Needless to say, Beowulf is based on the epic poem in Old English. The story is about the title character saving King Hrothgar and Heorot Hall from the monster Grendel and his demon mother.
Then later in life, Beowulf has one last battle with a dragon to save his own kingdom. While the poem is about heroism and demons, the movie version reimagines Beowulf as a flawed man cursed by his pride and temptations.
The central theme points to the subtext about the end of the age of monsters and heroes, and the introduction of sin and karma as the Christian religion becomes a part of the Dane culture.
In other words, the demons go from outer horrific forms that attack the helpless to more internal, personal flaws that make people succumb to temptation.
This latest incarnation is an animated feature directed by Robert Zomeckis. The screenplay is written by Roger Avery (Pulp Fiction) and Neil Gaiman of comic book Sandman fame.
They echo the themes of Beowulf as summarized in advertised sound bites such as “evil breeds pain” and “pride is the curse.”
Beowulf also has a stellar cast of Oscar-winning actors, gory violence and gratuitous nudity, but enough of the good stuff. The main selling point is the capture-motion technology used previously by Zomeckis in Monster House and The Polar Express. Basically, the actors move and speak their lines like in a regular film while wearing weird body suits that allow a computer to capture everything in a digital format. Then the tech wizards can add features like a dragon tail to Angelina Jolie’s hair or take away signs of Angelina’s pregnancy.
In addition, the movie is presented as a regular film, in 3D format and IMAX 3D.
The wide screen view of IMAX actually gives me motion sickness, so the regular 3D film was a good compromise. Gone are the blue and red lenses of old because the new glasses uses special lenses to add depth to a slightly fuzzy screen.
Also be sure to wear the glasses during the previews too. Warning: you will look like a dork while watching this movie. Overall, it is an amazing experience to see tree branches go past your head or arrows stick your eye.
But does the movie itself entertain? Well, there is Grendel’s mother (played by Angelina Jolie), who is sure to draw any red-blooded straight man, while the ladies get nude scenes of Beowulf (Ray Winstone of The Departed) and King Hrothgar’s butt (Anthony Hopkins).
The acting is well done and there are no lulls in the timing. Also, the animation appears almost real enough to be flesh-and-blood people and scenes. Overall, it is the combination of the effects, story themes and quality acting that makes Beowulf one of the best movies of 2007.