The Red Right Hand
  www.theredrighthand.co.uk





BEOWULF
Pride Is The Curse

Director
Robert Zemeckis

Starring
Ray Winstone
Anthony Hopkins
Angelina Jolie
John Malkovich

If you read my Stardust review, you will know that I have met Neil Gaiman and have great respect for him as a writer. I would like to take the time to quickly announce that I am still an enormous fan (a fan with immense worship as opposed to a fan of particularly large scale), despite the mess that has been made of Beowulf. I love to read, I'm especially a big fan of the classics and epic poems. However, as a child, I hated reading; absolutely loathed it. It wasn't until my first year of high school, in which we studied Beowulf in its original text that I fell in love with books. So, to say the least, this story means a lot to me. I'm not going to bother describing the story because it's just three different fight sequences and a lot of "I am blah blah, son of blah blah, from the land of wherever."

The first issue to be addressed are the plethora of gimmicks. I honestly could not tell you why they felt the need to make this movie in motion capture, let alone 3D. For those that do not know, allow me to quickly bring you up to speed. This movie follows Zemeckis' previous film, The Polar Express. Each performance is mapped out, scanned to a computer and converted into a CGI character. I'm a champion and supporter of pioneering new visual effects but I don't really approve of this style of cinema (other than Final Fantasy: Spirits Within and Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children), it just feels too much like a video game. The biggest problem arises when you forget the characters are CG; for brief recurring moments you completely forget that you're watching a CGI film and feel swept into this world... then the camera pans back and all the characters seem plasticy and fake. On top of that, we have the RealD effects. Anyone who has been to Disneyland in the last ten years will know that this is the ability to create 3D images without using that green/red mesh that we generally see in print form. I was largely amused by the fact that the film is advertised as a revolutionary digital masterpiece and I was sat in the audience with these bulky plastic glasses that glinted and reflected off the screen. The final point I will make with regards to the CG is Grendel. Grendel is the first daemon that Beowulf encounters and the liberties taken here are simply excruciating. Most people will complain that they couldn't understand him but he was speaking Old English and (not meaning to sound rude) they should be smarter. No, my main issue is with his visual styling. He's like Gollum's contorted, size-shifting, brother. I hated it; Grendel should be snarling and hairy, this is why he's one of the first known accounts of werewolfism.

Now for my quibbles with the acting: Number 1, the accents were absolutely appalling, a general malaise of Irish-ish, Welsh-ish, Scottish-ish, peaked with John Malkovich's terrible Danish/English-wannabe accent that invoked cringes throughout the audience. In addition to sounding awful, Malkovich looked pretty crap and unfinished too; as if they had to re-cast at the last minute and quickly animated over a previous character. Then there are the inaccuracies, how Grendel's arm was torn off, Beowulf becoming King of Denmark instead of going home, Beowulf getting married, even Beowulf's final confrontation is completely altered. Having said all that, the script does offer a few explanations to fill the vast, gaping holes of the original tale. I must confess, the whole origin of the dragon/wyrm thing actually makes more sense; in the book it's just a random dragon that kills Beowulf and Wiglaf avenges him... in the film it's... different. For the most part, the score was enjoyable and the whole piece entertaining, even if it does feel like a crude attempt to further the world of visual effects.

Release Date:
16th November 2007

The Scene To Look Out For:
Rather than highlighting one scene in particular, I will draw a comparison, for the whole film can be divided in two: marketable scenes that will make people go "ooooh" and everything else… which is simply batted off as "not bad."

Notable Characters:
Brendan Gleeson portrays Wiglaf exceptionally well, despite the fact that Wiglaf and Beowulf weren't friends in the book. Of all the characters, his seemed most approachable and honourable, rather than just some horny barbarian.

Highlighted Quote:
"Keep a memory of me, not as a King or as a hero but as a man, fallible and flawed"

In A Few Words:
"I'm not sure I agree with the age rating of 12a but it made for an entertaining experience, less Sin City or 300 and more Roger Rabbit"

Total Score:
5/10


Matthew Stogdon