Set against the coming of Christianity, this is the story of the last hero: in 507, a monstrous troll wreaks havoc in the mead hall of the Danish king, Hrothgar. He offers rewards for the death of Grendel, so Beowulf, a great and boastful Geat warrior, arrives with his thanes. Beowulf sets aside his armor and awaits the monster; a fierce battle ensues that leads to Beowolf's entering the watery lair of Grendel's mother, where a devil's bargain awaits. Beowulf returns to Herot, the castle, and becomes king. Jump ahead many years, and the sins of the father are visited upon Beowulf and his kingdom. The hero must face his weakness and be heroic once again. Is the age of demons over? Written by
Despite all you might have read, Beowulf does not appear on screen as he was in the poem which was the origin of this incredibly well designed CGI tour-De-force. This, although a shock to some, I'm sure, means little to the vast majority of viewers who either 1 - never heard of this legendary hero in the first place or 2 - would forever picture him as Christopher Lambert in the eponymous, and eminently forgettable, straight-to-DVD movie of some years ago. The truth is, this movie is a spectacle to behold: it grips you from the first scene, wrings you by the seat of your pants and absolutely knocks your socks off at every corner - at least CGI wise. It has its faults, surely, as any masterpiece, but a masterpiece it still is. Some set pieces are not as well rendered as others (the water in the ocean is a blatant example) but others are just plain outstanding and technology-defying (like the last battle of the movie, which I won't reveal here). Ray Winstone (Beowulf) is tremendously convincing, as is the generally under-rated Crispin Glover (Grendel - who, go figure, is no dragon, as other people said) - Sir Anthony Hopkins is very much royalty in his own right (King Hrothgar) and Robin Right Penn, Brendan Gleeson and John Malkovich excel in the little nuances that give supporting role characters their chances at the Oscars - unfortunately, Angelina Jolie's part is both a visual treat and at the same time an auditory shame - very few lines are spoken - it seems seeing her with zero garments was understood to be enough to satisfy the teenage crowds - well, I would certainly have liked for more character development but what the hell, can't really complain. As far as anthropomorphic CGI goes all the main characters are instantly recognizable but not perfect (this is still an evolution over Zemecky's own "The Polar Express", mind you) and no matter how much the 3D effects try (and try they do, believe you me), they still seem like gimmicks - the first part of the movie and the cave scenes encompass the best 3D trickery on display - and this new fangled technology is truly superior to the previous red-blue glasses of yesteryear - and will probably leave you with a little less of a hangover afterward. When all is said and done, it stands out on its own merits: epic, comes to mind, and so does cutting edge. This is a movie that will sell a lot of HD hardware (be it BluRay or HD-DVD or whatever else just comes out meanwhile), and sure to be displayed in plasmas and LCD screens all over the world when this movie goes on sale. Go see it now, at theaters, in its original digital form, 3D glasses over your nose and enjoy it for what it is: pure magic.
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