Andy’s October of Suckage: Day 11
I finally watched Beowulf with the wife last night. In short, my impression was: Gaimam is a talented writer (and I guess so is Avery), Zemeckis still has a hard-on for creepy CGI, and I feel like I’ve seen parts of this someplace else.
The underlying idea Gaiman and Avery set up is that the epic poem is the product of an unreliable narrator. A proud, boastful warrior has sold history his own biography as tall tale, and his loyal friend/kinsman can’t bear to see past the myth to the flawed man beneath. This idea that the poem I read 15 or so years ago was a snow job was compelling, and the writers used it as a fulcrum to shift the entire story away from having a one-dimensional hero kill a few zero-dimensional enemies/monsters. Instead they offer up a story of human vices and shortcomings, temptations and regrets, and heroic deeds born of pride and shame.
The technical execution was, to my taste, a little less excellent. While Beowulf’s eyes weren’t as death-thing-creepy as the passengers on The Polar Express, computer-generated humans still have the waxy, bouncy look of corpses on wires. Mocap has come a long way, but you can still see Pinocchio’s strings. The fire effects looked great, but the generous quantities of moving, splashing, foaming water looked like a cross between mercury and sand. I know the water-air boundary is hard to model, but it’s the director’s responsibility to choose shots that downplay any technical deficiencies. In fairness, I’m not sure this movie could have been made live action without thousands of effects shots and double the budget, and Robert Zemeckis deserves some credit for pushing the state of the art forward every time he does one of these all-CGI extravaganzas.
The artistic execution was a mixed bag. The cast turned in some excellent performances, for the most part, with Brendan Gleeson, Crispin Glover, and Anthony Hopkins standing out especially. On the other hand, like many epic or period pieces before it the accents somehow devolved into “pick your own British-ish delivery and try to stick with it”. Hearing John Malkovich’s unique drawl and Anthony Hopkins’ Welsh (I think) accent when both were supposed to be Danes, or Ray Winstone’s Cockney (again, I think) and Brendan Gleeson’s Irish accents when they played related Geats was just distracting. At least Alexander, for all its flaws, stuck to Irish accents for all the Macedonians and more posh British accents for the Greeks.
Parts of the movie were touching, parts were exciting, parts were distracting, and a few action scenes seemed really familiar.
I’d watch it again some time. Y’know… If I run out of porn or something.