115 Min. | Animation – Action – Adventure | November 2007
IMDB Rating: 6.3
Director: Robert Zemeckis
Staring: Ray Winstone, Crispin Glover, Angelina Jolie
Beowulf Review: Pretty much everyone knows the story of Beowulf – man fights monster, monster’s mum and then a dragon – but this ancient story has inspired generations of writers and academics, now it gets a shiny makeover courtesy of Neil Gaiman and Roger Avary. Beowulf (the man) could have been written as a cookie-cutter hero, but fortunately he’s something else – fallible and not yet the hero he must become later in Beowulf. But (and this is really hard without spoiling the movie), the battle that turns him into a hero also leads inexorably to his undoing. That’s something the two writers have brought to the millennia old text and it works perfectly to help fill in some of the gaps in the original poem and provide a back story to events.
But let’s be honest, everyone watches a movie about Vikings for the action. And Beowulf delivers this in spades. This movie would get a higher rating had it been shot in real-life and it’s worth considering this before packing the kids into the car. Mostly the violence is justified, but it is there and it’s not cartoony. The animation is the talking point of Beowulf, and its a real step on from the zombified performance of ‘Polar Express’. The impression of living, breathing flesh is almost complete with the exception of strangely dead eyes – Beowulf is a landmark in computer imagery. The majority of the characters are stunningly rendered (Beowulf in particular) in close up, but they somehow look less convincing at a distance. Generally the men are better done than the women, with Queen Wealthow the spitting image of Julie Andrew’s queen in Shrek 2.
Two things. One – the accents. Oh dear god in heaven above what were they thinking – this is a treasure house of appalling voices, Irish(ish), Scottish(ish), Welsh(ish) are all thrown into the mix, but the standout horrors are Jon Malkovich’s take on Danish which might have been inspired by the Muppets and Angelina Jolie dusting off her accent from ‘Alexander’. Beowulf is one of the first movies to be released in the UK using reald – a system familiar to anyone who has been to a Disney park in the last 20 years. The animators of Beowulf clearly had great fun working out new ways of making things jump out of the screen at the audience, but the effect becomes slightly wearisome after a minute or two. Fortunately things settle down later in the movie and the makers stop trying to show off their new technology. A final comment, Beowulf spends part of the movie naked, bet you can’t watch it and not think of Austin Powers.