The new version of "Beowulf", Robert Zemeckis' $150 million performance-capture extravaganza is the most anticipated movie of the weekend, and for tech-lovers perhaps the most anticipated of the year. In the film, the warrior Beowulf (Ray Winstone) must defeat the monster Grendel (Crispin Glover) and later, Grendel's mother (Angelina Jolie). Also featured are Anthony Hopkins as Hrothgar and John Malkovich as Unferth.
As with Zemeckis' "Polar Express", actors faces have been mapped out and applied to animation. Not every review thought the image capture was ideal, with some wishing the the script had been shot live action. Others thought the sparkling effects combined with the ancient poem made it a singular work of art. One universally commented on feature of the film is Angelina Jolie as Grendel's evil mother, and a scene in which she emerges naked from the water. Stills have flooded the internet since the restricted trailer went online. The New York Times led their review with Jolie "naked and dripping in gold" and a mention of her character's "jutting breasts" and Radar even did a roundup of reviewers' thoughts on the digitized rack. One wonders why the film is only PG-13.
The Hollywood Reporter loved it:
Robert Zemeckis not only deploys 21st century movie technology at its finest to turn the heroic poem into a vibrant, nerve-tingling piece of pop culture, but his film actually makes sense of "Beowulf." In Zemeckis' hands, it's an intriguing look at a hero as a flawed human being... [It's] a waggish bit of postmodern fun. It may raise the eyebrows of English Lit professors but will quicken the pulse of everyone else.
But according to Variety, which was less enamored:
Robert Zemeckis delivers a muscular, sometimes stirring but ultimately soulless reinterpretation of "Beowulf." For all its visual sweep and propulsively violent action, this bloodthirsty rendition of the Old English epic can't overcome the disadvantage of being enacted by digital waxworks rather than flesh-and-blood Danes and demons.
Also taken with the technology, and with the whole film, was cinematical. The reviewer unabashedly loved it all. "Holy ****ing moly. I've simply never seen anything like it," he begins, and enthuses about the film's mastery until the end.
They NY Post - one of the reviews that had wished it was live action - said:
"Beowulf" can be a lot of fun to watch - at least in the 3-D IMAX version I saw - but it's hard to forget for long that you're stranded in a waxworks netherworld between live action and animation.
A frequent sentiment. As the New York Times reviewer bluntly wrote, "I don't yet see the point of performance capture, particularly given how ugly it renders realistic-looking human forms." As for the dialogue, Roger Ebert likened it to that of Monty Python.
In the end, this weekend's other new releases - "Redacted," G-rated "Mr. Magorium's Wonder Emporium" and "Love in a Time of Cholera" won't be much competition to the mass PG-13, naked Angelina appeal of "Beowulf".