a critiQal film review Beowulf (2007)

  • DVD
  • Blu-Ray

Plot: In a time of heroes, the mighty warrior Beowulf (Winstone) slays the demon Grendel (Glover) and incurs the wrath of its monstrous yet seductive mother (Jolie), in a conflict that transforms a king into a legend.

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Back when Beowulf hit theaters, all of the talk centered on the amazing graphics, and how this was the 1st film since to use the revolutionary new animation techniques that helped make so magical. “Wow, great animation!” everyone said.

But what about the story? Was the film actually decent to watch, or was it. like was it just a special-effects laden piece of fluff, with the storyline getting lost amongst the visuals? That’s what we wanted to find out, so we broke down and rented Beowulf – hoping for the best, but fearing the worst.

Ray Winstone is an actor who has been largely forgettable in most of his roles thus far (viewers will probably recognize him as the voice of Mr. Beaver in more than anything else). With Beowulf, Winstone gets a chance to step up to the plate and show us what he’s got, as he leads a film packed with the likes of Anthony Hopkins, John Malkovich, Angelina Jolie and Robin Wright Penn.

Unlike the other actors, however, his performance is largely overshadowed by the animation, so the viewer never really has a reason to care about his character. Instead, the viewer is distanced by the animation, and is content to sit back and see what next thrilling visual they will come across.

The same can be said for the other actors as well, but to a lesser extent. The more seasoned actors like Anthony Hopkins, John Malkovich and even Robin Wright Penn manage to get past the animation hump at least on occasion, causing the viewer to suddenly sit up and take an interest in their characters.

Just because Beowulf is animated, don’t think that this is your typical family fare – it isn’t. The animation apparently gave the filmmakers less of a stranglehold on what they could and couldn’t show, and they took full advantage.

From the first sequence, which includes a nude king (who looks remarkably like Anthony Hopkins) wrapped in a loose robe – and a drunken member of his kingdom having his way with a serving wench in the background, the nudity is a bit gratuitous. While it isn’t full frontal, by the time Beowulf strips naked to fight Grendel, it’s become a bit much. Nudity for the sake of nudity is usually ridiculous in feature films, and that’s the case here as well.

The violence also goes to extremes, with a first battle leaving numerous torn corpses lying about for the viewer to catch glimpses of later on.

Sadly, with such a vigorous start to Beowulf, the movie calms down way too much later on, and the middle of the film is downright boring. Think sequences of intense fighting mixed with long periods of talking, and you’ve got the general idea. Viewers will get bored quickly fter the major fight sequence with Grendel early on, and will be almost asleep by the time the action picks up again for the finale.

Above all else, however, the fantastical animation is the main star of Beowulf – and it doesn’t disappoint. The characters are remarkably lifelike in their actions – and even when leaping or being thrown, they show remarkable weight – something none of the Spider-Man films were ever able to accomplish, despite their best efforts.

Beowulf is truly a visual treat, and the excessive violence and gratuitous nudity only help to showcase that. Unfortunately, while the animation is spectacular, the pacing of the story isn’t, and many viewers may find themselves losing interest quickly, despite the impressive visuals.

Even if you’re a big fan of animation, the visuals won’t be able to make up for the boring sequences, and you may find yourself longing to pop in , or – despite the fact that it’s April – .

While managed to be both visually impressive and highly entertaining, Beowulf comes in more as an experiment in this new animation technique, rather than a decent film in it’s own right.

If the film wasn’t animated, it probably would have gone straight to DVD, despite the star power of it’s cast. As is, it made it into theaters and most will probably give it a first look, but I doubt there will be a lot of second viewings of Beowulf.

Like us, most will be satisfied with one viewing, and have no inkling to revisit.

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