For a movie made by a lot of people I respect, Beowulf is pretty spectacularly bad. I rented it via iTunes last night and watched it with my girlfriend, and about halfway through I turned to her and commented that I hoped whoever wrote the screenplay was never allowed to write again. Imagine my surprise when we reached the end and I discovered the screenplay was written (at least in part) by Neil Gaiman, one of my favorite authors. Party foul, Neil. Major party foul.

Even worse, they decided to do the entire movie in CGI. While I enjoy a CGI movie as much as the next guy, the director and producers apparently decided to pour all of their budget into kickass water, cloth, and hair. Apparently no one thought to remind them that little things like facial expressions are actually way more important than long flowing locks. As a result, the dialogue sequences are like watching wax dolls who are half-asleep. Add that to the terrible script, and you’ve got a recipe for hilarity, but not in a good way.

On the other hand, if you’re looking for a movie you can mock the whole way through, or some mindless fantasy violence, then Beowulf might be for you. Just don’t expect the normally high caliber of the actors and writers to mean anything.

3 responses to “Beowulf”

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  1. Matt says:

    Yeah, I grabbed this movie from a RedBox, and was similarly disenchanted. I completely uphold and support your declaration of party-foul, BUT…

    The motion-capture was amazing. The overall technical execution of this film was seriously kick-ass. A couple of pros in the industry teased out some interesting details in an episode of the VFX show ( that makes me look at it with more respect than I originally did. There are also a few shots that really felt real… the problem is that these shots were in the *extreme* minority. Almost the entire movie was so incredibly deep into the “uncanny valley” that the few shining shots where the artists actually hit the sweet spot just don’t make it worth it. And I say this even after acknowledging the probably “game-cinematic-loving” intended audience would likely care less about that then people like us. I feel like this is similar to Final Fantasy and Monster House… they are technical stepping stones that are necessary boulders of freakishness on the road out of the valley. BUT…

    …there is no excuse for the party foul. Shame indeed, Mr. Gaiman.

  2. Ian Beck says:

    That’s a good point; I did overlook the motion capture, which at times was pretty impressive (although a lot of the movement looked very “Shrek” to me, if you know what I mean).

    For me, the facial expression (or lack thereof) is what distracted me from the otherwise great motion capture. I can accept a lot less realistic motion as long as I’m involved with the characters because I’ll willingly suspend disbelief. Because I found the characters so waxen, though, it focused my attention on the other dissonant details to the detriment of the film’s legitimate strengths.

  3. Matt says:

    Indeed. Those few beautiful shots that got a legitimate “wow” out of me almost exclusively featured static subjects. The environmental and VFX elements hit spot-on, the camera movement (if there was any) was excellent, and there was a complete absence of any character animation.

    And while the mo-cap was awesome, there was enough trouble matching, scaling, and otherwise cleaning up the mo-cap data later during the scene composition stages.

    And yeah, the faces. So very waxen. Some of them were pretty good when they didn’t actually move at all…. but enter any animation, and it was like watching “Attack of the Medieval Sword-wielding Zombies.”

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