Right now, it’s easy for you to see the new Robert Zemeckis film Beowulf in the standard 2-D format, and that would not be a waste of your time. The CGI film utilizing motion-capture animation is a vast improvement over The Polar Express, where Tom Hanks looked ghostly and stiff. But you’d also be doing yourself a tremendous disfavor if you didn’t at least attempt to catch the film in digital 3-D, something for which a majority of theaters are not equipped. So scour those movie listings thoroughly and get thee to the digital 3-D theater for an experience that will blow your freakin’ mind.
The difference in 3-D viewing quality is immediately noticeable. I managed to see Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas in 3-D a couple of weeks ago, and the restored version of the film was impressive enough. But Beowulf is a new experience altogether. This movie was made with 3-D in mind and, because it is digital, the picture is flawless.
The new generation of 3-D glasses are almost stylish compared to the old ones, and strain on the eyes is minimal.
The movie opens amid a celebration where a drunken king (voice and semi-likeness of Anthony Hopkins) implores his subjects to drink mead and be merry. The party is crashed by the miserable Grendel, a disgusting half-man, half-demon (perfectly voiced by a screaming Crispin Glover). Grendel can’t take the noise, so he rips people to shreds, crushes them or bites their heads off. The movie got a PG-13 rating, but mind the kids because it’s full of splashing blood, flying limbs and crunching heads. And Crispin Glover.
I heard more than a few young kids crying at my screening. Heck, I think I was crying at one point, and I’m pretty sure a branch in the movie hit me in the face.
The king calls upon the hero, Beowulf (growling voice of Ray Winstone), to rescue his city, and the dude goes straight to work. In order to be fair, because Grendel has no weaponry, Beowulf strips down to the nude, although clever placement of characters and objects prevent us from viewing his junk (unlike this year’s Eastern Promises, where a naked battle revealed all that needed to be known about Viggo Mortenson’s nether regions).
Beowulf is victorious, unaware that Grendel’s mom is a vengeful, watery snake-demon played by the voice and likeness of Angelina Jolie. Zemeckis and his animators do a faithful rendition of Jolie, unlike the other characterizations in the film that only hint at the actors. It should also be noted that she spends long stretches of the film naked, which will prompt more than a few moms to cover their child’s eyes.
Parents, this movie is going to keep you busy with your kids during and after. They’ll come into your bedroom at night screaming “Crispin Glover is coming to get me!” or “Mother … I find myself oddly attracted to the cartoon likeness of Angelina Jolie. Please explain.” Seriously folks, keep the kids away from this one if you know what’s good for you.
While I wouldn’t call Beowulf an excellent movie due to some clunky dialogue and a couple of drawn-out stretches, I will call it an excellent experience. The Grendel massacres and Beowulf’s final battle with a fire-breathing dragon are, honestly, the most fun I’ve had watching any movie this year. I assure you, this is a film I will see again in theaters, and I’m taking people with me.
Until recently, news of a new 3-D movie on its way made me yawn (Spy Kids 3-D sucked!). After Beowulf, I’m hooked. This is the coolest cinematic advance of the last 20 years. I caught a couple of 3-D movies on a recent trip to Disneyland and, while they were cool, they didn’t compare to Beowulf. Prepare to be amazed.
(Reno residents, you will have to drive to Casino Fandango’s Galaxy Theater in Carson City for the 3-D experience … it’s unavailable in Reno theaters).