Reviewed by

Christopher Armstead

Imagine my dismay when the lovely studio rep at the screening for the Paramount Pictures 3D epic ‘Beowulf’ whipped out a pair 3D glasses for me and my boy who rolled to the screening with me to put on. When it said ‘Beowulf’ in 3D I thought it meant like CGI 3D not stereoscopic 3D. I hate those silly paper glasses with green and yellow lenses, and then to find out you’re going to have to wear them through the whole movie? Fortunately, the glasses were the kind of fly ‘Blues Brothers’ style specs and were uniform in color so I could actually wear as regular shades if I was that damn cheap, and they were large enough to fit over my normal eyeglasses since sitting too close to the TV as a child robbed me of my 20/20. Well all I can say after watching this film directed Robert Zemeckis of ‘Forest Gump’ fame is ‘Wow’!

Based on the anonymously written poem of yore, ‘Beowulf’ begins with a glorious celebration where King Hrothgar (voiced by Sir Anthony Hopkins) is lording over a raucous party filled with wine women and song, all under the disapproving eye of his young queen Wealthow (v. Robin Wright Penn) who is truly upset at Horthgar about something. Well the wild revelers are making a little bit too much noise which really gets on the sensitive monster Grendel’s nerves (Crispin Glover). Grendel crashes the party, kills as many pagan worshipping Danes he can get his hands on, except for some odd reason King Hrothgar, and then heads back to his cave.

As Bonnie Holliday would one day famously sing, Hrothgar is ‘Holding Out for a Hero’ to take care of his monster problem, and wouldn’t you know it, washing upon his shore is a real live dragon slaying, sea monster killing monster slayer named Beowulf (Ray Winstone) and his crew. Beowulf promises to kill the monster, but he is obviously more than a little distracted by the kings beautiful wife who seems as smitten

with Beowulf as he is with her. Again perturbed by the noise, this time by Beowulf’s design, Grendel shows up with a taste for blood but did not bargain on running into powerful norseman who mortally wounds the monster, bringing joy to the kingdom. Of course anyone who has read the famous poem knows all too well that Beowulf’s problems only begin with the slaying of Grendel as this brings about the real trouble of Grendel’s much more lethal mother (Angelina Jolie). Doing battle with Grendel’s mother was far more difficult than Beowulf could have ever imagined, but once he emerges from her lair he is rewarded with a kingdom and sadly, even more problems to deal with as his actions have placed his entire kingdom, and his own life, at grave risk.

After I saw the ‘Transformers’ movie, though I didn’t care for it all that much, I still recommended that everyone should see it at the theaters because at that time, three whole months ago, you’ve never seen anything like it. The same goes for ‘Beowulf’ because even if you see the film and you end up hating it, and I actually liked it, but you absolutely have to see it the theater, maybe even an IMAX theater because I swear you have never seen anything remotely close to the visually spectacular images like those you will see in this film. The magicians behind this thing were able create images that appeared to be coming from behind you in addition to the standard 3D knives and swords being thrust through the screens. There is a scene underwater were Beowulf battles a dragon that is simply breathtaking. Even basic conversation scenes have 3D spatial relationship with the audience with the main characters giving the illusion of being in your lap while the background actions take place beyond the screen. It is without a doubt amazing.

Eventually though you will stop being amazing at herds of horses galloping from behind your head and onto the screen leaving us to ponder how the film itself holds up, visuals aside. Quite well I would say, though you can’t completely separate the visuals from the film because they are so integral to the story. The initial comparison will be to Zack Snyder’s ‘300’ as the films are visually similar and also possess a similar tone in narrative, though the character of Beowulf certainly lacks moral code of the great King Leonidas. Facing that comparison ‘Beowulf’ comes up short because it lacks the visceral thrill of ‘300’ and digital actors simply can’t bring the same emotion to characters that real actors can, at least not yet. But casting that comparison aside, standing against itself ‘Beowulf’ is still one hell of a thrill ride with some truly amazing action sequences coupled with outstanding voice acting. There are points in the film where it tends to drag, and some of the fault could be placed on some the dialog can being a being bit trite and uninspired, but also that our digital actors, despite the voicing of an Anthony Hopkins or a John Malkovich, simply can’t sell a scene emotionally the way real actors can.

Nonetheless I had a damn good time watching this violent, bloody visual spectacle. They even CGI’d a nude Angelina Jolie, though they did hook her up a bit. Lovely though she may be, Angelina would be quite lucky to have a set of hips like her CGI counter part. But don’t wait for this to make it to DVD if you can help it, this is a film that must be experienced in all its wide screen 70mm glory to be appreciated.

Post Partum... I am writing this many years later, and I brought this movie on defunct HD-DVD.  Just want to say that without the amazing 3D effects... um... maybe this movie wasn't as good I originally thought.  Just letting you know.

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