Beowulf ** ½ (out of ****)

Director: Robert Zemeckis
Writers: Neal Gaiman and Roger Avary
Cast: Ray Winstone, Anthony Hopkins, Angelina Jolie, Brendan Gleeson, Robin Wright-Penn, Chrispin Glover
Rating: PG-13 (language, nudity, violence)
Running Time: 94 min
Release Date: 11/16/2007

Hollywood seems to make movies in pairs. I can think of Speed and Blown Away (bomb squad), Rob Roy and Braveheart (men in kilts), and The Professional and The Specialist (contract killers) as some previous examples. Beowulf and 300 would be year 2007’s pair of this type. 300 has the better story but Beowulf has the better animation. Note that when we mention cast members we referring to their voices and likenesses but not physical persons on film. Beowulf is a state of the art animated movie.

At the beginning it seems that the Spear-Danes are having a little problem. There is this demon monster called Grendel that has a thing for destroying mead halls. You might say that he was a one-monster temperance movement in the land of the Spear-Danes. King Hrothgar (Anthony Hopkins) just finished building a new mead hall named Heorot. If you’re a Spear-Dane warrior it’s just the happening place. However, after the warriors were good and drunk, Grendel knocks down the door and kills some of the warriors. That sort of thing sure ruined the party mood.

Enter a hero, Beowulf of the Geats, who arrives just in time with band of warriors to deal with the Grendel problem. Beowulf decides to fight the Grendel naked. This is a bit of a departure from the original story where he merely fights without sword and shield. Perhaps Zemeckis was aiming for humor here as despite all of the gyrations during the battle Beowulf’s privates never exposed to the audience. Beowulf rips off the monster’s arm and he goes back to his mothers cave to die.

The story continues with his confrontation with the Grendel’s mother (Angelina Jolie), which departs even further from the original story, and his final battle with a fire-breathing dragon. This movie just fails to be all that interesting. While the story may have wowed them in the late first millennium, today just doesn’t deliver. At least it does carry forward the legend of the great Geatish warrior Beowulf. In that way fate has smiled favorably upon him.

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