Opinion - Director Robert Zemeckis has created a fantastic warrior epic that has vibrantly brought the old English poem of Beowulf to life. Complete with a golden fire breathing dragon, horrendous-looking monsters, and demigod hero, the movie is entertaining enough to keep you engaged for most of its duration.
The real highlight of this flick is that Zemeckis demonstrates the power of performance capture CGI - a technique which involves real-life actors performing each scene while their physical actions and facial expressions are tracked by sensors (actors must wear a special suit or device) and captured on cameras. The data is then used by a computer to generate a 3-D image of the actor. Zemeckis used this technology in “The Polar Express” but it is much improved in Beowulf, especially when viewed in 3-D and you are transported right into the middle of the action, gore, and guts.
Set in 6th century Denmark, the movie opens with King Hrothgar (Anthony Hopkins) partying with members of his court in Mead Hall. The drunken celebration is cut short when the monster Grendel (Crispin Glover) makes an appearance in all his gruesome glory and proceeds to ravage the hall and everyone in it – save a few important characters like Queen Wealthow (Robin Wright Penn) and the aging King himself. Beowulf (Ray Winstone) comes to the kingdom to rid them of their monster but in doing so, incurs the wrath of Grendel’s seductive mother (Angelina Jolie) and the fun begins. The movie generally sticks to the original English poem but has some unique twists in there to spice things up.
For the most part, the main actors look like their real selves, with the exception of Beowulf, whose carefully chiseled physique is reminiscent of a Spartan soldier in the movie “300”. There are moments when the characters’ movements look slightly unnatural but overall they look polished enough to be live action. There are even some subtle sexual jokes tossed around (inserted around the mediocre dialogue) which give the movie a slightly modern feel and respite from the heavy slaughter in other scenes. Speaking of which, this warrior flick is definitely not for those with a weak stomach as the blood flow from graphic disembowelment scenes will aim straight for your lap in the 3-D version. Grendel is, after all, depicted as an unstoppable killing machine.
Ultimately, Beowulf is a story about a flawed hero and the eternal conflict between good and evil. It’s a good reinvention in mythology and shows promise for the future of filmmaking technology – especially prominent in Beowulf’s battle with a dragon at the end of the flick. The movie will be released nationwide on November 16th in 2-D, 3-D and IMAX 3-D. I highly recommend checking it out in 3-D.
Beowulf, 115 minutes/PG-13