Reviewed by: Andre Manseau
Robin Wright Penn
What's it about
The warrior Beowulf must fight and defeat the monster Grendel who is terrorizing towns, and later, Grendel's mother, who begins killing out of revenge.
Is it good movie?
So Beowulf has finally arrived on DVD and I really wish that I loved it. I was fortunate enough to see it during its theatrical run in IMAX 3D, which was really a visual treat. This isn't to say that I didn't enjoy the film, but I suppose there was something about it that left me wanting. I feel like the first half of the film is really engaging and thrilling, but during the second half, not so much.
Let's start with the good stuff. The animation here is simply incredible. I've never seen such detailed CGI models. When I first saw trailers for this bad boy, I honestly thought it was live action- which really says something. That's only because the trailers were slick as can be though; when you watch the film, characters have slightly odd movements, sort of resembling puppets. But that isn't really much to complain about because the film is really gorgeous looking. I also thought it was pretty bizarre to see Ray Winstone transformed into a physical specimen, while everyone else looks almost exactly like they do in real life. If that's the case, why make the film CGI at all? Strange.
Onto the story, which is really the weakest part of the film. Director Robert Zemeckis himself admits that this film is not at all the Beowulf you're familiar with, but more a story of 'eating, drinking and fighting'. This is all well and fine but I felt as though after the initial fight with Grendel (which is awesome- Crispin Glover's Grendel is amazing), the film sort of fizzles out. Spoilers ho, for those who are wary of that sort of thing. Angelina Jolie (yes, she's naked..even in CGI) plays Grendel's mother and she's obsessed with some sort of golden cup for reasons that are never known. Then Beowulf succumbs to her feminine wiles (I suppose to give him some sort of fatal flaw), and the rest of the movie is about the new King Beowulf (after the old king kills himself?). I suppose the problem here is that the movie is very action packed and filled with tension until this point when the story skips forwards many years.
By the end of the film, it just gets a little tiring to see the aging, flawed hero trying to compensate for his mistake. And then, out of nowhere, a Dragon shows up? I thought that seemed a little ridiculous and not really integral to the plot, but what do I know? I really think the film would have been much better off if it had stuck to the basics and just dealt with the Grendel/Angelina/Beowulf thing without skipping forward so far and making Beowulf such a chump.
Video / Audio
Beowulf is presented in a 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen, and looks to be straight from the source material, meaning this is reference quality stuff.
Audio is 5.1, and also sounds pretty damn perfect. This is a quite an aural masterpiece, with a booming soundtrack so the Dolby really needed to come through, and it does.
A Hero's Journey: The Making of Beowulf is the meatiest feature here, running about 25 minutes. It's not overly expansive, it details mostly Zemeckis and crew going through various shots. It's a very interesting feature though and quite enthralling to see the ungodly amounts of work that went into this film.
Beasts of Burden: Designing the Creatures of Beowulf is surprisingly about creature design, and runs about 7 minutes long. Very informative albeit brief featurette, quite good stuff.
The Origins of Beowulf is a 5 minute piece discussing how different the film is from the source material and how it was adapted. A lot of information in a short piece, this could have been longer.
Creating the Ultimate Beowulf only runs about 2 minutes long and is essentially talking about how they turned Ray Winstone into the gorgeous king of Hrothgar. Too short to be anything of interest, and this has a lot of back-patting.
The Art of Beowulf runs about 5 minutes long and shows off a lot of artwork in the various stages of production. Really great stuff here, and again- this could have been longer.
There are also six deleted scenes that run about 10 minutes. They're rough and don't add much to the film either way. There is no commentary or anything to talk about these scenes either.
If you dig trailers, you get some. Besides the theatrical trailer, you get trailers for Iron Man, Shine a Light, and The Kite Runner.
Ultimately this film is a bit of a disappointment. It just didn't feel like the animated, ass kicking version of 300 that I was hoping for. I like my ancient heroes valiant and badass like Leonidas (who ironically played Beowulf in the live action Beowulf and Grendel!)! You should still see it not for what it could have been, but for what it ended up being. The animation is incredible, the action can be fierce, and the cast is truly star studded. Watch it before you buy it, to see if it's up your alley.