Sunday, April 13, 2014

‘Beowulf’ (2007) movie review

‘Beowulf’ (2007) [Wikipedia]

Beowulf is a 2007 American motion capture computer-animated fantasy film directed by Robert Zemeckis and written by Neil Gaiman and Roger Avary, inspired by the Old English epic poem of the same name. The film was created through a motion capture process similar to the technique Zemeckis used in ‘The Polar Express’. The cast includes Ray Winstone, Anthony Hopkins, Robin Wright, Brendan Gleeson, John Malkovich, Crispin Glover, Alison Lohman, and Angelina Jolie. It was released in the United Kingdom and United States on November 16, 2007, and was available to view in IMAX 3D, RealD, Dolby 3D and standard 2D format.


This film is animated in a way that it uses the actors’ “likeness” along with their voice over, which was interesting. I suppose that they almost had to make it that way due to the nature of the mythology, the creatures, and the dramatic action. I had watched this movie before, and I liked it more the second time today; most likely because I was able to view it in the morning, which is always better for watching a movie.

The opening scene begins with the text “Denmark A.D. 507.” Much of the movie takes place in Danish/Viking King Hrothgar’s (Anthony Hopkins) “Mead Hall.” They are soon attacked in the hall by a demon named Grendel. Grendel is huge, absolutely hideous, and vicious; and appears far too strong for the king’s soldiers. Responding to the king’s plea for a “hero” to defeat this beast, a great warrior from Gotland Island named Beowulf (Ray Winstone) arrives. I don’t want to give away the movie—and you can read the plot in the link above—but this is the basic storyline.

King Hrothgar’s much younger wife is Queen Wealtheow (Robin Wright), and I don’t think I would be giving too much away to say that she eventually becomes the future King Beowulf’s queen. Without going into the details, the king presents Beowulf the “Royal Dragon Horn,” which later becomes part of a covenant of darkness, and is a central part of the plot.

The struggle between Odinic spirituality and Christian religion is featured in some instances. Odin and Heimdall are mentioned; as well as the “new Roman god Christ Jesus.” The following quote was given by an older King Beowulf to his lieutenant, Wiglaf (Brendan Gleeson), at one point:

“The time of heroes is dead, Wiglaf. The Christ god has killed it. Leaving human kind with nothing but weeping martyrs, fear, and shame."

Grendel is an underworld figure that seems almost like half physical and half spirit; as well as his mother (Angelina Jolie). Grendel’s mother—another underworld demon—is a central character, but I won’t give away the plot. John Malkovich plays Unferth, one of King Hrothgar’s chief aids.

I was struck by the character of Queen Wealtheow. She was so beautiful and elegant—especially as she played the harp and sang—yet had so much humility. Her face and expression was so docile; of course, in an animated way. Later in the film—without giving away too much—she is shown as the older queen of Beowulf. He openly takes on a concubine named Ursula (Alison Lohman). The queen takes the high road and takes it all in stride.

She doesn’t hold anything against the young Ursula, and even heroicly saves her life at a later point. I guess where I’m really going with this is that—quite frankly—I thought the older queen was more beautiful than the younger woman... having aged like a fine wine. I didn’t like the way she was treated, carrying herself with such class.

I would recommend the film, which was an international box office success and is rated highly. It should be noted that scholars have mentioned certain inaccuracies with the thousand-year old English poem (see above link). Actually, the characters were real historical figures; being set within the framework of Norse mythology. Therefore, where does fact end, and mythology begin?

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