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_**Entertaining and thought-provoking, even moving**_ "Beowulf" (2007) is an animated version of the epic poem of antiquity featuring Ray Winstone, Anthony Hopkins, Angelina Jolie and Robin Wright Penn. It uses live action motion capture animation, which was previously utilized for “The Polar Express” (2004) and “Monster House” (2006). Although it's a "cartoon" it's the equivalent of an R-rated picture with brutal violence and openly sexual situations & dialogue. The film has the same characters as the epic poem – Beowulf, Hrothgar, Wiglaf, Grendel, Grendel's mother and the dragon – and the three Acts split between Beowulf's fight with Grendel, Grendel's "sea hag" mother and the dragon; other than this the film deviates from the poem with some interesting ideas to tie everything together. Needless to say, don't watch if you're a Beowulf purist. However, if you don't mind the animation or the re-imagining and enjoy sword & sorcery adventure like Conan, you'll likely appreciate this. It's both entertaining and thought-provoking. I recommend watching it back-to-back with 2005's "Beowulf & Grendel," which is a live-action version with Gerard Butler and Sarah Polley, shot on the gorgeously bleak landscapes of Iceland. I should add that, not only is this a beautiful film to look at, animated or not, it also has an excellent epic Viking-ish score by Alan Silvestri, highlighted by the main title, "What We Need Is A Hero,” and the two versions of "A Hero Comes Home,” the first is the shorter version sung by Robin Wright-Penn whereas the second, sung by Idina Menzel, plays during the end credits. The message of this animated version is that the reality behind the story is much different than the legend because it has been embellished over the years. Some reviewers complain that Beowulf isn't a genuine hero, but he’s certainly heroic, faults and all. He's a bold warrior who takes on the gargantuan and intimidating (not to mention UGLY) Grendel NAKED and somehow defeats him! He then goes on to lead a mighty Nordic kingdom for decades to come. If this isn't heroic, what is? So he exaggerates his past exploits and has a weakness for women, what else is new? The main lesson, aside from the one noted above, is that new political leaders tend to make the same mistakes as past political leaders, so new leaders should be careful or they'll experience the same pitfalls. Other morals include: Apart from redemption, the "sins of the fathers" will cast a pall over the family or community and eventually come back to bite 'em (literally, in this case); even the greatest heroes are human and have serious flaws; deal with your past mistakes (sins) or the guilt & shame will drain the life from you and your environment; it'll also make you wish you were dead; offer a man unlimited power, wealth and fame and he'll likely go for it no matter the cost, selling his soul to the devil, so to speak; men are easily entranced by feminine beauty, regardless of how obviously impure her intentions; the importance of saying you're sorry and forgiving; the importance and ultimate triumph of love. Some things to chew on: Why is the dragon one-and-the-same as a noble-looking gold-skinned man? Does this signify he's a cross between malevolent blood and noble blood (mother and father respectively)? Is the golden man his spiritual side and the dragon his dark side? Some criticize that Beowulf is not a Christ-figure, as in the poem, which isn't accurate. (***SPOILERS FOLLOW***) Although late in the story Beowulf mourns that there are no heroes in the new Christian era, only "weeping martyrs," ironically he goes on to be an obvious type of Christ by sacrificing himself for the people of his kingdom (the world) by slaying the dragon (the devil). Keep in mind that, according to the Bible, all things were created through Christ, which would include the angel Lucifer (a “son of God”), who later devolved into Satan. Likewise the golden man in the movie is the son of Beowulf and ultimately revealed as a hideous dragon. All human types of Christ are flawed because humans are flawed, even “heroes” like Beowulf which, again, is one of the main points of the film. Hence, Beowulf's perception about "weeping martyrs" is faulty and can be attributed to his fallen condition when making the statement. Later, he rises out of the ashes to slay the dragon and sacrifice himself for the people. Right before doing this he declares his love for his wife and asks her to forgive him for his past failings. One scene had an impact on me. Years after becoming a king, Beowulf boldly confronts a defeated Frisian warrior who mocks him on the Nordic coastline. Beowulf commands his men to step back, discards his sword and challenges the warrior to kill him (at this point the Frisian has picked up his battle axe). Weaponless, Beowulf yells at him with every fiber of his being, "KILL ME! DO IT! KILL ME! KILL ME!" Why does Beowulf do this? Is he invulnerable and, hence, has no fear of death? No, the ending shows that he's wholly mortal. Actually he's so burdened by guilt and shame that he no longer even cares if he lives or dies. This is reality. The film runs 1 hour, 55 minutes. GRADE: B+
Beowulf hasn't aged well; it looked like crap when it was released in 2007, and it looks like old crap 15 years later. This movie plays like someone made a videogame based (loosely, natch) on the epic poem, then took all the cutscenes out and edited them together into feature length. Now, if only Beowulf came with an option to skip the cutscenes. The film features human characters animated using live action motion capture animation, but I fail to see why they even bothered. Five years after The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, which was the first feature film to utilize a real-time motion capture system, the novelty should have surely worn off; moreover, this technology hasn't aged any more gracefully than Beowulf has, and even today the best motion capture in the world can't make a silk purse out of the sow's ear that is even the best computer-generated imagery in the world – in fact, putting the two together is just piling crap on top of crap. It's too bad, because a good live-action film could be made with Anthony Hopkins, John Malkovich, and Ray Winstone – though not a good live-action Beowulf film, mind you, because it would still go the CGI route for Grendel and the dragon and who knows what else; a fully animated movie would at least be consistent, or in this case consistently crappy. Not that consistency is something of which one could accuse Beowulf; some characters look vaguely like the actors who provide their motions and voices (namely Hopkins), while others not at all (Malkovich) – and there there's Winstone, who looks for all the world like a poorly-rendered digital version of Sean Bean.
It was just too much...but to be fair I saw it in 3D. The none 3D version may have actually been better, but honestly I have no way of knowing. At first it was, well, it was wow. I had never actually seen anything in 3D, being far too young for for the first round of popular 3D movies to hit the theater, but my father assured me it was nothing compared to this... He also assured me it didn't make him as nauseous, and sometimes I can see where he's coming from on that point. It came out right in the first wave of the new 3D, right when 3D was becoming popular again and actually worth it. And it was jaw dropping even if some of the motion made my old man sick. But it was also too much. A new technology and one that was a spectacular in itself, but not exactly tested to perfection. It seemed like a 14 year-old girl putting on make-up and not yet understanding that less is more. Less than half an hour into it, I had no idea what was going on, the 3D was too distracting to even attempt to follow the plot. About an hour into it, the 3D got boring, and yes, still over-the-top distracting. By the time I left I had the feeling that I had just experienced something that I had never experienced before. I had the feeling that watching a movie on the big screen would never be the same again...but I still couldn't figure out if I saw a movie or not.
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