Well, well, well... I bet you wish you were me... That's right, I'm now the proud owner of a pair of (relatively) comfortable, fit, plastic-not-paper, stereoscopic, polarized glasses.
You too could enjoy a fabulous 3D experience if you go see Beowulf 3D!
If in fact you do go to see Beowulf 3D, you can expect a number of interesting things. First, unlike virtually any other "3D" movie I've ever seen, it's stereoscopic the entire movie. Considering how incredibly distracting it is to have to constantly put glasses on, then take them off, then on again - not to mention the irritating icons that pop up and interrupt the movie to tell you to do so, this is a fabulous improvement. The cool thing about a movie that's entirely in 3D is that eventually you forget about the glasses and just get into the film... until you get a spear shoved in your face! It really screws with your perception when that happens, I'm here to tell ya.
As I'm sure you know, Beowulf is the oldest surviving piece of English literature and is one of the most epic stories imaginable. Naturally, Zemeckis takes some liberties with the story, but considering it's a multi-millennia-old viking epic poem I'm really not going to get bent out of shape about that. For the uninitiated, Beowulf is a mighty warrior who travels with a small group of heroes seeking glory through great battles with monsters and demonstrations of skill. In the saga, as in the film, Beowulf has answered the call of King Hrothgar (Anthony Hopkins) to help defeat the disturbing creature called Grendel.
Grendel is a huge beast who for no apparent reason enjoys dismembering people and eating parts of their bodies - especially when good times are being enjoyed by all. It comes as no surprise when Beowulf defeats him (though why he must remove his clothes to do this is a bit of a mystery) and proves himself the worthy hero. Unfortunately - Hrothgar's kingdom is far from out of the proverbial woods. Grendel, though certainly a problem, is nothing compared to his demoness mother... as portrayed (through remarkable motion capture animation technology) by a "close enough to naked for 12 year-old Roger Ebert", Angelina Jolie. Should I be embarrassed that I'm turned on by her slithery tail and high-heeled feet? ...Nah!
This is where the plot (written by one of my personal favorites, Neil Gaiman & Roger Avary) goes on an interesting departure from the saga, but upon some reflection, the twist actually makes a lot of sense - at least if you're a guy.
There are some fine performances by Hopkins and his young wife played by Robin Wright Penn, but as per usz, the most attention grabbing work is done by a slimy, cowardly, but yet somehow not altogether bad John Malkovich as Unferth, Hrothgar's "trusted advisor". Ray Winstone is fine as Beowulf, but let's be honest, the vast majority of his lines are spent either stating his own name or shouting at people... and also grunting. A whole lot of grunting happens too.
If you want a pretty kickass action movie done up in an animation style that unabashedly stomps all over the uncanny valley line - I'd definitely recommend Beowulf 3D. And hey - who doesn't want an illusory spear in the face?!
**(Though I've only seen the 3D version, I have serious doubts that the animation would be particularly enjoyable without the stereoscopic component - the movie was designed for the glasses, so if you do go, spend the extra buck and do the 3D experience.)
I suppose this is the part where I create an arbitrary rating system isn't it? Hmm... ok, I think I've got an idea! Out of a possible 5 reels...
THE MUSIC REVIEW: I'm not going to spend a ton of time on this score because honestly, it wasn't that memorable to me and it's been about 10 days now. Alan Silvestri has worked with Robert Zemeckis for a bazillion years now and they certainly seem to sync up nicely, but this wasn't Silvestri's best work. Now, there's nothing "wrong with it" per se - what emotional scenes were present were certainly appropriately handled, and as always, Silvestri's action writing is ballsy and epic. However, if you were to compare the score for Beowulf up against one of Silvestri's earlier over-the-top epics; Van Helsing, you'd find that the themes are bolder, the orchestration more outrageous and in general the whole scale more epic. In some ways, I think he treated Beowulf more seriously than the story itself really warrants. It may just be one composer's opinion, but I always say - if you're going to go over-the-top, go with gusto!
Arbitrary rating for the music (also out of 5):