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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 Rob Gonsalves

"Eye candy that you can't quite taste."
3 stars

Shrieking with grief and purring with lust ó or at least with desire for more offspring ó Angelina Jolie is about the best reason to see 'Beowulf,' aside from the eye-candy factor of the digital 3D. (Iíve seen it in 3D and 2D, and thereís really no comparison; if youíre going to see this, get thee to a theater with a digital 3D set-up.)

Grendelís mother, the unearthly creature who gave birth to the beast who terrorized Hrothgar and his fellow mead-swillers, is one of the great evil characters in all of literature, a symbol of the cycle of rage put in perpetual spin by war. You kill Grendel, you now have his mother to deal with. It never ends. Jolie is the only actor in Beowulf who seems fulfilled, not constricted, by the elaborate motion-capture animation commanded by director Robert Zemeckis and his army of techs. She is perversely maternal, mockingly seductive, a succubus whoís spent centuries musing on the best ways to torment those sordid little humans.

Zemeckis and writers Neil Gaiman and Roger Avary take considerable liberties with the ancient Anglo-Saxon poem. I donít really care; leave that to the ardent Beowulf scholars. Itís very much a Beowulf for our time, a fable in which a warriorís braggadocio rings hollow even to himself. In that respect itís a tonic corrective to the militaristic spewing of 300. But, dear God, I wish Zemeckis would throw off his addiction to technology. His mo-cap Polar Express a few years back drew justified fire because of its Uncanny Valley creepiness factor, with its smoothly rendered, dead-looking human faces with soulless eyes. Beowulf is slicker; it irons out some of the problems, but by no means all. The gestures are stiffer than youíd like them to be, the expressions incongruous with tone of voice, though the animators do a decent job with Anthony Hopkins as the shambling King Hrothgar. Itís a stunning likeness, but why spend millions of dollars recreating Hopkins in pixels?

After a promising start, in which the hulking Grendel, driven mad by the loud revelry in Hrothgarís mead hall, tears dozens of men limb from limb, the movie runs dry of freakish fantasia. Thatís the original structure: Beowulf steps up to slay Grendel; he visits Grendelís mother in her lair, then returns claiming to have killed her; he becomes king; years pass, and he falls in battle with a dragon. The result in the movie is a lot of scenes that couldíve been handled just as well as live-action. Your eyes keep telling you what youíre seeing isnít real, and after a while they get tired of reminding you and just glaze over. To me, animation should be reserved for stories or characters that absolutely canít be done any other way as effectively. By making everything shiny-unreal yet straining to be photorealistic, Zemeckis cancels out most of the dramatic force of the material. Itís at an aesthetic remove. If you caught me in the right mood I could justify it for about a minute by saying itís an idealized story, so itís told in a way that doesnít just remove the blemishes, it never programs them in the first place. But Iím not in the right mood just now; this Beowulf can be awfully pretty, but itís untouched by human hands. Itís the difference between an actual aquarium and an aquarium screensaver.

The freakishness is fun while it lasts. Crispin Gloverís Grendel, grovelling in his motherís caverns and drooling out tortured Old English, is a tremendous creation of pathos and rage. Ironically, Glover is the least visually recognizable in terms of his screen avatar, yet his performance comes through loud and clear. And John Malkovich brings some of his fey sarcasm to the role of Unferth, who doubts Beowulfís self-created legend. Elsewhere, Beowulf is short on inspiration and even imagination. Ray Winstone canít make Beowulf much more than the impersonal slab of beef heís rendered as ó he has less personality even than Leonidas in the ridiculous 300. The very end is superb, though, with the old cycle of war threatening to start spinning yet again, amid imagery of fire and water.

By then, however, I was more than ready to leave Zemeckisí hermetic world and re-enter the real one, with cars and garbage and people whose faces move properly.

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originally posted: 11/19/07 17:12:43
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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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