impossible where a man-eating monster can't get a decent night's sleep.
Jeez. What's a Monster to do when the horn-helmed rowdies three valleys and a mountain range over won't shut up? Yeah, true, you gotta fight for yer right to party, but you also gotta fight for your right to a good night's sleep.
So demonstrating that all Politics is really Local, Grendel (conjured up to whiney, howling, shockingly terrifying surreality by the immortal Crispin Hellion Glover) ambles on in to Ye Olde Meade Hall and shows 'em a face only a Mother could Love. I've had nights back in grad school like that, only I didn't fling people across the dorm. Might have been cathartic.
Whatever it is, it means that a) it soon gets really tough to hire good help at Heorot's Olde Meade Hall; b) business starts jumpin' for the local Undertaker! and c) King Hrothgar (Anthony Hopkins clothed in his CGI birthday suit, baby!), unlike Tina Turner, needs another hero before the Danish party-scene starts lookin' like Beirut.
Happily, a Geat NEEDS TO EAT! Beowulf (voiced by Ray Winstone, who trades his yellow speedo from "Sexy Beast" for a little chainmail and horned helm here) that is, hero of the Geats, and a dude with a great singin' voice! He hoists his vorpal sword in hand and does a little bedding down in Ye Olde Mead Hall, and it's not long before Grendel comes calling for a little late-night Danish Doorbell Ditching and the rest, as they say, is History (which can soon be said for Grendel as well).
But remember what I said about Grendel having a face only a Mother could love? Well, he does. And so this particularly tall Tale gets Taller and sports---well, a Tail.
Now: Bobby Zemeckis sexed up the million-year old Anglo-Saxon borefest (reputedly "Beowulf" may be older than John McCain!) with a little help from comics visionary Neil Gaiman: the storytelling here is really what we needed way back in junior high, when hormones were racing and the turgid tale before us was not. The pace is sheer, supple, and enormously satisfying---very primal.
But you really go check out "Beowulf" for one thing: you're seeing the Future, baby, and it works. I saw "Beowulf" in 3-D on an IMAX screen and the effect---true three-dimensional cinema---made me purr: I now understand George Lucas and James Cameron's fascination with the possibilities of 3-D film.
It's a truly immersive experience, an insurgent rush that airdrops the viewer into the film, a lush, living landscape all the more pregnant with possibility and menace, and the revolutionary possibilities for this new medium became immediately apparent from the brilliant, jaw-dropping tracking shot back and away and over the Danes Mead Hall, up over a wintry and sleeping landscape, to the craggy lair of a drowsing Ogre.
The technology is all the more ingeniously deployed in a film like Beowulf, where you're huddling in the smokey Mead Hall while some huge and furious Thing batters against the doors, or clutched on the back of a rat between a falcon's claws flying high above a winter landscape, or perched oozily behind one of Grendel's scabby, suppurating ears. I found myself reaching out into space like a giddy cat to touch the rusty, finely honed spearpoint of a halberd made real in three dimensions, or to grab at a chestful of baubles and booty tossed my way across a trestle table.
And speaking of a chestful of booty, Angelina Jolie (Grendel's Mama)can slink into my Meade Hall any ol' time; couple that with Zemeckis's rabble-rousing envelope pushing (ripping! shredding!) technology, a lean, mean, & provocative storyline that delves into the murkier territory of the ancient Legend, and Ray Winstone opening up a vorpal can of Anglo-Saxon throwdown (new "Beowulf" tagline: "GEAT IS MURDER!"), and "Beowulf" is a real Dragonslayer that is almost embarrassingly and compulsively watchable.
on April 16, 2012
I saw this on cable once and had to have it. Really a great movie and I'm a fan of Ray Winstone (loved him in King Arthur). . so I had to purchase this story of the warrior Beowulf must fight and defeat the monster Grendel who is terrorizing towns, and later, Grendel's mother, who begins killing out of revenge. Great cast too Anthony Hopkins, John Malkovich, Robin Wright. I would definitely recommend this. . Glad I have this in my collection. . hmmm I think I'll watch it tonight!
The story of Beowulf is the oldest story of the English language. It's an epic story about a heroic man who seems capable of doing supernatural deeds. When I was a senior in high school I read Beowulf for the first time and loved the story and themes the story was about. I enjoyed reading the story even more years later in college when I had an opportunity to read a few portions in the original Old English. I enjoyed the story just as much a few later when I read Semus Heaney's translation soon after it was published. The story is a grand one and is an archetype of a grand heroic epic. One would think that someone would use the story to write a great script and make a great movie. Several film adaptations have been made of the story, but none of them have been very good. Most of them have attempted to add their own twist on the story and in doing so ruin the essence of the epic nature of the story (the closest film adaptation of the story is THE 13TH WARRIOR with Antonio Banderas and Beowulf isn't even a character). Therefore, I was very excited to learn that Robert Zemeckis (BACK TO THE FUTURE, FORREST GUMP, CASTAWAY) was making a new animated version of the story using his new ground-breaking CGI process. When I learned that Neil Gaiman was one of the screenwriters, I became even more interested in the movie. However, like many films released in 2007, BEOWULF just didn't live up to the hype.
The setting is in a remote part of Denmark sometime during the Dark Ages. King Hrothgar (Anthony Hopkins), his wife Wealthow (Robin Wright Penn), and his subjects are having a major celebration triumphing the completion of the new mead hall, Heorot. Hrothgar becomes heavily inebriated as do his men and the beginnings of an orgy ensue. But the celebration has awakened a giant monster, Grendel (Crispin Glover), from his peaceful slumber. Grendel barges into Heorot and no one is able to stop him. The people flee and Heorot is sealed shut.
The story fast-forwards to the arrival of Beowulf (Ray Winston). Beowulf has come to slay the beast Grendel and bring peace to Hrothgar's kingdom. Beowulf fights the monster naked and as the creature flees he traps its arm in a door and removes it. It appears that life can return to normal, but there is something rotten in the state of Denmark: Grendel's mother (Angelina Jolie) lives and seeks revenge for the death of her son. Traveling with his faithful companion Wiglaf (Brendan Gleeson), Beowulf tracks the monster to the cave where she resides. The creature isn't exactly like he imagined. Beowulf is tempted and has to make a choice. Beowulf learns a terrible secret while in the cave.
Years later, Beowulf is now an old man and King of the Danes. He is married to Wealthow and they have no children. They love each other, but Beowulf if full of vices and has had many mistresses. The kingdom has grown and become strong. But a new evil in the form of a dragon threatens that prosperity. Beowulf has to face the creature and make amends with his past.
Most of the discussion about BEOWULF has been about the animation. Some people love it, some think it is terrible. There's no doubt that the film further pushes the envelope of the use of technology in filmmaking. I found the animation to be incredible realistic, almost too much so. At times the film seemed to be a surreal dream. Also, the characters eyes don't convey much emotion and therefore at times it feels like one is watching an extended video game sequence rather than an entire movie. Despite that, I was neither impressed by the animation nor turned off by it.
What disappointed me about the movie was the story. For example, the film turns Grendel's mother into a beautiful woman that seduced Hrothgar and attempts to seduce Beowulf. Beowulf is supposed to kill her, not sleep with here. I was also disappointed in the death of Hrothgar and Beowulf becoming King of the Danes. In the original story, Beowulf returns to his own people and becomes their King. He fights off giants and invaders and lives a very happy life and brings prosperity to his kingdom. When the dragon comes, everyone but Wiglaf forsakes him and because he seems to always do the right thing, he tracks the creature to it's lair and fights it. No major film version of Beowulf has ever told the story the way it was originally told. BEOWULF could have, but instead decided to "update" the story with a "modern" approach. Beowulf in this movie is a hero, but he is not an epic hero. Instead, he's watered down with lustful longings, lying boasts, jealous cravings, and greed-filled dreams. One of the reasons I always liked the story of Beowulf is because he is a character that one wants to try to be like; at times his life seems inhuman, but he is an ideal, a person to pattern one's life after. BEOWULF takes all of that away from Beowulf and makes the character just an ordinary man who happens to be really, really strong.
Other than the perhaps the animation, the most impressive thing about the movie is the music. The instrumentals are full of majesty and the vocal numbers, especially those sung by Robin Wright Penn, are full of wistful longing.
The film is rated PG-13, but should have been rated R. There's lots of graphic violence, many overt sexual allusions, and even some full frontal nudity.
Overall, BEOWULF tries to be ground-breaking movie that is the penultimate film adaptation of the classic story, but instead is just an expensive imitation like all the movie versions that have come before.
on February 26, 2008
This is a difficult movie to review, mainly because I hated it, and I bought it, and I'll probably watch it many times. As you can see, I feel extremely conflicted about it.
The biggest problem for me is that I loved the poem, it's one of my personal favorite works of literature, but Robert Zemeckis hated it (as you'll hear him say if you watch the special features). He really had no business making a movie about Beowulf. The essence of the original poem is the heroism of Beowulf and others, a heroism they made sure to destroy in this version. Several characters from the poem that I found inspiring have been reduced to bragging liars, including Beowulf himself. In fact, there is not a single hero you can really respect and look up to in the entire movie, since they make sure to ruin them all by the very end. I was literally disgusted.
But on the other hand... I *can* appreciate a fun action flick.
I love fantasy movies, and as far as fantasy movies go this one is quite a lot of fun. The animation didn't bother me, apart from some wooden movement here and there it looks very good. All animation has its quirks you have to accept, and this movie is no exception. I personally loved the look of things, the lighting and textures are excellent. The action is fun and original. Overall it's just a fun movie to watch, if you can get over your stomach turning.
My feelings about this movie are similar to my feelings about the movie Conan the Barbarian. I loved the original Conan stories, but John Milius just butchered the character, turning him into a muscle-headed pansy. In spite of that it makes a great fantasy movie, just not a good Conan movie. In the case of Beowulf it's a fun and exciting fantasy movie, but it's a horrible Beowulf movie. If you don't watch it expecting Beowulf, if you're expecting flashy CGI and cheap action with shallow characters who can fight, but little else, you'll probably enjoy it. I did, for what that's worth.
The one thing now that really kills me is that now that there has been a Beowulf movie from Hollywood, they won't want to make a *really* good one. Maybe part of the reason I'm willing to accept the faults is because I love Beowulf and don't expect Hollywood to produce anything better any time soon. It's sad, but true.
If you are interested in the Beowulf legend (or over the age of 13), I suggest these alternatives:
Beowulf & Grendel - also creatively adapted but with much more respect for the original.
The 13th Warrior - not without its faults, but it's an interesting take on the legend. Based on the excellent Beowulf-inspired novel, Eaters of the Dead, by Michael Crichton.
on January 24, 2008
I am a Beowulf fan and very much wanted to like this movie, but it was an odd sort of disappointment. While the 3-D effects were good, and the makers did a good job uniting live action and animation, the movie still has a herky-jerky quality to it, with Beowulf, for example, doing a lot of weird and unnatural gymnastics in his fight with Grendel. And Grendel looked like a overboiled piece of sausage, not realistic or believable at all. Sort of like the monster in Alien Resurrection, with pieces seeming ready to fall off at a sneeze. No wonder Beowulf was able to twist off one of those rotting arms. And Grendel's mother---nice to look at, almost naked except for the covering of blue slime. Not believable either. And the liasons between Hrothgar/Beowulf and Grendel's mother were not in the story and should not have been put in the movie. That was a real travesty. The dragon was the best of the three monsters, but why did such a large beast have such a small heart? I give this movie 3 stars, but if I were less hung up on the Beowulf story I would have given it two stars. And if the eyes had been any deader I would have given a star less for that. Why make a movie like this one, with all sorts of special effects, but fail to get the eyes right?