BeowulfWhat is sure to be the subject of a paper in every tenth grade English class for the next several years: Compare Beowulf the film with Beowulf the Epic poem.   Fortunately for you I don’t remember tenth grade English so well, so I’ll spare you the comparisons. 

Beowulf (the film) is obviously based on the epic English poem of the same name.  Dating back to the eight century.  All of the action however takes place in fifth century Denmark where the evil creature Grendel (Crispin Glover) is attacking the mead hall of Hrorhgar (Anthony Hopkins).

Enter the hero Beowulf (Ray Winstone) who you may not recognize as the hero due to his digital makeover. Beowulf does battle with the villain. Yet, the story is actually not the story here.

What sets Beowulf apart from other action fantasy epics is nothing in the story, especially since it is the oldest one written in English. What Beowulf creates is a seamless transition from traditional photography to computer generated 3-D modeling.  While most other films choose to use primarily traditional filming techniques with digital characters added in later, this movie almost feels like it was animated first based on human character models. And still I’m not sure which parts of the movie were real and which were animated.

Film lovers will be jumping for the bonus disc when this one comes out on DVD just to see how much of the movie was filmed and what was computer generated.

Director Robert Zemeckis has grown comfortable with his digital direction from the Polar Express and Monster House.  He is aided here, no small part, by concept artist Doug Chiang who gave us some of the most intricate details of the later Star Wars Movies.

Visually the film is dark, gross and visually bloody. The movie pulls no punches when it comes to violence either.  If you have a weak stomach be warned. Not to mention some points where it almost looks like you see Angelina Jolie’s digital naked body… But not quite.   This is why the movie gets its PG-13 rating.  It could have easily been an R.

Beowulf is fast-paced action filled and realistically violent. Though not always filled with great dialogue, probably because the epic poem was written well before the writers guild was formed and went on strike.

Beowulf was this language’s oldest piece of surviving fiction, and as a film it closes the gap between digital and traditional filmmaking.

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