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Home » Featured » Review: Beowulf (2007)

Review: Beowulf (2007)

It never has occurred to me why a fully fledged human being would want to indulge in that most childish of genres…

Animation; ideal for:

• Fairytales. Though of course any hint of subversive material from the original Brothers Grimm tales must be subsided. And the ending must be happy.
• Anything involving animals. You know what health and safety regulations are like, it’s just not worth having real ‘uns.
• Musicals, but only those circa ’68 when animation combined with live action was actually a gimmick.

However, Robert Zemeckis had to go and make it all complicated with Beowulf, a movie that checks none of these boxes, yet still kind of works. A welcome depart for me from the overly family-friendly Polar Express.

The mighty but mysterious Beowulf, a Nordic warrior, must slay the terrifying monster Grendel terrorising neighbourhoods across the land. But that’s only half of this almighty battle…

The opening music, which consists of endless rounds of hey-ho, ho-hey, hey-ho, was so-far so-so. Still, I was willing to give this movie anomaly a chance. The film is indeed ‘abounding with joy, merriment, and fornication’, as advertised by Antony Hopkins in his role as Hrothgar… though also blood, gore and an assortment of weird Scandinavian-esque accents (they did well to lesser emphasize these elements).

Beowulf

Grendel… Just don’t call me ugly, okay?

Watching Beowulf is like playing a video game. It is visually exceptional, cinematic in every conceivable sense – though something is still missing. CGI has come a tremendous way, and watching this, it did cross my mind that one day, perhaps, we could do away with physical actors altogether (good job I gave up those acting dreams long ago, then).

The thing is, there is still a niggling something, the way the characters move is just… a little stilted. You can tell these are not real people, even though everything else tells you they should be. Perhaps this is a good thing; maybe there should be a clear distinction between virtual and reality?

Even so, there are some technically brilliant shots. When we first catch a glimpse of Grendal, we catch it from the mouth of a girl about to scream in horror. The texture of her gums matches the texture of Grendal’s flesh, making the moment grotesquely poetic.

Unfortunately, there are moments of “I’m going to throw something at the screen so that you can feel like you got your money’s worth buying a 3D ticket!” Watching at home, this is annoying – but above all, amusing because it is so obviously thrown in there for no legitimate reason other than this, and gives me all the more reason never to watch a movie in 3D as it only encourages this sort of behaviour.

Beowulf

And Grendel’s mother… Blimey, Grendel was fished from the poor end of the gene pool…

Am I the only one that finds an animated sex scene, or nakedness at all within animation, really strange*?

The liberal inclusion of Olde English language is a thoughtful touch, and turns Beowulf into an impressively accurate history lesson. Ray Winstone is brilliant as the ferocious Beowulf – although he seems to be the only character that doesn’t look very much like the actor playing them, because you’re not telling me that six pack is his own. Yes, even Angelina Jolie, who looks like a lollipop dipped in gold fondue, still manages to look vaguely like herself. She still manages to look vaguely hot even. But then Angie would look hot picking up poo in a zoo. As expected, the safe-pair-of-safe-pair-of-hands that are Anthony Hopkins and John Malkovich do good turns. Something tells me their classical Shakespearean training will have helped here.

All in all, and against the odds, I liked Beowulf… and if you don’t? You can fight me, damn you.

*Though anything goes with clothes when animals are involved. Just take Donald Duck.

Fresh Film Rating:
Becky Loton

Written by Becky Loton

Becky Loton is an independent film-maker and freelance writer, studying Creative Media Production. You can contact her by email here.
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