Wednesday, March 2, 2011
When I first saw the trailer of this movie, I actually thought it was a video game commercial. I didn't know it was a full CGI animation. Already thought to myself "Oh no, not another Eragon". I wasn't familiar with the directors Robert Zemeckis previous work, so it was just a first impression based on the trailer. Fortunately, the first impression was proved to be wrong.
Beowulf is based on the old English/Danish poem of the same name. The movie takes place in 6th century, a small kingdom haunted by a repulsive monster Grendel. After Grendel attack, The King Hrothgar (Anthony Hopkins) offers half of the gold in his kingdom for the one who takes Grendels head. The rumor of a big reward for the hero who slays the monster reaches Beowulf (Ray Winstone) and his group of Geats, they travel to this kingdom, and agree to slay Grendel. However, after completing this deed, it turns out there were something worse in the depths of Grendels cave, it's mother (Angelina Jolie). Sadly they never showed her true form, only some scaled arms and the beautiful mirage it creates.
The director, Robert Zemeckis does fairly good job, the scenes are well designed and the behaviour and interaction between characters feels natural, thanks to the Performance capture technique used to create the characters. The CGI textures are very detailed and nice to watch, most of the time, there are some minor details which brings out the "video game" look, such as the forests have nothing but trees, no smaller growth at all, but it doesn't bother much. Probably the biggest problem is the weghtlessness, in some scenes it's not bad, but the worst is most likely Beowulfs movements when he is grappling with Grendel, he's literally flying.
The voice acting is surprisingly good, only a few times there's something 'not right', and even then it's the side role characters.
The actual story of this movie is kept fairly simple, which is good in this case. But there are some problems aswell. I don't know if it's just me, but I couldn't find much of developement in the characters, mostly because there were very little introduction to any of them, I'd have wanted to know more about the previous king Hrothgar, and Wiglaf (Brendan Gleeson), the "bodyguard" of Beowulf. I understand the story is based on a poem, so there might not exist any backstory at all. This leads into some small flaws in the storytelling.
Compared to other fantasy movies, Beowulf doesn't really stand out from the crowd. It does have an appealing serious style of telling the story, but it feels like it's just scratching the surface of the story by fast-forwarding the life of Beowulf. Nevertheless, despite the CGI and story flaws, I think it is a decent and entertaining fantasy movie.