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.

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  1. MAO says:

    I saw Beowulf tonight,and can I just say, WHOA! I cannot wait to see I am Legend!!!!!!

  2. MAO says:

    cuz..get it…Beowulf didn’t really do it for me…ok yeah you get it.  good.

  3. cybergosh says:

    I just updated my review.  I love it more each time!  It gets MORE astonishing with every viewing.

    1. Does the texture of Grendel’s skin feel good against Beo’s bare digi-dick?

    2. I cannot believe the George McFly laugh is back!

    3. Coolest dragon EVER.

    4. Cannot get the main theme out of my head.

    5. Seriously, HOW the FUCK did they get a PG-13!!??  I would be uncomfortable watching this with my parents now – i couldn’t imagine if i was little and my parents unknowingly took me to this!


  4. Eros Welker says:

    Interesting turn of events for 3D and IMAX:

    Beowulf succeeded in slaying the competition at the box office this weekend with roughly 40% of its $28.1 million in domestic receipts coming from digital 3D screens. (Theater owners were able to charge more for 3D screening, boosting box office totals.) Meanwhile 3D IMAX screenings contributed a record $3.58 million to the total, despite showing on less than 2% of the screens it was released on.

  5. junktape says:

    Since this thread is old news, I will keep my review brief.  I’ve now seen Beowulf twice – once in 3d (not imax) and once in DLP.

    Really enjoyed it both times, especially on second viewing.  I avoided IMAX for one reason – I really dont like to pan and scan my own viewing experience.  I like to take in the movie and see it in full anamorphic format, and to me IMAX is an overkill I don’t need.

    Sure it’s cool, but I’d rather have already seen the movie first, so I’m not missing anything. 

    Anyway, the 3D was really remarkable – I love this new innovation, yet I judge a movie not on bells and whistles.

    Fortunately, like MONSTER HOUSE, Beowulf does not NEED to be a 3D experience to be special.

    It’s saving grace are it’s intelligent and gripping screenplay, it’s dedicated and passionate (but not melodramatic, mostly) performances — and its’ sound design, which is probably its most under-rated asset.

    The sound design lets you believe that everything is taking place as if captured on film – NOTHING feels like it was recorded in an ADR booth.  The ambience, vocal quality, and intensity of performance are so convincing that you truly embrace the world as real.

    Though I must say – the biggest flaw, to me, is the digital representation of the humans, which has been an issue for me since Zemeckis developed this system for Polar Express.

    Some scenes are rendered better than others, it’s that simple.

    When you first see Angelina Jolie, she looks as real as live-action.  When she circles around Beowulf seductively, she looks like Lara Croft (game version).  Other characters (like Hopkins) also go back and forth from higher and lower detail rendering, likely because the movie rushed to make it’s delivery date.

    Not that Beowulf appears rushed.  Sure, some scenes feel more like video game cutscenes than others.  Sure, some eyes are dead while others flicker with life.

    Sure, you are left wondering to yourself – would this had not been much better if they’d done it with live-action plates, in the style of 300 or Sin City, and only used Digital actors for the more impossible visual sequences?

    Doesn’t the replication of live-action actors seem redundant? 

    Like George Lucas and his pre-occupation with digital, it makes me feel like some of the creators are more consumed with the question of “CAN WE DO THIS?” than “SHOULD WE DO THIS?”

    But, if you consider it to be a filmmaker’s experiment, it’s an interesting one.

    And largely it works – because the direction is sound and largely grounded in reality, as are the performances.

    The story is complex and emotional, and quite open to interpretation.  No spoon-feeding here.  There is more than one way to interpret the final moment of the movie, and I LOVE that about Beowulf.

    I also love the character of Beowulf, the flawed man who thinks himself (and wants us to think of him) as a super-human.  He is the only character full of melodrama, which is his intention.

    Great performance here by Malkovich, whose character peeks out from behind CGI eyes to see the man behind the mask, whose personal quirks as an actor are probably the best argument for Zemeckis’ motion-cap system.

    All in all, I enjoyed this very, very much.  I prefer LOTR, if only because it seems more real to me, but Beowulf is satisfying on every level. 

    It’s biggest and ONLY flaw is that, in my opinion, you never seem to truly forget that you are watching an experiment in motion. 

    I also wished I could have had an xbox controller so I could have mashed the X button when it was time to pummel Grendel’s ear.