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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 13 February 2013
With the cinematic success of `The Lord of the Rings' I suppose it would not be long before `Beowulf' also received the Hollywood motion-picture treatment, especially since Tolkien had mined the Anglo-Saxon poem `Beowulf' as one of his major sources. I therefore approached the screening with some trepidation.

I remember the exact moment in the cinema when my scepticism about the film I was about to watch was dispelled. It occurred six minutes into the film, when the camera pulls back from Hrothgar's hall through the snow-covered fields that surround it. The pull-back then continues further out again across the river; then even further out through a forest; the pull-back continues onwards and outwards, higher and higher until we reach Grendel's cave.

That extended well-framed, perfectly paced, pull-back convinced me that considerable thought had been given to interpreting the `Beowulf' poem, and from then on I was completely engrossed by the world offered to me on screen, ably assisted by Alan Silvestri's fine score. It soon became clear that this was not just another Hollywood hatchet-job. It IS still a hatchet-job of sorts, but one with meaning and good intentions.

Problems arise from the very start when we are told that the setting is `Denmark AD507', which is `a little' too early for my liking. Changes and additions have been made to the dialogue, and some fundamental changes have been made to the storyline. The screenwriters - Neil Gaiman and Roger Avary - argue that this is for the better in that it makes the narrative more coherent. And I am tempted to agree with them.

They have fleshed out the roles of Wealthow and Unferth, but the most radical change is to imply that Hrothgar slept with Grendel's mother, thus spawning the beast whose eardrums are so sensitive. In the poem, of course, Beowulf entered her lair via a lake, but here her home is the same as Grendel's, albeit a lake is found within the cave.

The second radical change is Hrothgar committing suicide after naming Beowulf as his heir, which allows the story to remain within the one landscape, so that the dragon (who is explicitly the son of Beowulf and Grendel's mother, a third major modification) haunts the same land as Grendel rather than ravaging the country of Beowulf's homeland, as the original poem has it. As already mentioned, these changes make for a more cohesive narrative, turning the poem's three acts into one linked tale that is beautifully, brilliantly, and imaginatively produced (though purists will no doubt be horrified).

But at heart this cinematic interpretation of `Beowulf' remains true to its original telling. Some of the violence is excessively gruesome, but is no doubt included to appeal to a certain kind of teenage mentality. A linked but more healthy kind of teenage mentality is appealed to by the garb (or rather, lack of garb) and portrayal of Grendel's mother by Angelina Jolie. But it's a shame that the final dragon flight and fight becomes wholly contrived and mere entertainment.

In terms of production design, full marks for imaginative responses, such as the roof of Grendel's cave being formed of the inside of a giant's ribcage. But to portray Jutland as a land of mountains will disappoint a lot of tourists looking for an original `Beowulf' experience. And to have Hrothgar's hall and Beowulf's later city constructed in stone with towers and other architectural ornamentation is to place sixth-century Danish civilisation five hundred years ahead of its time.

The motion-capture method of filming for which director Robert Zemeckis has become renowned works. Andrew Osmond, writing in `Sight & Sound' wrote how "'Beowulf' often feels like live-action with special effects, rather than computer animation." At least it makes a portly Ray Winstone look more like a youthful Sean Bean. It's a shame that the actors all maintain their own distinctive accents, but we are compensated by the amusement experienced watching the lengths the film goes to ensure Beowulf's private parts remain hidden.

This is a review of the two-disc director's cut edition. The second disc has a twenty-five minute `Making of', in which Zemeckis openly states that his film focuses on the more physical aspects of the tale - the food, the drink, the fighting, and the sex. We also learn how the motion-capture technique - not dependent on light, weather, etc - means that he can shoot in forty minutes what would have normally taken a whole day.

Other extras include a series of short films "mapping the journey" from poem to film, and the screenwriters explain why they made the changes they did for the sake of dramatic unity. There is much too on the film's artwork and the design of the creatures. Finally, there are seven additional scenes (in basic form), lasting twelve minutes.
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on 19 July 2009
Beowulf is a magical piece of literature. And it's a good idea to keep some of the Anglo-Saxon original text. The director tries all he can to make the setting and costumes and psyche of these people realistic for the fifth and sixth centuries after Christ when Denmark was still believing in the Nordic Gods, Odin first of all, and before the arrival of Christianity at the beginning, after its arrival at the end. Interesting too to change the tale slightly to make the two half into one logic, the second half being the sequence of the first. Interesting too to use the magic of these old days and hence have some supernatural beings and events. It is true Grendel, his mother and the dragon were supernatural alright. But instead of making explicit the references to the giants and pre-human species surviving in total exclusion, instead of making explicit the reference to the runes brought to human beings by Odin himself, the director chooses a sexual line, from beginning to end. Then the monster is the son of the local Danish king and the mother who does not have a name but is a gorgeous woman disguising some kind of witch, a sorceress who has little difficulty mesmerizing the local king with promises of power into providing her with a son who will eventually be the scourge of the country and will have to be killed. Hence Grendel is the "son" of the local king when Beowulf arrives in Denmark and the dragon will be the "son" of Beowulf himself. He will kill Grendel, then tame the mother by giving her a son, and finally kill that very son, the dragon. This addition kills something in the tale. Beowulf is the obvious Christianization of traditional Nordic tales and sagas in Anglo-Saxon territory in the seventh to ninth centuries. This is present in the film, but the sexual dimension of these monsters goes against this Christianization since it states that every generation will have to live under the menace of a monster produced by the fornication of the previous king with the supernatural woman, as if such pagan facts could survive in front of the Christian faith. This rewriting of the tale is thus for a modern audience, what's more for a young audience. This is quite clear in the electronic and computer game conception of the fights. And this young audience does not care for all these religious things, including Christianity, and they can very easily imagine Christ having dinner with a dragon and being served by some unicorn. Dropping that dimension of believing and even faith that the saga originally had transforms the story into some kind of post-modern fantasy for a world that does not believe in anything and where believing has been transformed into some kind of personal private matter whereas it was a public communion with the whole society through its common rites and fears and hopes. Then the end of the film is the promise of a third monster, whereas the end of the saga was a final stop to the existence of all monsters.

Dr Jacques COULARDEAU, University Paris 1 Pantheon Sorbonne, University Versailles Saint Quentin en Yvelines, CEGID
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on 15 July 2012
I read the tale of Beowulf in English when I was aged 11, this is a bit different to the origins & can be hard to keep up with but don't let that put you off the picture is fantastic!

Picture- 9/10
The fact that the film is entirely computer generated means that no grain is visible, the depth of scope & detail is nothing short of the word epic. This is the second best looking blu ray I own (Avatar comes first)

Audio - 9/10
As always, high definition audio is always top notch the screams of Grendal where harrowing at times & hearing Ray Winstone shout in his beefy voice was cool!

Get yourself a cup of tea & some popcorn & sit & enjoy this movie! It is rated "12" by the BBFC but I would watch it before you let anyone that age watch as its Gordy violent & has a lot of sexual innuendos etc
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on 20 October 2010
This is a glorious High Definition film which has managed to go a long way with its use of CGI special effects. I would really mention that this isn't a 12 at all. I'm not bothered about gore and nudity in films but I think the rating can be deceptive for some. Not me though, and the grit of this old tale is captured really well with stunning visuals and suspense.

The reason I liked this film was because of it's historical depiction, and that is also why I gave it only a 4 star rating. Beowulf captures the essence of the period it is set in; with mead halls and 'merryness' being contrasted with fear and the gloom of death. I particularly like how it depicts the 'christianisation' of none christian people because it shows the history the church tries to cover up and how it destroyed none christian cultures. There's a lot many don't know about the Norse Mythology that was destroyed by these people, and this film helps to highlight that.

On the other hand this is partly the reason I gave it a 4 star rating, having read other reviews who compared the films irregularities to the actual story of Beowulf. To me it seems the modern film industry had to make it a little movie friendly though it still provides and interesting watch. I did dislike the use Angelina Jolie, she just made the 'villain' a lot more annoying and overly suggestive.

Closing comments; a good film which does capture most of the aspects of the real Beowulf myth using great presentation, but any one who's wiser to this will see just how it has been adapted for the film industry.
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on 17 August 2012
Very entertaining Hollywood version using the latest computer technology which is explained on disc 2. The story has been altered to make it more interesting for the viewer.

Picture quality 5
Sound quality 5
Sets 5 - big, spectacular computer generated sets.
Music score 4 - traditional orchestra with voices.
Storytelling 5
Direction (camera work) 5
Acting 5
Costumes 5 - Anglo Saxon type clothing.

Highly recommended after you have read a good translation of the original first.
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on 16 September 2008
I watched the directors cut version of this film, having recently read the Heaney translation of the original story.

The film shows superb CGI, and the extras showing how the film was made are well worth watching. The animation does give the film a slightly fairy tale feel which is in keeping with the story, that is flesh eating monsers and fire breathing dragons.

However, the film is disappointing for a number of reasons, many of which have been mentioned by others. The voices are at times very strange, veering from Welsh to bad Slavonic to genuine Anglo-Saxon. I didn't have a problem with the Anglo-Saxon parts, which seemed to me added an authenticity. The Beowulf voice, while strangely cockney at first, had an edge to it that was believable in a warrior. Some animation is just very poor, especially in the action sequences. It is too Shrek-like in places, but then alternates with realism, for example Grendel's mother is eye-poppingly real.

But perhaps the big letdown for me is in the authenticity of the interpretation. Zemakis is on the DVD as stating that he found the original boring when he was forced to read it in high school, and his dislike shows in the film. Hollywood has a need to fill the 50 year gap in the middle of the story, so has invented a new tale about Grendel's mother. In doing so, and in compromising the hero with seduction and avarice, the director has ignorantly wiped away the social codes, the valour, and the high bearing of the original hero, and thus completely destroys the feeling of that time. Beowulf did not behave in this way, and there are much more subtle and ethical messages in the original.

This is a missed opportunity to do something significant with a classic, but it is tainted by a dumb Hollywood imperative that has produced just another action movie. Read the book, the pictures are better.
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on 29 September 2010
The stylization of violence so common in action movies take advantage of the loopholes and thus migrates to the story. Nothing more pertinently after Beowulf is a movie that is essentially as lies and distortions - even subtle - operate the course of civilization motivated by temptations. The hero, the warrior Beowulf geat (Ray Winstone) creates "extended versions" of their accomplishments every time he recounts. Such tales impress the buck Hrotgar King (Anthony Hopkins) who also has his share of blame in his past.

There are obvious merits of the quality of text and tied by Neil Gaiman and Roger Avary adapting the ancient epic poem of the Old English language. It is no coincidence that the talented duo has a knot on the censors. His ability to register subtleties which is off the scene is surpassed only by the direction of Robert Zemeckis who actually managed to migrate it from paper to computer graphics This is the most significant film ever created with this technology.

Ok, the "performance capture," with which the film was developed still has room to be improved. At certain times it still happens that bizarre phenomenon of disgust we feel at seeing something that looks human, but it brings a surprise, as if we observed an animated corpse. The effect which I imagine is explained by some evolutionary trigger (nobody wants to be near death) was blatant in The Polar Express, Zemeckis' first foray into the 3-D, but gives an absurd leap forward in Beowulf. I also praise the courage of Zemeckis to invest on this evolution, since all these problems would be excised if the figures were three-dimensional caricatures which immediately, the aesthetic distance, it eliminates the feeling of watching the undead.

Without the physical limitations of the positioning of cameras and lighting real, Zemeckis also gives a show of frameworks (although the movie is much better in Imax 3-D) and angles. Alone the scene of the chain locking the door of the Hall Mead is an example. Besides the beauty of making almost artisanal she opened up an achievement of the filmmaker that I can only compare (stored at proper proportions) to trials with Orson Welles' treatment of the depth of field. The Bluray version sometimes passes that feeling and sometimes not.

Equally thoughtful is the soundtrack to the great Alan Silvestri frequent collaborator of Zemeckis. It helps that Gaiman and Avary have written the lyrics but the incidental music is mysterious and exciting in certain doses. Pay attention to the theme of Grendel's Mother (Angelina Jolie). It's excellent ... transmits a few notes throughout the atmosphere of the creature's refuge - and her mood.

The booming voice of Ray Winstone and the accent makes all the difference. Hopkins and Jolie have competent performances as always.
Anyway this is not an animation to assist with the family eating popcorn but for a more reserved audience who enjoys epic battles of Nordic legends.
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on 28 June 2013
I thought this was well done. It is not easy to tell a fable from the ancient past and keep a 21st century audience interested and I enjoyed both the story and the unusual format of the film of computer generated figures with real actors features superimposed. This is definitely one I will be keeping in my collection and watching again.
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on 9 February 2018
great movie and quality picture and audio
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on 11 March 2018
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