Everybody Likes the Wulf
Seriously, what’s not to like? Unless you’re going in blind, you’re going in to see this thinking “monsters”, “300”, “digital nekkid Angelina Jolie”, “amazing special effects/animation”, and if you’re Berg, “Crispin Glover” — so to not walk out liking the experience is only a note to self that you’re a masochist. That’s not to say Beowulf is a great movie, because it’s not by a long shot, but it’s an experience worth having. I highly recommend Beowulf to everyone, but you have to see it in IMAX 3D. Onto the show… (I avoided any major or minor spoilers, but if you want to be a purist, stay away):
I was familiar with the Beowulf tale, having read and seen many incarnations of it (including this one with 300’s own Gerard Butler), but thankfully this movie had its share of new twists and wrinkles (or I had forgotten some of the source material). In any case, I was never bored and instead very much in awe initially of IMAX 3D at work.
However, as the story goes on and on, I never found myself all that into Beowulf himself. He’s just big brave Beowulf, and yeah he may lust after the King’s wife, but it’s minor and he never shows any real emotion. So why do I care what happens to him? WHy do I fear if he lives or dies? I don’t, and couple that with him being a completely CG character and I’m less invested.
Which brings me to the animation itself. A friend of mine is adamant the flick should have been handled LOTR-style, and told me to think about what makes this film HAVE to be animated. There’s no real good answer there, especially since CG work can duplicate a lot of the shot styles and if you’re looking at a digital facsimile of Anthony Hopkins, why not just have it be Anthony Hopkins? So you have to chalk it up to “because we can” but regrettably, we can’t. Some characters, like Beowulf’s buddy, look really good, expressing realistic emotions and you trick yourself that they’re a real person… but then there are things like the Robin Wright Penn mannequin (which didn’t work for me because she has no texture to her skin, no wrinkles, no hair; it’s flawed because she’s depicted as flawless), she’s expressionless with eyes devoid of a soul. In fact, don’t look into the eyes of ANY of the Beowulf characters. You can fool yourself into buying into Hopkins or Beowulf himself, but if you look into their eyes, it destroys the illusion; at least for me.
But still, I didn’t care that much. I don’t need to see a live-action movie to enjoy it, so I got over it, but just sat there wondering if Cameron will pull it off in Avatar. I won’t go into particulars of the story, but will share observations:
1) I understand it’s PG-13, but if you’re going to have your main bad-ass character running around naked, show us his cock. Turning a fight scene into a reminder of Austin Powers is embarassing. Either that or turn out the lights.
2) Hair. Remember how people were really into digital birds during Episode 1? I think the new bit will be hair. It just looks real good, except for in conjunction with #1, because Beowulf is a clean shaven warrior hero. Ewwww.
3) Mouths. I know this means nothing now, but when you reflect about the movie, think about how many times Beowulf emerges from the mouth of something, or how many times a mouth engulfs the entire screen in a transition. What’s up with that?
4) Dirty and naughty! I love this about Beowulf; you see butts, boobs, and one character even makes a joke about “cumming”. We’re one step closer to CG porn.
5) 3D gimmicks. Every so often, and a lot early in the film, Zemeckis continues to remind us that he shot the film with 3D in mind. So ice spills out at you, fog rolls in, etc. That’s cool, but when you have characters riding into frame and pointing a giant spear at you, it’s like Borg Invasion 4-D, and that’s not so cool. I wonder how this plays in 2D.
Overall, I’m glad I saw Beowulf, and would certainly see it again, and probably own it on high-def for specific scenes (hopefully, we can split the signal for 3D, but I digress). Again, it’s not a great film, and barely a good one (and the jury’s still out on that verdict) but it’s completely worth watching. Unless you’re into Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium, and if that’s true, god help us all.