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Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Beowulf


****½ Beowulf. Action/adventure.

Directed by: Robert Zemeckis.
Starring: Ray Winstone, Robin Wright Penn, Anthony Hopkins, John Malkovich, Angelina Jolie



We saw this at the Hercules.

I was prepared to dislike it after reading the reviews and discovering it was computer animation. For me, the uncanny valley tends to be a big problem--computer animated people tend to not just look unreal, but to look horribly creepy. My kids assure me that playing lots of video games would solve that problem and make me more used to it.

But on the other hand, Neil Gaiman helped write and produce it, and I'm a huge Gaiman fangirl.

So I tried to keep an open mind.

Beowulf comes to rescue the Danes from the horrible monster Grendel, winning a golden horn from the old king. Then he has to fight Grendel's mother, and instead of defeating her, he gives her the horn and accepts her promise of wealth and power, and becomes king himself. Until someone comes back with the horn, and the bargain is ended.

I was very pleasantly surprised that I enjoyed Beowulf so much. The computer animation has come a long way, and while it still doesn't look real (I suppose, if it looked completely real, there'd be no point, right?), it ended up on the right side of the uncanny valley for me. The people and creatures mostly moved realistically--there weren't too many of those oddly abrupt motions, and bodies tended to move at normally-placed joints.

I think it worked for me because the story lent itself to a larger-than-life format. Mythological heroes and monsters in slick, slightly unreal animation--it seems a fairly natural fit. Once I got over the fact that it was animated at all, that is.

As for the story, it's more "based on" the original epic than it is a retelling, but since it's been decades since I read it, and I've never been a particular fan of it, I couldn't care less. As it is, it's a good story, and made for an entertaining film.


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