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Review: Beowulf

by Parm Mann on 15 November 2007, 09:28

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Synopsis and Visuals

Loosely based on the epic Old English poem of the same name, Beowulf follows the story of a Scandinavian warrior famed for his slaying of monstrous beasts. Set in Denmark, Beowulf and his Geat travel across the seas to help rid the people of Heorot, ruled by King Hrothgar, of their hideous demon named Grendel. If successful, Beowulf will find himself in the wrath of Grendel's seductive mother and facing his biggest challenge yet.

Today's technology provides the grounds for the spectacular visual features in Beowulf. Taking his knowledge from previous motion capture work, Polar Express, director Robert Zemeckis raises the bar in terms of animation. Beowulf is viewable in 2D, 3D and IMAX. Having experienced the sensory overload of the 3D version, I can only imagine what the IMAX has in store. If you don't have an IMAX nearby, be sure to catch the 3D version for which you'll be provided a pair of Clark Kent style polarised lenses. Where 3D movies of the past may have given nothing more than headaches, Beowulf is in a league of its own. The 3D elements are eye catching from the off and used to help add a depth and feel to the scenes as opposed to a gimmick here or there.

Digital characters struggle to captivate

Yet, as advanced as the visuals may be, there are scenes which don't feel quite right. The jaw dropping action sequences are surrounded with scenes of dialogue that feel almost eerie at times. The characters don't suffer from the same dead-eyed problems seen in Polar Express but a problem remains nonetheless. At times, the characters seem to be neither real nor animated, somewhat stuck in between and unsure.

With a cast consisting of Ray Winstone, Anthony Hopkins, Robin Wright Penn, Dominic Keating, Alison Lohman, John Malkovich, Crispin Glover, Brendan Gleeson and Angelina Jolie, the outstanding motion capture has created digital characters of which most share a striking resemblance to their real performers. The two obvious omissions being Glover as the hideous Grendel and 50 year old Winstone who for some reason unknown to us was cast as a young man rippling with muscles that could put the cast of 300 to shame.