When it comes to movies I’m a huge fan of fantasy and mythology.
When it comes to myths you can’t get any more classic than the epic poem, Beowulf.
When I found out that Beowulf was going to come to the Imax, in ‘proper’ 3d (glasses and all), I knew I had to go and see it.
Directed by Robert Zemeckis (Polar Express, and Back to the Future) and starring a proper Londoner – Ray Winstone – along with a bunch of other well known actors, Beowulf is a big budget movie using some pretty unique technology.
Like it’s technological predecessor, Polar Express, Beowulf is a 3d animated movie (think Toy Story… then turn up the realism) and uses full body motion capture for 90% of the animation. They used the actors who voiced the characters to perform the physical roles, giving an extra edge to the realism and coherence between the movements and the words they are saying.
Since the actors are not displayed with their real life bodies their digital counterparts have been tweaked for the benefit of the story – I’m sure Ray Winstone was happy with the look of Beowulf – Anthony Hopkins, and Crispin Glover were possibly less flattered about the way their character were portrayed.
I should point out that I’ve never read the original poem, so don’t know what the differences between the movie and the poem are. However the film story for Beowulf is perfect for this type of technology, in particular the 3d (glasses) aspects. There are a number of points where objects and characters really jump out of the screen at you. The 3d works incredibly well and, in the action scenes in particular, adds an extra dimension (ha ha ha) to proceedings – it’s impressive stuff.
The actual narrative is really good as well. Neil Gaiman (Stardust) had a hand in the story working on the screen play for the film. It all moves along at a pretty swift pace, ignoring long sections of dialogue, instead focusing on the action and the story progression.
I realise that the film is (loosely) based on a classic myth but I really liked the fact that the story strays from the normal action movie formula. It’s all about self sacrifice, and focuses on the frailties of the human nature – something you tend not to get in a Hollywood action flick.
The animation (motion capture) was amazing but there were a few parts that suffered from the dead eye syndrome, the fact that the characters looked a little like mannequins. The most realistic characters were the older ones, the younger people having skin that was too smooth and shiny.
The film was also more graphic & violent than I had expected it to be – especially considering the rating. This may have been enhanced by the 3d’ness pushing the action in my face.
The problem is that whilst I really enjoyed myself I suspect part of the enjoyment comes from the fact that I was watching it on the biggest screen in the country… in 3d. I wonder what the film would have been like had I seen it in a normal cinema. Being a big fan of fantasy I think I would have liked it but possibly not quite as much as I do now.
If you can see it at an Imax then I would say go for it, irrespective of your film preferences. If it’s at a normal cinema, then you should see it if you’re a big fan of the epic fantasy movies.