Prior to going to the film, I read some reviews and I was surprised to learn that it was a 3D animated movie – shocked in fact, since I have seen the trailer and haven’t noticed the photo-realistic approach. I suddenly had my doubts and thought this was going to be catered to young kids, but given that Angelina Jolie appears naked in the movie I quickly dismissed the idea and went ahead with the plan.
Quite simply, I was blow away.
The story in Beowulf retells the epic poem tale but actually – like most Hollywood movies – deviates substantially from the original plot and creates a new tale based on the old one. This time though, the retelling is for the better, since the plot of the movie is coherent and relates the events and characters rather than sticking to the bard-song tale of old, but of course this is a bit double edged. On the plus side, like I noted, the story is nicely tied together and the characters now relate to each other in different ways. On the down side, puritans may be put off as well as the Angelina Jolie fans since Grendel’s mother (Ms. Jolie’s role) has her own epic battle in the original poem and not in the new tale. But in the context of the movie, it makes sense to deviate from the original text.
The highlights of the movie – and frankly the sellers of it – are the 3D graphics and Angelina Jolie’s presence in the film. As for Jolie, although her acting part is very small in the film, it really does an excellent job whether you are into the sex-sells business or not. Angelina is the perfect actress to be Grendel’s mother, the main villain and seductress of men – whether or not they rendered her fully nude and had her dipped in liquid gold. She simply rocked the film.
The 3D graphics blow everything else out of the water, and the closest thing that would come to it is Advent Children which was released in 2005 but lo and behold what technology can do in two years. Although, to be all perfectly honest, both movies have perfected the 3D genre in different terms. Just like Advent Children before it, Beowulf has a living, breathing world with beautiful (if somewhat barren) landscapes and a staggering amount of detail put into everything – from textiles to facial features all the way to the textures on the walls and facial hair. In some respects, Advent Children does a much better job, especially in the fluidity of the animation. In a couple of scenes it could be visible that the frame rate in Beowulf drops, and the way the horses and characters run is a bit stiff. Advent Children on the other hand – considering how fast paced the movie is – is technically much more superior in that regard, with not a hint of slowdown with all the action going on. But then again, Beowulf is a much more photo-realistic render (light-years ahead) than Advent Children and surpasses it in that aspect.
My only gripe though is that the pace of the movie was a bit off at first. It starts off very slow until the Grendel battle and the time used in nonsense conversations could have been used to establish the reason behind Grendel’s suffering more so that people sympathise with him. I felt it important because in the retelling, both Grendel and the Dragon have something in common which is not explained until further into the movie, and while I understand the reason behind concealing Grendel’s identity in the beginning, I thought it odd to not at least show some reason behind his actions other than an overly sensitive ear drum.
Other than that, I was thoroughly impressed with the movie, not only because it re-tells an old legend in a new, fresh way with some subtle concepts and ideas, and not only because I am a huge Angelina Jolie fan… but because the movie is thoroughly enjoyable, strange, feels truly epic (the Dragon battle is probably the highlight of the entire film and it was as exciting as the Dragon battle in Advent Children)… and that it pushes the technical possibilities to the limit and shows Hollywood that you don’t need fluffy animals and funny one-liners to make a good 3D film.