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Movie Review - Beowulf

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Movie Review - Beowulf

Starring Ray Winstone, Anthony Hopkins, Angelina Jolie, John Malkovich

Running Time: 1 Hour 54 Minutes

Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of violence including disturbing images, some sexual material, and nudity.

Let's start the review by saying that this is not a straight adaptation of the poem that it was based on, but rather loosely based on it. Second, this isn't a cartoon for the kids. It may look animated, but its really just painting over a motion capture. This is a newer film technology that was previously used in The Polar Express and Monster House, however this time, the faces and actions are so much more realistic that at times, it is hard to understand why they didn't just film the actors actually doing it. Anyways, Beowulf is a motion captured film where the actors/actresses wore suits that would record their every movement and then animators took the information and made it move in a digital realm. In this way, they fill in the backgrounds and props with whatever they want digitally.


Beowulf has MANY violent shots such as our hero Beowulf cuts his arm half way off to be able to swing close enough to a Dragon's heart to rip it out and destroy it by squeezing it till it splatters everywhere. In another scene, Beowulf smashes a hideously deformed Grendel in a doorway and cuts his arm off. Grendel rips people in two and chews on a guy's head after killing him. Beowulf fights a bunch of sea monsters and rips through their eyes splattering blood everywhere. It really is a bit on the violent/graphic side. On top of that, there are plenty of nude scenes. Angelina Jolie's character is pretty much nude the entire time she is on screen, which is at least 10 minutes of the movie. Beowulf strips down before fighting Grendel. And although, they don't show as much on Beowulf, they do show plenty on Angelina Jolie. Actually, I was a bit surprised after watching it that it was only PG-13. I dare say that if it was not 'animated,' that it would have been rated R.

This film is surprisingly entertaining. With memories of many failed attempts to bring the poem Beowulf to the big screen, I shuttered to think of what a big-budgeted Hollywood film could do. My fears eased when they announced that the director and main producer would be Robert Zemeckis, the main behind Forest Gump, Castaway, and the ever amazing Back to the Future series. Zemeckis has been on a kick with motion capture films lately as his last film was The Polar Express and he produced Monster House. Both films that used the motion capture animated technology. He brings that technology to Beowulf and the result is even more realistic graphics than before. Enough cannot be said of the amazingly clear, realistic, and pretty graphics. They are marvelous.

The story is amped up for appeal and features many action sequences. It follows the original story slightly throughout as the main plot of Beowulf destroying Grendel and then being cursed by Grendel's mother. Beowulf displays these characters in fresh ways and it seemingly works. The story entertains and keeps you interesting throughout. There are some slow parts that could have used some tightening, but overall, the entire film is very streamlined for only the best, most entertaining parts.

I was very impressed with the graphics that came out of Beowulf although I do agree with most critics that the eyes of every character still needs some work. It always feels like they are dead and lifeless, which should be on the top of the list for motion capture activists to fix for the next one. I was also intrigued with how they portrayed the characters and advanced the story. It worked for me as I did not think that keeping to the original poem was best thing to do. I'm sure English teachers will not be happy with it, but its not meant to be educational, just entertaining. The actors/actresses were all top-notch talent and all played their parts wonderfully. The directing was fresh and very lively.

Overall, the movie was very entertaining and well worth my time. I do think that it is a bit much for a PG-13 rating. It seems like they got the PG-13 because it was animated violence and not 'real' violence. Either way, if you are 13 or over, this is a decent flick to get lost in for a couple hours.

Beowulf is playing at Cinema 3 theatres in McCook. Check out showtimes at www.fridleytheatres.com.

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