I was probably twelve when I first read Beowulf. I most recently read it when Seamus Heaney’s translation came out. There was no way I was going to miss this movie.
Of course, I saw it in 3D. Every movie should be in 3D. It’s really the only way to view a movie. If the technology becomes widespread, however, let’s hope moviemakers get tired of the let’s-make-them-duck gimmicks.
The movie version turns the epic poem into a comic book. I don’t mean that pejoratively. There are some good comic book movies out there, and I don’t care what their original inspiration was. This one, however, is only decent.
First of all, I’m not a fan of the technology used. It’s an uneasy blend of live action and animation. I suppose the studio didn’t want to spend the special effects budget needed for live action, but in trying to make it photorealistic, they shut off many artistic options. (With live action, we could have had real naked shots of Angelina Jolie–but then, we would have seen the spot between Anthony Hopkins’s groin and thigh, too.)
Second, the gimmicks. I’ve mentioned one above, the “It’s coming at you!” trick. Even more annoying was the coy hide-and-seek with Beowulf’s genitals (he fought Grendel naked), which went on far too long.
Third, the story. I don’t want to spoil the plot for those who haven’t seen it. Let me just say, the book will not ruin the story for you. You can safely read it. Grendel’s mother’s motivations are inscrutable, even for a demon. But then, no one in the movie acts with any kind of psychological consistency. The characters are 3D in appearance only. The battle scenes could have been more enjoyable if the laws of physics had been given at least a bit part.
If you like science fiction/fantasy movies, you won’t waste your time or money with Beowulf. If you miss it, though, you should feel little regret.