Tuesday, 4 December 2007

Movie review

by Danielle niDhighe Danielle Ni Dhighe ( http://scanandpan.blogspot.com/ ) reviews....


The past (an Old English heroic epic poem) meets thefuture (digital animation) in an entertaining fantasy film.Denmark in the sixth century: King Hrothgar (Anthony Hopkins) iscelebrating the construction of his new mead hall when it's suddenlyattacked by the monstrous giant Grendel (Crispin Glover), who killsmany of Hrothgar's subjects. Hrothgar offers half of his gold to anyhero who can slay Grendel. Every man who takes up the challenge dies.Enter Beowulf (Ray Winstone), a boastful warrior who vows to slayGrendel and bring peace to the kingdom once more. To achieve hisgoals, he must contend not only with Grendel, but also with Grendel'sdemonic mother (Angelina Jolie).The classic poem is reinterpreted for the 21st century byscreenwriters Neil Gaiman ("Neverwhere", "MirrorMask") and Roger Avary("Pulp Fiction", "The Rules of Attraction"). The film covers thethree major events in the life of the titular hero--the slaying ofGrendel, the encounter with Grendel's mother, and the slaying of adragon--while cleverly expanding on the source material to transformit into a more complete and emotionally involving story whilemaintaining its heroic epic qualities. In the poem, Beowulf is a onedimensional archetypal hero, but here he becomes a more interestingcharacter with emotional conflicts and better definition as anindividual. There's also a fine sense of humor that keeps it frombecoming too grim.The film's weakness is the choice made by director Robert Zemeckis(best known for "Back to the Future" and "Forrest Gump") to use motioncapture and digital animation by Sony Pictures Imageworks to bring thestory to life, just as he did for 2004's "The Polar Express". Itlooks like a fancy video game rather than an epic film, and you maywell wonder where your game controller is at times. There are otherways to do a film like this. For example, using live actors and realsets enhanced by visual effects ("Lord of the Rings"), or using liveactors and digital backgrounds ("300").Call me old fashioned, but when I plunk myself down in a cinema seat,I want to see something that looks like a film instead of an oversizedvideo game. As good as the animation may be, the motion capturesimply can't quite fully render facial expressions and complex motionswithout looking fake. However, Gaiman and Avary's screenplay isstrong enough to mostly overcome the problems with the animation andsuck the audience into the story. It must also be noted that thisfilm would have been pushing an R rating if it had been filmed liveaction, and the unreality of the animation may have allowed it to getby with a PG-13 rating instead.Production designer Doug Chiang ("The Polar Express") and costumedesigner Gabriella Pescucci ("Charlie and the Chocolate Factory", "TheBrothers Grimm") provide the film with a strong visual sensibilitythat looks at once historical and fantastical. Longtime Zemeckiscollaborator Alan Silvestri contributes an epic sounding score, alongwith some songs co-written by Glen Ballard that are hauntingly beautiful.Because of the motion capture and animation, it's difficult to judgethe actors on anything except their voice work, which is of topquality. Hopkins' rich voice is perfectly suited to Hrothgar,Winstone is appropriately heroic while bringing some depth to the roleof Beowulf, Glover is strangely sympathetic as Grendel, and Jolie isperfectly cast as a seductive demoness who can make a man lose hispowers of reason. The rest of the talented cast includes JohnMalkovich as Hrothgar's sharp-tongued advisor Unferth, Brendan Gleesonas Beowulf's friend and sidekick, Robin Wright Penn as Hrothgar'squeen, and Alison Lohman as Beowulf's mistress.Literary purists might not approve of some of the changes wrought bythe screenwriters, but "Beowulf" the film is a good epic fantasy witha conflicted hero, a sense of humor, and a wonderfully ambiguousending. Those qualities allow it to transcend the limitations ofmotion capture and digital animation, and by the end the story willwin you over and you'll forget that it looks like a video game.[4 out of 5 stars]

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1 comment:

Plot Tracer said...

Saw this film in 3D - superb, tho a bit sexist. Flawed heroes etc... definately the bane of the left.