I must admit that I’m a bit behind on my film reviews. There are as many as half a dozen that I’ve still to write about. Anyway, without further ado, here’s the latest – Beowulf.
There are currently three versions of this film available to see: the bog standard 2D version; a traditional red/blue glasses 3D system; and an IMAX 3D system which uses polarised glasses. It was this latter version that I saw.
Technically it looks spectacular on the enormous IMAX screen, with the film evidently designed to solely be seen in 3D. Swords constantly get pointed in your direction and bits of exploding wood or rocks constantly come flying straight towards you.
But what of the story and the film itself. Well first I have to admit something. Years ago – 1999 to be precise – I bought a hardback version of Seamus Heaney’s translation of Beowulf. I’ve still not gotten around to reading it.
Then a few years later, while shopping in the Norwich branch of Waterstones, I heard some students from UEA talking about the book which they were obviously studying. They were looking for the audio version of the book which their tutor had said was a good way of tackling the book. So I got hold of the audio version of it. I ripped it to my iPod. And I’ve not listened to it.
I do know the story of course, and there was the, uh, interesting version of the film – The 13th Warrior – back in the late 90s which was pretty poor but evidently based on the book.
What of this version. Well it took me a little while to get through the computer animation. I guess I was expecting something a little closer to Sin City where the actors were effectively real, but the backgrounds all green-screened in. But the actors in Beowulf have been motion captured and digitally touched up (quite a lot in Ray Winstone’s case) before being rendered in a full CGI world. It’d actually be interesting to know to what extent the actors “acted.” Were they recorded making the motions or were they animated after the event. I suspect that there’s a little of both, and perhaps when the DVD comes out, we’ll know.
But overall I liked it. The action sequences were good, and there was plenty of tension when you knew that an attack was imminent.
The film’s pretty violent throughout, but like Zatoichi from a couple of years ago, CGI blood somehow lessens the impact. I couldn’t quite draw a comparison with a Looney Tunes cartoon, but something you know is CGI means the realism is not as much of an issue.
The story’s not the most complicated tale, but it’s well told, and the 3D definitely gives it impact. I had an enjoyable time watching it.