Science fiction and fantasy                                            


directed by Robert Zemeckis

Beowulf poster  
What may not be immediately clear from the trailers is that the whole of Beowulf is filmed in 3D. Although the main characters base their appearance on that of their real-world voice actors, real people aren't actually shown in this movie. So you get none of the gritty realism that comes with live filming and flesh-and-blood actors.

Most of the characters, particularly that of Beowulf himself, are probably as close to looking human as modern technology will allow. But they all have a certain smoothness to their features and a fluidity of movement that means the illusion isn't perfect, and as a result it smacks of a roleplaying video game.

The story begins in 6th century Denmark, at the hall of King Hrothgar (Anthony Hopkins). His people are holding a raucous feast to celebrate their latest victory, when the monster Grendel bursts in. Grendel picks up the men and throws them around as though he's a toddler having a tantrum with some dolls, with predictably gory results.

Hrothgar's people go into mourning and close up the hall, because the sound of merrymaking seems to attract the beast. But it's not long before Beowulf and his men arrive from the sea, looking for a challenge and the chance to earn gold and glory by killing this demon.

The young queen Wealthow can hardly bear to look at King Hrothgar, however. This isn't because he's old, flabby and drunk, although for most women these would have been good enough reasons. But the king also harbours a shameful secret. So when Beowulf arrives she has plenty of time for the strong, handsome warrior.

Beowulf is a boastful man who tends to exaggerate his exploits. Ray Winstone's London accent is a little incongruous coming from the Geat hero. Not that all the characters should be speaking in old Danish with subtitles, mind you, but Winstone sounds a little too modern.

Laying in wait for Grendel, Beowulf decides to strip off all his armour, claiming that he wants to make it an even battle. This seems to be an excuse for a lot of nudity and artful camera angles. For a film with a 12A certificate there's a lot of this nakedness, not to mention a considerable splattering of violence. A 15 certificate would have been more appropriate.

After the battle with Grendel, when Beowulf goes to face Grendel's demonic mother, it becomes clear that the film will not follow the plot of the Anglo-Saxon poem too closely. It's an interpretation that improves on the original story in some ways, bringing a new dimension to this epic.

However, this is still a version of Beowulf that's all about spectacle. Whether it's Angelina Jolie as a seductive demon, enormous sea monsters, or Beowulf battling a dragon, there's plenty to make you sit up and say "Ahh!" The effects are state of the art for 2007 and the action frenetic. It's the kind of Hollywood blockbuster fare that hormonal young men the world over will warm to, big on battles, beasts and high-heeled demons, and small on history and thought.

Film Details

Year: 2007

Categories: Films


Classification: 12

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Review © Ros Jackson