Robert Zemeckis | 2007 | 113 min | USA
Robert Zemeckis hasn't made a good film since the Back to the Future trilogy, but in some strange way, this latest atrocity makes me want to tip my hat to him. It's so ill advised and mind-bogglingly ballsy that I'm impressed it actually got made.
At face value, this film is an insult to both cinema and literature. The very idea of adapting the epic poem to film, then CGI-ing the hell out of it and marketing it as "not your grandpa's Beowulf" is pretty ridiculous. But creating a 3D version of the adventure? Verging on genius. Seeing it on the IMAX screen kind of made me wish all films were released on 3D. How much more would I have enjoyed No Country for Old Men if Javier Bardem's creepy, watery eyes had been hovering inches from my face instead of being contained on the flat screen?
Seriously though, using live actors and then computer-animating them only works well for the action sequences, while leaving the quieter scenes unwatchably wooden. Least recognizable behind her computerized mask is Robin Wright Penn as the Queen, who is decades younger than the actress and has a totally different face. Even Crispin Glover is easier to spot under his many layers of gross goop, as the fantastically whiny Grendel.
The next worst thing about this film, after the bizarre video game aesthetic, are the accents. Only Anthony Hopkins and Ray Winstone (who maintains his native Hackney accent pretty much throughout, thank god) escape the harsh and ludicrous lilt that is apparently intended to represent 'the mythical past'.
The film's writers also inexplicably waver between a modern English translation and the original text, often giving Grendel gibberish-sounding Old English lines. Maybe Neil Gaiman thought it would make him seem more alien and monstrous, but it comes off as a silly gimmick in spite of Crispin Glover's quite decent delivery.
The tale of Beowulf is amazing. This film is not, and anyone who sees the non-3D version of it is a fool. If you're going to waste $15, at least get the roller coaster thrill of having Grendel's blood spill off the screen at your feet.
Oh, I nearly forgot. John Malkovich is in this, and he really acts the fuck out of his role.