Review: Beowulf 3D (RATING:5/10)27 November, 2007
Ok, so 3D is pretty cool, especially when you don’t have to pay extra for it. However, it should not substitute for good screen-writing and good art direction. The same goes for computer graphic imaging. This, unfortunately, is what has happened with Robert Zemeckis’ latest picture. The movie’s cast is amazing, with Anthony Hopkins as Hrothgar, John Malkovich as Unferth, and the ridiculously attractive (even in CGI) Angelina Jolie as… Grendel’s mother?
My first quarrel with this movie is its plot. Rather than Beowulf being a basically godly hero, he is largely flawed and basically dooms himself and his country in a way that I won’t go into here, for fear of spoiling the plot, but needless to say it is not part of the ancient tale. Things are added in, IMHO things that are completely unnecessary, as the story would stand very well on its own without the additions. But, if I had not read the tale, I probably would have enjoyed the plot, but alterations from the original always have bothered me.
The second is basically small scenes and parts of scenes that really add up to bad art direction. For instance, during the confrontation with Grendel, Beowulf decides to strip off all of his armor and fight him man to …man. This is in the tale. However, the director decided to have him strip off all of his clothes, and to be completely nude. Which would be fine on its own, however this was a (reasonably) family-friendly film, so the groin area was never actually shown. Which was the problem. What was supposed to be an exciting, scary scene turned into a comic one. There was always a candlestick, or a sword, or someone’s arm, or a severed head in front of Beowulf’s crotch. And this really detracted from the scene. Had they just decided to put him in a loincloth or something, I would have been more able to get in to the action, rather than wondering what long, slender object would Beowulf be standing behind next.
It was also unnecessarily violent, in my opinion. I guess it fits the story, but not really the medium. Blood and gore are still not perfected in CGI, and I was expecting less since Zemeckis’ last realistic CGI picture was the kid’s movie “The Polar Express.” Partially because of the violence, I felt badly for Grendel, which I don’t think I was supposed to. He had his eardrum punched out, his crotch slashed, and finally his arm ripped off. And rather than feeling triumphant, I felt sad and uncomfortable when he was hurt. He was just trying to get some peace and quiet, and these humans were destroying him for it. I never got this feeling when reading the book.
However, there were some cool things about it. Grendel spoke in Anglo-Saxon, which was fun to listen to. As I said, Angelina Jolie was incredibly attractive. And the 3D was pretty fun to look at, although I have to say that it sort of underwhelmed me by the end; I almost forgot that the movie was not just flat. Of course, that bodes well for the comfortableness (is that a word?) of the 3D glasses, which were basically just kind of geeky sunglasses.
So, see it at your own risk. If you’ve read a translation of Beowulf, I would shy away, but if you haven’t, I bet you would enjoy most of this film.