Based on the oldest surviving epic poem of Old English, BEOWULF is a quality adaptation though it flounders a bit under the weight of the CGI and comes close to dwelling in the “Uncanny Valley.”
When King Hrothgar’s (Anthony Hopkins) land comes under siege by the creature known as Grendel (Crispin Glover), he reaches out for a hero to come and save his kingdom. Beowulf (Ray Winstone) answers the call, but a true hero he is not and when he succumbs to his lust and his hubris, he too is cursed by an ancient evil as history repeats itself.
Directed by Robert Zemeckis in the same style as THE POLAR EXPRESS, the CGI is impressive but unfortunately feels more like a video game than a polished feature film. I have a feeling I would have appreciated the movie more if it was stylized live-action instead.
What saved the film for me were the storytelling and the voice-talent. BEOWULF is compelling due to the fact that it’s about human foibles and at its core a cautionary tale. There’s a reason why it’s been adapted so many times and from so many different viewpoints.
Angelina Jolie stands out as Grendel’s seductive mother and you can see shades of “Maleficent” present at times. Her animation is quite…ummmm…fetching and her CGI nudity caused some Internet chatter at the time.
Overall the design of the film is rather good, especially the realization of Grendel who is horrific and tragic simultaneously. Almost like a mutated distant relative of Gollum.
One word of warning, BEOWULF stays truthful to the material and doesn’t pull any punches when it comes to nudity or violence. So, even though this is an animated film, the Unrated Director’s Cut on Blu-ray is quite violent and gory as well as containing a lot of sexual material and is definitely not appropriate for young kids.
All and all I found BEOWULF surprisingly satisfying. I just wish they could have trusted it to live action. The CGI is distracting and pulls you out of the film from time to time. Ultimately the film is great, but a thing of myth and legend, it certainly isn’t.