‘Beowulf’: Amazing (to me, anyway)

Fri, 11/23/2007 - 10:27am
By: Michael Boylan

The story of “Beowulf” is over a thousand years old but writers Roger Avary and Neil Gaiman, director Robert Zemeckis and a host of computer animators blow the dust off the tale and focus on blowing viewers minds with some incredible animation, especially for those who, like me, choose to see the film in 3-D.

The film begins with something rotten in Denmark. King Hrothgar, a bit of a drunken lout, opens a hall with a raucous party and Grendel, a monster, hears the celebration, crashes the event and kills dozens of people. Hrothgar tells his messengers to spread news of a reward for any man who can defeat the beast, but it is not until Beowulf and his crew arrive that Grendel is stopped. Beowulf is a hero in the truest sense of the word - he may even be the archetype for a hero - and you either like hearing of and seeing his exploits, or you don’t and you nod off a bit like my wife did.

“Beowulf” is a movie aimed more at boys than girls. It has sword fights, hand-to-hand combat, a lithe and sultry demoness played by Angelina Jolie, and an epic battle with a dragon. It is, for all intents and purposes, “Lord of the Rings” lite. The film is rated PG-13, but it is gruesome in its carnage and suggestive with its themes. You never really see anything that would make it an R-rated film, but it is lying right beneath the surface and the makers of this film tap dance upon that surface for the entire film.

The performances, all done with motion capture suits on a great cast of actors, are top-notch. Anthony Hopkins is quite good as King Hrothgar, a man who got everything he ever wanted and found out it wasn’t all that it was cracked up to be, and Jolie, John Malkovich, Brendan Gleeson and Robin Wright-Penn do solid work as well, but Ray Winstone’s Beowulf obviously carries the movie and keeps (most) viewers on board.

To be fair to my wife, she was never a big Beowulf fan and she is pregnant and was coming down with a cold. Also, it is a rare night that we are out on the town at 9 p.m. And, she did praise the animation and the amazing dragon fight sequence which closes the film.

Winstone was Mr. French in “The Departed,” so he doesn’t look like Beowulf, but he certainly sounded the part and the animators took care of the rest. Enough can’t be said about the animation, which was mostly spectacular (only the background characters tended to look like extras from “Shrek”) and really thrived in the 3D theater without being gimmicky. Talk is, there may be more movies like this in our future and I say bring it on. If that is a way to tell fantastic tales, then let them be told that way.

This isn’t one for the kiddies, until they get to high school, at least, but it does deserve a viewing from people who love great stories and great movies.


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