Thursday, November 29, 2007

Beowulf (The Movie)

Beowulf is a computer animated 3D movie, which itself is presented in 3D. That makes the movie, by my maths, nine dimensional, which is at least four more dimensions than the human mind is equipped to cope with.

I spent the first quarter-hour or so of the movie unable to process the 3D effect; then something clicked, and I rather enjoyed the rest. It gets full credit for actually staying true to the format of a 1500-year old Danish epic; it's unapologetic about its narrative asides, over-the-top embellishment, and carnal focus. By the same token, as a modern audience you'll likely feel a little odd about its utter unwillingness to see the majority of its characters develop, grow, overcome obstacles, of find narrative closure.

Plus there's a lot of nudity. A LOT of nudity. You have to remember that back in those days clothes were nests for ticks and other parasites and it was actually more convenient to take them off prior to ruling your kingdom, going to war, fighting a troll, or humiliating enemy prisoners. Historical fact, honest.

All round, it's worth seeing. Director Robert Zemeckis is generally a purveyor of cinema which falls short of art but easily delivers fun, and Beowulf is no exception. Don't expect the world, and you'll be pleasantly surprised by what you get instead.


Grant said...

I think Zemeckis is worth a lot more than you seem to think. There's certainly artistry all over the place in films like Who Framed Roger Rabbit, Contact and Cast Away.

Xantar said...

What did you think of the visuals? It almost seemed to me as if the animators poured all their talent and energy into making Beowulf himself the most lifelike computer creation that ever stalked the silver screen and that although they succeeded at this, they didn't have enough time and resources to finish up all the other characters to the same level of detail. Sometimes I thought Wealtheow didn't look much better than Princess Fiona.

Not that this is really a mark against the movie. It's still smashing good entertainment. I just found myself wishing they'd had another six months to work on it.

Disclosure: I'm shamelessly promoting my own post on the movie which discusses these very same issues.

GregT said...

Grant - I'm here using art in the tight sense of material which moves the emotions, promotes thought, or has exemplary aesthetic quality. Zemeckis never really achieves that. He has a keen eye for entertainment and a self-professed love of and talend forpushing the technical boundaries of the media but his work is never going to touch your soul. Also, Contact was rubbish. But that's all alright; not everyone can be a Stanley Kubrick, and if all Hollywood's middle-of-the-road directors could meet Zemeckis' marker the cinema would be a finer place indeed.

Xantar - Saw your post and have commented. Always a pleasure to read.