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Overall Rating
3.68

Awesome: 21.54%
Worth A Look38.46%
Average: 29.23%
Pretty Bad: 7.69%
Total Crap: 3.08%

6 reviews, 29 user ratings


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Beowulf (2007)
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by Lybarger

"The monsters are in 3D; the story isn’t."
3 stars

Robert Zemeckis’ (‘Forrest Gump’) over-the-top reworking of the seventh century epic poem offers more carnage than a slaughterhouse and all the carnality a PG-13 movie can offer. While the new ‘Beowulf’ easily meets its quota for computer-generated spectacle and gore, the script by Neil Gaiman (‘MirrorMask’) and Roger Avary (‘Pulp Fiction’) has interesting touches but isn’t for the ages.

Zemeckis is less interested in preserving the spirit of archived texts than he is in pushing the limits of computer-generated images (CGI) and motion-capture technology. The latter allows actors to play their roles with pixels instead of makeup.

As a result, the bulky British actor Ray Winstone can play the tightly-muscled Beowulf, and Crispin Glover can play the enormous, deformed monster Grendel. The computer-generated likenesses of the actors perform the same moves and expressions as the performers.

In Zemeckis’ (2004) “The Polar Express,” this technique resulted in human characters with dead eyes and skin like vinyl. In three years, the technology has improved greatly. The major characters now have skin with pores and scars, and the eyes are more lifelike.

The minor characters look like they’ve walked in from a “Shrek” movie (wooden expressions and bland appearances), and some of the reaction shots lack the spontaneity a live actor could bring to the role. The approach Zack Snider brought to “300,” where live actors performed in front of computer-generated backdrops, might have been more effective.

Fortunately, there is enough fantasy eye-candy to make up for any quibbles about the aesthetics used to create the people. The battle scenes offer enough blood and severed flesh to fill the Marianas Trench. The effect is especially spectacular in 3D, where the bloodletting seems to fly all over the theater.

A fearsome creature named Grendel has attacked Danish king Hrothgar’s (Sir Anthony Hopkins) new mead hall, killing the king’s warriors and generally putting the kibosh on his drunken merriment.

To take out the flesh-eating ogre, Beowulf arrives with his band of Geats from Sweden. While he has a history of dodging or killing supernatural carnivores, Beowulf has more than Grendel to conquer. The monster’s mother (Angelina Jolie) has an impressive and subtle array of defenses for herself and her son, and there may be more obstacles to Beowulf’s attempts to keep Denmark safe and peaceful.

The first act of the film follows the outline of the old poem but gradually veers in a more morally intriguing direction. Beowulf is simply a guy who clobbers big monsters in the poem, but Gaiman and Avary present him as a more complicated figure, one who can let his thirst for glory lead him to regrettable decisions.

This deviation isn’t much of a problem. Where the screenwriters stumble is in the way they develop the female characters. There’s a limp triangle between Beowulf, Danish Queen Wealtheow (Robin Wright Penn) and a “bedmate” named Ursula (Alison Lohman). Love must be so dull in Denmark that it’s no wonder that Hrothgar and Beowulf never become fathers.

Jolie’s monster looks like Jolie with gold liquid slowly running off her skin. Notice how Zemeckis cuts away from her right as the gold is about to fall off her nipples. It’s a tease that’s more clumsy than coy. Similarly, Beowulf figures he can fight Grendel best if he’s naked. It’s giggle inducing to see how many times Zemeckis places objects in the frame so that viewers won’t see Beowulf’s organs.

John Maklovich and Brendan Gleeson are a overqualified to be playing Beowulf’s detractor and best friend. Neither role is that interesting, and there isn’t much tension whenever the monsters leave.

Thanks to some stilted dialogue and sketchy characters, the exposition scenes in ‘Beowulf’ are about as exciting as listening to a bored substitute teacher trying to read the original poem aloud to an English class.

If you are lucky enough to catch the film in a theater equipped with an IMAX 3D projection system, Zemeckis’ overkill is a treat. Even the Paramount and Warner Bros. logos look awe inspiring in this format.

Without the 3D fireworks, “Beowulf” isn’t as fun as it should be. It’s hard to imagine monks working hard to keep this film preserved for future generations.

link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=15578&reviewer=382
originally posted: 11/16/07 21:00:00
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User Comments

11/18/14 PAUL SHORTT A FEAST OF IMAGERY COUPLED WITH FINE DRAMA 3 stars
2/06/14 Charles Tatum Sometimes awkward animation gets in the way 4 stars
6/21/10 Craig D. Good visuals but with a script that feels like a first draft. 2 stars
5/03/09 feolindo Exciting, funny and poignant by turns. Wonderful. 4 stars
11/28/08 Yvette Could be better. I own it. Its a sleeper if you don't pay attention. 3 stars
7/20/08 Shaun Wallner Beowulf Rocks!! I enjoy the game too. 5 stars
5/10/08 Siggie I really enjoyed it, though the CGI was a little disconcerting. 4 stars
4/23/08 David Cohen Good story, but why the animation? It was like watching some one play a video game 3 stars
4/12/08 John Millheim I loved it, the 3D was amazing. Good story 5 stars
4/06/08 Arcane Excellent. And sad. Extremely watchable. 4 stars
2/08/08 Physed Good movie 3D was fantastic but why did he fight the monster naked. 5 stars
2/06/08 boob yoob Nice eye candy indeed, and not just the shapely mother, but some clunky dialog kept it back 4 stars
12/20/07 sj Saw 2x in 3D and IMAX; hoping for an R-rated Director's Cut DVD! 5 stars
12/15/07 Glen Best animated movie I've ever seen! Excellent story, action and 3D! 5 stars
12/08/07 Hello Stranger it felt restricted, and somewhat lame. unintentionally funny at times. 2 stars
12/03/07 BBTN Plot was predicatble, 3d wasn't amazing, storyline was dull, fight scenes were lame. 1 stars
12/03/07 I-K Has its moments, but can't make up its mind if it's fairy tale or reality. Visually uneven. 3 stars
12/02/07 Selene 3-D, digital effect - good attempt with the tech. plot line - too much modern cynicism 2 stars
11/27/07 Dan Rugg Great movie start to finish!! 4 stars
11/27/07 Riki BORING. I'd have prefered real life actors with CGI imagery. 3 stars
11/25/07 Mme Cyn Don't watch this instead doing your homework -- they took liberties with the storyline! 4 stars
11/21/07 illinoisjules Highly recommend this twist on animation 5 stars
11/21/07 Sir Gawain were they trying to be funny? or do I just have a twisted sense of humor. weird. 3 stars
11/20/07 Bob Dog Storytelling is doing just fine without mo-cap... 2 stars
11/20/07 James Not worth your time or money. 1 stars
11/18/07 Private Much ado about nothing. Very underwhelming. 2 stars
11/18/07 battlescar BEST MOVIE ANIMATION EVERRR!!!! SEE IT IN 3D!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 5 stars
11/17/07 Ole Man Bourbon 5* for some truly spectacular scenes. 3-D was highly enjoyable. 5 stars
11/17/07 mike kind of overrated and i didn't know it was animated going into it. jolie was nice eye candy 3 stars
IF YOU'VE SEEN THIS FILM, RATE IT!
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USA
  16-Nov-2007 (PG-13)
  DVD: 26-Feb-2008

UK
  16-Nov-2007 (12A)

Australia
  29-Nov-2007 (M)




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