Eric D. Snider

Beowulf

Movie Review

Beowulf

by Eric D. Snider

Grade: C+

Released: November 16, 2007

 

Directed by:

Cast:

An examination of Wikipedia's entry on "Beowulf" -- I didn't read it in high school, either -- confirms what I suspected, which is that the new computer-animated movie version has added some details not found in the original. The 9th-century epic poem did not portray Grendel's monstrous mother as a sleek, nude siren, for example, nor did the dragon, in its natural form, look like the Silver Surfer. Just so you know.

Approximately one-third of the theaters showing "Beowulf" will do so digitally and in 3-D. If you're going to see it, that's the way to go. Without the elements of crystal-clear digital projection and awe-inspiring 3-D animation, the film doesn't have much going for it. To see it in a traditional 2-D, 35-millimeter format would be like having someone hum a Beethoven symphony for you. You'd get the idea, but you wouldn't understand what all the fuss was about.

Even under ideal circumstances, the fuss about the film should be restrained. Robert Zemeckis, fascinated with the motion-capture technology he used in "The Polar Express," has taken advantage of the latest developments for "Beowulf," and the action scenes are suitably spectacular. Yet the technology still can't make people's eyes look anything other than dead and soulless, and facial expressions still aren't realistically fluid. They're not even as good as the characters' faces are in Pixar films.

The story ... well, "Beowulf" is famous for being really old, not for being really brilliant. Set in Denmark in 507 (presumably so it can be exactly 1,500 years ago), the film has a village terrorized by a monster called Grendel (voice of Crispin Glover). The king, Hrothgar (Anthony Hopkins), a drunken old wretch, has been unable to stop it. And so the mighty warrior Beowulf (Ray Winstone), internationally renowned for his fighting prowess, arrives to save the day!

We know that's why he's here because the first thing he says is, "I am Beowulf. And I am here to kill your monster." I'm pretty sure that's not in the original, either.

As it turns out, Beowulf is kind of a douchebag. His catchphrase is "I am Beowulf!" He likes to yell it during battles. In a flashback where he fights sea monsters, he trims it down to just "BEOWULLLLLFFF!," hollered apropos of nothing. It reminds me of Will Ferrell's impersonation of Robert Goulet, blurting out "Goulet!" at random intervals.

Beowulf is also his own biggest fan, bragging constantly about his feats and exaggerating them as necessary. He has this thing where he likes to be naked, ostensibly to level the playing field between himself and the weapon-less, unclothed Grendel, but also apparently because he wants to show off his computer-generated abs to King Hrothgar's hot wife, Wealthow (Robin Wright Penn). The nudity leads to unintentional hilarity when he fights Grendel and Zemeckis must resort to Austin Powers-style devices to prevent Beowulf's genitalia from being visible to the audience -- a well-placed candlestick here, a mug of mead there, etc.

Grendel's mother is voiced by Angelia Jolie, and looks quite a bit like her. It turns out Grendel's not even really her son. She just found him in a Cambodian orphanage and took him home.

Thank you! I'll be here all century.

English majors will recall that there are three major battles in the story: one with Grendel (who is rendered with astonishingly creepy detail and realism), one with his mom, and one with a dragon. All of these are epic and thrilling. It's the in-between scenes -- the talking, the arguing, the waiting around -- that fall a little flat, often spiced up with silly 3-D gimmickry. (Ooh, look, the sword is pointing right at us!! Fifty years of 3-D movies and we're still doing this?) This is a great-looking movie that doesn't have much depth to it. Which makes it a little like Beowulf himself, actually.

Grade: C+

Rated PG-13, some sexual innuendo, a lot of mostly nonsexual nudity, strong violence and blood -- should have been rated R

1 hr., 55 min.

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This item has 19 comments

  1. OMAllen says:

    The 3D smoke and mirrors was pretty awesome. And I got to see a preview for another 3D movie, live action type, Journey to the Center of the Earth (or something very close to that). It looks like it will be starring Brenden Frazier(sp?) as the typical Brenden Frazier character.

  2. Speeding Slowly says:

    Yea I was afraid of this.. I had a feeling they'd mess it up. It wasn't just a feeling actually, it was more of a mathematical equation ;)

    I don't know why they think they have to add features to the story. Dialogue perhaps....since the original is written in ye olde weirdy speak.

    I could be mistaken since I haven't read it since my junior year in high school, but I don't remember Beowulf being very arrogant in the original story either.

  3. Snow says:

    The "Goulet!" comment is classic. The more I can be reminded of Will Ferrell, the better. NATURE...Goulet!

  4. card says:

    Darn. I was hoping this would be good because I like the story of Beowulf. But, seeing as how the only cool part of the movie is the part that will creep me out, I will have to skip it. ...unless, of course, the 3D-ness is less creepy than the partial animation that is on all of the advertisements. The commercials creep me out.

  5. Kaydria says:

    I was kind of suspecting it would be another 300, which, by the way, I hated. I'm still planning on seeing it, and maybe I'll scream "THIS IS SPARTAAA!" every time he says "I am Beowulf!" That is, if I'm not too busy cracking up because I'm picturing Will Ferrell as Goulet.

  6. Turkey says:

    S.S.--"ye olde weirdy speak." Ha!

  7. Rob D. says:

    lol at Kaydria...........when I saw the previews I said, they used this catch phrase because of 300's success. On general principle, I can't go see this because of that. I mean, if a boxing movie came out (not Rocky) and the previews showed a boxer yelling "Yo Mary-Ann!".......I wouldn't go see that on principle either.

  8. Ben says:

    I went for the animation, and I wasn't disappointed. Especially the intense fighting scene where Beowulf fights the dragon.

    However, the additions to the plot were SO UNBELIEVABLY STUPID!!! Why, why, why does Zemeckis have to change a perfectly good story? Not only change it, but RUIN it with his craptacular additions!?! Pretty much destroyed the movie for me.

    Also, I couldn't believe this movie wasn't rated R. Angelina Jolie basically gets naked. If you put nickels on a chick's [breasts] and saran wrap over her, well, you know... pretty much that's considered PG-13 now.

  9. Shane says:

    I am disappointed that Eric didn't give this a flat out F. I found it to be torturous (painful) and tortuous (winding/convoluted) and just plain lame. When they put Grendel in street-walker high heels I realized that I could have no respect for this movie. It is contextually inaccurate, stupid, and anachronistic beyond all reason.

    I apologize for my weird vocabulary. Took the GRE last Saturday and find my brain is unable to get rid of all those stupid words.

  10. Lowdogg says:

    Just a few corrections to some comments:

    #7 This film has been in production for a long time. It's likely they had this planned out long before. And if Leonidas had said, "I am Leonidas!" the argument would make sense.

    #9 Grendel didn't have the shoes. His mother did.

    I actually enjoyed this movie quite a bit.

  11. Beowulf Corcoran says:

    Your an arse.

    Its a great film, even though I didnt know it was animated until it started. I have read the poem and no it doesnt follow it to the letter, but who cares.

    Your an arse.

  12. Josh says:

    The dude that reviewed this movie from the Herald gave it an A and said that it deserves best animated movie of the year over Ratatouille. That really really offended me and it makes me want to vomit and not want to live. I am no expert in writing, reading or even being a film critic but freaking crap they could higher me and I would write way better reviews.

  13. Super Deadly Ham Attack says:

    I went to this expecting some brainless 3D fun, which is mostly what I got. The second half of the movie kind of bogs down - I don't want to see 3D cartoon people talking and feeling bad, I want to see them spurting blood directly into the camera. So it was all right.

    PS to number 11: That should be "you're an arse".

  14. William says:

    To #12: I had to laugh at your suggestion that you would write better reviews if they "higher"-ed you. Exactly how would they accomplish that? Giving you more pot to smoke? :)

  15. Danielle F. says:

    I went into the movie already familiar with the epic tale of Beowulf. Naturally I expected it to be just as bad a movie as it was an oral/written tale (which is to say, bad enough to cause physical pain to anyone with any literary sense at all). I must say, I felt this version actually IMPROVED a bit upon the original story. For example, Beowulf's arrogance was so emphasized it became comical. Whether that was intentional or not is besides the point--I felt it was more entertaining, and considerably less obnoxious than his traditional flawless, stereotypical hero persona. Similarly, I was pleasantly surprised at the writers' attempts to turn Beowulf into a slightly more multi-dimensional character. Again, whether the attempt was SUCCESSFUL is irrelevant. At least they tried. They gave him a flaw: his attraction to Grendel's mother! Yes! An actual flaw! I nearly cried, I was so relieved. You see, Beowulf is an ancient story and its painfully obvious. He has got to be the flattest, most uninspiring hero I've ever had the misfortune of coming across. He is far too perfect to be appropriate for modern audiences. Today we have anti-heroes and tragic heroes and round heroes. Most of us stopped being impressed by ridiculously flawless characters by the time we turned six.

    Overall, Beowulf may be a bad movie in general, but when you consider the source...it suddenly seems so much better.

  16. M says:

    All I can say is: why? Why use real actors and then just CG them in a way that is heartbreakingly and undeniably crappy? WHY??

    (in fact, I question the whole movie. eg. Why was it even made? Why would Angelina Jolie agreee to do this? And why, my God why, does Beowulf have to fight NAKED? And why wouldn't he have a sword anyway? They do come in handy sometimes, regardless of the fact that the monster can't be hurt by it, but so what?)

  17. Jason says:

    I too had read the story of Beowulf in high school! To be completely honest with you, it may have been the only thing I actually read all the way through! LOL! I really didn't remember all the particulars of the story so maybe that is the reason I loved this movie! I don't understand why everyone is cracking on the animation! Sure there are still flaws but it is getting better. As far as changing some things here and there I think they did a wonderful job! #15 was on point when she made her comments about Beowulf having a flaw. I also feel that the character Beowulf in this movie had so much depth that 90% of you didn't even catch it! This is 2008! Get with the times people and quit being stuck in the past! Adapt with the changing times or you will be passed by!

  18. John Doe says:

    I liked how Beowulf just stood by watching while his men got killed. You'd think he'd try to save them or something.

    Also, yeah, the CG was crap and everyone looked creepy. I also have no idea why this movie wasn't R-rated considering all the death, blood, dismemberment, and nudity.

    It was pretty bad. Rifftrax makes it funny for a bit, but even MST3K guys mocking it can't make this poor film enjoyable.

  19. John Doe says:

    Wow, this movie was pretty bad. The lifeless eyes just haunt me. I really can't see why CGI was used because it didn't add anything to the movie.

    Also, I thought it was kinda funny how Beowulf just sat by while his men were being slaughtered. That's the stuff a hero is made of, the guy who watches people die and does nothing.

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