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  • Beowulf
    • Beowulf
    • Runtime:115 min
    • Release Date:2014-08-20 14:49:07
    • Director: Robert Zemeckis
    • Genres: Action, Adventure, Animation, Fantasy
    • Studio:
MOVIE REVIEW:Beowulf
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*** This review may contain spoilers ***

There is quite a lot of Beowulf in this movie but it loses the heart of
the poem completely.

The poem is about kingship. It shows how one might get to be a king and
what responsibilities come with kingship. Beowulf is a hero. We admire
him in life and in death. Grendel, his mother and the dragon are
monsters to be dispatched.

The movie is about family, temptation and betrayal. Its not a bad
movie, but it isn't the movie I wanted to see. Its all too neatly tied
up and linked together and its very depressing. We don't admire anyone
in this film.

I think its mentioned that it takes place in Denmark. I'm sure there
are no cliffs like that in Denmark, and certainly no castles, now, in
Beowulf's time or any time in between! So visually it just looks wrong.
I wanted marshes and meres and wooden feasting halls built around a
vast tree. I wanted beaches and mud flats.

I wanted heroes.

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*** This review may contain spoilers ***

In the Middle Ages, a Danish tribe led by Hrothgar are plagued by a
monstrous creature, Grendel. Beowulf, a warrior from a neighbouring
state, comes to confront the beast and claim the King's reward. Can he
defeat this evil and free the people from its curse ?

This is a great animated version of the classic Saxon poem, one of the
oldest recorded stories in history. Zemeckis updates the motion capture
technique he used previously in The Polar Express and the movie looks
terrific, with fantastic attention to detail – hair, frost, dirt,
candlelight – although just occasionally it creaks a little (the shots
of the horses riding for instance). There are breathtaking pull-backs,
dizzying overheads and stunning lighting tricks, like the moment in the
cave when the dragon is revealed. Neil Gaiman and Roger Avary's script
also takes some interesting liberties with the classic tale, turning
Beowulf into a complex and tragic figure; in the original story he
kills Grendel's mother, but the different take on that here leads to
much more interesting second half. It also does a great job of evoking
the drunken, debauched, wintry atmosphere of the story; it could so
easily be stuffy and prosaic but instead is full of rabble-rousing
action, curvy women and horrible monsters. Perhaps because of the
mo-cap technology, the actors all give big, theatrical, lusty
performances more akin to stage acting and deliver a great physicality
to their roles. Winstone and Hopkins are both good fun, Penn is
terrific and does some great singing, Malkovich for once isn't the
villain, Glover is pretty unforgettable as the freakish miscreant
Grendel with a weird pig-Dutch/German/English lingo, and Jolie does one
of her sauciest self-test-your-heterosexuality slithering bits. The use
of colour (primarily red and white) is outstanding, and there is
fantastic music throughout by Alan Silvestri, all heaving drums
counterpointed with delicate strings. The film was designed by talented
artist Doug Chiang (Jumanji, The Phantom Menace) and almost everything
in it, from the golden chalice to Grendel's severed arm, is crafted
with great care and imagination. This movie is perhaps not as well
known as it should be, because it's carrying on the traditions of Ralph
Bakshi and Katsuhiro Otomo – whilst it's animated, it's not aimed at
young kids. What it is however, is a beautiful updating of a story that
literally spans centuries into the most modern technique of
storytelling, and like all great stories it transcends the method used
to tell it. For me, no-one has quite managed to do a full-blown
computer-generated photo-realistic dramatic film of people yet (Final
Fantasy: The Spirits Within comes the closest), but this is a bloody
good try and a cracking picture of a timeless tale.

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