Beowulf (2007)

*. Wow. Ray Winstone has been working out. He’s looking pretty buff, even seven years after Sexy Beast.
*. I’m kidding. That’s not Ray. And that’s not Angelina Jolie, pumped (or pimped) up to look like the target demographic’s idea of an ideal woman. This is an animated film. And how you feel about that will determine what you think about the movie.
*. This is a shame, as there was an interesting script here, written by Neil Gaiman and Roger Avary. As soon as we see Anthony Hopkins appear as a drunken Hrothgar we know they’re not going to be too reverent to the source material. This might even be a bit of fun, along the lines of what Sean Connery did with the 1984 film they made out of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight: Sword of the Valiant.
*. But then there’s the 3D and the CGI and all the rest of the stuff to make us think we’re only watching another video game. On the DVD box there’s a pull quote from Leonard Maltin calling it “cutting-edge moviemaking,” and I suppose it was in 2007. But nothing dates you faster than being on the cutting edge.
*. Ten years later, the look can fairly be called retro. Some elements, like the swimming scenes and the horses, are especially bad. Meanwhile, the bodies don’t move naturally at all and the faces look airbrushed and Photoshopped of all expression.
*. So while I’d like to say there’s more to this Beowulf than just the look, the look is so distracting and overwhelming that any other commentary is sort of pointless.
*. Even the script fails to live up to its initial promise. I thought changing the tone of the Old English poem made sense in places, and that’s all they did in the first half of the film. But then things just go crazy. Grendel is Hrothgar’s love child. Grendel’s mom then seduces Beowulf, who becomes the new king of the Danes after Hrothgar kills himself. The dragon turns out to be the spawn of Beowulf and Grendel’s mom. The whole thing is turned into an Anglo-Saxon soap opera.
*. That’s is too bad. This could have been an interesting cast if they’d been given the chance to do some acting, and there’s some cleverness sprinkled throughout (like introducing bits of Old English in various places, and making Grendel’s mom into a richer and more suggestive figure). But at the end of the day it really is just a cartoon, and not one that was made in a style that has worn well. At the time it was reasonably well received but I doubt many people watch it today. Ten years from now I suspect it will be totally forgotten.

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