The blood-soaked tale of a Norse warrior's battle against the great and murderous troll, Grendel. Out of allegiance to the King Hrothgar, the much respected Lord of the Danes, Beowulf leads... See full summary »
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
...before 3D-rendered human characters will appear halfway realistic. Don't get me wrong, I'm not against CGI. Not at all. I work with 3D applications like Poser and Maya myself (as a hobbyist) and I appreciate good CGI creatures, monsters and sceneries. But at the current state of the technology, that's also what CGI should be limited to - fantasy creatures, monsters and scenery.
The whole movie was done with CGI, not one human actor is to be seen. I find it a bit questionable to advertise with names like Anthony Hopkins when he in fact never appears on the screen. Yes, there was something that was meant to look like Anthony Hopkins, but... well, let's put it like this: We are used to closely examine and analyze the faces of our fellow humans, in order to guess their mood and anticipate their next move. While no one expects realistic facial animations from a monster like Grendel (Grendel looked fantastic), all the flaws of not-yet-lifelike CGI can clearly be seen in the human 3D models. They simply don't look human yet.
The faces appeared wooden and somehow dead. No brow movement, which gave a creepy "dead eyes" impression. In fact, all facial animations were reduced to the mouth, and not even the mouth movement looked realistic; the chins didn't move much when these creatures "spoke" and the cheekbones didn't move at all. The stoic Beowulf wasn't that much affected by this flaw, only in some close-ups the lack of expression turned him into a lifeless statue. But characters like Wealthow (supposed to resemble Robin Wright Penn, the 3D artist should be fired) looked like display dummies. Creepy, moving display dummies. Due to this lack of realism, none of the characters was likable. If I met any of those supposedly human creatures in the streets, I'd think of serial killers (or alien body snatchers) and start to walk faster.
Another obvious flaw were the hands. Humans don't move all fingers perfectly synchronous when they open or close a hand, and our hands are rarely completely motionless when we point at something or make a hand gesture. Also, there are little skin folds and wrinkles that appear when hands move, details which changeless skin texture fails to portrait. Watching the hands and limbs of these 3D toons reminded me of wax works. I have the deepest respect for some of the actors who lend their voice to this movie, and it was hurtful to see what the CGI team did to them. Finally, the main problem of CGI: Clothes. CGI can't yet depict realistic clothes, they always look like stiff tarpaulin. No real folds or wrinkles, no realistic flow when the characters are moving. This flaw further added to the overall wax works impression.
The scenery looked decent enough, only the lighting was subtly wrong in some scenes. It's most obvious in Beowulf's encounter with Grendel's mother, the Angelina Jolie toon; the lighting is all wrong there, which adds to the unreal look of Jolie's 3D-rendered face. Colors are a quite a problem too; in scenes with little light, the color saturation is way too high. In reality, there is no bright red in gloomy twilight, it turns into a dark grey-brown. Yet the CGI blood is of a highly saturated red even in the darkest scenes.
Nothing against CGI cartoons à la Final Fantasy; cartoons aren't supposed to be realistic. Beowulf advertises real actors though and strives for realism, which it fails to deliver. Despite the rather decent screenplay (I'm a huge fan of Neil Gaiman and his handiwork was clearly visible in the plot and dialogs), I can't bring myself to grant this movie more than 4 stars. My message to Mr. Zemeckis: If you want monsters, use CGI. But if you want humans, film human actors or wait another 5-10 years. Right now, human 3D models are only useful as stunt doubles.
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