Beowulf (2007)

Beowulf film reviewAny film with Ray Winstone has to be worth watching, in my opinion. So I had already decided I wanted to see Beowulf before realising that it ticks so many more boxes – it’s a 1000 year old story, in IMAX 3-D, has Anthony Hopkins, Angelina Jolie, John Malkovich and was directed by Robert Zemeckis (Back to the Future, What Lies Beneath, The Polar Express and many more).

I wasn’t disappointed. I was delighted, stunned, surprised, horrified, interested, confused and generally entertained from beginning to end. So often these days, I get bored in films. I also tire easily of computer generated special effects. But Zemeckis revels in the 3-D medium, taking you from extreme close-ups to swooping, circling gravity-defying rides over vast panoramas. Spears jab right into the auditorium and you find yourself involuntarily twitching in your seat to dodge a volley of arrows.

The entire film is done in performance capture CG which facilitates these impossible shots. Some of the characters strongly resemble the actors playing them, others have been completely transformed. Anthony Hopkins’ twinkly eyes are there, as are Angelina Jolie’s distinctive facial features. However, not even she is blessed with the impossibly voluptuous body we see on screen. Ray Winstone too has a perfect physique and a chiselled, Sean Bean like face. This I think is one of the challenges for the audience – to accept these confusing and selective transformations.

The possibilities which CG opens up are gained at the expense of realism when we would normally expect it. The crowd scenes in the Mead Hall seem a bit lifeless – because the ‘cartooning’ effect subtracts something the audience would see in a conventionally-shot evening of medieval drunken revelry and feasting. This isn’t helped by plodding, hesitant delivery of the dialogue especially by Anthony Hopkins.

The demon Grendel when he appears is genuinely repulsive and horrific, but because of the ‘flatness’ of the characters he is attacking, I didn’t experience terror or fear. There was also something slightly reminiscent of the stop-motion monsters we now laugh at in early movies such as the original King Kong and Lost Continent.

This is one of the few films I have watched recently which I would like to see again. Perhaps next time I will watch a 2-D version.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.