Behold! Beowulf in 3D!
By Ryan Parsons | Image property of Paramount.
With Fred handling the responsibility of our reviews nowadays I barely find time to write one myself. It takes a film such as Beowulf to motivate me to grab the keyboard and start clickety-clacketing away.
The first question I had to ask myself before entering an IMAX 3D theater last night was, "Why am I here?" Watching the trailers and the clips from the film I figured Beowulf would be a film worth catching in theaters, but not on opening night. But then something happened only a couple weeks back that drew me like a zombie being summoned. Some serious hype began to form around Beowulf last minute. Not only was it celebrating the film, but its use of the 3D medium.
Now - I haven't seen a 3D film since Disneyland's Captain EO, and am strongly reminded of the blurred images and red/green outlines every time I hear about the format. For those of you who have enjoyed Digital 3D or IMAX 3D before, I am likely singing to the choir, but am now convinced that 3D is the way of the future. Splendid, just splendid.
You enter theaters expecting a legendary epic and instead are given a spectacle that cannot be described. Yes, the story of Beowulf is there and it is told incredibly well, but it is the 3D that will keep your dick hard for the 110 minutes.
3D has changed some since I last remembered. The only times I caught any blur on the image was when the action or characters were moving quickly -- think about the first LCDs ever released and you should get the idea. Other than those few moments, the picture was incredibly sharp. Unlike Captain EO, however, the images don't exactly pop off the screen and came out to touch your nose. Instead, the screen becomes the middle ground with objects appearing in front of and behind it. I can't even begin to explain the level of depth and, though you'll never see a creature standing ontop the moviegoer's head in front of you, this format is still preferable.
I can go on and on with an essay praising 3D, so let me end by saying that, if you were planning on seeing Beowulf, SEE IT IN 3D! Watching the film in a standard theater would be like having your buddy video tape the stage play Phantom of the Opera and then making you watch it on VHS. It just doesn't compare.
But what about Beowulf as a film? I loved it. While I do understand Fred's feelings against motion capture -- the medium still has no cost benefit -- the animation here is just as impressive as the third dimension it takes advantage of. There are moments when you believe you are watching live action, I kid you not. While the characters' eyes looked plastic in The Polar Express, they look vibrant and alive in Beowulf.
But it won't be the eyes that catch yours, it will be the facial expressions and movements. Robert Zemeckis takes advantage of the little things to tell this story. Simple changes in expression or grunts become the simple things to let us know just what one is thinking. The story chooses its words carefully, and not a single piece of dialogue seems wasted.
The cinematography is beyond exceptional. The way the camera moves and use of reflections is top-notch. But this is a story of legend, so let's get back to the characters.
Ray Winstone, who yells mostly in the trailers, delivers a great performance as Beowulf in the film. Sure, he has his moments of 300-like yelling, but the character is just as flawed as he is great -- and Beowulf knows this. Though he was warned, Beowulf's vanity has lead him to sin. Beowulf kills Grendel and practically gets defeated by Grendel's mother. I couldn't help feel some Excalibur influence here. Beowulf is forced to take on his demon son by the end of the film, a villain that is colored gold. Excalibur's King Arthur had to face a similar villain -- though not a dragon -- who also wore armor of gold. Both films also had badass soundtracks before each character's defining moment. While Arthur went to battle under the track of Carl Orff's "O'Fortuna", Beowulf got his own, custom adrenaline pumping soundtrack. Every time we hear the pulse-boosting chants we know something legendary is about to occur.
I will let my praise end with Brendan Gleeson. The character actor has been stealing scenes of late and he has done so again in Beowulf. Not only does his voice hit all the right chords, but the design of his character was the best of all. Beowulf's most trusted sidekick and friend, Wiglaf is faithful to the ego-pumping king from the beginning to the end. He watched Beowulf prove his valor and was witness to Beowulf's final feat in their later, scarred years.
The only way to sum up Beowulf (in 3D) is by calling it a spectacle, and a great one at that. Only a few of these hit theaters every year, with 300 being another example. Bloodshed is in these days.
A story of legend has finally been told correctly and in a way we can all understand. The character is legendary, but (this time) flawed -- and one still can't help but to cheer him on.
Sources: Image property of Paramount
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