BEOWULF: Director's Cut - Mania.com



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Info:

  • Title: Beowulf The Director's Cut
  • Rating: Unrated
  • Starring: Ray Winstone, Anthony Hopkins, Angelina Jolie, John Malkovich, Brendan Gleeson
  • Written By: Neil Gaiman, Robert Avary
  • Directed By: Robert Zemeckis
  • Distributor: Paramount Home Entertainment
  • Original Year of Release: 2007
  • Extras: Making of Documentary, Deleted Scenes, trailers, The Art of Beowulf, three additional featurettes

BEOWULF: Director's Cut

Tim's Review for the new Beowulf DVD.

By Tim Janson, Columnist     February 15, 2008


BEOWULF DIRECTOR'S CUT (2008).
© Paramount Home Entertainment

Beowulf uses the same style of motion-capture animation that director Robert Zemeckis employed in The Polar Express. The film is based upon the epic Saxon poem, written around the 8th century. While it has become a national treasure in England, its setting and characters are actually Scandinavian. The film is only loosely based on the poem although I doubt there are many who have read the epic, as it’s a bit of a laborious read, even with a modern translation.

The film opens in Heorot, the great hall of Danish King Hrothgar. The aged, rotund King (Hopkins) and his men are celebrating a victory in battle. Hrothgar stumbles about drunkenly, and near naked. His men sing the praises of their King but their exuberance is interrupted by the arrival of the monster Grendel who literally crashes the party, killing nearly everyone on the hall yet strangely unwilling to fight Hrothgar, even when challenged. The King offers half his fortune to any man who can kill Grendel but none who venture to haunted moors where the beast lives, ever return.

The legendary hero Beowulf (Winstone) arrives with a company of his soldiers and promises to slay the giant. He is not all bravado as he succeeds in his task but is faced with the even more daunting task of slaying Grendel’s unnamed mother (Jolie).

The first impression of Beowulf’s character in the film is that he is, frankly, a bit of a prick. He’s arrogant and prideful, and loves to boast about his deeds. He’s not above hitting on Queen Wealthow (Robin Wright Penn) even when the King is nearby. He even lies through his teeth about killing Grendel’s mother although the King sees through the lie and knows what truly happen when the hero encountered the demonic she-creature. Ultimately though, Beowulf does redeem himself. With Hrothgar having no heir, he proclaims that Beowulf will be the new King upon his death. Many years later, an aged Beowulf must be the hero one more time to rescue his kingdom from a fire-breathing dragon, the latest offspring of Grendel’s mother.

The motion-capture in Beowulf is leagues ahead of Polar Express. While Express was a fantasy and could be excused for a lot of whimsy, this film had to go for a grittier, more realistic look. Everything from the character’s movements and facial expressions to the lighting and shadows, and depth of texturing was breathtaking. In particular, the Grendel character was perhaps the most intriguing. He is a broken, twisted, and deformed monster. Every moment of his pitiful life is painful. Even the mirthful singing of Hrothgar’s men was torment to his ears. Crispin Glover plays the role of Grendel with spastic ingenuity. Jolie was just creepy no matter how 3-D animated naked she happened to be…Hopkins seemed to relish his role King, gleefully prancing about in the opening scenes much to the embarrassment of his Queen. Brendan Gleeson also stood out as Beowulf’s second-in-command, Wilglaf. The fine Irish character actor always brings a strong presence to every performance.

Certain liberties were taken with the script. In the original tale Beowulf returns to his homeland where he becomes King as opposed to taking Hrothgar’s crown. As pointed out in one of the featurettes, this was done to forward the continuity of the film. And while I understand that a film does need conflict and all, I just didn’t like the attempt to make Beowulf a flawed hero. 

It’s not a perfect, or even great film. There’s not a lot of time expended in developing characters, particularly Grendel’s mother who we learn almost nothing about. It’s an exciting film, bloodier than one may think and visually arresting. While the motion-capture process will never replace actual live film, in moderation and with the right material, they can be first-rate entertainment. Beowulf hits store shelves on February

Extras

A Hero’s Journey: The Making of Beowulf runs 23:40 and looks at every aspect of the making of the film.

Beasts of Burden: Designing the Creatures of Beowulf takes a look at the character designs of all the monsters in the film. 6:54

The Origins of Beowulf examines the original Beowulf epic poem 5:12

Creating the Ultimate Beowulf charts the design of the main character

The Art of Beowulf is 5:22 worth of design art, sketches, and models of the film

There's also about 10:00 worth of Deleted Scenes

COMMENTS AND RESPONSES

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1 
Migg 2/15/2008 6:53:53 AM
Where's the review of the DVD? This is just a discussion of the movie. How does this Director's Cut differ from the theatrical release version? Does the Director's Cut show the movie in 3d? How does the 3D look on a small screen? If the review copy was not in 3D, will there be a 3D DVD release?
goatartist 2/15/2008 8:13:11 AM
Migg, Good point. Let me answer your question. If you didn't see this movie in Imax 3d, you will be dissapointed
RaithManan 2/15/2008 12:17:29 PM
Maybe Angelina is more naked than she appears in the Director's Cut or perhaps the one scene that really raised the men voices in the theaters when I saw it was where the wench was busting out all over when cleaning the tables. Perhaps her top drops. Now if only I can convince some people that this is a good flick instead of remembering that god-awful sci-fi twisted Christopher Lambert version of Beowulf. Its amazing how some people remember a shitty direct to video movie from the mid 90's is the reason why some of my friends won't see this Beowulf.
Hobbs 2/15/2008 2:16:26 PM
Never saw the Christopher Lambert version but then outside of Highlander can we even consider him an actor? Heck, even with Highlander can we consider him an actor. Any way, based on what you are saying RaithManan I would be interestested in seeing it because I haven't yet but I would be curious to know which one you recommend, the directors cut or the theater release? Having not seen a movie before I usually stick with the original release before I jump into a directors cut which tends to be longer. I would be curious what everyone thinks though.
RaithManan 2/15/2008 3:26:33 PM
Hobbs, Lambert is a decent actor...just he or his agent picks god-awful projects. And do yourself a favor...PLEASE DO NOT GO TO BLOCKBUSTER TO FIND LAMBERT's VERSION. Or try to avoid it if it happens to come on the Sci-Fi channel. If you do, grab a gun and shoot your tv. That movie is even worse than any of Uwe Boll's flicks.
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