Review: Beowulf

The movie season re-starts with a bang, and what a bang this is. Of all the potentially promising year-end movies on offer, this one really ignited my excitement and to a certain extent, my curiosity. I’m excited because ‘Beowulf’ promises some truly mind-blowing 3-D effects that, it is said, will knock all special effects movies off their pedestals and plant itself firmly as the benchmark which other effects-driven movies should aspire to. I’m curious too, on how Robert Zemekis, the director, is going to fulfill these fancy promises considering that his previous offering, ‘The Polar Express’, failed in many departments, ironically and alarmingly on the special effects itself. With ‘Express’, Tom Hanks’ cold and spiritless eyes still bore holes into my soul until this very day. If Zemekis is to reach the level he has set for ‘Beowulf’, a great mighty effort is needed. And after watching it last weekend, I think his promises are mightily justified.

The visuals and style was truly breathtaking, the characters had soul digitally imprinted into them, and their eyes glimmer with emotions. Movements of every object, be it clothes, hair or snow, is as realistic as any natural world anyone can possibly imagine. Mind you, this movie is supposed to be viewed in I-MAX 3D format (which is unfortunate that Malaysia is not showing it), and I watched it on standard movie format and yet it is still mind-blowing. Imagine the spectacle that can be enjoyed when one experience it on I-MAX 3D…

Well, this movie is not all big-bang special effects and bombing sound effects. The screen play is just as solid, with renowned writer Neil Gaiman and Roger Avery at the helm; they provide a balance to the larger-than-life special effects with a wonderful source material is that substantially filled with drama, lust and heroism. Together, they provide a movie that is solidly entertaining and intriguing.

The plot is relatively simple to follow, but what made it exceptional was its many stylized lines the characters churn out that one cannot help but smirk at what was said on screen. Case in point was when Grendel, one of Beowulf’s nemesis in the movie (during a nude wrestling match that is truly bizarre), asks Beowulf who he is, Beowulf replies in a multi burst tirade of self commercialism that it makes the Spartans from ‘300’ sound like Britney Spears. Move aside Spartans, the line “This is Sparta” shall be replaced by “I am BEOWULF” very very soon.

But what noticeably stood out, considering that this is a CGI movie, were the ‘acting’ performances from all the lead actors. Ray Winstone plays Beowulf as the rampant-with-testosterone hero with a serious digital body workout to a ‘T’, Anthony Hopkins as the distressed and yuck-ingly loose clothed King Hrothgar, John Malkovich as Unfeth the King’s advisor that spits words of confrontation with almost everyone, Robin Wright Penn as the troubled wife and queen to the King, and last but not least, Angelina Jolie as the seductive water demon that wants to bed virtually every male in the entire kingdom to secure an offspring of her own and continuation of a curse (if she wants an offspring so badly, and if it is Angelina Jolie I have to bed, then lock me up and let there be offsprings aplenty!!!).

This brings back to my point on why I mentioned that this movie’s special effects were such a stellar spectacle to enjoy. The characters were extremely believable (especially Anthony Hopkins, if the viewer is familiar to his distinctive traits & mannerisms in his acting). And the creation of Grendel, a half-demon half-human and yet the most misunderstood creature is fantastically animated and voiced by Crispin Glover in a truly terrifying vocal performance. Sea monsters, dragons, and a semi-naked Angelina Jolie, the magnificence of photo-realistic digital compositions ceases to impress to no end.

The coupling of special effects magic with a solid screenplay was the key to bringing this ambitious movie to life. Much doubt and uncertainty shrouded this project since the beginning, but a glorious end-result was the conclusion to a movie that will leave its mark in movie-dom for its ground-breaking use in 3-D technology, by far the most solid performance from their actors in a digital film and possessing a screenplay that was the perfect palette for the filmmakers to create a new, vivid world that is ‘Beowulf’.

Verdict: 8 / 10

Reviewed by: Raymond Choy

What do you think? Love it? Hate it? Tell me about it!!!

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