Whatever you do, don’t call Robert Zemekis’ “Beowulf” a cartoon. Not because of the film’s incredibly realistic animation, but it just doesn’t
do justice to a film that pushes the limits of the PG-13 rating. There’s plenty of nudity, innuendo, and blood, blood, blood!
Luckily, unlike this year’s earlier epic, “300,” Zemekis balances all these great things with real character development.
The film opens in Denmark where a village is attacked by a horrific creature named Grendel. When all but the main characters have been
disposed of, King Hrothgar (Anthony Hopkins) and his much younger Queen Wealthow (Robin Wright Penn) hope for a hero. They get the
cocky warrior Beowulf.
Beowulf is performed by Ray Winstone, although he looks less like his character than the other leads for reasons obvious if you are familiar
with the English actor.
Winstone does a fantastic job with the character, which is far more than the screaming jackass showcased in the film’s TV spots and trailers.
Screenwriters Neil Gaiman and Roger Avary do an excellent job fully-realizing this character and establishing the story’s mythology. And
although there is an awkward time shift in the back end of the film, it does serve to show how much the character has changed from his self-
Perhaps the largest shortcoming of the film is that there isn’t enough action. There is an excellent sequence where Beowulf fights the
monster Grendel and a show-stopping fight with a dragon. These sequences work so well that I wish there were more of them.
But instead there is a bit too much chatting inside the mead hall.
Zemekis’ camerawork always serves to keep things interesting though; especially if you can catch the film in 3D. I saw “Beowulf” in IMAX 3D
and the presentation was spectacular. This was partly because of the sharper than normal 3D projection and partly because the animation
is so darned good.
You may remember that Zemekis directed “The Polar Express” using the same technology in 2004. It has clearly come a long way.
There are times when “Beowulf” looks indistinguishable from live-action. There are certainly times when it looks animated, but the film’s art
direction is so good that it doesn’t really matter. This is a great looking film.
The film also sounds great, with special consideration to composer Alan Silvestri. Silvestri delivers an impressive melding of classical and
modern styles to deliver a thrilling, but also emotional, score.
With “Beowulf,” Zemekis delivers a visually spectacular film that is a worthy adaptation of a classic tale. And while it may not be a full-
fledged triumphant adaptation, “Beowulf” is a treat.
* * *
(Out of four)
Directed by: Robert Zemekis
Written by: Roger Avary and Neil Gaiman
Starring: Ray Winstone, Brenden Gleeson, Angelina
Jolie, Anthony Hopkins, Robin Wright Penn, John
Music by: Alan Silvestri
Released: November 16, 2007; 113 Minutes