Beowulf (2007)

DVD Cover (Paramount)
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Overall Rating 56%
Overall Rating
Ranked #899
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The warrior Beowulf must fight and defeat the monster Grendel, who is terrorizing Denmark, and later, Grendel's Mother, who begins killing out of revenge. --IMDb
Review by bluemeanie
Added: November 17, 2007
There's a reason why you haven't seen a feature length adaptation of "The Canterbury Tales". It's far too long and expansive to be transformed into a single motion picture. You read about it in school, and that's basically all you get from it. The opposite can be said about "Beowulf". You also read about it in school, but there's really not enough material there to make a feature length film, which has always been the hold-up in adapting it for the screen. Robert Zemeckis was certainly not afraid of this challenge. Having already created "The Polar Express" using the same kind of motion capture CGI-animation, "Beowulf" was to utilize the same technology, but amp up the sexuality and the violence so that Zemeckis even considered releasing a NC-17 version of the film. "Beowulf" is supposed to represent a new age in digital technology, paving the way for the day when actors won't even be needed at all. Personally, I hope that day never comes. Because, if I only had films like "Beowulf" to keep me occupied, I might go insane. It's an ambitious film, to say the least, and it was meant to be seen in 3-D, but take away the gimmick and what are you left with? A pretty dull and lifeless tale that has to be expanded upon too much because the material just isn't there. This wasn't a bad film, and I applaud Zemeckis' vision, but "Beowulf" was disappointing.

If you graduated from high school, you know the story of "Beowulf". A village in Denmark, under the rule of King Hrothgar (Anthony Hopkins), is under attack by a monstrous demon named Grendel (Crispin Glover), who plunders and kills at his own discretion. Hrothgar places a call to nations for and wide that he will give half the gold of his kingdom to any man who can slay Grendel and help restore peace to his land, infuriating his bravest warrior, Unferth (John Malkovich). The call is answered by a warrior named Beowulf (Ray Winstone) who comes with his men ,including his best friend Wiglaf (Brendan Gleeson), to slay Grendel and claim their glory. And Beowulf does just what he says he will do - he slays Grendel. However, this evokes the wrath of Grendel's Mother (Angelina Jolie), a more powerful demon who makes Beowulf an offer he can't refuse. Flash forward to many years later and Beowulf's kingdom is under siege by another Grendel-like demon. Beowulf's queen (Robin Wright Penn) knows something is up and knows what he has done, just as she knew what Hrothgar had done. Beowulf regrets the decisions of his past and wants to end the madness once and for all. I hope I am not giving anything away, but the good guys don't win. The story does not end on a happy note. Revenge is satisfied and the revenger fulfilled.

There are some severely boring segments of this film. Screenwriters Neil Gaiman and Roger Avary try to keep everything interesting and fast-moving, but they just can't. Maybe it's because the least interesting character in the film is the character of Beowulf. Maybe it's the way Ray Winstone plays him, or the continued inability to perfect man's speech rhythms and tones, but something about Beowulf is just not accessible. But, if you're going to see "Beowulf", 3-D is the way to go. I had the chance to see the film in the Real-D 3-D at Rave Motion Pictures, and there's a reason why 3-D is sold as a gimmick, which is evident throughout the film. Action scenes become more intense, dance sequences more unhinged and ordinary everyday things more interesting. However, this is not enough to make an interesting films. Remove the gimmick from this film and you don't have very much at all - a compact and precise story expanded to make room for more romance, more action and more "300"-esque exclamations that seem more parody than anything else and received a mixture of laughs and wide eyes from the audience. Beowulf seems to be evoking more Gerard Butler than the ancient warriors and his "David & Goliath" method of killing Grendel just seems far too tame and pedestrian in the big screen. Also - why make Grendel so sympathetic? He's far more menacing when you are not hating the 'supposed' hero for killing him.

Kudos to Robert Zemeckis for casting Crispin Glover as Grendel. Talk about outside-the-box thinking that really pays off. Glover is perfect in the role, especially when Grendel is down in the bog, spitting out Middle-English like it's pig-Latin. Angelina Jolie is also effective as Grendel's Mother, whose wrath comprises the second half of the film, in various forms. Anthony Hopkins and John Malkovich both do fine service to their roles, as Hrothgar and Unferth, and Brendan Gleeson has some sly comic touches in the role of steadfast sidekick. I save Ray Winstone for last because he was the most disappointing and totally miscast. He is not convincing. He is the only character whose animated self does not match up, at least a little, with what he looks like in reality. Maybe this is what is so distracting, because it doesn't seem like that voice would come from a character like that. Plus, Winstone is obviously not made for voicing animated characters - proof positive being his voice performance from "The Chronicles of Narnia". Some actors just don't need to step away from the screen. Had the character of Beowulf been more interesting, and had Ray Winstone been more interesting playing him, I might have enjoyed the film far more than I did. Instead, I could only sit and witch how motion capture animation still has light years to go. It will never replace real actors because it just can't convey the same emotional range. When the day comes that it can convey that range, it won't be animation anymore. It'll be live action again.

So, do I recommend "Beowulf" to audiences? Yes and no. I recommend you check the film out in the 3-D theatre of your choice, because that's the way it's meant to be seen. And it offers a few nice visual touches that will probably leave a lot of people satisfied. However, I don't recommend the film on its merits, because I feel it missed a lot of opportunities and drags for far too long. Robert Zemeckis needs to return to his live action roots and start giving us something with characters whose eyes don't look like two tiny black dots in a head. Maybe if he would have went all out with his original NC-17 vision, things might have ended up better. Or, not. Who knows. The point is that "Beowulf" is disappointing. It's not so disappointing that I'm telling you not to see it, because I won't discourage anyone from having a truly unique movie-going experience, and this form of 3-D entertainment is definitely unique. What I'm saying is this - "At the end of the day, when all of the smoke has settled and the box office numbers have tumbled in and the actors have been paid and the director is off to his next project - what point did "Beowulf" have?"

Crispy #1: Crispy - added 06/10/2008, 07:58 PM
Mother of God, this was awful
Kezia Vadimas #2: Kezia Vadimas - added 07/15/2008, 05:16 PM
I wholeheartedly agree, watching it was almost as bad as reading the poem, neither of which I will ever torture myself with again.
Tristan #3: Tristan - added 07/15/2008, 10:05 PM
Look at this chick, stealing my avatar. And the poem was great, so I don't know how you can slag it off.
Greg Follender #4: Greg Follender - added 09/01/2008, 01:12 AM

I agree wholeheartedly with your sentiments regarding that majestic poem, Fecal (and something about that sentence itself seems somehow contradictory)...

I found the movie to be all flash and little substance...
I do disagree, however, that the original tale hasn't enough material to warrant a full film treatment without the usual filler drek that "film makers" feel that they need to contribute to this classic tale. There's hubris aplenty without all the manufactured convolutions that this film mistakenly uses to inflate the narrative.

This was a misstep... even beyond the painful anachronistic dialogue and design choices...

Ginose #5: Ginose - added 04/08/2010, 09:31 PM
Know what t he worst part is? I REALLY wanted to give this one a chance. Then I did.

And has anyone here read the whole poem? Honestly? That shit is boring. Glad the movie did nothing more than pack the condensed version of the story in.
Lucid Dreams #6: Lucid Dreams - added 06/05/2010, 12:29 AM
I enjoyed the poem, but this just failed. 4/10
Greg Follender #7: Greg Follender - added 06/05/2010, 12:40 AM
Hmm... I enjoyed the poem as well, Lucid.
Guess we need to find a copy that has pretty pictures alongside the verse to keep Ginose interested should he choose to revisit the work;-)
Crispy #8: Crispy - added 06/07/2013, 04:52 AM
I watched this again, and actually really liked it. It's kind of a subtle tongue-in-cheek parody of things then anything else.
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