Monday, November 26, 2007

You could poke someone's eye out

Last night we saw "Beowulf," the new, unexpectedly popular, animated version of the Old English epic poem of the same name, which is said to be the oldest or one of the oldest stories written in English.

Actually, "animated" isn't a very good description. The production is done through a technique called motion capture, combining real actors and computer-generated images. It was used previously on "The Polar Express," with Tom Hanks and by the same director as on "Beowulf," Robert Zemeckis. On top of that, we saw a version presented in 3-D, complete with the special glasses that make everything on screen look like it's in one of those old View-Master things. Trippy.

OK, raise your hand if you remember "Beowulf" from college. I would have said I'd read it, and maybe I was supposed to, but the story of the dragon-slaying Norse hero seemed mostly unfamiliar last night. Maybe if they'd actually been talking in Old English it would have come back to me.

Instead everything felt updated for the 21st century -- not just in language, but with settings and action scenes that felt right out of a video game, and the addition or transformation of the evil Grendel's mother as a sexy temptress, Angelina Jolie, rather than as the mother of all monster dragons. Even the theme, from what I remember of the story, seemed changed to emphasize the Danes' mistreatment and casting off of the monster rather than Beowulf's epic heroism and the good-vs.-evil parable. Everyone just needs a little love. It was almost like an R-rated, kick-ass "How the Grinch Stole Christmas." Maybe that's why it's so popular.

Didn't do much for me, though. I'm not a huge fan of the whole fantasy genre or of role-playing computer games. And I thought the 3-D thing was gimmicky and way overdone. Every scene was shot in a severe, forced perspective to emphasize the flying swords, hurtling bodies, dripping blood and other stuff heading right at your face. After the first few minutes that got kind of old.

Did I mention that Angelina Jolie's gold-dripping, ample-bosomed, evil-temptressy bad-ass self was computer generated without any computer-generated clothing? So when she swings her 3-D breastseses around, the entire audience jumps back in their seats. Yow! Fortunately, in another scene when a naked Beowulf is fighting Grendel, strategically placed (generated) props manage to cover the hero's epic manliness before we get that thrust into our 3-D glasses too. Close one.

Michelle liked this flick much more than I did. I can't manage more than 2 gliomas.


freda said...

Yea!! you're back. I plan on seeing Beowolf, though I now expect less. I saw Enchanted, I thought it was cute, something to take the girls to.

Ronelle said...

I're back! I missed you. I did not see Beowolf, mainly because I would be raising my hand in response to your college question. I hated it in Old English and I am sure I would hate it more in 3D. Knowing that I would have to duck to avoid Angelina's virtual "breasteses" cements the deal...NO GO. I agree with Freda, bring the girls to Enchanted, my diva has been reenacting and quoting it all weekend. We also saw August Rush, which I liked alot. Since Christin and Holley are both music majors it was meaningful to them. We all felt that the story could have been developed much more. A nice movie for music lovers, although a bit far fetched.