Tuesday, November 27, 2007

The Absurdity of Beowulf

I just got back from seeing "Beowulf" in Real 3D. First things first: The 3D was spot on and wonderful to behold. It's getting to the point that I'll have to stop commenting on the 3D at length since it seems damn near impossible to goof it up with these new systems. I will state that, if you go and see this film, see it in 3D, 'cause there won't be much else to recommend.

The biggest problem with "Beowulf" is in it's presentation. It's a film made with flesh and blood actors, but no flesh and blood actors appear on screen. Huh? Wha? That's right, kiddies. "Beowulf" features computer rendered versions of it's actors. It's not a good choice of visual style, since computer renderings of humans have never been able to get things completely right. With great, rare exception, facial expressions hardly ever come across as genuine. Facial inflections are gone and mouth movements are never convincing. What's left is sort of an enhanced version of animatronic robots from Disney Theme Park rides. The actor's voices are there, but their digitised counterparts are hollow. The overall look and feel is like one big video game cut scene. Seriously, that "Final Fantasy" CGI movie had a more convincing look.

The first half of the movie is ripe with, I believe, unintentional laughs. Beowulf disrobes down to complete nakedness in preparation to fight Grendel and what follows is a series of carefully placed camera angels and props obscuring his manhood that would've made Mike Meyers' shudder in disbelief. Beowulf disrobes later in the film, too, to scare the bejesus out of an enemy soldier. By this time in the film, I thought he was acting more like an intense Chippendale's dancer than a Mythical hero.

The Action sequences are also laughably executed. Sam Raimi should sue for plagiarism for all of the swooshing cameras and "Evil Dead" like visual touches present here. In fact, it's sub Raimi. It's more TV's Xena than anything else. Grendel also takes on a visual interpretation of one of the shriveled, Yin-deprived undead in the original "A Chinese Ghost Story". A little too much influence by writers Neil Gaimen and Roger Avary, maybe??? What I'm saying here is, though digitally clean, the effects and action are strictly 80's, folks, only Sam Raimi and Ching Siu-Tung did it better since they did it with real world, tangible effects.

Of course, the plot is standard and by the numbers (what would you expect from a Centuries old story?), though the plot angle of the old world multi deity Religions being tossed in favor of Christianity is a semi fresh touch. The film doesn't seem to be a big fan of JC, however. A cross thrust into the face of a golden hellspawn doesn't do any good at all.

Thing start to roll better in the second half, with Beowulf's shady dealing with Grendel's mother coming home to roost. A word about Angelina Jolie's character here. Her digital doppelganger is good as the Demon Mother, but really isn't given much to do except to stand alluringly naked with gold covering up her best bits. It's all rendered anyway, so any titillation that might have been had was completely erased from my psyche.

The final battle with Beowulf hanging on to his son-turned-dragon has a few good moments, but it's all struck down with some serious "Aw, come on!" moments that had me stifling hard laughter throughout the climax. My favorite LOL scene in the climax is the part where he can't reach the Dragon's heart with his sword, so he severs his left arm at the shoulder, accidentally drops his sword and succeeds in tearing the Dragon's heart out with his right hand(!). Read that one a few times before going on. I'm sorry, but... if I can't reach into a hole with my right arm and spear something with a sword, a LONG SWORD, how in the hell am I going to be able to grab it by severing my LEFT arm at the shoulder???

Movies, I guess. Only in the movies. Well, I can't be too critical of it since the 2 hour running time flew by fairly quickly, but I can't really recommend it, either. If it's not taken seriously and you get to see it in 3D, then you'll have a good time. I think there are other movies out now that deserve your attention much more, however.

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