The epic poem "Beowulf" is considered to be one of the greatest tales of all time, a story which created the archetype heroic stoic. Since the early centuries A.D., it has been passed on, first orally around campfires and then eventually written down. It has inspired countless authors, most notably J.R.R. Tolkien. But really, why should the movie stick to the story?
The film's plot centers around the warrior Beowful and his battles. The monster Grendel is attacking King Hrothgar's realm, so the king seeks a hero. Thus arrives (by way of a ridiculous sea storm voyage) Beowulf, slayer of trolls, destroyer of dragons and killer of an otherwise better-utilized two hours/$10. Beowulf prepares for the battle with the monster, and so begin the battles, which then make up the majority of the film.
After Beowulf's first battle, the plot begins to diverge from the poem. This wouldn't be so bad if the plotlines created for the film weren't flimsy and poorly structured. Without divulging too much, suicide, seduction, and self-righteousness are all worked in by the screenwriters. Unfortunately, none of these is written well enough to make them fit with the traditional plot. The end result is a complicated and incomprehensible plot with several holes that still manages to be shallow at the same time.
Being a big-budget animated film, marquee stars were pursued to voice the major characters in the film. However, these are hit-or-miss. Anthony Hopkins does an excellent job as Hrothgar, capturing the tone of the king perfectly. However, Ray Winstone, who voices Beowulf, is at the other end of the spectrum. Beowulf's accent when introduced sounds akin to a recently awakened young boy, slurring his words and shouting randomly. Not to fear, however, as his accent changes at least seven times throughout the film.
The saving grace of the film is the animation. Possibly the best rendered film Hollywood has ever created, the scenery and characters are so detailed that at times they almost appear real. The majority of backgrounds are wonderfully colored to fit the dark theme of the film, with splashes of grays, blacks, and blues, contrasted with the bright orange of the ever-present fire. The characters themselves are intricate as well, and in a few moments one can recognize Anthony Hopkins and John Malkovich as Hrothgar and Unferth (not to mention Angelina Jolie as the seductive mother of Grendel). The possibilities appear to be endless with this type of animation technology, and if this is indeed the future of film, it may be a bright future after all.
All in all, "Beowulf" is a feast for the eyes, a treat for the ears, but ipecac for the mind. If there is a hole in one's pocket (and schedule), it can be decent filler. It doesn't amount to much else, and the poem deserves more than this. If "The Lord of the Rings" can be a multimillion-dollar series, there is no reason a live action "Beowulf" film cannot do the same. Hopefully someone will see that soon, so that this film can be swept under the rug.
Alex Cousins is a junior at Canisius
Review: 1 1/2 stars (out of four)