Set against the coming of Christianity, this is the story of the last hero: in 507, a monstrous troll wreaks havoc in the mead hall of the Danish king, Hrothgar. He offers rewards for the death of Grendel, so Beowulf, a great and boastful Geat warrior, arrives with his thanes. Beowulf sets aside his armor and awaits the monster; a fierce battle ensues that leads to Beowolf's entering the watery lair of Grendel's mother, where a devil's bargain awaits. Beowulf returns to Herot, the castle, and becomes king. Jump ahead many years, and the sins of the father are visited upon Beowulf and his kingdom. The hero must face his weakness and be heroic once again. Is the age of demons over? Written by
When going into the theatre to see this I in two minds - it was my first 3D movie and I had heard good things, however I wasn't particularly taken by the concept or the trailers. I was unsure what to expect, however I ended up leaving the cinema extremely satisfied with the film, and tellingly, unable to stop discussing it long after the ride home.
Visually it is an absolute treat, Zemeckis uses 3D superbly, some of the camera angles and sequences are as great an art as the photo-realistic animation. Occasionally the odd shot appears where the impression is that it was set up solely to emphasise the 3D (e.g. starting at the end of a branch and panning out) and whilst this doesn't add to the film it is actually a pleasant reminder of the novelty of 3D.
There are only two areas that let Beowulf down aesthetically: the eyes and the mouth. The eyes were static throughout and it is the little details that make the difference when trying to make something as uber-realistic as this, such as the fact that the pupils didn't react to light. As for the lips - they're just not quite there yet - sometimes the speech didn't seem to be quite right.
The characters are expertly introduced and developed, most notably Anthony Hopkins character, Hrothgar and the tension between his wife. Grendell and his mother are wonderfully creepy and seductive, and bizarrely enough almost encourage sympathy.
For me the most disappointing part of the film was actually Ray Winstone as the titular character - he was fantastic when talking in a low growl, however the film really suffers when he shouts in full cockney accent. "I will kill your monstah!". I half expected Grendell's head to be smashed between a car and it's door. John Malkovitch is a saving grace with his none-more-sinister voice and interesting faith sub-plot.
The rating for this film has been hotly discussed and in my opinion I do not think it is suitable for children under the age of 12. Grendell would have truly terrified me as a child. The violence, as well as bawdiness, does not make it a family film for young children although having said that the lewd references do provide good humour and balances out the movie.
So, overall, this was worthy of an 8. Breathtaking animation, incredible action (especially the finale featuring an excellent dragon) and a generally brilliant cast. Beowulf throws down the gauntlet to film-makers to show what can be done with 3D and is an indication of the potential. It's not all the way there yet, but it's a damn good start.
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