Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of violence including disturbing images, some sexual material and nudity.
Directed By: Robert Zemeckis
Written By: Neil Gaiman and Roger Avary
Staring: Ray Winstone, Anthony Hopkins, John Malkovich, Robin Wright Penn, Brenden Gleeson, Crispin Glover, Alison Lohman, and Angelina Jolie
I am Ripper… Tearer… Slasher… Gouger. I am the Teeth in the Darkness, the Talons in the Night. Mine is Strength… and Lust… and Power! I AM BEOWULF! -Beowulf
Being based a masterpiece of classic literature Beowulf immediately had it’s work cut out for it, not to mention the fact that it has been adapted into different television and film versions as well. But Robert Zemeckis takes things a step further and decides to make a fully computer animated film. For the few of you that aren’t familiar with the story of Beowulf, it is about King Hrothgar in ancient Denmark. His Mead hall is attacked by the demon Grendel, who kills most of the kings men. Hrothgar announces he will give half of his kingdoms fortune to the hero who will kill Grendel. Men come from all ends of the world, all ending in their deaths, but Beowulf is not worried about his foe when he arrives. He lays and waits comfortably when Grendel bursts threw the huge Halls doors and begins tearing the men apart. With no fear Beowulf takes on Grendel removing his arm and thus ending his reign of terror. There is relief through the kingdom, but only briefly as they have by accident awakened an even greater foe: Grendel’s mother.
The most interesting aspect of this adaptation of Beowulf is the fact that it’s done completely in CGI. There is nothing cartoonesque about it. It is completely realistic other than the occasional awkward moment where you capture the non-humanness of the character or animal. The eyes even glisten with a real human feel. The immense scale on which the entire world of Denmark and Hrothgar’s hall has been created is beautiful, dark, and intriguing. When Beowulf battles the sea monsters, it’s almost plausible that they could or did exist in the past, along with Grendel, the diseased looking tormented demon.
The characters are rich, due to a century of existence and common knowledge of ideals. But due to some of sort of cliche antics along with some of the awkwardness of the CGI they somewhere lost some of the magic and depth I know so well in each of them. The fact that Wealthow actually looked like Princess Buttercup from the Princess Bride was no doubt a subconscious animation, but distracting every time Robin Wright Penn’s voice sounded. All I could picture was Buttercup. The actual character of Beowulf looked so much like Sean Bean I thought I was watching Lord Of The Rings instead of Beowulf’s tale. The only non-distracting performance was that of Hrothgar and Grendel’s mother. Anthony Hopkins and Angelina Jolie’s voice overs were impeccable. Robin Wright Penn’s might have been if not for the annoying likeness to her youthful character.
The story was played out nicely enough, and the eerie build up to the climax was entertaining enough, but the main part of the story just lacked a life that it needed to connect the viewer. It opened some doors visually and gets kudos for trying something old and making it new, but in the end was just okay.