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Overall Rating

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 brianorndorf

"Dragons, Jolie, and nude dudes...what more do you want?"
4 stars

The process that’s utilized by “Beowulf” to render its grandiose scenes of confrontation is called Motion Capture. A stylized hybrid of animation and human acting (think a ‘roided up rotoscoping), mo-cap is still in its infancy, but don’t tell “Beowulf” that. A lush, pulsating adventure tale, this is the future of cinema; the limitations of storytelling inching one step further to being forever erased.

When drunken King Hrothgar (Anthony Hopkins) and his Queen (Robin Wright Penn) find their land besieged by the vile and wicked monster Grendel (Crispin Glover), they call on hero Beowulf (Ray Winstone) to slay the beast. With an ego to match his skill, Beowulf battles Grendel, only to find his hazardously tempting Mother (Angelina Jolie) a more conniving foe. After victory becomes his mythical imprisonment, Beowulf’s talents are needed again when a dragon ravages the kingdom.

“Beowulf” is the most famous of poems. An epic adventure dating back to the year 700, the tale of heroism has been debated, explored, and CliffsNoted a thousand times over, but I’m positive it’s never been envisioned quite like this movie. Visual magician (or director) Robert Zemeckis has snatched the poem and pried it open by way of intricate mo-cap execution, the same process that brought “Polar Express” to life in 2004, conceiving luxuriant primitive worlds for Beowulf to conquer and snarling enemies to fight. It’s classic adventure storytelling, thrilling when the film eventually settles into its battle cry, and pinched raw by modern twists that hurl “Beowulf” away from a sleepy high school assignment and toward something genuinely unpredictable.

Certainly the screenplay by Roger Avary and Neil Gaiman does take time to get rolling, as it has difficulty shifting gears between Beowulf’s brawling sense of war and his royal exhaustion. However, words are of little importance in this picture, since Zemeckis is serving up an overflowing basket of big screen treats, even offering the film in 3-D and IMAX formats (the preferred theatrical exhibition, lemme tell ya) to best grab the viewer by the throat.

Being a perfectionist and a firm believer in constructing shots instead of shooting for the edit, Zemeckis uses the freedom and fluidity of mo-cap to imagine Beowulf’s towering feats of strength. Watching the title character slice sea creatures in half, leap on a flying dragon, or fight Grendel in the nude (the film’s best sequence), it becomes clear that “Beowulf” is fearless with its staging. In the animation realm, Beowulf’s stories of past glory can be executed to soaring heights, while his current troubles with creatures of all shapes and sizes drip with newfound flexibility, meticulously orchestrated in the director’s imaginative, affectionately sustained shot list.

It’s also nice to see animation with a little venom to it. As much as “Beowulf” is a tale of unmerciful violence, topped off with bodies ripped in half and bloodletting that would make Pixar faint, the running mood of the film is a decidedly hot blooded one.

Besides the aforementioned fight of the nude dudes (sold with amusing “Austin Powers” framing), the character of Grendel’s Mother is presented as a lustful, gorgeous beast with a heavenly body and persuasive promises of satisfaction and fame upon delivery of a sexual favor. For reasons so obvious my teeth hurt, Angelina Jolie is ideal casting. Beowulf is a man of chest-thumping action and mead-swilling respect, taking thunderous pride in achievements both real and imagined. Yet, it makes sense that he would throw it all away for a taste of this gold-slicked mommy demon who can melt swords with a mere touch and a helping of sex kitten purr. Zemeckis couldn’t have cast the she-devil better if he tried.

Don’t let Paramount’s atrocious marketing fool you, “Beowulf” is a film of great surprise and heart-stopping visual gusto. It also reaffirms Robert Zemeckis’s place as a brilliant cinematic architect, still capable of eliciting eye-watering awe.

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originally posted: 11/17/07 01:14:54
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User Comments

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
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  16-Nov-2007 (PG-13)
  DVD: 26-Feb-2008

  16-Nov-2007 (12A)

  29-Nov-2007 (M)

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