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This year's Beowulf is better than last year's.
Robert Zemeckis' "BeoWulf".
OPENING WEEKEND: $78,000,000
DOMESTIC TOTAL: $220,000,000
  This Film is NOT a Future Release.
  The Following Preview has been Archived.

July 30th, 2007: In a time of heroes, the mighty warrior Beowulf slays the demon Grendel and incurs the wrath of its monstrous yet seductive mother, in a conflict that transforms a king into a legend.

What to Expect: Beowulf? Isn't it that ridiculously long poem one of my English teachers made me read to teach me about alliteration? Yup! It was a really cool story written in hard to understand old school English. Most people must agree with me since they have been trying to improve on it for centuries. It all started circa 1100 A.D. when some English monk sat down in a poorly lit monastery and first wrote down the pagan poem adding some Christian themes to it. Since then it has been reproduced in countless plays and taught in even more English and literature classes. No matter where you live or who you are, odds are you have read or seen Beowulf or some derivation of it. It is the national poem of England, it is mandatory reading for most students, there have been eight full length movies made, J.R.R. Tolkien even sited it as one of the influences for his Lord of the Rings series. So what else can you do with this story? Well, why not take the latest animation technology, some great actors and make a ridiculously violent, seductive adult fantasy? Sound cool? Well, that is what the latest rendition of Beowulf is going to be and I am going to tell you all about how it was made and exactly how cool it is going to be.

Article continues below

In 1997 Roger Avery and Neil Gaiman teamed up to write a new screenplay for Beowulf. If you do not know who Avery is, he is the guy who worked with Tarantino on his best movies including True Romance, Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction. Avery actually translated the entire three thousand plus line poem himself before translating it into a screenplay, which stuck very closely to the original with the only liberties taken to fill in gaps in the poem. That will not be a problem since the original poem had enough blood, gore and nudity to make the creators of Hostel blush. Surprisingly, no one wanted to pick the rights for this project until 2005. That year Robert Zemeckis convinced producer Steve Bing to buy rights to the script so that he could direct. Although Zemeckis made his name in Hollywood making live action movies like Back to the Future and Forest Gump, lately he has been pioneering PC (Performance Capture) animation. Zemeckis convinced Avery to not only relinquish directing to him but to animate the entire thing in PC, which is probably best known for making millions of young kids fear Santa Clause in the ultra creepy Polar Express. What made Express so damn creepy was the lack of any kind of motion from the eyes, known as "dead eye syndrome". The eyes are known as the "windows to the soul" and when they do not move, even a loveable character like Santa could look lifeless and evil. Well, Zemeckis was not deterred by the early shortcomings of PC and continued utilizing the technology with Monster House which was not as creepy as Express but still lacked a lot of natural motion, especially in the eyes. However, since House and Express, PC technology has evolved in leaps and bounds and what can be done today seemed unimaginable only a year ago.

First of all, to resolve the "dead eye syndrome," PC has borrowed a little know how called OEG (electro oculography) from Peter Jackson's Weta digital. This approach places three sensors around the actor's eyes and vividly captures every little blink and movement, providing the finished animated characters the lively and expressive look they need. Other improvements have allowed for the characters to seem more real then ever. In addition, PC allows them to be realistically aged, any part of him (including the breasts) to be enlarged and enhanced in any way, shape, or form. It also allows for the director to take any scene he wishes, freeze it and actually "walk around" the scene to capture any angle, and then finally place the digitally captured action into any surrounding that he can envision. This technology truly empowers the director, and in the hands of a skilled and meticulous helmer like Zemeckis, this should lead to an amazing finished product. Even Gaiman, who at first was extremely skeptical, was won over saying "PC has made quantum advances in his unique filmic grammar since Express." Imagine in another five, ten years when PE matures even more; the possibilities will be literally endless. Yet, despite all of these advances, everyone knows that a million computer programmers working for a million years cannot make a good movie. It needs a good director, a good screenplay and most importantly, a great cast. I have already told you about the director and the script, now let me to tell you about the cast.

Zemeckis has assembled an all star cast. I do not have time to go through every good actor in this movie. It would be a complete waste of my time and yours for me to sit here and tell you how good Anthony Hopkins and John Malkovich are, so I am going to just discuss the more interesting casting choices. First of all, the role of Grendel was given to Crispin Glover, who was the original George McFly in Back to the Future. When it was time to do the sequel, Glover and Zemeckis had a huge falling out. Zemeckis claimed that Glover was uncooperative and wanted as much money as the star, Michael J. Fox. Glover, in turn, claimed that Zemeckis did not want him in the sequel and only offered him fifty thousand dollars to make sure he would reject. Consequently, Glover was replaced by other actors and old footage of him as George, so he sued the studio for using his footage without paying him and won compensation from the studio. As a result the Actor's Guild eventually passed a rule that footage of an actor cannot be used unless he agrees and is properly compensated. That did little to help Glover's and Zemeckis' strained relationship and the two have not worked together until now. It is good that they put their twenty year feud behind them, since Glover is probably the best young villain in Hollywood. His menacing calmness is perfect for the roll of mother's boy. Obviously if Grendel is a mother's boy, then Grendel's mother cannot be outshined by her son, and she will not be, since that role belongs the voluptuous Angelina Jolie. Word on the street is that she just looks amazing in this movie. PC was used to its full potential to exaggerate Jolie's already luscious body; her lips are fuller, her legs are longer, and her breasts are even perkier. One scene in particular has been generating a lot of buzz where Jolie emerges from the water completely nude giving the audience a 360 degree view. No outsiders have watched the scene and probably will not until it comes out, but I can guess it is going to be the subject of many pubescent boys' wet dreams for sometime to come.

When you combine the cast, the technology, the writer and the director, you are going to get an incredible finished product. Those who were lucky enough to get a sneak peak have raved about it; even the biggest doubters of PC are now convinced. However, there remains one large problem. There is a ton of nudity and violence in the original poem and screenplay, but the movie is going to be PG-13. In fact, the battle between Beowulf and Grendel is supposed to be totally in the nude. Both writers, Avery and Gaiman, wanted to do the movie as R. There have been rumors swirling around of two versions coming out, the standard PG-13 and a limited NC-17 release in IMAX. That did not come to fruition; instead Zemeckis hid some of the nudity with cleverly placed objects to obscure and distract from it, leaving himself open to removing those objects and having an unrated release later on DVD. However, instead of the NC-17 IMAX release, there will be a 3-D version. As much as I am disappointed by the PG-13 rating and as much as I would love to see this thing completely uncensored, I still think this movie is going to be unbelievable.

In Conclusion: Beowulf combines a great classic story, proven writers, a talented director and a great cast to create a unique movie going experience. With animation so crisp you forget that it is animation, Epic battles, out of this world scenery and sexy animated vixens, it will be 300 meets Lord of The Rings.

Similar Titles: 300, 13th Warrior, Lord of the Rings
November 16th, 2007 (wide)
February 26th, 2008 (DVD)

Paramount Pictures

Robert Zemeckis

Ray Winstone, Crispin Glover, Anthony Hopkins, Angelina Jolie, John Malkovich, Robin Wright Penn, Alison Lohman, Brendan Gleeson, Dominic Keating, Ric Young, Chris Coppola

Total: 133 vote(s).

Action & Adventure, Animation, Fantasy

Click here to view site

Rated PG-13 For intense sequences of violence including disturbing images, some sexual material and nudity.

113 min





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