Tonight was the release of Beowulf. My spot review for the movie was "It wasn't quite walk-out-of-the-theater bad."
The Wife disagrees.
I suppose it would have helped had we seen it in 3-D, like it was meant to be seen. All the characters were digitally altered (Anthony Hopkins just isn't built like that, which is a good thing) and they seemed to walk around strangely. Certainly I would expect the monsters to be digitally-rendered, and for the monsters, that was good. But I think the human actors should have been left to be human actors. Again, that may have been a function of the movie supposed to be in 3-D but the version we saw being the 2-D version.
There was a dearth of Angelina Jolie doing much of anything interesting. She has less than ten minutes of screen time. Grendel looked pretty cool and the fight scenes were good, but spoke in a language I could not recognize (wikipedia said it was Old English) and that too was distracting. The final battle was mostly a lot of fun, and the dragon looked great. Occasionally it was too cartoony even for me, but when you see a guy fighting a dragon you've got to understand that gritty realism isn't what you're after. Verisimilitude perhaps, but not realism.
If by some odd circumstance you are a great fan of the original poem, know that there are some very substantial liberties taken with the overall narrative arc of the story. I actually agree with them because they made the movie about something rather than a series of battles and funerals.
There are also some explicitly Christian references which feel grafted into the story -- not because I dislike the idea of Christianity in the story (there are some significant Christian themes in the original poem, which portrays Beowulf as a "suffering servant" and something of a parallel to Jesus except more of a bad-ass) but rather because they were so ham-handed and overt -- and because it showed the pagan Danes as far too interested and willing to accept the god of the Romans, who surely would have seemed weird and not associated with winners to them.
But with the larger narrative changes, a new sort of sensibility is found and two good themes get worked in through the film. The real meaning of the story shows through. Taking the easy way out inevitably leads to your short-term successes collapsing. If you really want something, you've got to earn it for yourself. I liked that part of the movie.
The costumes were believable, the makeup was good, so these guys really did look like what we imagine Vikings to have looked like (which may well not be historically accurate, but come on with the accuracy already). The female characters did not look like I would have imagined early sixth-century noblewomen looked; their makeup, hairstyles, and costumes looked straight of the Renaissance Pleasure Faire. The lighting was so bad that it was distracting and got in the way of the narrative. The acting seemed flat and the writing did the best it could with the overall arc of the story.
Beowulf was a big disappointment, I'm afraid. My advice is -- you can skip it, especially if your theater, like ours, doesn't show it in 3-D.
(By the way, it didn't help that some people who sat in the seats near us were very loud and obnoxious. Both of them were apparently drunk. The man had a lengthy conversation on his cell phone set on speaker, and the woman seemed to be interested in having sex right there in the theater. Ew. They also seemed to think that watching the movie was an interactive experience; "That's right, you better get it on with her now before that monster comes back, boy!" I'd never really experienced that before, and I was grateful that after about ten minutes of this, the couple seemed to lose interest in the movie and they moved on to some other location.)
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