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Movie Review: Beowulf

Friday, March 28, 2008
Being spring break for us students, my neighbor rented Beowulf last night and brought it over. I'd wanted to catch it in the theaters but, given how expensive movies are and how broke I am (as a student) I didn't. Therefore I jumped at the opportunity to see it.

I'm only vaguely familiar with the epic poem; having read it in 9th grade (which was 16 years ago - over half my lifetime!) I just don't recall all the details. Oh, I remembered some of the major players (Beowulf, Hrothgar, and Grendel), but I made no attempt to do even the most minimal research before watching the film, as I figured that would have probably spoiled my enjoyment of the film (as book-to-movie translations often disappoint.)

Getting back to the movie, however, I enjoyed it thoroughly. The plot runs like this: King throws party. Monster attacks party. Hero arrives, kills monster. Monster's mom attacks party. Hero attacks monster's mom, things turn interesting. King dies, Hero takes his place. Time passes. Dragon attacks Hero-King. Hero-King slays dragon, then dies.

Lest I forget to mention it (and as anyone who has seen the preview will have noticed), Beowulf is sort of computer animated. Apparently they did a lot of motion capture of the voice actors, then computer-enhanced and animated everything else. It is visually stunning - though not perfect. I really felt that the camera work was distracting - the idea that, with computer animation, they can put the camera anywhere... and they did, resulting in a lot of swooping and movement of the perspective.

Those criticisms aside, the movie was fun. As the wikipedia article mentions, many themes were changed for this interpretation of the story - many themes that make it more relevant today. Yet it still feels like a classic tale, and much of what was changed made it flow better. I was impressed with the result.

Final word on Beowulf? Rent it, 'cause it's awesome.


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