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Not the finest cartographers in the land

7/10
Author: Grann-Bach (Grann-Bach@jubii.dk) from Denmark
9 February 2010

This is a series of featurettes with a combined running time of about 21 minutes, found on the 2-Disc Director's Cut DVD of Beowulf. The following may seem petty at first, so please bear with me; the menu is very poorly done. There is no play all, in spite of every single one of these being two minutes or less, so you constantly have to be ready to start the next one. It's ten parts, split into pages with five, and once you've watched the first 5, it'll jump back up to highlight the first one, rather than switch to the next batch of them. Did they just not care about making it user-friendly? I'm honestly not sure I see any issue with sticking them all together in one bunch(it's not even half an hour in total), and making each be a chapter, so that you can skip them with the remote if you don't want to see that particular one. These consist of behind-the-scenes footage including a bit of pre-vis, interviews and clips of the film. They're well-edited and none overstay their welcome. Everything is explained pretty well, and there is interesting information in these. It may be difficult to look the actors in the eyes again after you see them strutting around(not to mention that silly dance) in neon-colored spandex, but if you want to know more, these'll do nicely. The language in this is censored. I recommend this to those who want to delve deeper into the making of the movie. 7/10

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They should have paid more attention to mapping the DVD menu

7/10
Author: Chip_douglas from Rijswijk, ZH, Netherlands
27 August 2009

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

The navigation on the ten part 'Mapping the Journey' leaves much to be desired. Either something went wrong during the authoring of the Beowulf two disc DVD set or else they just didn't care about making the menu user friendly. For starters there is no 'Play All' function to be found, meaning you have to scramble for the remote every two minutes. The documentaries are spread out over two pages but at the end of the fifth, instead of moving to the next page, the cursor jumps back to underline the first docu. This means that if you overlook the curly arrow at the bottom of the page leading to the remaining five pieces, you might think that's it and return to the main menu. The documentaries themselves expand on stuff already glimpsed in the DVD's major doc, 'A hero's journey: the making of Beowulf'. But it would have been better had they edited them all together into a companion piece.

Anyway, here's how it plays out: 1) The Volume. Starting off with an explanation of the all important Volume where the entire film was shot, Demian Gordon explains that what we are looking at is an infrared cube that's three dimensional. All the red lights around the walls are actually 224 infrared cameras controlled by computers. Nobody mentions why they seem to have a lot of booze standing around in the camera control room, though. 2) "T"Pose Prep. At the start and cut of each take the actors have to go into the T-pose so the computer has a guide where they began and where they ended up. Twice a day they also have to go through a ROM (range of motion calibration) dance. This looks like they are doing a marionette dance or maybe an early morning exercise programs for the elderly. 3) What is E.O.G.? This stands for Electoro Ocular Graf. The improvements in technology since Robert Zemeckis'Polar Express are that they can now keep track of eye movements and add a more lifelike quality to those of the computer generated characters. Between takes each actor has to be checked by nerdy looking crew-members fiddling with I-phones and Tricorders. Despite of this, most critics still complained about the dead looking eyes anyway.

4) Lay of the Land. Norm Newberry shows off his model work which came in handy to give the actors some idea what kind of setting they are supposed to be imagining. This piece has more of a fly-on-the-wall vibe than the previous efforts and less talking. The next item sounds a bit rude: 5) Givin' props. There is some overlapping with "A Hero's Journey" as prop master Michael Gastaldo explains why they had to use transparent wire frame objects on set because real props would block the lights from the digital camera's. When they show Grendel's severed arm, it gets some scary music even though it does't look frightening at all. Even the food is neon wires. John Malkovich proves he loves to eat wiggly worm food. 6) Scanners. This is supporting actor Sebastian Roche's show, as we watch him being scanned and measured all over. We also saw footage of this in the main docu, but without him being identified. Obviously none of the big stars wanted to be filmed going through this process.

7) Stunts and rigs. It's always fun to see Ray Winstone fighting, sliding, riding half a horse, talking with the use of subtitles and being suspended upside down in a rig nicknamed the 'yack ring'. Then Robin Wright Penn films her dream sequence suspended on wires and copies Angelina Jolie's silly accent. As if this wasn't embarrassing enough, we see footage of Winstone playing the dragon. 8) Plan of Attack. This segment is only just over 2 minutes (average length of these pieces) but seems longer because there is no explanation at all, just storyboards and pre vis footage. It reminds me of home made computer generated animation tests you might find on Youtube. A 'Sweded' Beowulf if you will. Just to prove there were some actual actors practicing their craft we move onto 9) Fight me. It's Crispin Glover vs Tony Hopkins as Grendel and Hrothgar. Again we see Crispin looking like a regular guy in a suit and tie discussing his character's motivation, followed by them acting it out on stage (with Glover on a moving crane for scale). One thing I don't get is why Grendel, who has very sensitive hearing, is shouting all the time. Finally Hoppy, brandishing his cool sword with the bright orange hilt, wrap's up his role and gets a standing ovation.

The last part is really just a big in-joke that fails to come over to the uninitiated: 10) Baby, it's cold inside. Apparently, the temperature on set was kept very low on purpose, to keep the rig from expanding and all the markers from dropping off the actors. Then there is some lame stuff about putting a temperature reader in the freezer. Notice that this is in the kitchen where the previous documentary ended up (via an easter egg that automatically appears if you watch the credits all the way through). That one involved John Malky getting some coffee and wasn't funny either.

7 out of 10

T-Pose

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