Out Now On-Demand

Robert Zemeckis uses the performance capture animation he developed on Polar Express to animate the epic, English poem Beowulf. The legendary warrior Beowulf arrives in a Danish town to rid it of the horrible beasty Grendel. Co-writer, best selling novelist Neil Gaiman, describes the film as a "cheerfully violent and a strange take on the Beowulf legend".

It's got a hell of a cast - Ray Winstone is big B, Jolie is Grendel's Mother, Hopkins is King Hrothgar, Penn is his Queen, and Cristin Glover is Grendel.


Beowulf – a film by Robert Zemeckis, director of the mighty Back to the Future trilogy, Oscar winner Forrest Gump, and The Polar Express – is an adult targeted, fully CG animated film based on the legend/poem/book you probably read in fifth form English. Technically it’s quite an accomplishment, and all in all it’s an above average film – albeit a peculiar one – made a bit flat by the soullessness of CG animation.

The story of Beowulf (Ray Winstone) – who arrives in a Danish town to rid it of beasts, only to essentially become one himself because of his own vanity – rips along at a decent pace. There's a refreshing character slant to the story, and it's great to see the characters being flawed and avoiding cliché, including the baddies – Grendel (portrayed by Marty McFly's dad, Crispin Glover) is tortured rather evil, and Grendel's Mother (Angelina Jolie) is a loving one despite her wily ways.

The animation process is such: the actors are required to perform the roles, this performance is 'captured' by a computer, and then replicated as realistic animated versions. They are supposed to look and behave exactly like the original actors aside from adding muscles here, a few inches and a tail there. I'm a bit perplexed by this idea. Why do it? An animated person, especially one restricted by trying to look real, can't convey the range of emotions an actual, real live human can. The net result is a bunch of plastic performances.

Though as a technical exercise, there are impressive aspects. A close up of a face will fool most; such is the realism of the photo realism. The grotesque beasty Grendel and a stunning, gold dragon are the other most spectacular elements. But I note animators are still struggling with horses. The horses in Beowulf look like enthusiastic, inbred donkeys. Also people's hands are a bit rubbery, a bit Postman Pat-ish. This would be fine if you were watching Postman Pat, but Beowulf is trying to look like real life so it stands out.

Oddly, the filmmakers try to sex it up. There's some naked homoerotic wrestling, and some naked Angelina Jolie. Beowulf's computerised johnson is never seen of course, always obscured by a foreground object. And Angelina Jolie doesn't have nipples, or a vagina. But she does have an ass. Is that enjoyable to people? Seeing a naked cartoon character? I think it's really bizarre. Jolie says in interviews that the film is "sexy". Far be it for me to debate Jolie on matters sexy, but I'd say it's sexy for no-one but 14 year old boys.

Maybe I'm old fashioned, but I don't think you can beat real people where real people will do. Also, a CG dragon is far more impressive flapping about and breathing fire on actual people and an actual landscape. And so, I adjudge that Beowulf is the domain of nerds and CG animation enthusiasts (a.k.a., nerds).

As a side note, I saw this on IMAX 3D. The 3D was pretty wicked, and the image very clear. I noticed that kind of double edged look 3D is prone to very rarely. You almost get used to the effect, until the final quarter of the film when the filmmakers pump it up with a heap of flying-from-the-screen-and-coming-at-you 3D stuff. 3D wise, it's very good.



Ground-breaking and technologically exciting it may be, but while Beowulf might be significant in the history of moving pictures, it is not a picture that will move you...

Dominion Post [Graeme Tuckett]


1/2 This is fast, furious and about as silly as a bum full of smarties. Its quite possible that the poems original authors would approve...

Empire Magazine [UK]


It’s not a reinvention of the wheel, but in 3D this is an astonishing experience that borders on ‘must-see’, and raises the bar for what James Cameron is planning with Avatar. And you’ll be glad to know that the creepy dead eyes thing has been fixed... [USA]


Certainly, modern interpretations should add their own spin to an ancient tale, but in the hands of director Robert Zemeckis, Beowulf becomes... silly...

The Christchurch Press [Margaret Agnew]


Apparently the animated movie improves with the addition of 3D, but in 2D, the original monster-killing yarn, full of swords, sorcery and the super-natural, has been rendered simultaneously impressive and dull. Beowulf aspires to follow in the footsteps of both 300 and Lord of the Rings but falls short of both. It's an average movie wrapped up in pretty technology...

Total Film [UK]


Some leavening humour might have helped dispel the portentous, gloomy tone and energise the boring scenes of exposition that fill the yawning chasms between action set-pieces. You exit mildly diverted by the story and admiring the technique; if this is the future of film, though, we'll stick with the past...

TV3 [Kate Rodger]


The technology really is very cool, and the freedom that comes with animation makes for a few great visual moments. Pity that freedom didn't bring life to the unremarkable and pedestrian story, and its poorly scripted and delivered dialogue...


did anyone else notice that?

A one off experience- once is enough

Had higher expectations from this movie and was a tad dissapointed.It was cool to see the 3D effects however. Big screen movie for the masses




3D or not 3D

After some confusion last night went to Sylvia Park and saw BEOWULF in 3D. Half of us went there and half to the competition at Queen St (since we hadn't twigged there were two 3Ds going on).

We've since discussed as a group today. Hoyts movie was OK, 3D effects were amazing, but it's in a pokey little cinema and they didn't even use the full screen! Since there's NOTHING else on at the moment why weren't we in a bigger screen! Having made this comment to those who went to the Queen St screening, theres was IMAX and filled the whole screen. I don't know what the deal is with the difference between IMAX and digital 3D, but those of us that saw digital feel a bit cheated. Film however was great, 3D very impressive. If anyone can explain the tiny picture (is all digital like this? if yes, what's the fuss about?) please post here?