Blu-ray and DVD Reviews

Beowulf (Director's Cut)

Reviewed by: Scott Chitwood
Movie Rating:
7 out of 10
Extras Rating:
8 out of 10
Movie Details:
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Rating: Unrated

Starring:
Ray Winstone as Beowulf / Golden Man / Dragon
Robin Wright Penn as Wealthow
Anthony Hopkins as Hrothgar
Sonje Fortag as Gitte
Sharisse Baker-Bernard as Hild
Charlotte Salt as Estrith
Julene Renee as Cille
Greg Ellis as Garmund
Rik Young as Eofor
Sebastian Roché as Wulfgar
Leslie Harter Zemeckis as Yrsa
John Malkovich as Unferth
Woody Schultz as Aesher
Tyler Steelman as Young Cain
Nick Jameson as Drunken Thane
Crispin Glover as Grendel
Brendan Gleeson as Wiglaf
Shay Duffin as Scylding's Watch
Costas Mandylor as Hondshew
Chris Coppola as Olaf
Angelina Jolie as Grendel's Mother
Dominic Keating as Cain
Jacquie Barnbrook as Aethelbeorg
Alison Lohman as Ursula

Special Features:
A Hero's Journey – The Making of "Beowulf"
Beasts of Burden – Designing the Creatures of "Beowulf"
The Origins of "Beowulf"
Creating the Ultimate "Beowulf"
The Art of "Beowulf"
Deleted Scenes
Theatrical Trailer

Other Info:
Widescreen (2.35:1)
Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound
French and Spanish Languages
Running Time: 114 Minutes

Synopsis:
The following is from the DVD cover:

"In the age of heroes comes the mightiest warrior of them all, Beowulf. After destroying the overpowering demon Grendel, he incurs the undying wrath of the beast's ruthlessly seductive mother who will use any means possible to ensure revenge. The ensuing epic battle throughout the ages, immortalizing the name Beowulf. Academy Award winner director Robert Zemeckis tells the oldest epic tale in the English language with the most modern technology, advancing the cinematic forum through the magic of digitally enhanced live action. A stellar cast is led by Ray Winstone ('The Departed,' 'Sexy Beast') in the title role. Joining him are Academy Award winner Anthony Hopkins as the cursed King Hrothgar, John Malkovich, Robin Wright Penn, Brendan Gleeson, Crispin Glover, Alison Lohman and Oscar Winner Angelina Jolie as Grendel's mother."

"Beowulf (Director's Cut)" is not rated. The theatrical version was rated PG-13 for intense sequences of violence including disturbing images, some sexual material and nudity.

Mini-Review:
My first exposure to "Beowulf" was at the 2007 San Diego Comic Con. There was a special screening of 20 minutes of the film in 3-D for the press. Director Robert Zemeckis, writer Neil Gaiman, and designer Doug Chiang were sitting directly behind me during this. I was quite excited about seeing it. After viewing the footage, I came away with several conclusions – it wasn't as great as I was hoping, it was much bloodier than I was expecting, the CG versions of the actors looked creepy, and I thought without the 3-D effect the movie wasn't all that special. Then, for whatever reason, I didn't see the full film until it arrived at my house on DVD.

Maybe it was my lowered expectations, but upon a second viewing in 2-D at home, I enjoyed it a LOT more. I was pulled into the story immediately. The action scenes really impressed me, especially the battle with the dragon in the finale. I didn't miss the 3-D effect, but I found myself wishing I could see it again on the big screen. I was drawn into the Norse mythology and the mead drinking, sword swinging, boasting bravado of the Viking culture. And the weirdness of seeing a CG Hopkins and Jolie didn't bother me nearly as much. Gaiman and Avery fiddled with the original "Beowulf" story somewhat, but their tinkering didn't bother me at all. In fact, I felt that it gave "Beowulf's" various battles a more cohesive narrative. Overall, I enjoyed it quite a bit.

One of the big draws of "Beowulf" is the CGI animation. Zemeckis experiments yet again with the motion capture technology and photo-real characters. Sometimes it doesn't seem very natural, but the vast majority of the time it looks good. The characters that look like their actors (Jolie, Hopkins, Malkovich) have something a little off about them. They're eerily similar, but at the same time not quite right. But Beowulf is a bit more convincing since he doesn't look like Ray Winstone. Instead, you get just the actor's performance without constantly scrutinizing how close the CG character looks like the real guy. My only real gripe about it is that without the 3-D effect, some of the scenes look kind of stupid. For example, in one scene a warrior points a spear at a camera. In a 3-D screening, I'm sure it looks fantastic. On your TV in your living room, it looks grossly out of proportion. A lot of the gore seems way overdone on the small screen, too. Characters are ripped apart and their bodies thrown at the screen. It's a bit over the top and at times pushes the film more into the realm of horror than adventure.

If you like fantasy films or are a fan of CGI, then "Beowulf" is a film you're going to want to check out. If you're expecting a spot-on retelling of the legend, you may be disappointed.

You'll find your usual offering of bonus features on the DVD. The most interesting is the "making of" featurette, mainly because you get to see a lot of the motion capture process. It's quite a technological feat and with a fast production time. You start to see why Zemeckis loves it. Also included are 6 deleted scenes, none of which are noteworthy. There are also a few design featurettes and interviews with comics legend Neil Gaiman.

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